Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Cauliflower Pizza? Umm...

Healthy Cauliflower-Crusted Pizza - sb style

Pizza.  You’re Un-American if you do not love it… right?  And no wonder the US is struggling with obesity… pizza is offered everywhere you turn – fast food, chains, mom-and-pop restaurants, frozen at grocery stores… whenever you heart desires pizza, you can be sure to fix that craving within the hour.

Except it’s not exactly “healthy.”  Right?  Now in moderation, enjoy a slice or two.  But on a daily consumption, your arteries will clog, you will gain weight and that heavy, lethargic feeling will decrease your energy level.  Just stating the facts, folks.

I have several friends who are on weight-loss challenges… yet have a craving for pizza from time to time.  Again, while I encourage a “cheat day” once a week (enjoy that cheese, ladies!), I kept thinking to myself that there had to be an alternative… a healthy route towards pizza. 

Since I am a huge fan of vegetables, I love to experiment and transform them in the kitchen.  Cauliflower never has too much of a flavor when enjoyed raw… why not turn it into a crust?

Cauliflower Comes in a Multitude of Colors
The following recipe is encouraged for those who are gluten-free or on a weight-loss plan.  A healthy alternative to pizza which actually tastes pretty darn good (I was pleasantly surprised).  Remember, the more herbs added to the crust, the more flavorful the pizza will become!   Try it… I dare you…

1/2 LARGE head cauliflower (or 2+ cups shredded cauliflower)
2 egg whites
1 cup finely shredded fat-free cheddar cheese – other cheeses are acceptable (feta, mozzarella, parmesan)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried minced garlic (or fresh garlic)
1/2 teaspoon onion salt
(May also add in Cayenne Pepper, Italian seasoning/herbs, etc.)

Toppings
½ c. Marinara sauce/pizza sauce/Stewed tomatoes.  You may also forgo the sauce and simply dice tomatoes with a hint of olive oil, sea salt and cayenne. 
½ c. Fat-free cheddar cheese (or desired cheese)
Cooked chicken/turkey/sausage/pepperoni/steak/bacon – whatever protein you desire, make sure to chop it small (and already cooked, as this phase of cooking is simply to warm the toppings and help the cheese).
Vegetables – anything your little heart desires.  The more the merrier.  Choose vibrant colors and dice small.  The small the cut, the faster it will cook (the sooner you may enjoy!)
Heirloom Tomatoes Make For a Flavorful Marinade Sauce
As a Pizza Topping (and they look gorgeous!)
Herbs – fresh or dry
Fruits – often, pineapple is tossed onto pizza… nice sweet/savory combination
Jalapenos – sometime you have to spice it up a little.  And by “sometimes,” I very much mean “all of the time.”  Why not?


Crust-

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.  Using a food processor, finely chop raw cauliflower into small crumbles of florets (not quite a puree).  You may also use a cheese-grater to grate the cauliflower, if you so choose.  The intended amount of chopped cauliflower should yield about 2 cups (from ½ large cauliflower).  Bring a large pot of water to a boil and drop chopped cauliflower in boil water – only for 2 minutes.  The intention is to soften the cauliflower, without turning into mush.  After 2 minutes, remove the cauliflower  (using a strainer) and transfer cauliflower into ice water.  The ice water immediately halts the cooking process for the vegetable.  After the icy-shock bath, place cauliflower on paper towels, in order to dry and cool.

Pre-Made Balsamic Vinaigrette
In a large bowl, mix all of the ingredients together.  Cut a piece of parchment paper and lay on baking sheet. Lightly spray with non-stick spray.  Form the “crumbled crust” into a circle (about 10-inch round).  Spray the crust lightly with non-stick spray and bake until golden brown (about 12-15 minutes).  Remove crust from oven.  Switch oven setting to that of a broiler.

Add sauce/tomatoes to pizza, leaving a ½” border from the edge.  Load with toppings and stick in oven.  Since the broiler radiates immense amounts of heat, the pizza will only need a few minutes to cook.  After about 2-3 minutes, remove the pizza (toppings should be warm and cheese melted).  Since ever single oven is different, keep a close eye on the pizza as it bakes… you do not want to throw away your hard work over a burned pizza!

Cut into shapes and allow your artistic side to flourish.  White plates are best, as they allow the vibrant colors to put.  Personally, I love reduced balsamic vinaigrette… so I will often draw designs with the reduced sauce.

Most importantly, share with those that you love and enjoy!

All my love from Dallas, y’all,
sb

Friday, June 15, 2012

Eat Beets. Tweet. Neat.

Thin-sliced Roasted Beets, Beets Coulis, Celeriac
Puree, Baby Yellow Carrots and Sesame-Seed
Crusted Ahi Tuna

“Mama say that happiness is from magic rays of sunshine that come down when you’re feeling blue” -Bobby Boucher.  Whilst my Mother was not perfect either (although I’ll tell you… pretty darn near close!), she most certainly was correct in encouraging the family to “eat their vegetables” when my brothers and I were growing up.  While some of the dishes may have been… questionable (one my brothers and I dubbed, “dud-muffin…”) they were always fresh, healthy and bursting with flavors.  My brothers, my dad and I were incredibly blessed in enjoying light, fresh home-cooked meals daily.

One vegetable that I was not particularly fond of as a child, although grew to absolutely adore?  Beets.  I know.  But before you roll your eyes and stop reading, I’m not asking you to eat canned beets.  Shoot, I would throw in the towel as well if served tinny-flavored, unseasoned purple drops of goo.  But have you ever tried oven-roasted, farm-grown beets?  After reading the health benefits and trying the recipes, you can be sure you will be asking for seconds.  As beets truly are an acquired tastes, most children do not reach for the sweet vegetables.  However, as one develops his or her own palate, beets become an enjoyed vegetables, as opposed to an “I-have-to-eat-this-because-it-is-healthy.”

Beets Grow in a Variety of Colors: Purple, Gold, Pink, etc.
That being said, beets are packed full of a plethora of vitamins and minerals, as well as contain betaine.  Betaine is actually the same substance that is used in certain treatments of depression.  Trytophan is also common amongst beets – relaxing your mind and creating a sense of peace/well-being in your body (similar to a small amount of dark chocolate).  Beets are a high source of energy since they are low in calorie count, but high in sugar.  “High in sugar” does not exactly sound healthy… does it?  Unlike processed sugars, beet sugar is actually released into your system gradually… preventing sugar rushes which in turn lead to blood level crashes (causing me to burst into tears when I had eaten too much sugar as a child… ahh, the pains of hypoglycemia!) 

Two more interesting facts… Beets are actually used as a stomach acid tester.  If you consume a large amount of the vegetable, then your urine actually turns pink.  I know, weird.  But this is an indication that you have a low stomach acid.  If it is still clear, then begin adding more beets into your daily diet.  Nutritionists often turn towards beets and beet juice in order to test stomach acid levels.  Finally, one of the first known uses of beets were by the Romans who used them medically as aphrodisiacs.  Beets contain a high level of boron.  We’ll leave it at that.

Oven Roasted Beets in Aluminum Foil
Basic Roasted Beets
Preheat oven to 400°F and place aluminum foil on the bottom of a large roasting pan. Toss the beets (you do not need to peel) with sea salt, olive oil (or almond/walnut oil), ½ lemon juice, a light dusting of cayenne pepper (a SMALL amount, as cayenne has an intense kick of heat!), and dried herbs (depending on the other foods that will be on your plate… compliment with Herbs de Provence, Oregano, Italian Seasoning, Parsley, Basil, Rosemary, etc.  Cover the beets with another sheet of aluminum and allow to roast for 1-2 hours, depending on the size and age of the beet.  After one hour, test each beet to determine if finished roasting: simply poke a knife into skin of the beet.  If the knife glides into the beet easily, it is tender and cooked.  If not, allow to continue to cook until finished.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool for a few minutes.  While the beets are still slightly warm, begin to peel away the skin (if they become too cool, the skin is much harder to remove).  Cut the beets into quarters, small dices, paper-thin slices (mandolin)… be creative when plating beets, as the colors are vibrant and shapes are easy to cut away from the tender vegetables.  Use them to your advantage to prepare impressive presentations.  Do not forget… it’s edible art.

Beet Coulis - in Blender

One of my favorite, simple recipes is Beet Coulis:
After roasting beets, place 4 large beets in a blender and begin to mix.  Slowly drizzle in Extra Virgin Olive Oil until the consistency of the mixture is smooth, clump-free.  Season with lemon juice (1/2 lemon), salt to taste and a small pinch of cayenne pepper.  Pour into a squeeze bottle and refrigerate.  Remember, sauces are another huge asset when plating.  They provide brilliant colors and impressive designs on your white plate that allow the food to “pop.”  Beet coulis is often served with toasted baguettes,  roasted goat cheese, herbs and nuts.

So how is that information to expand your growing medulla oblongata.  

All my love from Dallas, y’all,
sb

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Crunchy Vegetables...

Halibut with Yellow and Orange Baby Carrots,  Cucumber,
Radishes, Turmeric, Mango Chutney, Fennel, Edible
Fowers, Chives and Love

Halibut is an exceptional white fish to prepare due to its buttery texture and thick filets.  One of my favorite aspects to cooking, besides sharing with those whom you love, is the artistic presentation.  We eat with our eyes first.  When an impressive plate is presented, one certainly hopes that the taste compliments the presentation.

When sustaining your body with nutritious fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, seeds, beans, nuts and whole grains, one exudes more focus, confidence and overall health.  Not only does your body benefit, but the arrays and spectrum of colors from the fruits and vegetables transform plates from healthy meals into works of art.  And presentation only improves with practice and experience.

One of my favorite dishes that I prepared in Paris consisted of halibut, baby carrots, radishes, cucumbers, zucchini, mango chutney and lemon vinaigrette.  Simple ingredients.  Stellar presentation. 

Hotel de Crillon - Paris, France
Cooking fish is not complicated.  Really.  I remember beginning as a novice and being absolutely terrified of cooking fish… I was scared that I would fail!  However, with more and more experience, I gained confidence.  Slowly I began to walk with a little swagga in the kitchen.  Ok, not at all.  But I did cook with a sense of determination.  I knew how to execute.  And how to execute well.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  If you are watching calories, then spray the inside of a pan with non-stick spray.  Squeeze lemon juice on both sides of the fish, as well as salt and a small pinch of cayenne pepper (a little amount goes a very long way).  Also dust the halibut with spice Turmeric.  Allow the fish to cook in the oven until the fish begins to “flake.”  This occurs when you can see with the naked eye, the different layers of fibers pulling apart on the fish.  The halibut is finished cooking when it is no longer translucent, but a beautiful pearl-white.  Remember, one can always remove the fish just before it is completely finished cooking, since the fish continues to cook when removed from oven.  By the time it reaches the table to be served, the temperature should be perfect.

Walnut Oil - Adds a Beautiful Underlying Nutty Flavor
When searing on the stove top, drizzle enough oil to cover the top of the sauté pan.  I prefer walnut or almond oil, as opposed to olive oil, because these oils impose a beautiful nutty richness to the halibut.  Whist olive oil is a great option, I personally believe that the EVOO is a little too overpowering for such a light fish.  Wait until a small amount of smoke begins to rise from the hot oil.  At this point, the “smoking point,” add the halibut filet (skin-side facing up).  This allows for the fish to develop a beautiful sear on the top of the filet.  Flip after about two minutes and allow to cook on the skin-side for an additional two minutes.  After searing, place the fish in the oven in order to finish the cooking and to completion (the heat in the oven penetrates the fish to cook the interior fibers.)  Again, the fish will be finished when it begins to flake and it is no longer translucent.

It’s as easy as pie.  Or… fish?

Colorful Baby Carrots
As for the color.  Any types of vegetables and fruits are appropriate.  I purchased both yellow and orange baby carrots and steamed them for the meal.  Steaming vegetables, as opposed to blanching (essentially boiling in water), retains more of the vitamins in produce.  Carrots are ready to be served when a knife can cut through the surface with ease (though not too much ease… an “al dente” crunch is perfect… otherwise, the vegetables become soggy.  When I was in Paris, my chefs would remind me, with a twinkle in their eyes, that “French men prefer their vegetables to be slightly crunchy… not mushy.”  So ladies, while they say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, also remember to prepare your veggies al dente (“to the bite”). 

Just saying.

In order to prepare the cucumber, I used a seedless cucumber and peeler.  I simply peeled long and thin “ribbons” of cucumber.  Since the “cucumber noodles” were so thin, I simply rolled them into cylinders.  Beautiful and unique ways to present a cucumber.  Betcha never thought of that now… did ya?

Using a mandolin, CAREFULY slice thin layers of radishes.  The stunning magenta ring around the translucent clear radish adds a delicate touch to the dish. 

Mango chutney?  Instead of sautéing mango in butter and sugar, I simply mixed the following ingredients together:
Mango

1 mango – Diced into small cubes
1 Tbsp. Cilantro tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp. Minced Ginger
1 Tbsp. Coconut (unsweet and flaked)
1 tsp. Salt
1/8 tsp. Cayenne Pepper

Lemon Vinaigrette:
½ c. Almond Oil
3 Tbsp Fresh Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp Minced Shallots
1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon Mustard
1/2 teaspoon Lemon Peel

Blend all ingredients together in a blender.

Lemon Peel
Outcome?  Gorgeous, healthy food that is low in fat, yet satisfying and delicious!  In order to assemble, I simply lined my fruits, vegetables and fish up in a long line.  Finishing touches, of course, were fennel, chives, edible flowers, micro greens, turmeric and a ridiculous amount of love. 

Pure and simple.

Drizzle the dish with the lemon vinaigrette.  Saving calories?  Eliminate the vinaigrette and simply squeeze with lemon.  The citrus is a beautiful compliment to the buttery fish and tender fruits and vegetables.

Remember, the more experience that you develop in the kitchen, the easier it becomes to experiment and to develop your own creations. 

All my love from Dallas, y’all!
sb

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Snacking…

Candy Land

Face it… you know you do it.  Whether stealthily reaching for a lollipop from the doctor’s office candy jar (come to think of it… why is the doctor promoting candy?), “visiting” your co-worker who has candy overflowing out of a witch’s cauldron from last Halloween, or simply purchasing that “impulse sugary buy” at the register at the gas station, we are all guilty of said acts.  And why not?  Candy makes us feel good… right?  A sudden burst of energy, sweet taste and bright colors?  Who would not enjoy sweets?

Sugar Buzz... Sugar Crash.

According to the Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, symptoms associated with sugar crashes include: fatigue, headaches, irritability, confusion, anxiety and difficulty concentrating on daily tasks.  All similar to hypoglycemia effects, though not as severe.  In order to eliminate such wretched symptoms, the following 5 options are healthier alternatives to their sugary counterparts:

Fruits and Vegetables, Nuts, Whole Grains, Low-Fat Dairy and Dark Chocolate.
Dark Chocolate - 6g Per Day

Chocolate you say?  Now I am not granting you permission to run to the snack machine and purchase a King-Size Dark Chocolate candy bar… but in consuming a small amount – 6 g, or 1 small square (about 30 calories - MayoClinic.com), per day allows one to experience the benefits of said chocolate , which reduces C-reactive protein levels in the blood.  Consuming more than this amount negates the benefit by adding unnecessary calories and fat to an individual’s diet.  That being said… allow yourself a 5 minute break in the day to stop what you are doing, relax, breathe, close your eyes, savor your chocolate… then resume your 1,000mph work-day.  You will be rejuvenated to begin a new task eliminate at hand with enthusiasm and a clear mind.

Chobani 0% Greek Yogurt - Different Flavors (Plain as well)
 Low-fat dairy… my favorite is 0% Greek Yogurt.  I often consume said yogurt in two manners: 1) mixed with fresh fruits, nuts and a dusting of coconut or 2) a dollop atop home-made soups.  I prefer 0% Greek yogurt because it has a dense, creamy flavor… similar to full-fat.  Another calorie-saver is replacing full-fat mayo with a combination of lite-mayo/fat-free cottage cheese to tuna salad.  Just 1,000 milligrams of calcium are needed per day in order to maintain a strong bone mass.  Skim milk, Almond milk, fat-free/lo-fat cheeses, sour cream and yogurts are healthy options.

Whole Wheat Bread
No carbs?  Personally, I cannot function without consuming carbs.  So how does one maintain a healthy physique while enjoying carbs?  By knowing the healthy carbs to consume.  Did you know that an individual actually needs at least 130 grams of carbs each day in order to maintain a sharp concentration and ability to focus on daily tasks?  If one does not consume enough carbs, then the ability to study, work efficiently and to concentrate become increasingly more difficult.  Whole grains are not only higher in fiber, but are packed fuel to energize your body.  By consuming at least 5 servings of whole grains per day, one can lose belly fat and lower level of C-reactive proteins in the body (predictor of heart disease, diabetes and strokes).  If carbs are your vice, then choose healthy options: oatmeal, whole-wheat bread (look at the label to verify that it is truly whole wheat!), whole wheat quinoa, couscous and pastas.

Almonds, Pistachios, Cashews, Walnuts, Pecans, Brazil Nuts
Monounsaturated fats, found in a plethora of nuts, help to lower bad LDL cholesterol levels in your body.  By toasting almonds, walnuts, pistachios and cashew nuts, one can simply throw the crunchy snacks atop salads, yogurt, or alone as a mid-day treat.  (Place nuts on a baking sheet and roast in a 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes – may freeze extra roasted nuts in order to save time).  The fat and protein in nuts allows an individual to maintain a feeling of satiation – feeling fuller and satisfied throughout the day in order to prevent mindless snacking.  Limit your consumption to a healthy handful.  (If you have massive hands as I, then you may want to consume not quite a handful… just sayin).

Mango's were priced at 2 for $1
at the Grocery Store Last Week...
I was Excited!
Last, but certainly not least, fruit and vegetables.  My favorite… typical.  I consume a diet rich in fruits and vegetables because my body craves such foods.  I was blessed in having a mother who cooked for our family.  Growing up, our dinner table popped with vibrant colors of fruit plates, casseroles laden with vegetables, lean proteins, lentil soups and milk.  Adding more fruits and vegetables is EASY to do… but the majority of Americans simply do not do it!  Why?  I generally purchase my fruits and vegetables in bulk (saves money the more that you purchase).  Upon arriving home, I take time to cut and prepare all veggies, then store in Tupperware.  Not only does the life of the vegetable extend when stored properly, but it makes snacking much easier.  Everything is already prepared.  I simply reach for a healthy fruit or vegetable, instead of loading my blood sugar with candy or breads. 

Maintaining a healthy diet is not easy.  Of course it is hard work.  But an individual has to ask him or herself whether their health and performance on a daily basis is worth the effort.  Would I rather sleep better, have clean skin, be more efficient at work, have more energy and maintain an enthusiasm for life?  Or feel lethargic, drained, unable to exercise and sleep-deprived.  You are what you eat.  Exercising is important, but diet far outweighs any work-out.  Quoting Bon Jovi, “It’s your life… it’s now or never.”

Something to think about.

All my love from DALLAS, y’all,
sb

Friday, May 18, 2012

Night of Superstars

Night of Superstars - Dress Fitting at the
Dallas Hilton Anatole

I had the absolute privilege of catering the Night of Superstars dress-fitting for the upcoming Night of Superstars event on May 19, 2012 at the Dallas Hilton Anatole.  The Night of Superstars is a grand red carpet charity event held to recognize extraordinary kids who are affected by varying types of disabling conditions but reach far beyond their adversities, excelling in academics, athletics, community service, etc. The intention is to honor these SUPERSTARS for their accomplishments and to encourage them to continue down this path of excellence!  I loved spending the day with the young girls – learning about their stories and amazed by their fighter mentalities.  Even waking up to get out of bed every single day is a challenge for these children… yet they do so, and do so joyfully, on a daily basis.

Night of Superstars - Dress Fitting at the
Dallas Hilton Anatole
Talk about a reality check.

The girl superstars and their families were invited to a dress fitting before the Superstars Gala.  Upon their arrival into the suites at the Hilton Anatole, they were greeted by Greg Johnson, founder, as well as several of the board members of the NOSS.  Gorgeous ball-gown dresses hung from racks as the girls scanned the glamorous outfits.  A spread of dainty sandwiches and hors d’oeuvres lined the oversized table and a station of glittering “bling” was positioned under the dazzling chandelier.  I was surprised how the girls maintained their composure… an overwhelming feeling could have surely engulfed their spirits.  However, their true joy was expressed through their larger-than-life smiles and conveyed in their laughter.  I admired their ability to display such confidence and gratitude at such a young age.  And, oh yeah, after having to overcome such adversity on a daily basis.

Friends in Dallas, I would encourage you to attend the upcoming Night of Superstars event on May 19, 2012, at the Dallas Hilton Anatole:  a celebration of these amazing young individuals.  I think that a thing or two may be learned.  Just sayin’.



Night of Superstars - Dress Fitting at the
Dallas Hilton Anatole - Spread
In order to celebrate the girls, I made feminine hors d’oeuvres and “high-tea”-style sandwiches.  Most children pass over-refined culinary creations and head directly to the peanut butter and jelly, mac and cheese, treats, etc.  Therefore, I catered the dress fitting menu for a child-friendly palate: Almond butter and fruit sandwiches, chicken salad sandwiches, cake balls, fruit tarts, sugar palmiers, white chocolate butter cookies, egg and chicken mini-quiches, chocolate cake and milk-chocolate brownies.  My intention was to make each of the girls, as well as their families, to feel special… to celebrate their beautiful lives.

Peanut butter and jelly can become awfully monotonous when consumed on a frequent basis.  In order to create a more “gourmet” PB&J (as well as healthier!), use almond butter in lieu of peanut butter, and substitute fruit in place of jelly.  My favorite combination includes strawberries and bananas.  However, any combination of favorite fruits may be combined to satisfy your (and well as the youngsters) palate.  Almond butter is a “safer” option as individuals are often more prone to peanut allergies, as opposed to almonds.  Cashew butter is an additional option.

Brownies have always been a crowd pleaser and are easier to make for large crowds.  The following brownie recipe has found to be tried and true:


Milk Chocolate and Fudge Brownies
Brownies

4 Large Eggs
1 Cup Sugar
1 Cup Brown Sugar
1 ¼ Cups Cocoa Powder (I recommend Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa) 
½ Cup Flour
1 tsp. Vanilla – Extract or I recommend Madagascar Vanilla Paste (found at Whole Foods, Sur La Table)
½ tsp. Salt
Non-stick Butter Spray
Cocoa Powder – to dust pan

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.  Spray 8-inch square pan with non-stick spray, then place a square of parchment paper in the bottom of the pan.  Spray top of parchment paper with non-stick spray.  At this point, most recipes instruct an individual to dust the pan with flour; however, dust the pan with cocoa powder instead.  This way, when removing the brownies from the pan, there will be a thin layer of cocoa powder on the crust, as opposed to flour. 
Fruit Tarts for the Female Superstars at
the dress fitting

In a mixer, beat the eggs until they reach a “fluffy” consistency and light golden yellow color.  Add both the granulated and brown sugars and continue to beat until incorporated.  Add remaining ingredients and continue to mix until fully incorporated.

Pour the batter into the greased and “floured” pan.  Bake for 45 minutes. Insert a toothpick into the center of the pan; it will emerge clean when fully cooked.  If there is any residual batter on the blade, then allow the brownies to continue to cook.  When finished, remove pan and allow brownies to cool on a wire rack.  Do not cut into brownies until they are completely cooled.

May top brownies with chocolate, sprinkles, Nutella, white chocolate, powdered sugar, a la mode (ice-cream)… whatever your little heart desires.  You’re the chef.

I am truly looking forward to the upcoming event… celebrating the lives of such strong, positive children… true superstars!!

All my love from Dallas, sb

Friday, May 4, 2012

Do You Know the Muffin Man?


Mini-Muffin Tins Aid in Maintaining Portion-Control

Muffins often get a “bad rep,” and rightfully so, as the majority of muffins are composed of butter, oil, pastry flour and sugar.  Nutrition fail.  Recipe for disaster when the goal is geared towards healthy eating.

Until now…

For those of you who adore muffins, yet are still watching your figure, the following two muffins are fantastic, healthy alternatives.  And no… they do not taste of cardboard/bland “health food.”  Exploding with whole grains, natural sugar from Organic apple juice and berries, wheat germ and flax seed, the following Oatmeal and Blueberry muffins are absolutely worth at least trying.


Oatmeal muffins

1/2 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour or Whole Wheat Flour.  (May even substitute ½ Quinoa flour)
1/4 cup Ground Flaxseed
1/4 cup Toasted Wheat Germ
1 c Ground Oatmeal – Use food processor and pulse oatmeal until it reaches the consistency of flour
1 Tb + 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 tsp Cloves
2 tsp Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste (optional)
2 Tbsp Walnut Oil
Oatmeal Muffin without Raisins (May Include Dried Fruit)
2 Egg Whites
1 1/2 cup Organic Apple Juice
1 cup of Raisins/Currants

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line muffin tin with muffin liners.

In one large bowl, combine the following “dry” ingredients: flour, ground flax, wheat germ, oatmeal, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and cloves.  (If desired, may also add in Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste – about 2 tsp – adding minimum sugar).  Mix well. 

In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, walnut oil and organic apple juice.  Mix well, then slowly mix into the dry ingredients, while stirring constantly with a spatula.  Take your time when incorporating the wet into the dry, as to prevent lumps from forming.  There is nothing worse than biting into a muffin or bread, and tasting a little clump of baking powder or flour.  Believe me, it does not simply “cook together…” Yes, I do speak from experience.  Rather than ruining a batch of muffins, take the additional time to achieve a uniform and smooth batter.  When fully incorporated, mix in raisins or currants.

With an ice cream scoop (in order to achieve uniformity in size), scoop the same amount of batter into lined muffin tins.  Bake 375 degrees F for about 23-25 minutes.  Muffins will be fully cooked if you stick a knife blade/toothpick into the muffin and it “comes out clean,” – meaning that there is no uncooked batter residue on the blade/toothpick.  If raw batter is found on the utensil, place muffins back into the oven until fully cooked.


Blueberry Muffins
Blueberry muffins

1 1/2 cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour or Whole Wheat Flour (May even substitute ½ Quinoa flour)
1/4 cup Ground Flaxseed
1/4 cup Toasted Wheat Germ
1 Tb + 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
2 Tbsp Walnut Oil
2 Egg Whites
1 1/2 cup Organic Apple Juice
1 cup Organic Frozen Blue Berries
                                                                                                                
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F and line muffin tin with muffin liners.

In one large bowl, combine the following “dry” ingredients: flour, ground flax, wheat germ, baking powder and salt, cinnamon and cloves.  Mix well. 

Organic Apple Juice - My Preference is
Santa Cruz
In a separate bowl, combine the eggs, walnut oil and organic apple juice.  Mix well, then slowly mix into the dry ingredients, while stirring constantly with a spatula.  Take your time when incorporating the wet into the dry, as to prevent lumps from forming.  When fully incorporated, add in frozen blueberries and barely stir. 

With an ice cream scoop (in order to achieve uniformity in size), scoop the same amount of batter into lined muffin tins.  Bake 375 degrees F for about 23-25 minutes.  Muffins will be fully cooked if you stick a knife blade/toothpick into the muffin and it “comes out clean,” – meaning that there is no uncooked batter residue on the blade/toothpick.  If raw batter is found on the utensil, place muffins back into the oven until fully cooked.


Because these muffins do not contain granulated sugar, you can expect them to be significantly less sweet than a normal recipe.  However, by adding a plethora of blueberries to the blueberry recipe, as well as more cinnamon than usual to the oatmeal recipe, these aid in providing a natural sweetness to the muffins.  The sweetness also is determinant upon the sugars in the Apple Juice.

The flavors in the muffins become more pronounced on subsequent days, as the spices are able to “marinate.”  In addition, muffins may be stored in the freezer, then thawed at room temperature and enjoyed.  By using smaller muffin tin molds, portion sizes are more appropriate.  Less is more, in a sophisticated-sense.

j9sTyle Pink and Red Fashion Show 2012
Designs by Jay Grishby Jr.
How do you like them, muffins?

Back to Dallas this evening, but until then, all my love from Marshall,TX y’all,
sb

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sweet Summertime…

"Skinny Caesar" with Kale, Spinach,
Hearts of Romaine
Well folks, it’s officially summer-time… swim suits, beaches, roof-top pools, sun-kissed tans and colors galore.  The produce during the summer is always seemingly abundant in fresh fruits and vegetables.  Rather than consuming heavy dishes composed of roasts, potatoes and grains, the shift in the summertime is often focused primarily on vibrant colors and lighter proteins.  In order to save money, I will typically purchase organic chicken breasts in bulk – then grill the breasts immediately, cut into portions and freeze the cooked chicken.  I prefer the grill for two reasons: first – I love the taste of the grill marks.  To me, nothing can fabricate the unique “burnt” taste… it is unique and able to stand alone.  Second, the need for additional oils and butter are not needed when grilling.  Granted, yes – brushing the grill with an oil is necessary in order to prevent whenever protein or vegetable from sticking, but considerably much less oil is required compared to sautéing or pan-frying. 

Chicken salad has always been a favorite when dining.  However, most are laden with mayonnaise and are stacked atop croissants.  A healthier option is provided:
Lowfat Curried Chicken Salad

 

Lowfat Curried Chicken Salad

2 Cups Grilled Chicken – cut into cubes (you can use leftovers or thaw chicken that was precooked on the grill) - can also substitute shrimp, scallops, crab, lobster, turkey
1 Cup. 0% Greek Yogurt – plain
1Tbsp. Curry Powder
½ tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 stalk of celery - diced
½ Cup of Grapes – cut in half
Spinach/Romaine heart lettuce/ Kale
½ Lemon – juice
Slivered almonds/walnuts/cashews
¼ Red Bell Pepper – diced
Whole Wheat Pita Chips/Whole wheat baguette/9-grain bread – toasted

Lowfat Lobster Salad
In a large mixing bowl, combine the chicken, yogurt, curry powder, cayenne, grapes, celery, nuts and bell pepper.  Mix with a spoon, then squeeze a few drops of lemon juice to the salad.  Season with salt (to taste).  Refrigerate for 10 minutes (until chicken is cold).

Can either serve atop a bed of lettuce/spinach, or enjoy with whole wheat pita chips, baguette or 9-grain bread.  In order to provide a healthy “high tea” sandwich, cut the crusts away from the whole wheat bread and cut bread into 2in by 4in rectangles.  Layer the chicken salad in between the bread and add additional vegetables/gold leaf for decoration.  May also cut the baguette on a bias (diagonal cut) and toast the thin crostinis.  Then top with chicken salad, micro greens and gold leaf for an elegant, high tea sophistication. 

Lowfat Shrimp Salad
Gluten free option would be enjoyed by spooning the chicken salad atop a fresh bed of spinach/romaine heart lettuce/kale.  Rather than dousing the delicate leaves in dressing, simply drizzle lemon juice and lightly salt the vibrant greens.  The curry and yogurt from the salad provide dressing enough to compliment the salad.  If a dressing was to be added, it may over-power the curry from the chicken.

Not a fan of curry?  How about a Skinny Caesar Salad? 

Does that even exist?  Try using the tofu as the binding agent in the dressing.  It works, trust me.

Skinny Chicken Caesar Salad

½ c. Silken Soft Tofu
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1 Tbsp EVOO
2 tsp. Dijon Mustard (the wine in the mustard provides a nice sweetness)
1 tsp. minced garlic
½ tsp Cayenne Pepper
Salt to taste
1 ½ tsp. Red Wine Vinegar
"Skinny Caesar" with Shrimp and Parmesan Cheese 
1 tsp Worcestershire Sauce
3 Anchovies – minced and ground into paste (or ½ tsp. anchovy paste)
1 Tbsp Water
1 Tbsp Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 Cup Whole Wheat croutons – lightly toasted

In a blender combine the first 10 ingredients.  Add water to thin, as needed while mixture is blending.

Voila – there is your low-fat Caesar Dressing… sans the cholesterol since egg yolks are not needed in this recipe.  “Safer” to consume, as raw eggs are not included in this recipe either.  Not too shabby.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, romaine lettuce, cooked chicken breast, and as many diced vegetables as your little heart desires.  The more colors, the better.  Serve with dressing on the side.

Many lighter Caesar salad dressings use fat-free mayo.  Of course this is an option (may substitute fat-free mayo for tofu) – however, I prefer the tofu, as tofu contains more protein and calcium than mayo.  Proteins are essential in order to rebuild muscle. 

A few quick and healthy recipe ideas to kick start your summer, darhlings.

And now to work out… wiggle, wiggle, wiggle, yeah.

All my love from Dallas, y’all,
sb

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Whimsical, Yet Sophisticated… It’s All About the Placement in Presentation

Cannes, France
Location of the Cannes Film Festival

Hey Family and Friends!

Down in Marshall, Texas working with a client for the week… ergo, no cooking.  However, I did want to briefly mention a few ideas pertaining to the presentation of plating different foods.

The old adage, “You eat with your eyes first,” is a familiar phrase of truth.  Individuals tend to gravitate towards things in life which are aesthetically pleasing, clean, unique and captivating.  
Cannes, France 2008
When I was living in Paris, I visited Cannes (yes – famous for the Cannes Film Festival).  While vacationing in the sister-city of Beverly Hills, I conversed with many of the natives – establishing friendly relationships and learning more about the French culture.  I remember one retired couple asking about my work experience.  As soon as I mentioned attending Le Cordon Bleu in order to learn how to cook, as well as working in the restaurants of Hotel de Crillon and Hotel Le Meurice in both cuisine and pastry, their eyebrows raised and they exchanged “knowing” glances. 
Cannes, France - sister city to Beverly Hills

“Non, ma chérie,” the elegant, elderly French woman softly spoke in her thick Bourgeoisie French accent as she removed her sparkling Chanel glasses… “You did not just learn how to cook… you learned the art of cooking.”

The Ritz in Cannes, France
From time to time, I reflect on her words.  Cooking truly is an art.  Honestly, one can even make a cheeseburger look glamorous (believe me, I have accomplished that before).  What is the secret?  Time.  Patience.  Passion.  And quite honestly, a certain, “Je ne sais quoi,” factor that is difficult to teach… yet one is able to master if given the opportunity.

Simple, yet composed.  Sleek, yet orderly.  Meticulous, yet elegant.

Orange 
An orange, for example.  By cutting the peel away with a knife and removing the segments piece by piece, one can transform a simple fruit into an impressive plate.  By layering the segments into a circular flower pattern, dimension and height are created.  Final touches?  An edible flower provides a hint of color while a few pieces of gold leaf add the necessary “gold kisses” to elevate the presentation from “oh… an orange… thanks,” to, “Wow!  Is that an orange?!  I don’t even want to eat it because it is stunning!” 

Know what I’m saying?

Whimsical. 

Beet Coulis, Japanese Beech Mushrooms,
Squash and Almond Puree, Quinoa and
Brown Rice with Veggies
Vegetables compose the majority of a vegetarians diet (wow, no surprise there!)  But all too often, said group is forced to eat a mound of veggies – tossed together, neither rhyme nor reason.  However, so many opportunities are presented when noticing the brilliant and vibrant colors of vegetables.  I served a brilliant couple who own a vineyard in Napa Valley, California while I was working as the private chef in Dallas, TX.  They were strict vegans which challenged me in creating unique and healthy recipes on a restricted menu.  One of my favorite dishes that I composed included: grilled squash and almond puree, quinoa and brown rice and diced carrots, broccoli and cauliflower florets, beet puree and Japanese White Beech mushrooms.  When plating, remember the “odd rule.”  Three is better than four.  Five is better than six.  Etc.  In terms of “balance” on a plate, odd number look better (e.g., three apple segments arranged into a circle look better than four on a plain plate.)  Do not ask me why… it just… does.

Playful.

Quinoa-flour Pancake
While working as a private chef, I adored teaching the incredible, young daughter of the family how to “plate” her food.  Having a sweet tooth, I tried to create recipes that balanced whole grains, lean proteins (hard-boiled eggs – I would simply remove the yolk and we would snack on the egg whites together), and fresh fruits/vegetables.  Pancakes were always a favorite.  Instead of consuming white-flour pancakes (empty calories with little nutrition), I would make pancakes from quinoa flour and add diced strawberries and blueberries.  I will not lie… at first, she was not a fan.  She wanted the familiar taste of her old pancakes – dripping in syrup and lathered in butter.  However, in order for her to “warm up” to the healthier option, I knew I had to do something in order to create a “playful presentation.”  Ergo… a garden atop the quinoa flour pancake.  I crumbled ½ an Oreo in order to make “dirt,” then placed small edible flowers and chopped wheat-grass atop said dirt.  Instant garden.  Blue sprinkles replaced the syrup (and still provided a sweet factor).  Blue sprinkles also acted as a river upon the pancake.  Edible gold transformed into “goldfish” swimming in the river. Strawberry Shortcake figurine surrounded with diced strawberries?  That is one way to encourage a young child to eat her fruit. 

Trust me.  It worked.

Bold.

Free-hand decorations while I worked as a chef
in Phoenix, Arizona
Sauces of any kind can also provide instant color and character to any food.  When plating desserts, my favorite aspect is free-drawn designs.  I used to doodle designs on my notebooks during school when I was younger.  I would be thrilled whenever my mother would cover my books for the year with fresh paper bags… a new opportunity to leave my artist flair (all the while covering up the intimidation factor of a middle-schooler carrying a Geometry book).  My favorite sauces to use include: chocolate, crème anglaise and caramel.  Recipes for the sauces will be provided in the future… for now, this is an overview on how they can “dress up” any type of dessert.  I love to “customize” plates by melting chocolate and writing phrases (e.g., "Happy Birthday","Happy Anniversary", etc).  
Pistachio Ball with Caramel, Creme Anglaise, Mango and
Chocolate Mousse, Edible Flowers,
Crushed Hazelnuts, Mint, Edible Glitter and Golf Leaf

I have also had the privilege of decorating dessert plates for engagements and including the rings on said plates.  I love being able to present something of beauty to warm the hearts of others.

Elegance.
Scrambled Eggs with Creme Fraiche,
Caviar, Edible Glitter and Gold Leaf

Now this was an impressive presentation… difficult to execute, yet worth it.  First, wash a raw egg and gently (gently!!) remove the top of the egg shell by either purchasing a machine to do the work for you, or by carefully cracking the top with your knife and removing the top of the shell.  Remove the raw yolk and egg white.  When hollow, boil the shell in hot water for 5 minutes, in order to sanitize the hollow shell.  Store in refrigerator.  Then cook your scrambled eggs in a manner which you prefer… when I am preparing a “rich” scrambled egg recipe, I use heavy cream, butter and a creamy cheese (Havarti, Camembert, Pont l'Évêque… may even use something more familiar… Cheddar, Mozzarella, etc.)  Remove eggs from heat when scrambled.  Using a demi-spoon (just a small spoon), carefully (operative word – “carefully,” as shells will be very fragile), spoon the eggs into the hollow egg shell.  Top with Crème Fraiche, Caviar and gold leaf.  I used a candle votive, which was the perfect size, as a “stand” to mount the eggs.  Lasting touch was a sprinkle of edible glitter on the white plate.  I wish the photo on my blog did this presentation justice… but alas, it did not.  In person, the dish is stunning.  A hint of sparkle to accompany the small amount of eggs, bursting forth with rich flavor.

As I have mentioned before… white plates allow the food to be the focus.  Fine China with delicate patterns and dainty decorations can absolutely be appreciated in certain settings.  However, when the focus is on impressive food presentations, allow the white plate to be your blank canvas and the food to be your medium. 

Be creative.  You never know what you can create until you actually try. 

Love from Dallas, y’all,
sb



(actually, Marshall, TX!)