Sophisticated Savories

Sophisticated Savories

Friday, May 3, 2013

Healthy No-bake berry cheesecake

Healthy No-bake berry cheesecake... true story!

Crust:
1 Cup - Roasted Almonds and Walnuts
3/4 Cup - Pitted Dried Dates
1 Tsp Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste
1 pinch salt
1 pinch cayenne pepper

Filling:
2 Cups Blueberries
1 Cup Strawberries
2 Tbsp Lemon Juice
1/2 Cup Vanilla 0% Fat Greek Yogurt
1 1/2 Cups Roasted Cashews
1 Tbsp Madagascar Vanilla Bean Paste
1 Pinch of salt
1 pinch of cayenne pepper
5 Tbsp Avocado... if you want a hint of chocolate, use cacao butter instead of avocado

Garnish:
1 Cup Blueberries
1/4 cup Stevia or Truvia (both natural sugar substitutes)
1 Tbsp lemon juice

Crust:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and toss almonds/walnuts together with a pinch of sea salt and cayenne pepper... roast for about 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown. You may have to rotate the pan to prevent the nuts from burning in the oven. I used my brilliant Vitamix in order to crumble the roasted Almonds/Walnuts and Dried Dates... I then transferred the crumble into a bowl and added the vanilla bean paste. If the mixture is still too crumbly after the vanilla bean paste has been added, you may add a touch of water in order to bind the ingredients together (to make more of a paste). Press the crust into mini-sillicon muffin-shaped pans and set to the side.

Filling:
Preheat oven to 400 degrees and sprinkle cashews with salt and cayenne pepper... roast for about 5-7 minutes, or until golden brown. You may have to rotate the pan to prevent the nuts from burning in the oven. Using either a Vitamix or blender, combine all ingredients, except the avocado or cacao butter, and blend until smooth. Add the avocado or cacao butter and blend again until smooth. Pour the mixture over the crusts and chill in the fridge until firm (usually overnight will do the trick!) If you are on a time-crunch, I would recommend placing in the freezer; however, do not full freeze, as the filling will become slightly icy if frozen. Simply place in freezer until chilled.

Garnish:
Combine blueberries, Stevia/Truvia and lemon juice in a bowl and allow to sit overnight, or roughly 8 hours, in order for the acid in the lemon juice and sugar to create a natural sauce. Spoon sauce over cheesecakes when serving and dollop with vanilla greek yogurt and edible flowers!

Love y'all dearly! ♥

Baked Oatmeal Snack Bars

Baked Oatmeal Snack Bars

You know when you allow oatmeal to stand by its lonesome for a few minutes, after freshly making it and pouring it into a bowl? 

#congealedblobofoats

Not exactly the most appetizing in texture or flavor.

Since mornings can be rushed, why not make your own, healthy oatmeal bars - sans preservatives, artificial flavors or additives?

Easy recipe -

2 cups of rolled oats (not quick-cook)
1 cup of roasted/toasted nuts - think almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc.
1/3 cup of toasted seeds - pumpkin, sesame, sunflower, etc.
If you chose to add in dried fruits, this will boost the level of sugar per bars - however, a little bit goes a long way - cranberries, raisins, dates, papaya, apricots, etc. Coconut is another brilliant addition.
3 tsp cinnamon
3 tsp Madagascar Vanilla bean paste
2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/2 cups of skim milk or vanilla almond milk
2 egg yolks
Juice of 1/2 lemon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix all dry ingredients in one bowl, then mix all wet ingredients in a separate bowl. Pour wet into dry and stir to combine. Pour into a 9 by 9 baking dish - lined with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until golden brown on the surface. Allow to cool, then cut into squares and enjoy!

In order to sweeten naturally, without the addition of dried fruits, I would recommend a tablespoon of either Stevia or Truvia - both natural sources of sweetness, from the Stevia plant.

Easy to transport - simply place in plastic bas and throw in purse/briefcase. To keep, wrap with plastic wrap and store in freezer… when prepared to enjoy, either pop in microwave or allow to unthaw naturally.

"The doctor of the future will give no medication, but will interest his patients in the care of the human frame, diet and in the cause and prevention of disease" - Thomas A Edison

Love y'all! ♥

High-protein, low-in-fat "muffin"

Do you know the muffin man?

How about high-protein, low-in-fat muffin man?

Breakfast can always be a rushed, chaotic,
throw-whatever-I-have-into-my-purse/briefcase-and-run-out-the-door
type of ordeal.

I know some of you are slowly shrinking into your chairs, guilty of
said "panic."

So why not make it easy for you?

Studies have proven, over and over again, that breakfast is the most
important meal of the day. Why? You literally are "breaking the
fast" from dinner the night before. Whatever you chose to consume,
will effect your entire day. Literally.

Why do diets fail time and time again? Usually it is two-fold: one -
an individual does not consume enough calories during the day -
leading to a panicked binge at night, or two- he or she cuts out
entire food-groups entirely. But cutting out entire food groups, you
are fighting a double-whammy effect... not only does your mind want
whatever you say you "cannot have," but your body is also craving
essential nutrients from the eliminated food group. Now granted, yes
- highly processed foods, white-flour, sugar... these are not
beneficial to your diet. But whole grains, certain breads... do not
be afraid of carbs - just learn which one are healthy and will benefit
your body.

I generally make large batches of quinoa to have on hand...
gluten-free, high in protein and brilliant for breakfast/lunch/dinner
or snacks. Before my fruits and vegetables spoil, I will generally
juice them so as to prevent discarding "good food."

I meandered to my refrigerator this morning and found little bits and
pieces of red bell pepper, asparagus, zucchini, tomatoes, cilantro and
shallots. I also had eggs and cooked quinoa. Ergo - healthy muffins.

Simply dice all vegetables (raw) and place in a medium bowl. Season
with smoked sea salt, dried herbs (I am a huge fan of herbs de
Provence), pinch of cayenne pepper and juice of one lemon. To the
veggies, I added 10 egg whites and I egg yolk, as well as 1 cup of
quinoa. A quick mix, then lined a muffin sheet with cupcake holders.
Quick spray of non-stick spray and filled the cupcake holders until
they were about 90% capacity. Bake at 375 degrees for about 20
minutes/25 minutes - until firm and slightly golden brown on the
surface.

Not a typical muffin, but high-in protein and almost fat-free... not too shabby.

These can be made ahead of time and simply stored in tupperware in
your refrigerator. If you have left-over steak or salmon, by all
means - chop small and throw into the batter before cooking. Low
fat-cheese and nuts may also be added.

If you're one of those rushed individuals in the morning, simply pop a
few of these "muffins" into a plastic bag, then grab on your way to
the office in the morning... reheat in the microwave upon arrival to
your desk/cubicle. Much cleaner than oatmeal and higher in protein
too.

Spice it up with a little hot sauce or salsa.

Eating healthy should not be a "beating" or chore. My goal is to
provide you with healthy recipes that will fuel your body on a daily
basis, while maintaining the quality of flavor. Spices and herbs, as
well as proper cooking techniques work wonders.

#truestory

“Nothing would be more tiresome than eating and drinking if God had
not made them a pleasure as well as a necessity.” - Voltaire

Love y'all dearly! ♥

Tango Tab

Tango Tab

One in Six North Americans will go to bed hungry tonight.

Let's face it - Dallas is a city that loves to eat. Restaurants offering every type of cuisine are spread amongst the city - offering a variety of dining experiences.

So what is TangoTab and how does it benefit me?

After sitting down with TangoTab founder and CEO, Andre Angel, I knew I had to share the brilliant service.

One billion meals are dined out each week. TangoTab is a free service that allows you to search and claim for specials, events and exclusive offers at your favorite participating restaurants... so not only are you benefiting from a reduced price/free special, but the restaurant is benefiting from your service. Now TangoTab comes into play and allows you to join the fight against hunger... each time an offer is redeemed, TangoTab donates a meal to a local food bank and hunger-related charity.

#whenyoueattheyeat

No gimmicks, no lies.

Straight up - helping to feed those in need.

How does it work?

Simply download the free ap on your iPhone/smartphone or visit the website atwww.tangotab.com to sign up and view the free offers. Simply find an offer that tickles your fancy and go forth and save money, as well as lives.

#brilliant

Thank you, Andre, for embracing the fight against hunger and choosing to love others.

I am so incredibly grateful to live in Dallas and be surrounded by those, motivated to make a difference in this world!

Love y'all! ♥

Matcha Green Tea

Matcha Green Tea. 

What is it?

Why such praise?

Keeping it short and sweet - one cup of Matcha green tea has as many antioxidants as 10 cups of regular tea.

#truestory

Ok - but why is this different from other green tea? Instead of seeping a tea bag, Matcha green tea is actually ground leaves - providing you with the benefit of ingesting maximum antioxidants. When compared to other foods possessing antioxidants, Matcha green tea has almost 61 times that of spinach, 7 times of dark chocolate and 17 times of blueberries.

#dontmesswiththebest

A list the multiple health benefits are also associate with Matcha Green Tea - lowers "bad" cholesterol, anti-aging, weight loss aid, cancer prevention, rich in fiber, mind-booster and energy-promoter, to name a few.

When purchasing Matcha Green Tea - it can be found in both health food stores, as well as tea shops (I purchased a "kit" at Teavana and drink the tea every single day). I recommend organic, as it is free from pesticides, artificial fertilizers and herbicides.

Granted, I admit - Matcha green tea is an acquired taste. I personally enjoy the tea, although some tend to refer to it as "grassy." How does one eliminate the 'natural, earthy-ness' of the tea? First, boil water, then allow to cool slightly (about five minutes) - then pour over green tea. I add a touch of Stevia or Truvia (both natural) in order to sweeten the drink slightly. A squeeze of lemon will also aid in brightening the tea with a fresh hint of citrus. Grapefruit is another addition.

If you simply cannot stomach the tea, you can always mix it with another tea flavor... for instance, make a batch of peach or raspberry sun tea, then mix with Matcha green tea... it will dilute the taste while retaining the health benefits.

Paired with edamame (either fresh or roasted), and your body will adore the rush of health kicks. A brilliant afternoon snack to keep your mind sharp, body energized, bathing suit looking fantastic and heart healthy.

"C'est toujours une solution..."

"There's always a solution."

Love y'all! ♥

Herbs

Herbs.

"Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme..."

#oldies #simon&garfunkel

In terms of herbs - fresh is best. Ideally, we would have our own potted herb gardens... adding a fresh touch of warmth and brightness to our homes. Now granted, not all of use are gifted with 'green thumbs,' in which case, I would encourage you to purchase fresh herbs from the local farmers market/grocery store.

In terms of storing in order to extend the shelf life in your refrigerator, I will purchase fresh herbs, then roll them in a paper towel or napkin... sprinkle to dampen with water, then place in a plastic bag. Label the bag with a permanent marker/sharpie in order to know the contents- if purchasing multiple herbs.

Execution.

Delicate herbs - think cilantro, parsley, basil, mint, etc. - peel the leaves away from the stems and try to stack the leaves atop one another. Why? With delicate herbs, the goal is to only cut the once or twice. If you cut repeatedly, you will actually "bruise" the herbs - they will shrivel into a brown, limp ball of flavorless nothing. However, chopping only once or twice will unlock their flavors and permeate not only the room with their aromas, but dish with zest.

More robust herbs - think rosemary, thyme... in order to make these more palatable, one must chop these multiple times. Why? Rosemary, for example, is a very "woodsy", tough herb. However, after chopping it multiple times, it can be added to sauces, sprinkled over potatoes, encrusted on lamb, steak, poultry, etc. - a plethora of uses.

While delicate herbs are used mostly as an ending garnish, more robust herbs can withstand heat and cooking. They need more time to "break down" and soften.

Dried herbs are another entity all of their own... but added during the cooking process in order to develop their flavors with both time and heat.

"First, knife skills. Then, knowing how to control heat. Most important is choosing the right product... the rest is simple" - Justin Quek

Love y'all! ♥

Photo - taken by Jennifer Richards - brilliant photographer and friend! Thanks for the photo, Jenny!

Quinoa Additions/Variations


Brilliance of quinoa... it truly can be paired with a multitude of flavors... both sweet and savory - and incredibly convenience to transport.

It doesn't ALWAYS have to be about presentation...

I know, be still my heart...

I will often make a large batch of quinoa for the week - cooked in chicken broth (veggie broth for the vegetarians out there!) with cayenne pepper, shallots, smoked sea salt and lemon juice. Since it will keep for one week in my refrigerator, I have a "base" already made for any meal.

Then come the additions.

Sweet variety? Add fresh berries (strawberries, raspberries, etc) with toasted almonds or pine nuts.

Savory? Throw in a multitude of fresh vegetables - asparagus, artichokes, beets, carrots, beans, broccoli, zucchini, hearts of palm, cabbage, tomatoes (I know, they are fruits), avocados, etc. Anything goes!

Herbs - Fresh herbs will help in "lightening" the pseudo-grain.... think cilantro, basil, rosemary (chop fine!), sage, etc.

Proteins - egg whites, salmon, steak, chicken, turkey, tofu... quinoa is a great compliment to almost any type of protein.

Sauces - reduced balsamic, curry, soy sauce, teriyaki... again, the possibilities are endless.

In order to enjoy the health benefits from quinoa, without becoming tired of the same "taste," mix it up! Experiment with all types of flavors, then store in tupperware and either pack for lunch at the office, or enjoy poolside.

Versatile, healthy, delicious and easy to re-warm.

"When baking, follow directions. When cooking, go by your own taste." - Laiko Bahrs

Love y'all! ♥

0% Greek Yogurt with Fresh Berries

Leftovers...

3pm. Hunger pains. Whether it be a young mother on the go, athlete looking for fuel, businessman or woman sealing a deal or individual looking to tide over their rumbling stomach... what is a snack that is easy to reach for, while also being healthy?

One of my favorite snacks is 0% Greek yogurt paired with fresh berries and herbs - full of both protein and antioxidants... and fat free (gluten free too - but verify when purchasing... Chobani varieties, except for Chobani Flip products, are naturally gluten-free - for example). When bringing to the office, simply store the Greek yogurt and berries in a Tupperware container (portion out one serving). Granted, you can purchase the individual portions, but you will actually save more money when buying the larger servings.

In the morning, simply measuring your desired snack amount and place in a tupperware container. Drizzle with lemon juice and throw chopped fruit atop the yogurt (blueberries, mango, raspberries, strawberries, kiwi, blackberries, etc.) A hint of mint of basil aid in brightening the snack... if you desire a hint of sweet, agave is brilliant (a little bit goes a long way... 1 cup Greek yogurt only needs 1-2 tsp agave). When arriving at office, or simply at home, store in the refrigerator and allow to marinate. By the time three o'clock rolls around, you have a wonderfully creamy, non-fat treat (as the berries have had time to permeate thru the yogurt). Fresh toasted walnuts or almonds add a needed crunch for texture, with healthy-fat.

In order to add a little more substance, tofu can be added. For instance, if plating, I cut the firm tofu in a long rectangle. Under the tofu, I drew a line of reduced balsamic vinaigrette (perfect to compliment the fruits). In order for the Greek yogurt to hold its shape (in order to make a French "quenelle"), I simply whipped the yogurt until it held firm peaks (meaning, if I held the bowl over my head, the yogurt would not move). A touch of raspberry jam, fresh raspberries and roasted walnuts, along with edible flowers and a few basil/cilantro leaves were the finishing touches.

A healthy snack... either portable via tupperware, or plated with added flair.

"When you're eating something and your palate tell you what's missing, that's when you start combining" - Justin Quek

Fuel your body with the best.

Love y'all dearly!!

Eating Healthy On the Go

As a young professional on the go, there are a multitude of "excuses" why one cannot eat healthy: I go out to eat too often, I am too busy to prepare healthy foods, I need "substantial" food to keep me energized, etc.

Quite frankly, preparing your own foods at home will not only save you money and food, but your health and life as well.

For instance... I will generally take one day and purchase my food for the week. What most individuals do not realize is that food, for the most part, can be kept in the refrigerator for up to one week, without spoiling, if it is properly stored. I will touch on a few key tips on the next few posts - but today... chicken (or in French "poulet").

Chicken is a low in fat, pure protein that can also withstand freezing and dethawing. A simple, healthy manner of preparing chicken breast?

Season both sides of a chicken breast, without skin, with lemon juice, smoked sea salt, pinch of cayenne and any type of dried herb - herbs de Provence, oregano, italian seasoning, etc. Mix it up in order to prevent your palate from tiring from the same seasonings and flavors. Either sear with walnut/almond or olive oil or bake in the oven on a baking sheet, lined with aluminum foil and sprayed with non-stick spray (this eliminates the need for oil - saving calories). Chicken is fully cooked when no longer pink and 165 degrees internal temperature.

Now how does one transfer to the office? Cut the cooked chicken breasts into pieces and freeze in individual portion sizes (in plastic bags, then store in tupperware to eliminate freezer burn). Or - cook, then store in the refrigerator for up to one week. In order to create a healthy office lunch, throw some greens into a tupperware container, along with a multitude of vegetables. Often, I will drizzle kale with lemon juice in the morning, then store in the office refrigerator. The acid in the lemon will aid in eliminating the "bitter" bite of kale. At lunchtime, I will throw in some cherry tomatoes, chopped cucumbers, toasted almonds, chopped cauliflower and broccoli, hearts of palm, carrots, beets, onions, bell peppers, etc. Combined with the chopped chicken and a drizzle of reduced balsamic vinaigrette or olive oil - and voila - healthy, fresh salad to fuel you through the day. Combined with a slice of whole wheat bread and your body will love you.

"Cooking at once is child's play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love." - Craig Clairborne

Take the time to prepare healthy meals for you and your loved ones. You will not regret the decision.

Love y'all dearly!! ♥

Spaghetti Squash

Gluten-free spaghetti sans the calories of pasta… how can this be?

If it sounds "too good to be true," well, all too often - it is.

However, a brilliant, healthy and light alternative to pasta exists in the form of spaghetti squash.

#vegetable #resemblesspaghetti #truestory

Benefits of spaghetti squash… first of all - it's a vegetable. In terms of caloric count- 1 cup contains only 42 calories, 8 g carbs - versus a generic cup of pasta, ringing in at 180 calories, 34 carbs. It is gluten free, vibrant yellow and compliments a variety of dishes.

When preparing spaghetti squash, I will generally cut the squash in 1/2, then drizzle either extra virgin olive oil or walnut/almond oil on the cut surface. A quick sprinkle of smoked sea salt, cayenne pepper, herbs de Provence and lemon juice will aid in the roasting process. Place both ends, cut side down, on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and allow to roast at 400 for about 30-40 minutes (will be ready when easily pierced with a knife). After cooked, allow to rest for about 10 minutes, then gently, using a fork, scrap the squash "meat" away from the skin. Discard the skin and season the spaghetti squash accordingly.

So how does one turn spaghetti squash into a sophisticated dish?

I recently came across "green caviar" at the grocery store ("sea grapes" or "Umibido" (in Japanese)).

#littlekidinacandystore

Not only does the forest-green color pop, but the peppery flavor adds decadence to a plethora of salads/garnishes.

I purchased fresh ahi tuna, canned artichokes (they were on sale) and the green caviar.

Canned artichokes… I know, they taste "tinny." How does one eliminate the "canned"- taste when preparing?

First rinse thoroughly, then dry with a paper towel. Drizzle with lemon juice, touch of cayenne pepper, dried oregano, italian herbs, pinch of cayenne, smoked sea salt and a touch of walnut/almond oil (use EVOO if nut allergy). Cut into quarters, then allow to roast for 20 minutes (until crisp/lightly browned) on a baking sheet at 400 degrees.

Ahi Tuna - sprinkle all sides of the surface with smoked sea salt, lemon juice, cayenne and a nice coating of sesame seeds. When searing, I enjoy tuna served raw in the middle (nice and pink!) However, if you want it cooked throughout, then by all means - cook it to your desired degree of doneness. For a quick sear, lightly coat the bottom of a warm sauté pan with sesame seed oil. When the oil hits the "smoke point," (literally smoke will begin to rise from the sauté pan), then sear the top and bottom of the filet (only about 15 seconds per side). This will allow a crispy crust to develop on the outside, with a gorgeous pink inside. When serving, simply cut on a bias, or diagonal, and "fan out" in order to see the nice crust and pink inside.

To compliment and brighten the ahi, I made a quick diced salsa of mango and watermelon, tossed in freshly cut cilantro. I know… it sounds like it wouldn't work… but the sweetness of the mango and watermelon were supporting compliments to the seared ahi tuna.

Presentation - layer a trail of mango/watermelon/cilantro salsa on the plate, then place the ahi tuna atop the colored "road." Again, layer the tuna in a "fanned out" manner, in order to see the dazzling pink compliment the sesame seed crust. On the other side of the plate, spoon a portion of the spaghetti squash, along with a few of the roasted artichoke hearts. A quick drizzle of reduced balsamic vinaigrette over the squash/artichokes will compliment the final presentation, as well as green caviar and edible flowers atop the ahi tuna. What can I say… it just gives it that refined, polished-edge.

"Cooking is an art, but all art requires knowing something about the techniques and materials"- Nathan Myhrvold

Take a cooking class… learn the basic fundamentals, then grow, gain confidence, experiment and develop a love for cuisine!

Love y'all dearly! ♥

Freezing Avocados

Question per freezing avocados…

Absolutely! Freezing avocados is brilliant! Now granted, something happens to the texture when frozen, so I would recommend using the previously frozen avocados for guacamole, but being that they are so expensive and spoil relatively quickly - yes! Freeze!

Per freezing - either freeze them cut in 1/2 (removing skin before freeze and place avocado in ziplock bag) or freeze as a puree - can either smash the avocado with a fork or use your food processor to chop fine. Squeeze a few drops of lemon on either (1/2 or puree) version - it will prevent it from oxidizing and turning brown…

Lastly - in terms of freezing - consider portion sizes when rethawing… smaller portions when divided into the ziplock bag will help in extending the life of frozen avocado (so you don't have to thaw huge quantities at once!)

Love y'all dearly!

Israeli couscous

What exactly is couscous?

Essentially, it is an Israeli toasted pasta shaped like rice or little balls. While it comes in a variety of forms, Israeli couscous - whole wheat - is my favorite derivative. Why? I enjoy the larger size, in terms of texture, and benefits of whole wheat pasta.

I know... shudder... I uttered the dreaded "diet debunker" in mentioning "pasta."

How does one still enjoy pasta while either losing weight of maintaining their current weight?

Portion control.

Diet is 30% working out and 70% what you chose to consume (or not consume!) When I make pasta dishes, I will generally load them up with vegetables. Not only do vegetables impart their aroma into the pasta, but they also provide vibrant colors and less calories.

Healthy Whole Wheat Israeli Couscous
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
1 shallot - diced
1/2 red bell pepper - diced
2 small portabella mushrooms - diced
5 large kalamata olives - cut in half
1 cup whole wheat Israeli couscous
2 cups chicken stock (or vegetable/beef)
1 Tbsp red wine - Pino/Cabernet Sauvignon
2 tsp smoked sea salt
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 Tbsp dried oregano
3 large basil leaves - finely chopped - garnish

Sweat the diced shallots in the EVOO on medium heat until they are tender and translucent (no longer crunchy) - about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, red bell pepper, mushrooms, smoked sea salt, dried oregano and lemon juice and cook until tender (about 5 minutes). Deglaze with red wine. When fully reduced, add stock and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add the couscous, cover with a lid and remove from the heat. Allow to sit for about 10 minutes, until the couscous fully absorbs the liquid. Couscous will be ready when able to "fluff" with a fork - not sticky.

After fully cooked, add finely-chopped fresh basil and Kalamata olives.

In terms of plating, couscous is brilliant when used with ring-molds because it keeps it shape in a way that most pastas simply cannot. Couscous can be served as a side side to any type of protein... scallops, shrimps, crab, poultry, red meat, etc. A healthy, versatile dish that not only looks whimsical, but fulfills a "pasta craving" in a diet-friendly manner.

Love y'all dearly! ♥

Quinoa with veggies, roasted nuts, dried fruits, chicken and Thai sauce

Whilst my mother may not be a classically-trained French chef, she is one darn good home-cook.

#damngood

I am always incredibly encouraged whenever family and friends send me photos/messages of their “good eats.” I am overjoyed knowing that not only are they having fun in the kitchen, but learning how to cook healthy and improve their health.

Mom sent me a photo from lunch today… quinoa with crunchy vegetables, roasted nuts, dried fruits, chicken and spicy Thai sauce… a fresh spinach salad with flaxseed, raspberries and basalmic vinaigrette and peach green tea with Perrier.

When cooking quinoa, I advise one recommendation… use either chicken/vegetable or beef stock, as well as dried herbs in order to cook the pseudo-grain (as opposed to only water).

For example, place 1 cup quinoa and 2 cups of chicken stock in a sauce pan… toss in 1 Tbsp dried Herbs de Provence, juice of ½ lemon, a pinch of cayenne pepper and a few teaspoons of smoked sea salt. Bring the liquid to a boil, then cover and decrease to a simmer. Allow the quinoa to fully absorb the stock (it will “sprout” when fully cooked – about 15 minutes). After cooked, taste and adjust seasoning… also add cherry tomatoes, fresh cilantro, avocado, onions and scallions for an added zest. A drizzle of reduced balsamic will definitely do the dish justice.

Not only healthy, but stunning colors (another benefit of healthy eating).

Nicely done, mom – you’ve done me proud!

Love y’all dearly! ♥

Deviled-Eggs

After celebrating Easter, one item usually sits, untouched, in the refrigerator… a plethora of hard-boiled eggs.

Aside from the deviled-egg, how does one consume said eggs in order to prevent the sulphur-smell from spreading and wreaking havoc on other foods resting content in the fridge?

While traditional deviled eggs are high in both fat and cholosteral (due to the egg yolk), there are alternatives to using the non-fat egg white in healthy recipes.

A few simple recipe ideas: simply cut the hard-boiled egg in half and discard the yolk. Fill with:

Smoked salmon, chicken salad, turkey salad, tuna salad, cooked lentils, quinoa, rice, beans, sauteed vegetables… even chopped steak, ground beef, seared tuna, olives or nuts/seeds.

While some look at egg whites as being “lackadaisical” in flavor as a weakness, it can also be considered a strength: the mild taste can pair beautifully with a mydrid of other flavors. After removing the yolk, the boiled egg whites acts as a pure-protein, non-fat spoon… cradeling whatever filing is piled into its naturally-shaped trough.

One of my favorite “faux” deviled eggs is a hard-boiled egg white stuffed with lentils… it pairs brilliantly with smoked salmon. I recently made a chive oil (thank you, Vitamix), then paired smoked salmon with fresh chives, lemon juice, beet coulis (use blender or Vitamix to blend cooked beets, olive oil, lemon juice, salt and cayenne pepper), fresh guacamole, a few sautéed mushrooms, salmon roe and microgreens.

How to prepare the lentils…
I prefer red lentils. First, wash the lentils with luke-warm running water – red lentils are notorious for having a small film of “grit” covering the beans… stones may also be mixed into the colored beans… rinsing will eliminate the impurities. Place the cleaned lentils in a saucepan and (1 cup) and add 2 1/2 cups of chicken/vegetable/beef stock. Bring liquid to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover the pan and allow to simmer on a low temperature for about 25 minutes. You will know they are finished cooking when they resemble a thick puree (they often do not retain their circular-shape during the cooking process). Season with fresh herbs, smoked sea salt, lemon juice and cayenne for a kick! Stuff into boiled-egg whites. Incredibly simple, healthy and brilliant with fresh herbs (cilantro, basil, rosemary), dried herbs (Italian seasoning, Herbs de Provence, Oregano) or spices (Turmeric, Curry, etc.)

As my chefs at Le Cordon Bleu would say, “c’est toujours une solution” meaning… “there is always a solution.”

Rather than make a traditional deviled egg… enjoy making a new, healthier version. Your body will love you. Guaranteed.

Love y’all dearly! ♥

Cucumber soup

Quick cucumber soup recipe, as I just finished a phenomenal run around the dazzling downtown Dallas streets and getting ready to teach at Sur La Table for the day! 

Vitamix.

My new best friend.

I had a few cucumbers left in my refrigerator - longing to be transformed into a light, refreshing soup. Ergo - a quick chop of shallots and sweat in olive oil until translucent and no longer crunchy. Throw in the diced cucumber (may include skins) - and season with smoked sea salt, juice of 1/2 lemon, pinch of cayenne pepper, 1 tsp horseradish (give it a kick!), dried oregano... allow to cook for about 5 minutes, then transfer ingredients to Vitamix and blend until pureed. Add chicken broth to thin to the consistency of your preference!

For a garnish, I sautéed some mini-shrimp with red bell peppers, then tossed with fresh microgreens, lemon juice and cilantro. Also garnish with 0%Greek yogurt to give it a "creamy" addition, without destroying your diet!

So refreshing, healthy and bursting with flavors...

Fuel yourself with fresh produce... and you will reap the benefits on all accords...

Off to TEACH! Spread the absolutely joy and love of cooking... got to!

Love y'all dearly!

Quick, healthy, fresh, organic, energy boost for the 3pm office munchies

Quick, healthy, fresh, organic, energy boost for the 3pm office munchies.

As a youngster, my mother cooked fresh, organic vegetables with lean meats/fish on a daily basis. When I think of comfort food, I gravitate towards fresh produce… vibrant colors, bursting with flavors and energy-promoting properties. 

Rather than peering into the vending machines and staring at a selection of packaged sweets, processed foods and sodium-ridden morsels, I simply reach into the refrigerator and select my Tupperware-protected fresh veggies. As a young, single professional Accountant, I work long hours at the office. After turning in my tick-and-tied out reports for the day, I generally will run along the dazzling Dallas Katy trail/elliptical machine at the gym. Endorphins galore. Create a work-of-art for dinner… snap photo, eat said art, then research/write/blog culinary. Busy life… but grateful to share my passion for healthy eating.

More on saving time and money in terms of grocery shopping ideas, but quick office snack idea:

Toss together chopped cucumbers, cherry tomatoes, yellow bell peppers, fresh cilantro, crushed sea salt, lemon juice and olive oil. If you prepare this easy, chopped combo of freshness in the morning, then place it in a Tupperware container and stick in the refrigerator at work, the flavors will marinate all morning, thru lunch, until the mid-afternoon stomach-grumbles begin. Pat yourself on the back… you already have prepared a light, energy-promoting snack. Nicely done. A quick boost to sharper your focus, as opposed to ending up in a food-come, lethargic-state.

“I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand.” - Benjamin Franklin

I guarantee… healthy changes to your diet will reinvigorate your life.

Love y’all dearly!

Couscous

A dichotomy exists upon the advent of the internet… not only has the world expanded with the wealth of information floating around the internet waves, but it has also shrunken – to an extent – in terms of building connections and interactions.

If you ever find yourself running into an individual in person, with whom you are Facebook friends, you may exclaim, “wow – small world!” and you will know of what I speak.

One of my precious friends, I would consider a sister to me, lives in Tunisia. We speak daily and share recipes. Souzi just recently shared a plethora of Tunisian recipes… one including Harissa, which is a hot chili sauce composed of chili peppers, serrano peppers, spices and herbs, as well as couscous.

Harissa – traditional, with a few “sb modifications”

2 tablespoons olive oil
10 dried red chili peppers
½ red bell pepper
1 small shallot
½ Serrano chili pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp smoked sea salt
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground caraway seeds
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp herbs de Provence
2 tsp fresh cilantro
Juice of ½ lemon

In order to rehydrate the dried chilis, soak them in hot water for at least 30 minutes. Drain and remove all seeds and stems.
Dice the shallot and red bell pepper – saute in olive oil until tender
In a food processor, combine all ingredients and blend into a smooth paste.
Store in an air-tight container and drizzle with olive oil in order to maintain freshness. Will keep for up to one month in the refrigerator.

Couscous

Couscous is a traditional Berber dish that is actually semolina (durum wheat). While many recipes call for the couscous to be cooked in water, I will gravitate more towards chicken stock, vegetable stock or beef stock. Intention being to impart more flavors into the grain during the actual cooking process.

1 small shallot
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ cups couscous
2 ¾ cups stock (chicken, vegetable, beef, etc).
1 tsp smoked sea salt
2 Tbsp herbs de Provence
2 saffron threds – bloomed (simply place two threads of saffron in 2 tsp hot water and allow to permiate – water will turn bright yellow and attain the flavor of saffron… generally takes about 2 hours for the threads to bloom appropriately)

Sweat the shallots in olive oil until tender, then add stock and bring to a boil. Stir in couscous and herbs/seasoning, then remove pan from the heat and cover with a lid. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, as the couscous absorbs the liquid and flavors. Couscous should be fluffy and light – not gummy.

Couscous is generally served with different varieties of meats: lamb, beef, chicken… seafood may also be an option, or any type of beans as well (chick peas, etc).

In terms of presentation, I focused on the colors. I combined the Harissa with some couscous on the bottom of my plate, then piled a mound of couscous in the middle. Around the edge, I also used yellow bell pepper, beets, micro greens, edible flowers and a few saffron threads.

Souzi, thank you for teaching me about Tunesian flavors and traditional recipes. I will absolutely add more Tunesian influences into my cooking repoitoire!

“When I walk into my kitchen today, I am not alone. Whether we know it or not, none of us is. We bring fathers and mothers and kitchen tables, and every meal we have ever eaten. Food is never just food. It’s also a way of getting at something else: who we are, who we have been, and who we want to be.” - Molly Wizenberg

Love y’all dearly!
sb ♥

Japanese Supermarket

When I venture into learning about new cuisines, different supermarkets, travel to different areas of the world, exchange recipes with friends who share different cultures, I delight in learning about new herbs, spices and unfamiliar foods.

I recently visited a brilliant Japanese supermarket close to Dallas. Although I was unable to read and understand most of the ingredient labels, the brilliant “exotic” produce and un-scathed entire fish laying on ice brought forth a flood of memories of walking around the outdoor Parisian markets – I immediately called my mom in order to share the good fortune… exclaiming, “it’s even better than a jewelry store!”

#overlyexcited #simmerdownnow

Point being… while cooking can be dreadfully intimidating if one does not have a decent amount of experience, it can also become one of the most rewarding gifts that you can give to another individual. Everyone must eat. Facts are facts. But when you are able to create healthy, flavorful, gorgeous food, it shows that you are taking the time to care for those that you love.

Walking through the aisles, two ingredients in specific caught my immediate attention: fresh lotus root and chive buds. Generally these items can be a challenge to find in a “typical” store.

Quick preparation… light, healthy and refreshing for the upcoming summer…

Ahi Tuna – season with crushed sea salt, pinch of cayenne pepper, lemon juice and sesame seeds… quick sauté (about 10 seconds per side) in sesame seed oil.
Lotus Root and shiitake mushrooms– Either thinly slice with a mandolin or cut thin with a knife. Season with lemon juice and smoked sea salt… sauté in sesame seed oil until tender (few minutes since they are thinly sliced). The smoked salt will add a subtle “rustic” bite to the dish.
Green tea soba noodles – Place in boiling salted water and cook until al-dente (cooking time varies on the thickness of the noodle… the most “common” soba noodles only require about 1 minute, 30 seconds)
Chive buds… no need to cook… simply season with sea salt and sesame seed oil

In terms of presentation, remember to build up in height… like women’s hair in Texas… the bigger, the better! I will often place the vegetables on the bottom of a white plate, then stack a pile of swirled noodles. Since lotus root is aesthetically gorgeous, be sure that it is not hiding amongst the noodles. Atop said tower of noodles rests the lightly seared, sesame-encrusted filet of ahi… then delicately drape the whimsical chive buds across the barely-cooked tuna. A finishing touch of edible gold-leaf takes the dish from delicious to dazzling.


“The discovery of a new dish does more for the happiness of mankind than the discovery of a star.” -Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

Love y’all! ♥

Rice air crackers

Jack-in-the-box.

Every time I turn the knob and hear the whimsical chimes sing their high-pitched song, I know that the end result will produce a clown, springing forth from its chamber in hopes of surprising an individual.

I still jump every time.

The fact that I’m not a huge fan of clowns certainly does not help matters…

Regardless… the same is true of those machines that create the “rice air crackers.” Are you familiar with the noisy contraptions? As I was meandering thru the grocery store a few nights ago, I saw a lady standing in her booth, prepping the popped rice cakes… as soon as the machine began popping out the air-puffs, I’m not going to lie… I jumped.

#sheepishlyshrinkintochair

Despite my obvious shock, I decided to stop and at least taste the treats that were being flung through the air and violently trapped by an enclosed glass container.

Face your fears, right?

I was pleasantly surprised and thus was inspired to incorporate them into a dish for dinner.

Recent studies has proven that the Mediterranean diet proves to be the most healthy in terms of consumption of nutrients, “correct fats” and vitamins. Ergo, I purchased a brilliant filet of salmon, as well as red currents, granny smith apples, cilantro, lemon and beets. Hodge podge of colors, flavors and healthy wonderfulness.

Quick, easy, flavorful and colorful presentation…

Granny smith apples – cut into matchsticks (I kept the skin on for color and nutritional-value)
Beets – I had already cooked these at home, so I cut them into matchsticks (same size as apples)
Red currents – keep whole
Cilantro – Quick chop with a sharp knife!
Mix the ingredients together in a bowl, then drizzle with lemon juice, crushed sea salt, pinch of cayenne pepper and touch of extra-virgin olive oil.

Salmon – I lightly seasoned with lemon juice, sea salt, herbs de Provence and pan-seared in olive oil. After it was cooked, I delicately broke the salmon into bite-size pieces, then mixed with the fruit/vegetable mixture. In terms of plating, I simply layered the mix between two rice popped cake/crackers.

A gorgeous, bright, light, refreshing dinner for the upcoming summer bathing suit months.

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food” – Hippocrates

Love y’all! ♥

FRESH by Brookshires

So thankful for a fantastic demo at FRESH by Brookshires this past weekend! Video and photos coming soon! Joy and passion of cooking... Love y'all! ♥ 

Oysters

More often than not, oysters obtain a “bad rapport” when served on their shell and eaten raw.

Why? 

To oyster lovers, the entire ritual of preparation and presentation is essential to the entire experience: shucking the oysters, anointing with sauces, tilting the shells, stomaching the firm/slippery texture and gracefully placing the downturned shell back onto the plate…

#dropthemike with pride as you have displayed sophistication upon consuming said delicacy.

There is some intrinsic nature about an oyster that resists every attempt to worthily describe the shellfish.

Simply put… it is what it is.

While consuming raw oysters is an experience in and of itself, there are a multitude of people who cannot get past the idea/texture. One great aspect of food… if you do not care for how an item is prepared, it can often be prepared in another manner… allowing you to actually enjoy a different style of the same food. Brilliant… no?

In order to create texture for oysters, I will pair cooked oysters with “crunchy” produce.

For example. Oysters take minutes to cook. Three, to be exact. Because oysters can be both sweet and salty, I will often bring cream to a rolling boil, then drop the oysters into the bubbling froth. The cream will be quickly absorbed into the oyster skin, eliminating the excessive sweet/salty, “sea” taste. After about three minutes, the edges should begin to curl – indicating that the oyster has indeed been appropriately cooked (overcooking will create an unpleasant rubbery flavor and texture – justifying reason to shudder when thinking of consuming the delicate shellfish). A squeeze of lemon juice will aid in brightening the shellfish… a very small, yet necessary addition!

While the cream aided in eliminating the natural sweetness of the oyster, I still desire to maintain a hint of sweet; ergo, granny smith apple. Not only will the apple provide a crunch (to play with texture,) but a subtle pop to the entire dish. A few caramelized shallots and pearl onions will also contribute with a mild touch of sweet and crunch.

Thinly peeling a cucumber into long ribbons, then rolling into cylinders not only adds an aesthetically-pleasing appeal to the presentation, but a needed textural lift to compliment the oysters.

A touch of either crème fraiche or 0% Greek yogurt and caviar are the finishing touches to compliment the entire dish.

Simple. Refined. Elegant.

“I feel a recipe is only a theme, which an intelligent cook can play each time with a variation.” - Madam Benoit

Love y’all! ♥

Fresh Figs

5am.

Pre-sunrise.

Shadows dancing amongst the Parisian streets.

The gentle sounds of market owners setting up their booth/display areas reverberated across the streets and bounced up the intricately-designed French flats…

When I lived in Paris, I used to purchase my groceries at the fresh markets which were set up in the early morning hours. I lived on rue de la Convention in the 15eme… ergo, the market set up every Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday. Living by myself, I could purchase enough fresh food on a semi-daily basis... glorious, indeed.

The figs and mangos in Paris were absolutely out-of-this-world… bursting forth with sweet flavors and nectarous flavors. Candy was not necessary in the dazzling City of Lights- simply because the fresh fruits were more than enough to satisfy one’s desire for sugar. While working at Hotel de Crillon, I would often deconstruct fruit from its original form… molding and shaping it into edible artwork.

In terms of presentation: sophisticated, modern, perfectly executed.

Try pairing fresh figs with mangos. A white plate for presentation will allow the fruit to “pop.” Sprinkle crushed roasted pistachios for a more delicate touch… and finish with a few pea shoots to add a dash of color and warmth.

Rather than clogging your arteries with heavy desserts on a consistent basis, try enjoying fruit in place of candy, cookies and cakes. I can promise you that not only will your body love the healthy substitute, but you will feel better: less lethargic, able to focus, more energy, sleep more soundly… you truly are what you eat.

“I have the simplest tastes. I am always satisfied with the best” – Oscar Wilde

Care for your body with fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, legumes, whole grains, healthy omega 3’s and refined oils.

You will not be disappointed.

Love y’all! ♥

Ahi Tuna with Fruits and Veggies


Sometimes the most random flavors can be paired together… and work brilliantly!

I often will challenge myself in the kitchen… creating a “Chopped” scenario where I will mosey on over to the refrigerator/pantry to see what items exist… then create something out of nothing. By perusing the grocery store to see what produce is on sale… then purchase said items, one can embrace the challenge of creating flavors and dishes… not simply following a recipe. But this comes with experience and confidence in the kitchen.

Ahi tuna is one of my favorite fish to prepare… not only gorgeous with the bright magenta color, but bursting with flavors when consumed… raw or cooked. Tuna tartar is a bright, refreshing and healthy dish for the upcoming summer months. I happened to have a few green grapes that had seemingly staked their claim to a shelf in my refrigerator. Rather than simply eat them as a snack, I wanted to pair them with something… especially if it was an unlikely coupling.

When I was working at Hotel Le Meurice in Paris (3 Michelin-starred restaurant), I learned a plethora of different techniques in food preparation. Peeling grapes happened to be one of the more meticulous tasks…

Yes, I said “peeling grapes.”

#areyoukiddingme

Embracing my French heritage, I proceeded to peel a few green grapes… not only to gain a texture similar to the raw ahi tuna, but also to create a more “glossy” surface effect. After removing the grape skin, I cut the green translucent grapes into ½ or ¼ (depending on the size), then chopped the ahi tuna in a similar-sized dice. I seasoned the grape/ahi combination with lemon juice, sesame seed oil, freshly crushed sea salt, pinch of cayenne pepper, celery leaves (I love the bright yellow/green colors from the inside stalks) and pea shoots.

I had some left-over rutabaga puree left over from a few nights before. In order to extend the puree, I added some 0% Greek yogurt and used my Vitamix to puree into a completely smooth mixture. Using a “paint brush,” I brushed the rutabaga puree only a plain white plate. Atop the “smear,” I strategically placed the ahi/grape mixture. A sprinkle of roasted, crushed cashews topped the dish.

The combination of citrus (from the lemon), sweet (from the grape), savory (from the ahi) and umami (from the sesame oil) proved to be a winning combination.

“Cooking requires confident guesswork and improvisation-- experimentation and substitution, dealing with failure and uncertainty in a creative way” -Paul Theroux

Love y’all! ♥

Potatoes


Being that it was just St. Patrick’s Day (and I do have Irish blood within my heritage)… a quick post in regards to the “plain” potato.

One immediate turn-off to nutritious-eating is preparing “health food” that lives up to its name/stereotype… boring/unseasoned/plain…

But being healthy is anything but.

The problem?

We as humans often resist change. We gravitate towards consistency and embrace the familiar.

Sure… things can be “good…” by why settle for good health when it can be great?

I admit, I do not eat a plethoa of potatoes in my diet… but occasionally my body craves the starchy-white, tuberous crop. Rather than clogging my arteries with French fries, I will toss baby potatoes (sometimes a mix of red, baby gold, purple Peruvian) with Extra Virgin Olive Oil, smoked sea salt, pinch of cayenne pepper (this helps to boost your metabolism), lemon juice, herbs de Provence and fresh Rosemary or cilantro (depending on what flavor I desire to create). Simply roast in a 400 degree oven until tender to cut with a knife (the smaller the size of potato, the faster they will cook).

If one desires to create more of a “French fry” effect… simply add a touch of ketchup.

To brighten the potato further, I mixed together 0% Greek yogurt, lemon juice, goat cheese and fresh rosemary. In terms of serving, I simply dolloped each potato with a touch of the cheese/yogurt, then topped with fresh sprigs of rosemary.

Learning to train your palate to appreciate “fine-dining food” can be challenging at first… however, you refine your taste buds through experience.

Wine, for example. If one has never tasted an aged, fine-wine, the taste can be unpleasant upon first encounter. Why? Because if all that you have ever experienced is a
“common wine,” then it can be easy to turn up ones nose to a refined, bold luxury.

Produced can be treated in the same manner. If one has consumed fast food for a lifetime, then enjoying fruits and vegetables may be challenging upon first taste. However, as the body consumes more fresh produce, it will actually begin to crave the vitamins, minerals and fresh foods. It generally takes the body at least two weeks to develop a new habit. Each individual must simply ask him or herself… is a change in diet worth a lifetime of better health?

I would venture to say yes.

“Thou shouldst eat to live, not live to eat.” -Cicero, Rhetoricorum LV

Love y’all! ♥