Category Archives: Cool Stuff

When Words and Food Collide


hotdogs&croissants

Back in December, I was honored at the opportunity to narrate an audio book, HOT DOGS & CROISSANTS, by Victorine and Natasha Saulnier. To my pleasant surprise, it was a book about the culinary ‘misadventures’ of two French sisters, who came to the US as reporters, and along their travels discovered American cuisine, including Nathan’s Famous hot dogs at the annual hot dog-eating contest in Coney Island; snapping turtle soup as prepared by the Native American elders of the Alabama-Coushatta tribe; cheesy grits from the Armadillo Diner in Texas; and much more. They gained weight, then rediscovered their love the fresh and healthy diet they grew up on, and figured out how to eat well in America too, and lost it again.

Narrating this book was a great adventure for me, as my voice followed the sisters through many states and the people they met along the way. It is filled with wonderful recipes, some that they learned on their travels, and some very special ones from their childhood in France.

If you enjoy listening to audio books, I hope you’ll give this one a try! I know that if you join Audible.com, the first book you get is FREE!

 

Squash is the Reason for the Season (and an Excuse to Make Quesadillas)!

butternutsquash_quesadillaThese butternut squash and feta cheese quesadillas made a comeback at my home for dinner recently. They were just as yummy as eva!

In case you’ve never seen the episode on how to make these and two more delicious and easy kid-friendly snacks, here it is!

And here are the recipes to follow yourself!

Just the Right Spice Makes this Veggie Burger So Nice

Chickpea Cauliflower Patties

This week, I was tantalized by a recipe I stumbled upon on The First Mess, a beautiful blog filled with many wholesome and delicious recipes, and wonderful food photography. The thing that really caught my eye, was the word “Old Bay seasoning” in the title of the recipe. Old Bay seasoning has a dear place in my heart, as my boyfriend turned me onto it, and then then I discovered it in my Christmas stocking from him that winter. :) It is great on roasted potatoes, eggs, beans, and anything with a mild taste (It was originally invented as a crab boil; my boyfriend attests it’s excellent on shellfish as well as chicken).

The photos on the blog were so tantalizing, and I am a sucker for a good veggie burger, plus my friend Stephanie was coming over for dinner this week, and I knew she would love for me to try the recipe out on her.

It is a bit involved. But the directions seemed more complex than the experience making them. Put on some good music, have a lovely beverage to sip on and have fun making these Chickpea & Cauliflower Veggie Patties with Vegan Cashew Lemon Spread. I made some personalizations to the original recipe by adding cayenne and turmeric for added flavor and a healthful boost.

Eating is the greatest reward

 

Chickpea & Cauliflower Veggie Patties with Vegan Cashew Lemon Spread
Makes 4 patties

Patty ingredients:

  • 2 cups cauliflower florets
  • 2 cups cooked chickpeas (I used canned)
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 tbsp Old Bay seasoning
  • 1 tspn turmeric
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • squeeze of lemon juice
salt + pepper to taste, keeping in mind Old Bay is pretty salty
  • 1/4 cup + 3 tablespoons chickpea flour
  • 1/2 of a shallot, chopped (original recipe called for 1/3 cup chopped chives)

Cashew Lemon Spread ingredients:

  • 1 cup raw cashews, soaked for at least 4 hours
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • splash of vinegar (original recipe called for white wine vinegar, I used rice vinegar)
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard (I used hot horseradish mustard)
  • 2 tbsp-1/3 cup filtered water
  • dash cayenne pepper
  • salt to taste

Sandwich ingredients:
Feel free to customize to your taste. I made mine with whole wheat pita bread, sliced cherry tomatoes, avocado and fresh arugula.

* The original recipe called for 1/4 cup chickpea flour and 3 tablespoons oat flour, with the option to use all chickpea flour – which is what I did. But if you’d like to use 3 tablespoons oat flour, you can easily grind oats in a food processor, vitamix or spice grinder to make it. Also, if you don’t have Old Bay seasonings (I’ve seen it sold at Target and Cost Plus World Market fyi), here is the link to make it yourself!

Preparation:

  1. Steam cauliflower florets in a steamer basket over a pot of shallow water for 7-8 minutes.
  2. Remove and run some cold water over it to stop the cooking process.
  3. Dry the florets lightly and place them in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the “S” blade.
  4. Add the chickpeas, garlic, Old Bay seasoning, turmeric, cayenne pepper, olive oil, lemon juice, salt + pepper.
  5. Pulse until you have a meal that clumps together when you squeeze it, trying not to blend up all of the chickpeas.
  6. Put the chickpea and cauliflower mixture into a large bowl, add the chickpea flour and chopped shallots until the ingredients are well mix and the flour is absorbed. Adjust the seasonings accordingly, if needed.
  7. Divide the mix into 4 equal portions and form patties with your hands. (This was my favorite part of not using eggs to form patties – no mess!) Wrap the patties tightly with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour.
  8. In the meantime, make the cashew lemon spread. In a blender, place the cashews (that have been drained and rinsed), lemon juice, vinegar, mustard, salt, and 2 tablespoons of water.
  9. Blend scraping the sides and adding more water if necessary.
  10. The mixture should be a creamy mayo-like consistency. Place the spread into a container, cover, and refrigerate until you’re ready to serve.
  11. Heat the pan over medium high heat, then lower the heat and add some oil in a pan (I used my cast iron pan, but you can certainly use any non-stick pan).
  12. Place a couple of patties in the pan at a time. Flip to the other side once they are lightly browned (this should take a few minutes on each side. Use your spatula to lift and move the patties as they’re browning, to make sure all the underside gets browned. You may keep the patties warm on a parchment lined baking sheet in the oven on a low temperature. I only made two, and kept my unmade patties wrapped in plastic, until they were ready for eating. You can certainly cook them all up at once and reheat as well.
  13. While the patties were cooking, I quickly warmed up pita bread over a medium flame on the stove. This only takes a few seconds – you just have to keep an eye on the pita so as not to burn it.

The first time I made the patties, I cut one patty in half and one pita in half. The second time I made it, I cut the top third of the pita and put an entire patty in. These are options depending on your appetite! It is a lovely, satiating, satisfying meal. Enjoy!

 

Mint Tea

Herby Delight

Mint Tea

This tea is ridiculously good and easy to make!

All you need are fresh herbs, hot water, and a vessel to steep them in.

This afternoon I’m sipping on a simple mint tea, but you can use just about any herb. When I have them on hand, I like to combine mint, a bit of sage, a chunk of ginger and some rosemary. Just steep the herbs a few minutes and pour yourself a glass. And it goes great with a bit of honey.

Herbs and honey are filled with healing properties, so your mouth and body will thank you!

Homemade Coconut Milk

Look, Ma! Homemade Coconut Milk!

Ever since I was introduced to the art of making my own nut milk, I couldn’t bare to buy the boxed variety in stores. The main reason, other than the cost, is that preservatives are added to these milks, to retain freshness for much longer. The only thing I was bummed about was that I didn’t know how to make my own Coconut Milk – until now! This heavenly milk has a pretty short shelf life – 3 to 4 days, so I don’t make a lot at a time. But oh boy, it’s delicious!

Ingredients: coconut_milk

  • 4 cups warm filtered water (water should not be too hot, to retain the natural enzymes found in the coconut meat)
  • 1 cup raw unsweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup (or sweetener of choice, or no sweetener!)
  • Dash vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Add ingredients to your blender or vitamix. Blend for about 2-3 minutes, until milk is frothy. Keep your hand on top of the blender while blending, to avoid any messy explosions (yes, that’s what happened to me).
  2. Place a nut milk bag or cheese cloth over a large liquid measuring cup or a bowl. Pour contents in the bag or cheese cloth, and with your hands, squeeze out all the liquid from the pulp. Discard the bag with pulp (or use it for your baking or in your smoothies!), and pour the milk into a glass jar or bottle. Tightly seal and store in the refrigerator. Will keep 3-4 days.

What are the benefits of Coconut Milk, you ask?

Coconut milk is high in enzymes and vitamin E, thiamin, niacin, vitamin B6, folate and panthothenic acid.

It is high in Lauric Acid, a a medium-chain fatty acid that is otherwise only available in human breast milk. Lauric Acid converts into Monolaurin in the human body, which helps destroy fungus, bacteria and viruses.

And most importantly, it’s delicious, and will make you go, Mmm!
Enjoy!

 

 

Thyme Lemonade

TGI Hot Summer Friday Thyme Lemonade

thyme-lemonadeWe’re having a heat wave in Southern California, I don’t feel like cooking, and it’s finally Friday. So I thought I’d make some thyme infused lemonade to sip on until the evening hour rolls around, and then I look forward to spiking Mr. Lemonade with Ms. Gin. Here’s what I did:

squeezed_lemons

 

 

 

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups sugar (2 cups if you like it sweet)
  • 1 cup water
  • About 5-8 sprigs of thyme
  • 2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice (About 5 lemons)
  • 3.5 cups of cold water

Directions:

  1. Boil 1 cup of water in a saucepan. Add the sugar (if you prefer a sweeter lemonade, combine 2 cups sugar to 1 cup water) and the sprigs of thyme. Allow the thyme and sugar mixture come to a boil, for about 30 seconds. Remove the saucepan from the heat and allow it to cool down.
  2. Squeeze juice of 5 lemons in a lemon juicer (or by hand if you’re up for the challenge – just make sure to keep the seeds out).  Combine the lemon juice and 3 1/2 cups water with the thyme-sugar water. Refrigerate.

Once the evening hour rolls around, feel free to spike your lemonade with some gin or vodka, or do as I learned from some dear Canadian friends, make beer lemonade – fill up half a glass of light beer (there are a lot of great Summer brews out right now!) and half of the lemonade. Sit back, and inhale the hot air!

 

Cooking with Boys

I have a very special and rewarding job. I teach cooking to two adorable (future heartbreakers) 13 year old boys. Their enthusiasm for food and trying new ingredients gives me faith in humanity. Ok, maybe not that dramatic, but I love seeing them waft their hands over a pot of soup, inhaling the scents, and sighing excitedly over the aromas. I love how badly one of my boys wants to put cumin into everything. They love cracking eggs, and rolling dough and trying new flavors. On one of our lessons, we cooked lentils, they kept snacking on little fingerfuls of the freshly cooked lentils that were cooling in a colander, excited to discover a new food they hadn’t had yet.

I try to come up with nutritious recipes and dishes that boys their age would eat. While they are certainly more ambitious with their palette than one assumes of the average child and teen, they are still kids, and love pasta and pizza and burgers. My goal has simply been to pack these same dishes with tons of vegetables, and to make the pasta and bread products with whole grain alternatives. Below are some of the dishes that they have prepared in our lessons.

Cooking with Boys

[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_chickpea-ragout.jpg]00Chickpea Vegetable Ragout with Quinoa Pasta
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_broccoli-cheddar-hot-pockets.jpg]00Broccoli Cheddar Hot Pockets
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_bistro-salad-happy-face.jpg]00Bistro Salad Happy Face
"Bistro" salad with pears, walnuts, egg and garlic toast. We were working on plating that day. :)
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_chopped-kale-salad-with-pumpkin-seeds-apples-dried-cranberries-and-homemade-ranch-dressing.jpg]00Chopped Kale Salad with Pumpkin Seeds, Apples, Dried Cranberries and a Homemade Healthier Ranch Dressing.
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_cilantro-lime-white-bean-hummus_seasoned-pita-chips.jpg]00Cilantro, White Bean and Lime Hummus, with Homemade Seasoned Pita Chips that we made from fresh pita bread.
Look at that presentation!
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_grilled-cheese-tomato-spinach-sandwiches.jpg]10Spinach + Tomato Grilled Cheese Sandwiches
(Accompanying creamy tomato soup, of course!)
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_tomato-soup.jpg]00Creamy Tomato Soup
(Accompanying grilled cheese, tomato and spinach sandwiches, of course!)
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_macncheese_broccoli.jpg]00Homemade Broccoli Mac n Cheese
(Our first lesson!)
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_mexican-baked-eggs.jpg]00Mexican Baked Eggs with Black Beans, Tomato and Cheese.
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_pesto-peas-pine-nuts-and-spinach-quinoa-pasta.jpg]00Spring Pesto Pasta with Peas, Pine Nuts and Spinach, made with quinoa pasta.
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_pizza-making.jpg]00Pizza Making in Action
Putting the finishing touches on their homemade Very Green and Very Cheese Pizza on Whole Wheat Pizza Dough.
[img src=http://healthydelectable.com/wp-content/flagallery/cooking-with-boys/thumbs/thumbs_very-green-cheesy-pizza.jpg]00Very Green and Cheesy Homemade Pizza on Wholewheat Pizza dough.
Voila! The finished product!

 

Cooking In The Buff

 

Drawing by Roger Cruz

Maybe I’m impatient, or have issues with authority, but I really don’t like to follow recipes when I’m cooking. I know that’s not everyone’s thing. Some people prefer to design their delectables via measurements and procedures written out in an easy to follow format.

How did I get comfortable cooking au natural? Well, to start, I love eating! Specifically, I love to uncover and discover flavors, and decipher what ingredients are used in the dishes I love, and then try to guess how they were made. These flavors inspire my kitchen improvisation. I might start with an ingredient I’m craving or see at the farmers market, or maybe something in my fridge that needs to be consumed before it goes bad. For example, if spinach were my starting point, I think it would be lovely tossed raw in some hot fusilli with ricotta until it wilts. But wait! Some bold flavor would be nice. Since I’m not a meat eater, pancetta or everyone’s favorite, bacon isn’t an option, so perhaps rather than the subtle taste of ricotta, I could use goat cheese or parmesan, add olives, red pepper flakes and fresh herbs tossed with some olive oil to keep it summery, or make a light white wine cream sauce… There is a chance that these flavors could fail. There’s only one way to find out.

I do enjoy reading recipes, and watching cooking shows. I learn a lot, and get inspired. I saw a photo of zucchini gratin the other day, and decided to make a less heavy version in the form of a casserole. Since my casserole skills are a bit amateur, I looked up a bunch of recipes, and went with the easiest one, and then changed it to my liking. I tossed a bunch of zucchini with cheese, fresh herbs, salt and pepper, and placed the ingredients into a casserole dish. I topped it with a small amount of panko breadcrumbs, and placed the dish in the oven. Just before it looked ready with the veggies and cheese bubbling and smelling delicious, I decided to add some more breadcrumbs and freshly grated parmesan, and raised the oven temperature to broil to brown the top. Unfortunately, what I didn’t take into account was the wateriness of the zucchini. I needed to add something to thicken the dish and absorb the water from the zucchini. Next time, I’ll add more breadcrumbs or matzoh meal to that baby and my favorite ingredient, an egg, to thicken it. Cornstarch is also a great thickener, so I might toss some in with the zucchini, cheese and herbs before putting it into the oven. YUM!

A good improviser in the kitchen requires just a few skills: courage, flexibility, a basic knowledge of cooking (which you can acquire by following recipes at first), and a good flavor palette – to know what ingredients go well together. The worst thing that could happen is it won’t come out just right. It’s food! They’re ingredients you already like – so how bad could it be?

Sadly, the same doesn’t go for baking. Baking requires exact proportions, and an understanding how the flour, leavening agents, fats, eggs and sweeteners need to be properly combined and added in exact measurements and in the proper order to achieve the desired result. Once you have that understanding, you can alternate ingredients, and make adjustments – which is what I do to bring you delicious healthy baked goods!

Let me know how you’ve stripped away your cookbook attire and improvised some beautiful dishes in your kitchen!

Ode To Springtime…and the Soft Boiled Egg!

“I have met a lot of harboiled eggs in my time, but you’re twenty minutes.”
~Oscar Wilde

Happy Spring! Ever notice that the egg is a symbol of Spring in several cultures? Naturally, we have Easter eggs, which were originally thought of as a symbol of new life. A similar tradition of dying eggs has been practiced for more than 2,500 years for Nowruz, the Persian celebration of the Spring Equinox, and New Year, in which the egg is also the symbol of new life. A hard boiled egg is one of the items on the Seder plate on Passover, and it symbolizes the roundness of Earth and life which is always moving in circles, and is also in Judaism, a symbol of Springtime.

When I was a little girl, I loved, but was very finicky about my soft boiled eggs. As I grew into a teenager, I really let my Mom have it when my egg wasn’t cooked right (hormones raging and all). And since I’ve been on my own for awhile, I have finally developed a level of comfort making my soft boiled eggs just right. A perfectly cooked soft boiled egg is all about the timing. While there is also a science to it, varying by cooking time, size of egg, temperature, etc, I have found that the best soft boiled eggs I’ve ever made were when I felt they were ready. It’s hoakey, I know. Eggs are an excellent source of protein and vitamins, and soft boiled eggs are one of the healthiest ways of preparing them, since they don’t require oil or butter to make them. Here’s how I make mine:


Place your egg(s) into a pot of water, enough to cover the surface of the egg(s). When the water starts to boil, set your timer to 3 minutes for a perfect soft boiled egg. If you don’t trust yourself, heres’s a lovely little gadget you can get that tells you the state that your egg is in as it’s cooking (soft, medium or hard). After the water has boiled 3 minutes, turn off burner, and run cold water over the egg, or place it into a bowl of cold water, to make it stop cooking.

After the egg has cooled to touch, place it into an egg cup. If you don’t have one, get creative! Try a small vase, the wide neck of a bottle, a napkin ring. I’ve used these lovely little glass jars from a French yogurt company. (They’re great for candle votives too!) This time I used my favorite little chicken cup.

My favorite way to get into the egg is to crack the top of the shell with a spoon, and gently peel off the shell, placing the peeled shells in the egg cup (for easy clean up!). Some people like to be more precise, and they cut the top of the egg straight across with a knife. Peeling the top has been a lifelong ritual, and I delight in it every time.


Dig into the egg with your spoon, and unearth that ray of yolk.


My Grandmother used to put a tiny sliver of butter and a tiny pinch of salt on each spoonful before scooping out the meat of the egg. I have strayed from that ritual, and now vary with a small sprinkle of herb salt, or a spritz of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. Below you can see I had my soft boiled egg today with a fresh arugula salad, and lavash bread, one half with avocado and cucumber, and the other half with my favorite salty Irish butter. Hungry yet? Feel free to send me your favorite ways that you enjoy your soft boiled egg!

Eat Your Heart Out!

“Cooking is like love. It should be entered into with abandon
 or not at all.”
~ Harriet Van Horne

Whether you’re single or in a relationship, food can be a wonderful part of Valentines Day. And you don’t have to overindulge and feel unhealthy. Think of the types of food that make you feel good, sexy, happy, fulfilled. If your favorite foods are not necessarily made up of the healthiest ingredients, perhaps you can find a healthier substitute, or simply allow yourself a little indulgence, but make sure to round it out with some healthy fiber-filled morsels to fill you up.

I’ll share with you what I think I’ll have today, and hopefully it will inspire you. For breakfast I’ll start off with a hearty hot cereal, with lots of fruit and pumpkin seeds. For lunch, I shall treat myself to my current favorite salad made with chopped kale, avocado, hazelnuts, persian cucumber, cara cara oranges and grated parmesan. I’m not sure yet what delectables I’ll have for dinner, but I think I’ll end the day with a delicious cup of hot chocolate, made with whole milk, unsweetened cocoa powder and a little bit of organic light cane sugar.

The most important thing you can do for yourself today (and every day) is love yourself as much as you want to be loved by another.

Here’s a little song I put together for you with my friend Alex Chu. Hope you enjoy.
Valentine’s Day Song