Sunday, December 13, 2009

Recovering, then doing it all over again.

This recipe is all about recovering. Earning back those calories you spent on pumpkin pie, extra gravy, delicious homemade challah stuffing ... ehem the best stuffing ever... and whatever it was that your little heart desired. I almost feel like Thanksgiving sets off a feeding frenzy, one that is influenced by cold weather and the fact that my office is starting to fill up with gifts in the shape of Holiday treats. I pride myself for my usual resistance to free treats in the office, but this time of the year, my self control dwindles. A little bite here, a handful of something there and all of a sudden I am slumped over my desk with very little energy to do anything else but head back to the break room and, well, eat more.

Back to recovery. Ellie Krieger's Curried Butternut Squash Soup from her book "The Food You Crave" is a healthfully sweet dish that will leave you dishing for more. Full of vitamins and minerals, also free of cream, sugar, and grease, it's filling and delicious. The perfect compliment to nursing a Thanksgiving feast hangover, and it will definitely never leave you slumped over your desk at work. I recommend making a big batch, freezing some, and saving some for lunches and dinner. It goes great with some homemade croutons or shaved Parmesan cheese.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup
Ellie Krieger's The Food You Crave
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 teaspoons)
One 2 1/2 pound butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1-inch cubes
6 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I used vegetable)
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons curry powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 tablespoons honey

You will need a large soup pot and a blender or hand help immersion blender. Heat the oil over medium heat in a large soup pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the squash, broth, curry powder, and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the squash is tender, about 15 minutes. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the honey. In two batches, puree until smooth in the blender. Make sure soup is very smooth with no lumps. Taste and season with salt if necessary. Top it off with some homemade croutons, Greek yogurt or Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Over the past couple weeks I just haven't been able to get a break from this lingering cold. Starting with a cough three weeks ago, it has now showed up in the form of a sore throat. Double ugh. The worst part is I've had to take time off from work, something I'm not too fond of doing, especially when it's considered a "sick day." I'd much rather have the opportunity to call it a "personal day," a day full of adventure and excitement with shopping or hiking on a weekday. Instead, I'm couch surfing with Oprah and my Antioxidant Green Tea.

So with lots of time on my hands, I've begun to think about Thanksgiving, a wonderful holiday that is just around the corner. Last year my obsession for the holidays was healthy and natural ingredients. Anyone who cooks sans sugar or sans white flour understands the difficulty to get flavors and textures perfected. Something that I stay true to is cooking with the freshest and purest ingredients, for example, relying on the flavor of the sweet potatoes, not the marshmallows. This holiday season, however, is going to be decadent! Starting with a quick cooking class at Lets Get Cooking, the itinerary for this class is quite gourmet. In the mean time, here are some healthier recipes that may work great for your Thanksgiving dinner. . .

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Nothing is Impossible: Homemade Croissants

Croissants are one of my all time favorite pastries to devour. This "devouring" has become an art. First step, to make sure the pastry leaves an apparent footprint of grease in my carry away bag . . . this is the true test of home baked goodness. Next, peel off layer by layer of the flaky dough until you are left with the delicate center, let each piece melt in your mouth. Savor the last couple bites for as long as possible, for nothing is as good as the center of the croissant. But of course, my three steps to devouring a croissant are only truly enjoyed with the homemade variety. Don't ever waste your time on imitations.

In all seriousness, for me, the croissant brings along a sense of intrigue and complexity. I always envisioned a baker slaving away in the kitchen, rolling out layer after layer of dough, with no end in sight, only to achieve perfection. No normal, sane person could ever assemble something so complex and time consuming. But in October 2009, I am so happy to say I proved myself wrong.

With the help of my new trusty Baker's Cookbook (and Jose, the ultimate taste tester), our first attempt at Croissant baking turned out pretty darn delicious.

Happy Croissant Hunting:
The ultimate croissant I've ever tasted comes from Tartine Bakery in San Francisco. A truly delicious experience, one unmatched to any other. This croissant sets the highest standards. If you live in Ventura, check out My Florist. They have consistently proved to be quality bakers of breads and pastries. Renaud's Patisserie in Santa Barbara is a small French cafe with some tasty croissants and quaint, french ambiance.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Festive Rum Pumpkin Cupcakes

Every weekend I have this little obsession of browsing through the recipes of Bon Appetit, Gourmet, Martha Stewart & Sunset magazines in search for a little inspiration or a recipe that is unique and fun. This Sunday I had a hankering for something Fall, Halloween themed and Sassy. Something that I could easily ship to work to feed my coworkers and something that I could add a personal twist too. There's nothing like the personal twists!

My eyes fell upon the mini Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes in this month's Bon Appetit (Page 52 to be exact). I noticed they mentioned the cupcakes were "kid-sized" so I decided to add some Rum to the batter as there are no kids in this household! These are now the Working Girl's "bite-sized" Sassy Halloween Pumpkin Cupcakes that will wow any adult crowd.

Mini Pumpkin Cupcakes
Bon Appetit, October 2009

1 cup self rising flour
(1 Cup flour + 1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda + 1/8 teaspoon salt)
2/3 cup packed golden brown sugar
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
(1/2 tsp cinnamon + 1/4 tsp ginger + 1/8 tsp nut
meg + 1/8 tsp cloves)
1 large free range egg
1/2 cup canned pumpkin (pure! pumpkin)
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I use Spectrum Canola Oil)
1/3 cup organic Greek yogurt (substitution for sour cream)
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Dark Rum (or to your discretion)
1 tbsp chopped crystallized ginger (optional, but worth it)
1 cup powdered sugar
nonfat milk
1/2 lemon

Preheat your oven to 350 F. Line your mini muffin pan with paper liners (I skipped this step . . . no motivation to drive to the grocery store)

In a large bowl mix together the dry ingredients: flour, baking
soda, salt, golden brown sugar, pumpkin pie spice. In a medium bowl mix together the wet ingredients: egg, canned pumpkin, vegetable oil, Greek yogurt, rum. Add the wet mixture to the dry and stir to combine. Spoon batter into paper liners (or just the muffin tin).

Bake until an inserted toothpick comes out clean. I baked my cupcakes at 335 F convention bake for 12 minutes, they turned out perfect. The Bon Appetit bake time is 16 minutes.

In a bowl combine the powdered sugar, a drop of nonfat milk and just a small squeeze of a lemon. Combine with a fork to the texture you desire. I wanted my frosting thick so didn't add too much liquid. (If you enjoy the cream cheese butter frostings, go right ahead and use the one in Bon Appetit)

Once the cupcakes have cooled, gently spread on the frosting.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Paleo Diet

For the past two weeks I have joined a group of Crossfitters in the attempt to eat like a "caveman" for the entire month of October. Supposedly the Paleo Diet is the healthiest diet in the world - removing all dairy, sugar, alcohol, wheat, rice... you get the picture... from your diet. Yes, this has been very very difficult.

I work the typical 8 to 5 with occasional overtime days just because life err work gets busy. A diet like this could seriously damage your routine. I've realized all of my vices were affecting my day to day existence; however, with these changes my life is healthier and my body is happier.

There has definitely been some cheating... drinking my favorite brew of dark coffee in the morning and a glass of wine last Friday night. There have also been some amazing recipes exiting my kitchen. Forced to cook my own food each night, I've surrounded myself with the freshest produce making my creations endless.

Fish in a Pouch (en Papillote)
2 cloves of garlic
1/4 red onion roughly chopped
1/2 bell pepper roughly chopped
1/2 cup chopped dill
juice of 1/2 a lemon
2 small fillets of any white, flaky fish (I used Tilapia)

Preheat oven to 350 F

Cut out a large piece of parchment paper (about 12'' by 12''), this will be the Pouch for the fish, etc. Chop the garlic, onion, bell pepper, dill and anything else you find suitable for flavor. Place the clean fillets of fish on the parchment paper and top with the other ingredients. Squeeze lemon over the top and add a dash of sea salt (no table salt).

Fold & twist up parchment paper creating a pouch. Place in the oven for about 20 minutes.

Cooking en papillote is a different way to steam your food. No oil is needed and your dish always comes out moist and flavorful. I try to add as much intensely flavored ingredients to a white fish en papillote so I won't need to use salt in the end. In fact, you could even top off the steamed fish with this lemony pesto . . .

12 more days to go . . . wish me luck!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Rest in Peace, Gourmet

The economy has definitely gone bust as one of the nation's oldest culinary magazines is saying goodbye... Gourmet Magazine.

Ahhh . . . The memories of sifting through these monthly subscriptions as a little girl were forefront on my mind after I read the sad decision by Conde Naste. At my office I couldn't help but contemplate, why Gourmet? As a food blogger you are immersed in a community where people absolutely love food . . . cooking, eating, photographing, illustrating, musing, conversing food. But then I'm taken aback and realize could this, the internet, be why Conde Naste would choose Gourmet to walk the plank? In the midst of the quick click, selective reading, and opinionated lifestyles that we live can we no longer enjoy the old school magazines like Gourmet? Are they going out of style? Or is this the next step to something better?

Whatever it is, I vow to hold on tight to my subscription of Bon Appetit. I will dog ear every page I find to be inspiring and post-it every recipe worth trying. I will savor the photography and amuse myself with the content. I will never take it for granted.


Saturday, September 26, 2009

When Fall gives you Apples...

Make Apple Pie!

What better way to end an insanely busy week than with a slice of homemade apple pie. As Fall creeps into the background I can't help but feel a sense of coziness, warmth and quietness. The Summer partying is officially over. Now, it's all about family, week night television and enjoying a slower pace of life. That is, once you leave work for the day.

It feels so strange to be back in my hometown as the sense of familiarity of the seasons is laden with childhood memories, sights, smells, and sounds. A little weird yet so comforting. So why apple pie? A classic for really any season, but Fall is when the Engel apple tree has branches covered in fruit. It's pretty amazing to see, as this Gordon variety Apple tree is seasonally consistent with its fruit production. It keeps not just my Dad happy with Apple Crisps, pies, and cobblers but also the birds that frequent it for the overripe apples that have fallen to the ground.

This pie is a combination of several recipes. Never am I one to follow a recipe, so why not multitask and incorporate three? The crust is from Julia Child; we use Crisco & butter.

Classic Apple Pie with Streusel Crumble Topping

for the crust... Baking with Julia
5 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter cut in cubes
1 3/4 cups solid vegetable shortening, chilled
1 cup ice water

To make the dough, start with very cold ingredients. Place the dry ingredients in the food processor and pulse to mix. Add the cubed butter and shortening and pulse again until dough looks like cornmeal. Add a little cold water and pulse, continue to do so until the mixture sticks together when pressed between your fingers. Chill the dough!!! wrap the dough in plastic and refrigerate for at least 2 hours... I'd recommend a full day.

for the Oat-Wheat Germ Streusel Topping... The Perfect Pie
5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
a pinch of salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
1/2 cup old fashioned rolled oats
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ
5 1/3 tablespoons unsalted butter diced, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

In a large bowl combine everything with your hands. This is the fun part!

apple filling... The New Basics Cookbook
6-8 apples
1/2 stick unsalted butter, melted
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
(or maybe a tad more, this is my fav addition)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Egg Wash for Dough
Beat together:
1 egg
tablespoon of water

Preheat oven to 350F

Peel and slice the apples and combine everything in the apple filling list together in a big bowl. The cornstarch will thicken the apple filling while the zest will bring out some juices in the apples.

Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Place into a pie dish. I believe this dough will make two pies, so you can always freeze one of the round discs. Brush the egg wash on to the pie dough and pre-cook the dough for about 8 minutes, or until dough is set.

Let cool. Next add the apple filling. Cover the apples with the Streusel Crumble.

Bake for about 1 1/4 hours, or until the filling is bubbling and the crust edges are golden brown.

phew... that was a lot of direction! Last but not least, Dig In!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Ayurvedic Cooking for the Fiery Working Girl

A couple weeks ago I attended an Ayurvedic cooking class at the Lavender Inn of Ojai. It was fascinating to learn that I am composed of not one, but two Doshas that could be affecting the way I live my life (take the test for yourself here Dosha Quiz)... The three Doshas are Vatha, Pitta and Kapha. Your strongest humor is determined by your body physique and personality. The Doshas are comprised of the five universal elements: space, air, earth, fire, water.

Because I am composed of a strong Pitta (mostly fire with some water) I have a quick temper and a fiery disposition. Watch out! According to Ayurvedics, my state of mind and body are thrown off balance by spicy food, caffeine, heavy foods, stress... you get the picture. In order to stay balanced, and this has actually proved to be true, I must consume cooling, calming foods. All in all, it's quite fascinating and may ring true for some people, and to others, well, it may sound ridiculous.

Whether you are a fellow Pitta or not, this mango lassi is a great way to cool off on a hot September weekend. Made with vanilla yogurt, frozen mango, mint and a touch of Indian spices, I find this drink to be a healthy treat at any time of the day.

An easy find is the Trader Joe's organic vanilla yogurt. Mango adds a sass to the drink while the cardamom and mint give the lassi depth and intrigue. If you choose to use plain yogurt, I'd recommend sweetening it with some Agave Nectar or honey. Make this mango lassi for an amazingly healthy indulgence. It is my temporary relief from a stressful day at work or a desire for something sweet.

Sweet Mango Lassi
1 1/4 cup organic vanilla yogurt
1/4 cup mango (frozen mango works great)
pinch of mint
dash of ground cardamon
1 tablespoon agave nectar
tool: blender

Blend all of these ingredients together on high until mango is pulsified. There should be no lumps of mango in the lassi. Next, taste test for perfection! If you like your drinks sweet, add some agave nectar for a more subtle sweet. I'm not a fan of white sugar. If you want a little kick, add some more cardamom.

Pour into individual glasses and top off with a dash of more cardamom, mint or agave nectar.

Psst... there are also salty lassis that are more traditional to Indian culture. Both sweet and salty lassis are used as digestives before meals.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

10 Things Cooking Taught Me About Life

I came across a great article on CNN from Real Simple's Kim O'Donnel. Coming from a small kitchen in San Francisco, a lot of her points really hit home. Love for cooking arises from all different elements. It's about sharing and making the most with what you have.

"10 things cooking taught me about life"

1. Small gestures can make a big difference

2. Cheap thrills are closer than you think
3. Control is overrated

4. Sing if you must, but quit thinking so much

5. There are always second chances

6. Substance beats style every time

7. We all have what it takes to create something

8. Communicate anyway you can

9. Your instinct may not be the best, but it's yours

10. Less really is more

Here's a shot of my family's all time fave, Lemon Blueberry Bundt Cake ...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

From the Garden

I started this blog in San Francisco, a city that showcases some of the freshest produce around. San Franciscans love their organic lifestyles; however, it comes with a price. I remember dropping $40 buckaroos at the farmer's market. Although worth it, life was tough when it came to paying rent, if you know what I mean. So it's not too often that I'm able to blog about fresh fruits and vegetables from my backyard. Since moving to Ventura not only have I been savoring the lower sales tax but I've also been giddy about the amazing fruits and veggies growing in my backyard. The image below is a snapshot of this summer's, late harvest: organic heirloom tomatoes, Roma tomatoes, green zebra tomatoes, cucumbers, funky squash, lemons and bell peppers. Aren't the colors amazing?

It has been so fun to cook with all of these veggies. We've made pasta sauce, stir fries, capreses, pizza, the list goes on! I hope to get some of these posts up soon, till then, enjoy the pic :)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009


Just recently I celebrated my golden birthday - it was a weekend full of great friends, family and delicious food. The best part was I was home and had the kitchen all to myself to bake me a cake. Not just any cake, but a decadent chocolate cake with fresh strawberries in the middle. Having a birthday in the middle of summer pays off! All the good stuff is in season.

see pic....

Saturday, August 8, 2009

"Outstanding" Fresh Berry Tart

In my opinion, fruit tarts always look better than they taste. The gooey, gelatinous glaze that holds the fruit together, um, no thanks! I've never had a fruit tart that left me fully satisfied, until I made my own. This "Outstanding" tart defies all others with it's flaky crust, fresh berries, and amazing lemon curd... a fresh berry tart doesn't get better than this.

For those who aren't familiar with the organization Outstanding in the Field, it is a project that brings together local farmers, chefs and foodies of all sorts for amazing dinners and conversation. They ultimately aide in rebuilding relationships between the consumer and farmer - the epitome of the sustainable and slow food movements. What an awesome cause! Unfortunately I missed my chance to attend the McGrath Farm Dinner in Camarillo, featuring wines from Old Creek Winery and creations by Chef Tim Kilcoyne from The Sidecar Restaurant - one of my fav's. I heard it was amaaaaazing! Hopefully they'll be swinging through Ventura County again next year. In the meantime, I'll keep enjoying their cookbook.

Mixed Berry Tart with Meyer Lemon Pastry Cream
from Outstanding in the Field Cookbook

1 Meyer lemon
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons white flour
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1 1/2 pints mixed fresh berries
Tart Shell

Tart Shell
1 1/3 cups white flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, cut into pieces and chilled
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons ice water

Tart pan
Food processor

For the Curd: Zest the lemon and chop it finely. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of the juice from the lemon and set it aside along with the zest.

Whisking is key here! In a medium bowl, whisk together the 1/2 cup sugar, flour and salt. Whisk in the egg and egg yolk until a smooth batter forms. In a heavy bottom saucepan bring the milk to a boil. While whisking the egg batter constantly, temper it by pouring a little bit of the hot milk into the egg batter. Whisking briskly, pour the entire egg batter into the milk. Whisk in lemon zest. Keep the saucepan over medium heat, whisk constantly, scraping the bottom and sides of the pan. The mixture should quickly thicken. Remove from the heat and pour the pastry cream into a bowl. Press a piece of plastic wrap flush to the surface to prevent a skin from forming. This is key! Refrigerate until cold, or overnight.

In a small bowl, mix your fresh berries with the lemon juice and remaining 1 tablespoon of sugar. This will help the flavors marinade together, macerating the berries.

Tart shell: Using your food processor, pulse the flour, sugar and salt until combined. Add the butter and pulse into mixture forms coarse bread crumbs. Add 1 of the yolks and 1 tablespoon of water and pulse until the dough just comes together, adding the remaining water 1 tablespoon at a time only if necessary. Press the dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic, and refrigerate at least for an hour. I personally believe overnight is the best way to go!

Once you remove the dough from the fridge, let it sit for about 10 minutes. On a lightly floured surface roll the tart dough to 1/8 inch thick. Fit into your favorite tart pan with a removable bottom and refrigerate again for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 425 F.

Line the pan with parchment paper and pour in pie weights, bake for 20 minutes. Remove the parchment and weights, prick the bottom and sides with a fork. Bake for an additional 5 to 7 minutes until tart shell is a golden brown.

Meanwhile, mix the remaining egg yolk with a pinch of salt. Brush the surface of the tart crust with the egg yolk mixture and bake for 1 to 2 minutes until the yolk is set. Remove tart shell from oven and let it completely cool.

Assembly: Spoon the chilled pastry cream into the shell and smooth the top. Pour the berries and their juices on top and serve as soon as you can.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Recession Canned Bean Salad

Ahhh bean salad, how I despise you... that is until I throw in some dill and pan roasted carrots.

One of my best friends lives her life gluten and dairy free. So after I told her I'd cook for the "Concert Under the Stars" picnic I became a tad stumped on what to make. My main dish was paprika, mint yogurt marinated chicken kabobs. For the side, I needed something with a punch of flavor that would be OK cold. After carousing the food blog network, I came across this salad on 101 Cookbooks. A little hesitant and with not much time on my hands, I gave in to the canned beans. Cringing as I winded the can opener along the rim of my lovely canned white beans, then my even more lovely black beans, my heart almost didn't let me do it.

Nothing against bean salads, but I really don't find them appealing. So I certainly surprised myself with this one! The recipe is very simple yet very yummy! The pan roasted carrots and fresh dill take all the attention away from the canned beans, to my surprise. This is a great dish for any picnic and will work great for work lunches.

Roasted Carrot & Dill Duo Bean Salad
adapted from 101 Cookbooks
3 cups chopped carrots
1 clove of garlic
1 can of white beans
1 can of black beans
1/4 cup chopped dill
salt & pepper to taste

for the vinaigrette
1/4 cup good olive oil
juice of half a lemon
2 shallots diced
salt & pepper to taste

Over medium heat, in a large fry pan, heat up some cooking oil ( I prefer Spectrum Canola Oil). Add the diced garlic and carrots. Saute carrots and garlic until the carrots turn brown and begin to caramelize. It should smell delicious!

In a medium bowl throw in the beans and dill. Lightly toss. When carrots are done roasting add to the beans, add the dill. Lightly toss once more.

In a small bowl whisk together all of the vinaigrette ingredients. Take a taste to test seasoning. You may need to add more salt/pepper. Lightly toss into the bean salad.

I have to admit that I was quite impressed with this bean salad. Consider it my ammo for the next pot luck picnic!

Friday, July 24, 2009

Heaven in a Sheet Cake

My Co-Worker couldn't have put it better, "It's like heaven." My mom's Coca Cola Cake is something out of this world. A chocolatey, ooey gooey morsel from heaven. It's about time I share the recipe!

Speaking of sharing, a couple days ago, I thought it'd be fitting that I introduce this heavenly sheet cake to my new co-workers. What better way to put a smile on people's faces? Or test their will power ;-)

Below is the secret recipe that is not so secret anymore... I bet you can't have just one slice!

Mom's Coca Cola Cake
2 cups flour
2 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
2 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup Coca Cola
1/2 cup Buttermilk
2 teaspoons baking powder
2 beaten eggs
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups Miniature Marshmallows
1 teaspoon Vanilla

For the Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter
6 tablespoons Coca Cola
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1 box powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Slivered Almonds (Optional)

Preheat oven to 350 F

In a bowl, combine the flour, sugar, baking powder & salt. Over medium heat, in a saucepan melt the butter with the Coca Cola and cocoa until mixture begins to boil. Pour over the flour mixture. In another bowl, beat the eggs, buttermilk and vanilla. Pour this egg mixture into the flour/chocolate mixture. Add the marshmallows and stir. The marshmallows will float to the top.

Pour and spread evenly over a sheet cake pan. Bake for about 20 minutes. Or until a toothpick test comes out clean.

In the meantime, in a saucepan over medium heat, combine the 1 stick of butter, Coca Cola and cocoa. Once melted, remove from heat and stir in the powdered sugar and vanilla. Immediately pour frosting over cake once cake is removed from the oven. Sprinkle some slivered almonds over the top and voila! Serve once cooled... even better the next day!

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Namaste, Mary's Secret Garden

Eating raw, unrefined food is a way of life I try to embrace as much as possible. As an ex collegiate athlete, I look for foods that nourish my soul and give me a natural boost to take on the day. Although I love to eat out and indulge, it’s nice to have accessible indulgences that taste just as good as they are for your body.

Mary’s Secret Garden is Ventura’s local Vegan restaurant offering the community some of the freshest and tastiest vegan dishes. Mary is positively passionate about her food, paying attention to every detail in presentation and quality of ingredients she puts in each dish.

Now I’m definitely not a vegan, but I most definitely enjoy my fresh fruits and veggies. That’s why Mary’s is my go to place for that perfect salad, vegan entree and some of the best smoothies in town… I’m nuts about their smoothies. Packed with raw, organic and tropical nutrients, they taste amazing! "Pure energy food" all of her smoothies contain no soy or processed ingredients and are 100% raw. Our society is so accustomed to the typical Jamba that we forget natural can taste good.

One of my all time fav's is their Pistachio Mint Smoothie. Yes, I said Pistachio and Mint! However, the Purple Sky has a lot more to offer… Its ingredients may surprise any smoothie aficionado. Check it out! And if you are inspired, give it a shot!

Purple Sky Smoothie

1/4 cup or small handful of fresh or frozen blueberries
1 whole banana
1 heaping teaspoon of Hemp seeds
1 small handful of Mint leaves
1 large scoop of ice cubes
1/4 to 1/2 cup Raw Almond mylk*
2 tablespoons Raw Agave Nectar

Combine all in a very powerful blender (Vita Mix is definitely worth the investment). Serve right away and enjoy!

*For the Raw Almond Mylk
1 cup sprouted almonds
8 dates w/o pits
4 cups high quality Water

Blend all ingredients until warm to touch, about 1 minute. Strain. Raw Almond mylk will keep in the fridge for up to 4 days.

Food plays so many roles and fills so many needs in our society. A restaurant, like Mary’s Secret Garden, that cares about their food and service beyond its revenue makes better offerings to the individual and to the community, and that’s something I strongly advocate.

Mary's Secret Garden
100 S. Fir Street
Ventura, CA

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Easy Crumble

As a kid I was never too fond of baked fruits, but I've come around. Now I enjoy homemade pies, tarts, galettes and, today, a crumble! But it really isn't just the baked fruit I enjoy, its the ease of preparation for baked fruits... As long as the fruits are ripe and in season and you use quality flour and sugars, your baked cobbler, galette or crumble will turn out delicious. Served in a bowl with ice cream or homemade whipped cream, it will be a hit with everyone!

Tonight is our first dinner party in ages and the new kitchen is in full force! For dessert we made a no fuss crumble from the Barefoot Contessa At Home cookbook. Ina never ceases to amaze me! I love her recipes as they are so simple yet so delicious. A recipe for any cook, this Peach & Blueberry Crumble is easy to assemble and doesn't require a grandiose presentation. You simply plop the mixture into a ramekin and bake... let the oven do the work for you.

Peach & Blueberry Crumble
from Barefoot Contessa At Home

For the fruit
2 pounds firm, ripe peaches (6-8 peaches)
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup all purpose flour
1 cup fresh blueberries (1 pint)

For the Crumble

1 cup all purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

First preheat your oven to 350 degrees

Immerse peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds to a minute, just until their skins peel off easily. Place them immediately in a bowl of cold water. Peel the peaches, slice into thick wedges, and place in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest, lemon juice, granulated sugar, and flour. Toss well. Gently mix in the blueberries. Allow the mixture to marinate for about 5 minutes. Spoon the mixture into ramekins or custard cups.

For the topping, combine the flour, granulated sugar, brown sugar, salt, cinnamon, and the butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitter with a paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is the size of peas. Rub the mixture with your fingertips until it's in big crumbles, then sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Place the ramekins on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake for 40 to 45 minutes, until the tops are browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve warm or at room temperature.

I made mine earlier in the day and stored them unbaked until dinner time.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Going Local

Change is always a good thing; unfortunately I feel as though I’ve been changing something every year. Ehem, locationally speaking.

However, with each new City I’ve gained a sense of curiosity and discovery, making each City my own. These new traits have inspired me to discover Ventura, the small, quiet town I grew up in. This was a City that never wavered to change, that is, until I moved away.

One place in particular is Main Street. Downtown housed only a highly flammable costume shop (how could anyone forget Bonnies), which did in fact almost burn down. Now, Downtown Main Street stretches a couple blocks showcasing clothing boutiques, wine bars, restaurants and spas! Que paso!? Gotta love progress.

Some of my new favorite places are Mary’s Secret Garden, Paradise Pantry, Brook’s Restaurant & Sidecar Restaurant.

I hope to use this blog as a place of reference for anyone interested in visiting Ventura. Reviews are so fun to write!

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Stainless Steal Inspiration

Ahhhh. Inspiration in its finest form … a new kitchen! What better moment in my life to move back to Ventura than the year my “roommates” decide to renovate their kitchen: a Viking refrigerator, a Dacor stove, a wine cooling unit and a peaceful outlook on the garden. My only problem is what do I make first?

Stone fruits come to mind as our plum tree’s branches tickle the ground due to their weight from the plump, purple plums. The apricot tree, one I didn’t always appreciate, stands majestically next to the tomato garden, its ripening fruits slowly turning to a vibrant orange… I think I’m in heaven! Summer is almost here and we are baking a rustic Galette!

Rustic Apricot-Raspberry Galette with Walnuts
adapted from Martha Stewart's Baking

Cornmeal Pate Brisee
2 cups whole grain pastry flour
1/2 cup cornmeal
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cold, cut into small pieces
1/4 - 1/2 cup ice water

Place the pastry flour, cornmeal, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor and pulse several times to combine. Add the butter chunks, and process until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. With the machine running, pour the ice water through the feed tube in a slow, steady stream, until the dough just holds together. According to Martha, do not process for more than 30 seconds.

Turn out the dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and place each half on a piece of plastic wrap. Flatten each to form a disk. Wrap, and refrigerate from at least an hour to up to a full day. (whoops, I had mine in the fridge for 30 minutes and it turned out fine!)

The Galette
Whole Wheat pastry flour for dusting
1/2 recipe of Cornmeal Pate Brisee
1 cup walnuts + 1 tablespoon sugar
12 fresh apricots, pitted and sliced into sixths
1 cup raspberries
1/2 cup granulated sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon (about 1 tablespoons)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 pinch of salt
1 large egg, lightly beaten
sanding sugar for sprinkling

Roll out dough on a floured surface into a 14-inch round, about 1/8 inch thick. Transfer dough to a large parchment-lined baking sheet. Refrigerate until ready to use, up to 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts and sugar until a coarse meal. Set aside.

In a large bowl, gently toss together apricots, raspberries, sugar, lemon juice, cornstarch and salt. Sprinkle about 1/2 cup of walnut meal on dough. Next, Arrange fruit mixture on top of dough, leaving a 2 inch border all the way around. Fold border over the fruit mixture, press gently to adhere the folds.

Brush edges of dough with egg and sprinkle with sanding sugar and walnut meal. Bake until crust is golden brown or, the best indicator, when the juices in the galette are bubbling. It should take about an hour. Transfer the baking sheet to a wire rack to cool the galette. Best served warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream!

Psst... This dessert is perfect for the non-perfectionist in all of us!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Phew, almost done!

...Patience is a virtue, for every cook!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

From the Recipe Files...

Cooking is on hold for a couple more weeks for obvious reasons (see pic below). But what better time to share some of my favorite recipes from the Engel household. Blueberries are just starting to make their way to the farmer's market which brings to mind one of my all time fav Blueberry Bundt Cakes. This will be the first Bundt cake added to my blog!

Bundt cakes are great because they can be considered a dessert in the evening or coffee cake in the morning. Dessert any time of the day? Sounds like my kind of cake! If you don't have a bundt cake pan don't fret as this cake can easily be made in a basic cake pan - and you can still eat it in the morning... But I can't promise it will taste as good. Bundt cakes always have a certain density that make them more filling and satisfying than a typical cake. They are a perfect match with your morning coffee or tea. Topped with a light glaze (as you all know I'm not a big fan of thick frostings), you can't go wrong with this recipe!

Lemon - Blueberry Bundt Cake
adapted from Cooking Light

2 tablespoons sugar
3 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/4 butter softened
1 tablespoon grated lemon grind
4 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 (16 ounce) container reduced fat sour cream
2 cups fresh blueberries

For the glaze...
1 cup powdered sugar
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
hint of vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Lightly grease your bundt pan and dust with the two tablespoons of granulated sugar. This adds a nice crunchy, sweetness to the outside of your cake.

In one bowl combine dry ingredients and mix well. In a mixer combine the 1 3/4 cups of sugar, butter and lemon rind. Once well blended, add the eggs slowly one at a time. Next, beat in the vanilla and sour cream. Mixture should appear light and fluffy. At medium speed, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. In another bowl, toss the blueberries in 2 tablespoons flour until coated. Fold into the batter. Bake for about 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted into the cake comes out clean. Cool for 15 minutes then flip over onto a wire rack to cool some more.

The glaze is super simple. In a bowl combine the lemon juice, powdered sugar and a drop of vanilla. Drizzle over the bundt cake.

This cake is great the next morning with coffee... unfortunately, it doesn't always make it to the next day at my parent's house!

Here's a picture of my mom and me in Sonoma... the trip I've referenced a couple of times in previous blogs. Gotta love Spring flowers!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Cooking with Quinoa

Personal trainer, check. Mental commitment to getting into shape, check. Healthy diet, Quinoa! Summer is just around the corner and I've come to realize this new Southern California tan will look a lot better once I get myself in tip top shape. Hell no, I'm not going on a diet, just cleaning up my act. This next recipe comes from a cooking class I took about a year ago in Ojai, CA at the Lavender Inn. The woman who ran the class was such a wonderful resource for all things food - nutritionally speaking.

Quinoa is an amazing grain that you should incorporate into your diet no matter what. Two things that I love about Quinoa: it cooks in less than 20 minutes and it is so easy to prepare. One thing that I don't recommend for quinoa is eating it plain. Instead, incorporate this awesomely complex carb with vegetables and protein.

Summer Picnic Quinoa Salad
Recipe from Suzanne Landry

1 cup Quinoa
2 cups water
1/2 cup chopped red onion
1/3 cup diced carrots
1/3 cup green peas (fresh or defrosted)
1/3 cup cucumber, peeled & diced
1/4 cup fresh dill
1/4 cup fresh parsley
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Optional: 1/2 cup precooked chickpeas

Cook the quinoa in the water on high temp. Once the water starts to boil turn the temperature to low and simmer. Should take about 15 minutes, or until the grain is translucent. Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork.

In a large pot of boiling water blanch the carrots for 30 seconds, strain and drain in cold water to stop the cooking. Add the chopped vegetables and chickpeas to the cooked quinoa and toss together. Lastly, toss in the fresh herbs, vinegar and olive oil.

This dish is great served immediately or the next day!

Psst... Quinoa is a great carb choice if you live your life gluten free!

Quinoa on Foodista

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Comfort Food from the Garden

I've had the unfortunate luck of getting sick my second week at the new job. Not just any cold, but one that seems to linger around - changing up the symptoms whenever it wants. Not to mention, my iphone is broken. Ya, I know, what's next? At least we've been blessed with the bounty and beauty of Spring (corny?). Spring peas, asparagus and oranges will give me the vitamins I need to beat this beast of a cold.

In the meantime, I'll let my mom take care of me. Thus, I can't take credit for this next recipe. It came from the Engel kitchen; some comfort food in the form of risotto. Using your freshest Spring veggies, you can make a knock-out risotto in no time at all. It's healthy, satisfying and goes down well with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc (if you aren't under the weather, then again...).

Garden Risotto
adapted from Elie Kruger The Food You Crave
1/2 pound asparagus
6 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1/2 cup dry white wine
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces baby spinach leaves (about 3 cups lightly packed)
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

Microwave the asparagus in a tightly covered microwave-safe bowl with 1 teaspoon water for 90 seconds and cut into 3/4 inch pieces. Set aside.

In a medium sauce pan, bring the chicken broth to a simmer. In a large heavy saucepan, heat the oil on medium-low heat and cook the onion and fennel until softened and translucent. Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Next add the wine and let simmer, still stirring, until wine is absorbed. Using a ladle, add 3/4 cup of the hot broth, salt and pepper and simmer, still stirring! Stir until broth is dissolved and repeat with the 3/4 cup broth until the rice is almost tender and creamy. This should take about 15 minutes.

Here comes the garden! Stir in the peas and spinach and cook until the spinach is wilted. Add the asparagus last and cook until everything is hot and well combined. Take off the burner and stir in the Parmesan cheese.


Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Starting Fresh with Minted Peas

Last week I started my new job. Wow! What a whirlwind it has been, but definitely a fun one. Although I am going to miss Northern California, Southern California is where my heart is... Sun, waves, palm trees and that lovely sense of familiarity wherever I go. My ego has been bruised a bit as I've joined my parents in their humble abode. But I have a new pep in my step and a smile on my face that feel so refreshing.

With my fresh new perspective, it was only necessary that my next dish include mint... a fun herb that's super versatile and has a sweet aroma and flavor. Mint tossed in with some fat, sweet and succulent sugar snap peas makes the perfect spring combination... dressed up with some butter, of course. Peas with mint is a pretty classic side dish. I was given this recipe at one of the cooking classes I participated in at Ramekin's Bed & Breakfast in Sonoma.

Minted Sugar Snap Peas
adapted from Therese Nugent 2009
1 pound fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed and strings removed
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced
zest of 1 lemon
salt to taste

Bring a saute pan filled with water to a boil. Blanche the peas until crisp-tender and bright green (approximately 3 minutes). Remove from the water and set aside. Melt the butter in a saute pan and add the peas. Stir in the mint and lemon zest. Saute the peas until heated through (approximately 2 to 3 minutes). Season with salt to taste. Serve immediately.

What better way to celebrate spring than with refreshing mint, sweet sugar snap peas, and a zest of lemon! ... Maybe mint mojitos?

Psst... I used spearmint from the garden, the most accessible variety.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Old Fashioned Cake that Never Goes out of Style

You know something is good when you just can't stop talking about it; to the point where people start wondering if you're crazy or the cake really is that awesome. My mom and I visited Ramekins Bed & Breakfast and Cooking School in Sonoma last weekend. We participated in 3 classes: Splendor of Spring, Gnocchi & Ravioli Making and Thai Food. Although I felt like I had eaten for 3 that weekend, the scenery in Sonoma was amazing and the cooking classes were definitely worth those 5 extra pounds I'd be taking back to San Francisco with me.

The Splendor of Spring Class was my favorite. It elegantly incorporated Spring flavors into pretty basic recipes. One of the recipes was this amazing Old Fashioned Rhubarb Cake. Like a lot of the recipes I blog about, this cake can take on many personalities - from the fruit you mix into it to the sauce you top it off with. Although it calls for Rhubarb, we used strawberries. There was also the discussion of using peaches come peach season. But, really, the possibilities are endless. Once you perfect the basic dough, you are golden.

Old Fashioned Cake with Minted Strawberry Sauce
adapted from Therese Nugent's Recipe, March 2009
Sauce Ingredients
1 16 ounce basket fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon fresh mint, minced

Cake Ingredients
1/2 cup spectrum shortening at room temperature
1 egg at room temperature
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3 cups fresh fruit of choice (Rhubarb or Strawberries), chopped

For the crackle topping
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the sauce: In a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, combine the strawberries, sugar and lemon juice and cook until the sugar is dissolved. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 3 minutes. Transfer the sauce to a bowl and stir in the mint. Cover and chill until cold, best if chilled over night.

For the Cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x13'' baking dish with shortening and set aside. In a large mixing bowl, combine shortening, egg, buttermilk, vanilla extract and the 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar. Mix together well. Add the flour, baking soda and salt and mix well. Fold in the fruit and spread the batter in a baking dish. In a small bowl, whisk together the cinnamon and 1/2 cup sugar. Sprinkle the topping over the batter (you may not use it all). Bake for 30 minutes or until a cake taster inserted in the middle comes out clean. Serve slices of cake with a heaping scoop of the mint strawberry sauce. You will never forget it!

Psst... the best way to hull strawberries while preserving the most fruit, is with a tomato shark

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Fond Memories in a Monster Cookie

Just recently, I had been exchanging Facebook messages with a good friend from high school. She had just discovered my blog and mentioned I should post my mom's M&M cookie recipe. I was so excited she remembered these cookies, as I had totally forgotten! Always emerging at soccer practice in a large ziploc bag, these babies did not last long. Back in the day of daily soccer practice and cringe inducing homework, this was one of my mom's classic, feel-good desserts. I hope to get a few more up here soon!

Although I don't have the original recipe, I do have Ina Garten's Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe. This is an excellent recipe for a good cookie dough that you can easily "make your own." As a cook with no professional training, these are the recipes that I look for and learn to love: the ones that survive any alteration or addition and always taste yummy. Ina calls for chocolate chips and walnuts, but I went for the monster effect - M&M's.

Mom's M&M Monster Cookies
adapted from Barefoot Contessa's Recipe
1/2 lb unsweetened butter (at room temperature)
1 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 eggs (at room temperature)
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups M&M candies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit

In a mixer combine the butter and sugar, beat well. Slowly add the vanilla extract and each egg one at a time so that ingredients are well incorporated. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. In two waves, slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet. Once everything is combined, pour the M&Ms into the dough and quickly mix together. Don't over mix!

On a parchment lined cookie sheet, drop heaping spoonfulls of dough an inch and a half apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes. My oven is a little hot, so I cooked mine for 12 minutes. Should yield about 2 dozen.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Sunday Scramble

I have to tell the truth, things have been a bit chaotic over here. February was beyond demanding on the work end, causing my mind to lose focus on the little things that keep me together. For example: a clean apartment, laundry, working out, keeping in touch with friends. All of the above had been unconsciously pushed to the side as I tried to keep my head above water at work. Then, March rolled around and the work stopped. I was left with dirty dishes, laundry spilling out of the closet, an empty fridge and an unrelenting desire to go out and PARTY! Now that it's Sunday, it's time I get my act together. This always begins with the gym; what better way to get focused and determined.

For anyone who sees Sunday as the day to get organized and focused, a healthy egg scramble is just the fuel you need. Eggs are packed with vitamins and protein, and chard is full of vitamin C and flavonoids. A little prosciutto and onion for the taste buds, and you are set to take on the day!

Chard & Prosciutto Sunday Scramble
2 egg whites
1 egg
1 cup chopped chard
1/4 cup torn prosciutto bits
1/4 white onion diced
salt & pepper to taste
1 tablespoon water

Separate the eggs from the whites in a bowl. Add the egg to the egg whites plus 1 tablespoon of water. Whisk well.

In a saute pan, add cooking oil and diced onion. Saute on medium heat for about 2 minutes, then add torn up prosciutto bits. Let the flavors marinate for about 5 minutes, then add the chard and continue to saute until chard appears wilted. Quickly pour in the egg mixture. Using a wooden spoon scramble ingredients together until egg is fully cooked. Salt & pepper to taste. I would wait to add the salt as the prosciutto adds saltiness that may be just enough for your taste buds.

This is a quick and satisfying meal for one on the run! Enjoy!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Ready for Spring... Soup that is

Seasons are what I love most about San Francisco. Originally from the land of palm trees, aka Southern California, it's not too often that I get to pull out my pea coat and mittens for a cold, blustery, winter day (sans snow, thank god). I also no longer take for granted those perfect 75 degrees and sunshine days.

Speaking of seasons, this morning is the first day of March. Spring is on its way, and I'm ready to take on a new adventure - seasonal soup. I pulled out a cookbook from one of my dear friends Breanne, called Soup for All Seasons. The recipe titled "Spinach, Parsley & Honey", (really, honey) had all the qualities I was looking for - vegetarian, satisfying, a bit of sweetness and authenticity. This is sure to keep me satisfied through the first couple rainy spring days of March.

Vegetable Herb & Honey Soup
adapted from Soup for All Seasons
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large carrot, finely chopped or grated
2-3 sticks of celery, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1 quart vegetable stock
1/2 cup water
5 ounces baby spinach
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
4 basil leaves
1 1/2 teaspoons honey
6 ounces canned tomato paste
1 drop Worcestershire sauce
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a large soup pan sautee the carrot, onion and celery in the olive oil over medium heat for about 5 minutes. The onions should become somewhat translucent while the carrots and celery will become more vibrant in color. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to a boil. Let simmer for around 8 minutes. Next, add the spinach, herbs, honey and tomato paste. Stir quickly to combine all the flavors then simmer rapidly for 5 minutes. Now this is the hard part: Pour the mixture into a blender and puree everything together, leaving some texture. I used a measuring cup and blended the soup cup by cup, leaving some chunks of carrot, onion and spinach. This is difficult as the soup will be hot and has the potential of splattering everywhere! Return the soup to the soup pan and add the drop of Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to taste. Re-heat gently for 2-3 minutes and serve.

I topped mine off with a quick homemade basil pesto (basil, olive oil & salt) and some homemade croutons.

For the croutons, I simply sliced up my favorite whole wheat bread into cubes, tossed them in olive oil and salt and baked under 400 degrees fahrenheit for about 10-12 minutes.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Tired of the same ol' Turkey Burger?

Well so am I! This past week was a doozey. Work was starting to become more than a drag and my weeknight meals were definitely following suit... an attitude change was far too necessary! In resistance to the patterns that had been developing over these past couple of weeks, inspiration finally emerged in a delicious, homemade, salsa verde turkey burger. Phew! The corporate world has yet to suck the creativity out of me!

This recipe was a surprise, as I had no clue what the results would be like. I had a feeling the salsa would add a zang and the brown rice flour some nice texture. But I had no idea if it'd be the right zang nor the right texture. After the first bite, I was pleasantly surprised and knew this just had to be my next post. The combination worked perfectly. So, for inspiration to all those who think they can't cook or have no time to cook, first go to Trader Joe's then make these turkey burgers! Easy, healthy and delicious... Enjoy!

Salsa Verde Turkey Burgers
3/4 pounds all white, ground turkey meat
3 tablespoons Trader Joe's Salsa Verde (or any salsa you have on hand)
1/4 cup brown rice flour
salt to taste
Burger condiments
Buns of your liking (I'd use Poppy seed Kaiser rolls)

Combine all ingredients together in a bowl. Warm some canola oil in a fry pan over medium heat. While oil is heating, form turkey burger patties with your hands then place on the hot fry pan (I live in San Francisco and have no grill nor a patio, so the fry pan is the best option, however, a BBQ will work great!). Grill/Fry on your pan until done to your liking. Dress'em up or eat them like Atkin would... you are sure to love Trader Joe afterwards!

Psst ... I made these somewhat on a whim so you may have to alter measurements to your liking. I'm sure to redo this recipe again sometime and promise to take better notes and a better picture.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Easy & Healthy Crab Salad

I stumbled upon this easy crab salad while flipping through Ellie Krieger's cookbook The Food You Crave. If you don't already own this book I suggest you snag one for your cookbook collection. It's full of awesome recipes that are lighter and healthier, yet oh so yummy.

This crab salad is super easy. All you need are fresh ingredients and a fresh approach to presenting the dish. What I love most about this salad is that it is versatile. Ellie serves the salad in baked filo dough cups, however, you could easily serve it in a corn tortilla for crab tacos or wrap it in rice paper for a fun take on spring rolls. I decided to serve mine "spa" style with a lovely leaf of lettuce. I know, I know, this is not really a satiating meal, but after the weekend I was craving a light lunch (I also didn't have the filo dough on hand)... Next time around I'm going to give the crab spring rolls a shot.

Be sure to pick through the crab for any shells or cartilage as this is not a pleasant surprise when chewing. I put together the salad the night before in order to marinade the ingredients. Lastly, the radicchio is my own special ingredient (which, surprisingly I did have on hand, go figure). It adds a bit of a bite and a fun burst of red color.

For the Salad
1/2 pound lump crab meat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1 stalk celery, finely diced (1/4 cup)
1/2 cup peeled and finely diced ripe mango
1/4 cup thinly sliced scallions
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped cilantro
1/4 cup coarsely chopped radicchio

For the Dressing
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon finely grated lime zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil

In a medium sized bowl, gently toss together the crab with the celery, mango, scallions, cilantro and radicchio. For the dressing, in a small bowl whisk together the lime juice, lime zest, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Next, slowly whisk in the olive oil until an emulsion begins. Add the dressing to the salad and gently toss to combine.

Served any way you like!

Psst... check out my recipe on!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Ugh... It's Valentine's Day

Nothing like a week of 12 hour work days ending on none other than Valentine's Day. Could I be anymore lucky? Now, I'm not bitter, just frustrated. I came across the idea of Strawberry Cupcakes on Tuesday and have been plotting their creation ever since; unfortunately I had to wait until today (Valentine's Day) to make them. The recipe yields 34, so it looks like I'll be playing cupcake cupid all weekend to avoid the possible accident of eating them all myself...

My friend Doro has perfected the fresh fruit cupcakes, and her creations at SweetieCups were definitely part of my inspiration. Martha (Stewart) provided me with the basic cupcake recipe and I added a few twists and turns: lemon juice to enhance the strawberry flavor and a lighter, healthier frosting. Sorry, but Buttercream makes me gag especially when I look at the recipe, "3 sticks of butter and 1 Cup of Sugar". Sorry Martha, but I want to enjoy my cupcake guiltlessly. However, if you do enjoy guilty pleasures, go for the buttercream frosting. Another tip is instead of chopping your berries coarsely puree them in a cuisinart. This will save you a lot of time and help bring out the ever so soft pink flush in the cake. And, of course, the sweeter the berry the better the cupcake!

Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting
3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
8 ounces (2 sticks) butter, softened
2 1/4 cups sugar
3 large eggs plus 1 egg white
1 cup whole milk
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cups coarsely pureed strawberries (save some for garnishing)

4 cups + powdered sugar
4 tablespoons butter or margarine, very soft.
4 - 6 tablespoons of the pureed strawberries
1 tablespoon red sprinkles (optional)
squeeze of a lemon
Fresh strawberries or chocolate shavings for decoration

Preheat oven to 350F degrees

Line your standard muffin tins with paper liners, I prefer white. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl. In a mixer cream butter and sugar until light and fluggy. Add the eggs 1 at a time, beating after each addition. I like to crack mine into a liquid measuring cup and pour them in one at a time.

Reduce speed to low. In a separate bowl, mix together the milk and vanilla. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with wet (milk & vanilla) and ending with dry. Be sure to scrape the sides of the bowl so ingredients are well combined. Divide the batter among the cupcake cups, and fill each about 2/3 full.

Bake for about 20 minutes or until toothpick tester comes out clean (mine took about 20 minutes). Let cool in tins on wire racks. Per Martha, cupcakes will keep, covered, for up to 2 days.

For the frosting, in a bowl, combine the butter, powdered sugar, strawberries, lemon juice and sprinkles in a mixer or with a hand mixer. Beat on very high until ingredients are combined. Continue adding more powdered sugar until frosting reaches your preferred thickness.

Pipe or spoon frosting onto the cooled cupcakes. I topped mine with fresh strawberries and/or chocolate shavings. Although you don't get the typical cupcake look with this frosting, the results taste awesome!

Happy Valentine's Day! Be sure to give your loved ones a hug... or a strawberry cupcake.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

San Francisco Fancy Food Show 2009

This past January I had the opportunity, well, $35 gave me the opportunity, to participate in the San Francisco Fancy Food Show. For those of you who don't know, I work in the commercial real estate industry and blog just for my love of all things food. Going to the Fancy Food Show was a totally new experience from all angles. The food industry is HUGE, electrifying and inspirational. For someone who thought they were obsessed with food, this was an eye opener! Or should I say, a realization that maybe I am not that crazy.

Henry of Henry's Olives, a new foodie friend that is the brother of my dad's good friend Murray, met up with me along with his friend Tom (that was a mouth full). Both were there to network and investigate as I was just there to troll the aisles and observe... and eat. There were famous chefs, major international corporations, new products galore, and Ina Garten. Yes, Ina Garten, my favorite person in the entire world - when put in food context.

A couple of highlights were:
  • My first absolutely amazing cappuccino that was made by the San Diego coffee roasting company Cafe Calabria. Served in a porcelain cup, every sip was satiny and smooth. They are definitely committed to roasting as if it were a "Culinary Art".
  • The peanut butter creations by P.B. Loco. This redefines eating peanut butter out of the jar. They have flavor combinations that range from Sumatra Cinnamon and Raisin to Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough. P.B. Loco is all natural, so the guilt of eating out of the jar is somewhat removed. I can't wait to find this product in San Francisco!
  • The awesomeness that is developing in the natural foods world: an obvious collaboration of natural and organic products with socially responsible endeavors. Not only are foodie entrepreneurs committed to local and organic food but they are combining these efforts with their commitment to social responsibility. Some of my favorite companies are HonestTea and SweetRiot Chocolates.
Oh and one more thing, I met Ina Garten!!!

ChilaQuiles on a Sunday Morning

Just the name itself makes food sound fun! Jose introduced me to this awesome scrambled egg creation in September, and since then I've been seeing this dish everywhere. First, Bobby Flay attempted to recreate the dish on one of his food network shows - Jose's version was better. Then, I saw them on a menu at a local brunch spot in SF - Jose's was better. THEN, I actually got into an argument about what makes a good chilaquile - Jose's recipe, of course! So, now to prove everyone I'm right, my next post is how to make killer ChilaQuiles the right way.

The key is in the sauce! But of course using Guerrero Tortillas, Queso Fresco and fresh organic eggs will improve the results ten fold. Top it off with a little cilantro, fresh green onion and avocado for the perfect Sunday morning brunch. This recipe is one of my favorites so be sure to check it out!

Que Ricas, ChilaQuiles
2 California chiles
1 large tomato
1 clove of garlic
1 pinch of oregano
1 pinch of sea salt & pepper
about a 1/4 cup of water
Oil for frying
2 tortillas sliced into one-half inch squares
3 eggs
1/2 cup diced green onion
Queso fresco

For the sauce
Boil the two peppers in the water to soften - this should take no less than two minutes. In a blender or your cuisinart, combine the softened peppers, tomato, garlic, oregano, salt, pepper and water. You want to create a semi thick red sauce, so add more water if needed. Lastly, strain the sauce to remove any seeds or skin from the peppers. The sauce will be mild, tangy and a vibrant red.

The Eggs
In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the tortilla squares. Fry until crispy. This should take about 4 minutes. Avoid soggy tortillas - crispiness is very important! Once crispy, add the eggs and scramble over medium/low heat. Once the eggs are close to done pour the red sauce and continue to scramble the eggs. Once the eggs, tortillas and red sauce are completely combined top off with the diced onions, crumbled queso fresco and cilantro. Let simmer for another couple minutes so flavors are well absorbed. Do not overheat because the point is to keep the tortillas crispy and eggs perfectly cooked.

Disfruta sus Chilaquiles... ay, que ricas!