Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Myth Busted...

Kitchen Skills. I thought they came with the territory. Just a part of the whole estrogen package. The way I thought all testosterone driven creatures could, just by nature, shoot a rifle with precision.

Then I met them. The people who would completely dispel both myths. I have changed their names...to protect the "innocent"...so we'll just call them Michael...& Ceci :)

My testosterone belief was tested when Michael, having gone on a wild turkey hunt (a difficult hunt in his defense), proudly emailed a link displaying the photographs of his kill. The first thing that popped out of my mouth...clearly without thinking..."What did you kill him with? Your car?" My intention was not to be cruel or even sarcastic...it just was evident that this was NOT a "clean kill" by a skilled marksman. Myth Busted.

On the estrogen front, my very own sister Ceci came to visit me in Colorado for my daughter's 4th birthday. As we planned for the party, homemade cupcakes were on the "to do" list...to be more accurate actually, semi-homemade. The list was made for the grocery market & she offered to make the trip. It was a short list & the market was just around the corner from my neighborhood.

As I was busy attending to other party details at the house, I hadn't noticed how much time had passed. Then the phone rang.

Me: Hello
Sis: (exasperated) I can't find the cupcake mix!!
Me: silence & then tear streamed laughter

I realize now that this sounds a little harsh on my part. I was just a little thrown off by the fact that a woman...an estrogen infused member of my own family...was standing in the baking aisle...staring down the cake mixes & searching desperately for a box that simply read "Cupcake Mix". Betty Crocker had let her down! Myth Busted!

I love this memory & the smile (no...laughter) that it still brings! While cupcakes were not on the "to do" list last night, I did mix up a quick peanut butter bar to satisfy that little sweet craving we all get & thought I would share it with you.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chunk Bars
16 servings

1 cup natural peanut butter
3 large eggs
1/2 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tsp pure vanilla
1 tsp baking powder
1 cup wheat germ
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1 (3.2 oz approximate) dark chocolate bar, rough chopped into chunks
(I used a Chocolove 55% dark chocolate bar & put it in the freezer while I was mixing other ingredients)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8x8 pan (use butter or a butter spray like Mazola Pure containing no alcohol or silicone).

Mix peanut butter, eggs, agave, almond milk, & vanilla until smooth. Add baking powder & mix well. Add wheat germ & flour, mixing just until blended. Stir in chocolate chunks. Bake for 20-22 minutes (just until lightly browned & firm).

Remove from oven & place on a cooling rack. I melted the chocolate shavings left over from chopping & drizzled them across the top of the bars before cutting them (this was actually my son's idea...he is a creative chef in the making!)

These bars are a satisfying little delicately sweet protein rich delight with a cake-like consistency providing a great dessert or after-school snack option. We even enjoyed one for breakfast...shhh...don't tell ;)

Agave nectar: you will probably become a big fan of this natural sweetener; consistent, pleasant, mild flavor; very versatile; suitable for any sweetening need; dissolves readily even in cold beverages; will not crystallize; has a milder insulin impact than raw sugar; while newer to the market, it can be found pretty readily in most markets now, usually located near other alternative sweeteners or honey

Well, a few years have passed since both of the above mentioned "myth busters". Michael has gone on to become a much improved hunter...practicing & perfecting his skills with the rifle.

My sister is an amazing woman, wife, & now mother of her own two beautiful children. She possesses many life skills that would put the most ardent of "Martha Stewarts" to shame...& she throws a pretty mean birthday party of her own!

She was redeemed just a couple of years ago when Williams Sonoma introduced a gourmet line of...you got it...Cupcake Mixes. I presented her with the Red Velvet version for HER birthday!

Sweet eating,


Monday, January 25, 2010

And The Saints Went Marchin' In...

Whether you're a sports fan or not (& I tend to fall a wee bit more into the "not" category... unless, of course, we are talking about The Horns), you were probably on your feet during those last few minutes of the Saints vs Vikings game on Sunday.

Beyond the Dallas Cowboys of the Landry Era, I have not had a strong opinion in regards to NFL teams. But I find it hard NOT to be happy for the Saints & the good fortune that the State of Louisiana deserves. After all, they've had some extremely difficult years...so who am I to want to rain on their parade & I hear they have quite the parade!

I must admit, Favre made 40-something look really good for those of us who are hovering in that age bracket...admittedly or not :) I would have to speculate that he has been proactive about the state of his body...probably internally as well as the obvious external factors...because much more than just luck went into taking the Vikings nearly all the way to the Superbowl (though now he is probably thankful for those Wrangler advertisements)!

So, in honor of the Saints win, & as a two thumbs up (in Favre's direction) to what taking care of yourself can look like...I give you a nutrient filled "Geaux To" Pasta Sauce that is well worth the effort it takes to get it to the table!!

Chunky Pasta Sauce
Serves 6-8

1 lb lean ground turkey
2 (14 oz) cans organic diced tomatoes
1 cup organic chicken broth
2 Tbsp organic tomato paste
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 small green bell pepper, diced
1/2 medium yellow onion, diced
1/2 lb crimini or baby bella mushroom, stems removed & chopped
2 small (or 1 medium) zucchini, diced
1 (3.8 oz) can sliced black olives
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp fine sea salt
a pinch to 1/8 tsp cayenne pepper (the Cajun twist)
Whole wheat (or quinoa) rotini pasta
Fresh grated parmesan cheese

In a large soup pan, brown ground turkey, seasoning with salt & pepper, & then remove from pan & set aside. In the same pan over medium heat, saute garlic, yellow onion, & green pepper in olive oil until onions are translucent. Add mushrooms & zucchini & saute until mushrooms cook down & zucchini begins to soften. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, chicken broth, olives, & spices. Bring to a boil & then reduce to a simmer for 20 more minutes. Dish up a generous helping over prepared rotini noodles. Add a sprinkling of fresh grated parmesan cheese & enjoy!!

Some of you might be tempted to leave the mushrooms out of this recipe (you know who you are...wink, wink), but I would urge you to first try using just 1/2 the amount called for & chopping them really small in lieu of excluding them. They add a richness to the sauce as well as important health benefits. Just give it a whirl...I think you'll be pleased!

Serve with a simple salad of romaine lettuce, toasted pine nuts & a balsamic vinaigrette.

Balsamic Vinaigrette Dressing
1 cup prepared

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
2/3 cup olive oil
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh cracked black pepper
2 tsp dried thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 tsp agave nectar

Place all ingredients in a blender & mix until smooth. Prepare it ahead of time & the flavors will be even more infused. Will keep well in the refrigerator for 2 weeks...if it lasts that long :)

As an alternative, a favorite prepared dressing of mine is Tuscany Italian by Annies Naturals. You can find it at most supermarkets in the natural foods sections. It has a balsamic vinegar base & can be a bit strong, so I mix 1 Tbsp of dressing to the juice of 1/4 a lemon to balance it a bit.

Mushrooms: prepare just before use by wiping them clean with a damp cloth or paper towel instead of soaking; powerful antioxidant properties; phytonutrient beta-glucan has shown to be beneficial in anti-cancer research; excellent source of the vital mineral selenium; rich in roboflavin & several additional B vitamins; beneficial for heart health, asthma, arthritis, breast & colon health; & if you weren't already won over...an aphrodisiac ;)

So, besides wanting to look really good in YOUR Wranglers...what is your personal "Superbowl" & what goals have you set for taking yourself "all the way"!?!

C'est Tout,


Saturday, January 23, 2010


This is just a little something I will share...because I love you...



Chocolove XOXOX

A little company here in Boulder, CO that uses fine Belgian chocolate & natural ingredients. Their site lists Whole Foods Market, Target, Wild Oats, & CostPlus World Market as merchants who carry their chocolate. In addition, I found mine at Vitamin Cottage. I keep mine in the fridge & break off a little square after dinner. Take tiny bites & let it melt in your mouth. Delight in the guilty pleasure of this marvelous morsel of rich, creamy, chocolate...mmmm (she says with her eyes closed)!!

Why is there a strong association between chocolate & love? Phenylethylamine (PEA) is a naturally occuring compound in chocolate. When consumed, it releases endorphins in the brain & produces a mild feeling of euphoria, similar to the sensation of being in love. Other compounds that naturally occur in chocolate include seratonin, theobromine, & anandamine which elevate mood, increase circulation, & enhance sensory perception. (Chocolove FAQ)

Because a girl (& a boy) needs chocolate from time to time!

Happy Savoring,


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

When Harry & Sally Met "Paprikash"...

Harry: Repeat after me. Pepper.
Sally: Pepper
Harry: Pepper
Sally: Pepper
Harry: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Sally: Waiter, there is too much pepper on my paprikash.
Harry: But I would be proud to partake of your pecan pie.

If you've ever seen the movie When Harry Met Sally (& if you haven't, you might not be old enough to cook yet) then you will probably remember this dialogue. As soon as I considered this chicken paprikash dish for dinner, I could hear them in my head...& it made me smile!

So tonight, I served up a delicious slow-cooker version of Chicken Paprikash (because we all need a warm meal to come home to), a side of savory buckwheat groats with green peas & a generous helping of laughter all around!

Slow-Cooker Chicken Paprikash
4 servings

1 1/2 lbs boneless chicken thighs
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper
2 medium carrots, cut in 1/2" pieces & then quartered
1 small red bell pepper, cut into 1" pieces
1 small onion cut into 1" pieces
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 (14.5 oz) can organic stewed tomatoes
2 Tbsp cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2 Tbsp cold water
Pitted Kalamata olives

Place cut carrots, pepper, & onion in the bottom of a slow-cooker. Place chicken on top of vegetables & season with salt & pepper. In a small bowl, combine tomatoes, garlic, lemon zest, & paprika. Pour over chicken. Cover & cook on low for 5 hours. Turn heat to high. Mix cornstarch or arrowroot with cold water in a small bowl. Add to the chicken dish & gently stir. Cook for 30 more minutes on high.

Savory Buckwheat Groats & Green Peas
4 servings

2 cups organic chicken stock
1 cup buckwheat groats, dry toasted
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1 cup frozen green peas

To dry toast the groats, place them in a saute pan over medium heat & stir occasionally until lightly golden. Bring chicken stock to a boil. Add groats, salt & frozen peas. Stir to combine. Cover & reduce to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. (Start your groats when you put the cornstarch in your paprikash for perfect timing!)

Serve up the Chicken Paprikash garnished with Kalamata olives alongside the buckwheat groats. Enjoy the warmth of the paprika & the nutty goodness of the groats in this colorful meal!

Paprika: an amazing warm spice; surprisingly high in vitamin C; anti-bacterial; helps to improve circulation & normalize blood pressure; increases saliva production & stomach acids to aid in digestion; capsaicin has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells

Buckwheat: energizing & nutritious: great alternative to brown rice; it is not a wheat but a fruit seed related to the rhubarb; contributes to a healthy cardiovascular system including lowering blood pressure; as a good source of dietary fiber it does a great job of satisfying hunger while controlling blood sugar; excellent source of manganese, tryptophan & magnesium

Bob's Red Mill has an extensive product line including most of the grains I will introduce to you. Locally, I have found them at Vitamin Cottage, Sprouts, Albertsons & King Soopers. His product site offers a store finder for your convenience. Vitamin Cottage also has their own line of bulk & organic grains that I love.

I hope that your "paprikash" had just the right amount of pepper! Oh, & by the way, I do make a pretty outstanding "peecan paih"...there just simply isn't a single thing healthy about it...well, maybe the "peecans" :)

Bon Appetit,


Monday, January 18, 2010

Same Kind of Different...

I just finished reading Same Kind of Different As Me yesterday afternoon & immediately following, I went to see the movie, The Blind Side (finally). I know this has absolutely nothing to do with food, cooking, or nutrition...but it has everything to do with pursuing your God-given passion & walking through life with your eyes wide open.

I am thankful to have identified a passion of mine & most especially, the chance to share that with you.

Mondays, are usually a "free day" for me in the kitchen...meaning I free myself from the kitchen. It happens that it is my family's busiest day of the week, so I try to have something from the weekend leftover to enjoy, or we treat ourselves to a very simple night out. But this was a holiday...Martin Luther King day...another reminder of a man who pursued his God-given passion with a vengeance. So today, I prepared a simple meal...thankful for the freedom to do so!

Rustic Lentil Soup
4-5 servings

1 1/4 cup organic green lentils, rinsed
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 cups butternut squash (or sub carrots), 1/2" dice
1 (14.5 oz) can organic stewed tomatoes
1 cup organic chicken stock
1 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp smoky paprika
Parmesan cheese

In a large saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add lentils and cook for 20 minutes or until tender.

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions & saute until onions are translucent Add squash, tomatoes, chicken stock & seasonings. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes. Drain the lentils & stir them in. Bring back up to a simmer for about 5 more minutes. Add more salt if needed. Sprinkle individual servings with parmesan cheese & enjoy!!

Lentils: excellent source of protein, dietary fiber, folic acid, & potassium; good source of iron & phosphorus; also contain some important minerals & B vitamins; excellent combined with brown rice as their amino acids are complimentary; a great alternative for a savory breakfast

Bon Appetit,


Saturday, January 16, 2010

Thank You Lifetime Fitness Guests...

I had the great pleasure this morning of being a guest presenter at the Annual Fitness Expo hosted by Lifetime Fitness here in Parker, CO. I want to say thank you to the small but attentive and most delightful group that attended my presentation. I hope that you were able to take away a few morsels (pun intended) of goodness that you can incorporate into your lives.

I promised to post the website for grass-fed beef: http://www.backcountrybeef.com/. It has been worth my time to make this investment as the beef is so much more flavorful and digestible.

And by the way, the agave nectar that I gave away this morning was by Madhava out of Lyons, CO. Another great way to support our local economy. They also have a line of honey. I get it at Vitamin Cottage which has the best price on their products.

Following is the energizing way I started such an important day. (And I warned you to stay tuned for a great way to use some of that quinoa you prepared for dinner a few nights ago!!)

Cream-of-Sweet Breakfast
2 Servings

1 1/2 cups prepared quinoa
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
2 Medjool dates, pitted & diced
4 dried apricots, diced
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp flax seed, ground or whole
1 tsp toasted slivered almonds
1 Tbsp agave nectar

Put all ingredients in a saucepan, mix well & heat through on medium heat for a couple of minutes. Almond milk will absorb. Enjoy & get ready to feel energized & alert!!

A note on almond milk: You will find this product on the dry-food shelves (sometimes on the baking isle). Blue Diamond Almond Breeze Original is my favorite. Purchase it unsweetened & unflavored...this makes it more versatile. It is shelf stable until the seal is broken (watch the "best if used by" date) & then will last about 10 days in the refrigerator after opening. Go to www.bluediamond.com for a coupon.

Dates (the kind that grow on trees...): very nourishing & energizing; great source of potassium which is beneficial for our cellular function, hearts, muscles, & nerves to name a few; very alkalizing to the body; help with hypertension & maintaining hydration

If you attended my presentation this morning & read all the way to the end of this post...Thank You!! In addition, if you are one of those attentive guests, be the first to email me with your name & address (you have that address on my business card) & I will send you a complimentary 3 day menu complete with recipes, shopping list, & pre-prep ideas!!

Bon Appetit,


Thursday, January 14, 2010

Cooking for Michael Buble'...

I love a man who will sing for his supper...or better yet, sing for MY supper. While Michael croons away, I throw on my apron and put on the show!

On the nights I'm flying solo, I'll get a little creative. Try out something I've been brainstorming or try to re-create a dish I've enjoyed in one of my culinary outings (which are few). These are the nights I know I can't go wrong. I have seriously NEVER been known to complain about the chef.

On The Menu: Bay Scallops with Toasted Sesame Quinoa & Swiss Chard & Morrocan Salad with Almond Vinaigrette

Bay scallops happened to be on sale this week...so that was a given. And this particular salad has been on my mind for over a year now...about time to give it a go. I happen to like simple meals...with lots of flavor. I also like components of a meal that can be used...oh say, tomorrow. Here's how this all came together...

Swiss chard -- about 3 cups leftover from making my soup (Mushroom Swiss Chard Soup in a previous post), already rough chopped & sitting in my crisper ready to go

Quinoa -- pronounced "keen-wah", my favorite grain, a near perfect protein full of amino acids, very light with a wonderful nutty flavor, super versatile, so I prepared a double portion & will be using some of it for breakfast tomorrow (stay tuned).

Arugala -- you can see that I already had a salad with this earlier in the week with a completely different flavor profile, surprisingly also very versatile considering how peppery it is & besides, it is too good to let any of it go bad

Preparing Quinoa: Rinse your quinoa in a small sieve so that it won't be bitter. Prepare in a ratio of 1 part quinoa to 2 parts water (i.e. 1/2 cup quinoa in 1 cup water). Bring your water to a boil. Add rinsed quinoa. Reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook 15 minutes and then remove from heat. The little quinoa grains will open up and look like tiny little spirals. You will fall in love with this grain...I promise!!

Tip: While your quinoa is cooking, prepare your salad dressing. You could also prepare these a day ahead to save some time!!

Almond Vinaigrette
3/4 cup

1/2 cup slivered almonds
1/4 cup almond oil (can use grapeseed oil but almond is worth the investment)
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
3 Tbsp water (could also use unsweetened coconut juice)
1 Tbsp unsweetened shredded coconut
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Heat oven to 350. Place the almonds on a baking dish in a thin layer and bake for 5 minutes, until just golden. Remove from pan to let cool.

Put all ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth. Add a bit more water if necessary. It will be thick (think Ranch dressing from a bottle). This makes 3/4 cup. You will only use about 1/3 of it and it will keep well in the fridge for about 5 days.

Moroccan Salad
2 servings

3 cups Arugala
4 Medjool dates, pitted & rough chopped
Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Toss arugala with 2 generous Tbsp of vinaigrette. Top with dates & gorgonzola.

Toasted Sesame Swiss Chard & Quinoa
2 servings

1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1 cup prepared quinoa
3 cups swiss chard, stems removed & rough chopped

Heat oil over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for about a minute. Add quinoa and saute for an additional minute. Add chard to pan, mix well and saute down until chard is wilted. This is a yummy side dish for just about any meal.

Pan Sauteed Bay Scallops
2 servings

1/2 Tbsp butter
1 garlic clove, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine (I use an inexpensive Pinot Grigio -- Fish Eye $5 bottle)
1/2 lb tiny bay scallops

In a medium pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Add wine and bring to a boil. Add scallops and cook for 1 to 1-1/2 minutes. You don't want to overcook them or they will get rubbery.

Remove the scallops from the pan with a slotted spoon and serve them on top of the cooked chard. (I started my scallop dish at the same time I added the swiss chard to it's dish & they were ready at the same time. I already had my salad plated so my scallops didn't get cold while waiting.)

Serve immediately & Enjoy!!

A note on the oils: I love having these special oils on hand. They add a whole lot of flavor and make your dishes really special with no additional effort. Olive oil is always a good backup, but I like to add variety and this is a really easy way to do that. Just keep all your oils in the refrigerator so that they will stay fresh--rancid oils are very bad for your body. Your olive oil will solidify, but all you need to do is run it under some warm water for a minute before you use it or set it out a little before cooking time.

I have it on good source that Elvis may be coming for dinner next week! I plan to break him out of his jelly-filled doughnut and peanut butter banana sandwich phase while he sweetly sings Love Me Tender :)

Bon Appetit,


Monday, January 11, 2010

Happy New Year of Healthy Choices...

I trust you are all having a Happy New Year thus far...cannot believe that we are already 11 days in to 2010 (I say that twenty-ten, by the way).

I started mine with a good ol' fashioned rhinovirus! Fortunately, it has been a long time since I have endured said virus. I forgot just how fun it could be!! I offer up thanks for new things like tissues with lotion, day versus night cold meds, fuzzy chenille socks and EmergenC but more importantly juicy oranges, hot green tea with mint, and soothing warm chicken noodle soup.

Today was the first day that I have felt relatively normal. I spent most of the morning attacking all my surfaces with disinfectant, washing bed linens, and tidying up in general. Amazing how out of sorts things can get when you're not doing anything but lying around trying to breathe...this must be one of Murphy's Laws...or maybe just one of Mother's Laws!

I decided that just for extra good measure, I would pack my lunch full of immune boosting goodness. This delicious salad featuring a good dose of vitamin C and a bit of Omega-3 is what brought a smile to my face.

Roasted Chicken, Grapefruit & Arugala Salad
2 servings

2 oz oven roasted chicken, rough chopped
1 Ruby Red grapefruit, segmented
1/4 cup toasted walnuts, chopped
6 oz arugala
Feta cheese

1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 Tbsp grapeseed oil
1 tsp honey
1 tsp Dijon mustard
cracked black pepper
fine sea salt

Combine dressing ingredients & whisk together. Combine all salad ingredients, except for Feta, in a large bowl. Toss well with dressing. Divide onto two plates & sprinkle with small amount of Feta cheese. Enjoy all that juicy goodness while your immune system rejoices!

Bon Appetit,