Market Finds

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

BOOOOOOO-tifully Healthy Soup










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For someone who is a bonafide scaredy cat, I love Halloween.  Costumes, candy, parties and Charlie Brown's great pumpkin are perennial favorites, and for me, this marks the unofficial start of the holiday season.  My most favorite time of the year.  
As the years go by, the candy collection has become less of an obsession, and now I channel my energy into making fun, whimsical and healthy foods (as you can see from the photos above) for my family, friends and clients.  Last week, I was positively giddy (and probably annoying to the rest of the kitchen crew) as I prepared my creations in my evil laboratory (a.k.a. The Cancer Wellness Kitchen).  Halloween certainly brings out every one's creativity and appreciation of some child-like fun.  
Although chocolates and candy corn may not be on my priority list these days, there is still a temptation to over indulge when the goody bags are lurking near by. So, ad the holiday season approaches, it's always key to keep healthy eating and moderation in mind.  One of my favorite holiday "elixirs"is my carrot ginger soup.  The soup is warm, slightly spicy and a boooooo-ti-ful orange autumn color.  Serve this soup on Halloween night.  It can be made ahead and kept warm in a slow cooker, while you are trick or treating.  The leftovers freeze well, so make a double batch and save some for another hectic weeknight.  

Happy Halloween and make every plate something to be passionate about!



Roasted Carrot, Ginger, Cashew Soup:

2 1/2 lbs. carrots, cut into one inch pieces
Non-stick cooking spray
1 teaspoon each sea salt and fresh cracked black pepper
1 cup Roasted Cashews
2 red chilies, stems removed, ribs and seeds removed from one pepper only
4 cloves garlic
2 inch knob of fresh ginger, peeled
1 cup chopped yellow onion
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground garam masala
2 quarts vegetable broth
Optional Garnishes:
Non-Fat Greek Yogurt, Cilanto

Step One:
Preheat Oven to 425 degrees.  Place carrots on a foil-lined baking sheet and coat liberally with non-stick spray and salt and pepper.  Bake for 25-30 minutes in preheated oven until carrots are caramelized and softened.

Step Two:
While carrots are roasting, add cashews to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until finely chopped, but not turned into a butter.  Remove from bowl and set aside.  Next pulse garlic, ginger and chilies in food processor until combined and finely minced.  Remove from bowl and set aside.


Step Three:
Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven, over medium-high heat. Add the onion and spices and sauté till onion has softened, about three minutes.  Add the ginger mixture and continue to cook, stirring frequently for another 2-3 minutes.  Next, add cashews and stir to incorporate.

Step Five:
Turn off heat and carefully use an immersion blender to puree the soup. Now you are ready to garnish and serve.


















Thursday, October 16, 2014

Who's Up For a Skinny Dip?

White bean dip with Greek inspired topping
Usually a skinny dip involves taking your top off, but my recipe today is all about putting your top on.  That is, piling a simple white bean dip with some beautiful toppings. I am taking a plain appetizer and turning it into a show stopper.

This dish is truly all about the presentation.  One can spread any type of thick dip on a large plate or platter and top with any number of accouterments. Guacamole is lovely when topped with chopped tomatoes, cotija cheese and cilantro.  Romesco sauce gets some added "olé" when topped with toasted marcona almonds, grated manchego cheese and fresh parsley.  My lemony white bean dip was garnished with kalamata olives, cucumber, tomatoes, feta cheese and fresh dill.  I am always looking for ways to sneak in more veggies and herbs into most everything I make and using these items for decoration is perfect.

So, get your dip out of the bowl, spread it on a platter and let your imagination run wild and as always, make every plate something to be passionate about!

White Bean Dip with Greek-Inspired Toppings:

1 16 oz can cannelini beans
1 16 oz can garbanzo beans
3 cloves garlic
Juice of 3 lemons
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Place all the ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and whizz until throughly combined and creamy.  Spread dip onto a large plate or serving platter and top with the following:

1/2 cup quartered grape tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped English cucumber
1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives,
1/4 cup crumbled feta
2 tablespoons fresh dill

Serve with pita chips or crudité




Thursday, October 9, 2014

For the Love of Noodles










"Everything you see, I owe to spaghetti"
-Sophia Loren


I absolutely adore this quotation by the timeless Italian actress, Sophia Loren.  In our current age of gluten-free, wheat-free and carb-fearing diets, this statement seems downright rebellious.  Even as a person who cooks healthy food for a living, I'm still pretty adamant about my love for traditional noodle dishes.  As always moderation is the key to any healthy diet, and in order to not act on every pasta craving that hits me, I have begun collecting beautiful photographs and recipes of noodle dishes on Pinterest.  Over the past couple of months, I have amassed almost two hundred pins on my noodle board.  This is food porn at its finest!  

One of the recent trends I've noticed on Pinterest is the "wonder pot".  Basically this is all the ingredients for a pasta dish cooked together in one large pot on the stove.  I am all for any recipe that cuts down on the number of dishes that I have to wash at the end of the day.  I jumped on the wonder pot bandwagon, and came up with a comforting homestyle chicken-noodle dish.  To me, this recipe is as warm and comforting as a hug from your grandma, or Sophia Loren.


Chicken Noodle Wonder Pot:
1 TB unsalted Butter
1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 cup Yellow Onion, chopped
2 Celery Stalks, chopped
2 Carrots, chopped
2 tsp Turmeric
1 tsp Dried Thyme
3 skinless, boneless Chicken Breasts
4 cups Chicken Stock
1 14.5 Oz can of Vegetable Stock
1 cup Carrots, cut into 1/4 inch rounds
1 12 oz package of Wide Egg Noodles
1 TB Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1/4 cup Cold Water
Sea Salt and White Pepper to taste
Fresh Chopped Parsley for garnish

STEP ONE:
Heat butter and olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat.  Add the chopped onion, celery, carrots, turmeric and thyme.  Stir vegetables while sautéing for about 3-5 minutes, or until vegetables have softened slightly.  

STEP TWO:
Place chicken breasts in dutch oven and cover with chicken and vegetable stocks.  Bring liquid to a boil  then reduce to a simmer.  Cover the pot and simmer the chicken for 20 minutes, or until the internal temperature reaches 160 Degrees.  When chicken is cooked, remove from the cooking liquid and set aside to cool, before shredding.

STEP THREE:
Bring stock back up to a boil and add the noodles and carrot discs.  Boil pasta for 8-10 minutes, then add in the shredded chicken.  Season with salt and white pepper to taste. The recipe is now ready to eat, but if you prefer a thicker sauce, combine the cold water and whole wheat pastry flour, until flour is dissolved, then stir into the mixture in the pot.  Allow to simmer until desired thickness is reached.  Garnish with chopped fresh parsley if desired.



Noodles and carrots soaking up all that delicious chicken broth
Shredded chicken goes back into the pot 
For a thicker sauce, add in a slurry of whole wheat pastry flour and cold water
The finished recipe is a bowl full of comfort


Follow my noodle board on Pinterest at http://www.pinterest.com/passionateplate/noodles/ and don't forget to make every plate something to be passionate about!

Friday, October 3, 2014

Daring Greatly Dinner

Our guests were certainly daring enough to try black spaghetti with Thai flavored pesto
What does daring greatly mean to you?  In the healthy kitchen, it means introducing our diners to new and unusual ingredients, used in unexpected ways.  We recently had to opportunity to work with Cancer Wellness facilitator, Angela Buttimer, during her Daring Greatly workshop.  Daring Greatly, is a book by Brené Brown, that explores the power that can come from allowing ourselves to be vulnerable.  The name for Brown's book stems from the following quotation, from a speech given by Teddy Roosevelt in 1910:
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly.”
I love these words and the older I get, the more I can relate to what Mr. Roosevelt was trying to convey.  I may not have always "dared greatly" in my personal life, but most certainly have always done so with my palate, and thus, welcomed the chance to  help create a menu with Chef Nancy for this workshop.

The challenge of turning meat and potatoes eaters, into healthy eaters is a task we face daily, and the Daring Greatly dinner was another opportunity to use some of our staple ingredients in new and exciting ways.  We started the meal with a seafood terrine, which was a huge hit with our guests.  They never guessed that we had added calcium rich sardines to their appetizer.  The entree consisted of cauliflower steaks with puttanesca sauce and black bean pasta, topped with a Thai style pesto.  Dessert was a trio of chocolate ricotta creams.  The participants had fun trying to identify the various flavors (Cayenne and Cinnamon, Cardamom and Orange) used in the dessert. 

I made the black bean pasta and Thai pesto and have shared the recipe below.  This dish certainly does not resemble any conventional pasta and pesto recipe, and that is Daring Greatly as far as I am concerned.  The guests devoured this odd looking meal with enthusiasm and gusto, which leads me to believe that they were most definitely paying attention during Angela's workshop.  I challenge you all to "dare greatly" the next time you are grocery shopping or planning a meal, and as always, make every plate something to be passionate about!

Thai-Style Pesto:

1 bunch Italian parsley
1 bunch cilantro
1 bunch Thai basil
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
5 cloves garlic
1 2" piece of fresh ginger, peeled
3 jalapeños (keep seeds and ribs for a spicier sauce)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Juice and zest of 1 lime
1 tsp of sea salt
1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Step One:
Place first ten ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine.  

Step Two:
With motor running, slowly drizzle in olive oil until mixture is fully emulsified.  Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve over pasta or rice.  This sauce is great for a cold or warm pasta dishes.  Its raw and vegan and when served over a gluten-free pasta or grain, you will be a rock star to all of your friends and family for having made a meal containing all of the most current culinary buzz words!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

A Korean Feast at Home


Some of my treasures from the Super H Mart
My friend Mary Katherine and I have bonded over our mutual disdain for talking on the phone, our admiration for the South Carolina low country and our nomadic upbringings.  She is a military brat and I, just a regular brat who's father was transferred often in the corporate world.  Just as living in Brazil impacted my life in a huge way, Korea impacted hers.  We both have fond memories of our adopted homelands and both crave a taste of foods that stir our senses.  I have become quite adept at my   "anglophied" Brazilian dishes, but up until last week had never cooked or even eaten Korean food.  I am far from an expert on this type of cuisine, but with M.K.'s guidance, a little help from You Tube and a trip to the Asian market, I cooked up an amazing meal.

A great resource for a quick overview, recipes and step by step instructions is a site called www.maangchi.com.  It was here that I watched two videos for the items I had been requested to cook.  The videos are easy to follow and there are links to the recipes as well.  I highly recommend this site for  a Korean food novice.

Bulgogi is marinated and grilled beef.  I knew the minute I saw the recipe for this marinade, that it would do wonders f or the beef.  The marinade contained onion, garlic, fresh ginger and an Asian pear, which were whizzed together in a food processor and poured onto very thinly sliced beef (The Asian market I visited, had already sliced bulgogi meat).  To this mixture, was added some sliced carrots, scallions, rice syrup, brown sugar, soy sauce and sesame oil.  I allowed the meat to spend the night enrobed in this luscious marinade.  I did not have the luxury of a charcoal grill on the night of my party, so I chose to cook the meat in a large non-stick pan.  I coated the pan with some canola oil and working in several batches, placed the beef in a single layer in the hot pan.  It is very important to pat the beef dry with paper towels before placing it in the pan, so that it browns properly.  I was amazed at how tender and flavorful this meat was.  The marinade was magical, and I'd like to think my cooking technique played a factor in this dish's success as well.  We served the bulgogi in lettuce leaves with white rice and saamjang, a thick and spicy condiment.  The halted conversation and collective moaning of "Mmmmmmmmmm", assured me that my guests were enjoying their Korean barbecue.

Bulgogi caramelizing in the hot skillet
Beautiful finished bulgogi dish
The second dish M.K. requested was japchae.  Japchae is made with potato starch noodles in a soy and sesame oil sauce.  The version we made was vegetarian.  The noodles were very easy to find and the package even has an easy recipe on the back.  Look for "oriental style vermicelli" made from sweet potato starch.  The dried pasta is a light gray in color and turns the cooking liquid a very off-putting color.  Don't let this dissuade you, as the cooked noodles are cellophane clear and extremely long.  Perfect for twirling and slurping.  Place the cooked noodles in a bowl and drizzle with a generous amount of sesame oil and soy sauce.  Toss to coat and set aside while you cook your vegetables.  I used spinach, carrots,  yellow onion, scallions and mushroom for my japchae.  I love the versatility of this dish, as you can add as many or as few veggies as you would like, according to your guests tastes.  Make sure to sauté each vegetable separately before adding to the bowl of cooked noodles.  Toss the noodles and veggies together and add more soy sauce and sesame oil if desired.  Sesame oil is one of my favorite things and adds such a unique taste to this noodle dish.

Vegetarian Japchae

For some added Korean authenticity, I purchased kimchi and pork dumplings from the market

Now for the rice.  I like to pride myself as a expert rice maker.  The rice I grew making is a long grain, pilaf style, loaded with onions and garlic.  This meal however, called for a medium grained, no flavor added, steamed sticky rice.  This task was accomplished in the amazing rice cooker that M.K. purchased from the Asian market.  The forty dollar rice cooker produced some of the tastiest and most fragrant rice I have ever eaten.  I have put a moratorium on buying any more kitchen gadgets, but may have to make an exception for a new rice cooker.
The rice cooker that facilitates making perfect asian-style rice
We used a medium grain white rice.  Amazing how something so simple can be so flavorful
No theme dinner party is complete without a toast, including a traditional beverage. Soju, a distilled rice  liquor is the alcohol of choice for this meal.  Mixed with a bit of pineapple juice and some fruity Hawaiian punch, this 'kettle' beverage was reminiscent of some sort of frat party p.j.  Being the responsible adults that we are, we toasted with a shot or two and moved on to a more sophisticated libation.  Lucky for me, I work with a wine master.  Although Koreans do not typically drink wine with their meals, Chef Nancy was able to expertly pair a red and a white that complimented our food exceptionally well.  
For the over-21 crowd only! Soju "kettle"
To finish off our Korean feast, we scarfed down some choco pies.  Similar to the southern moon-pie, this fluffy little treat, was a cherished memory from my friend's childhood.
It's not quite on par with a Moon-Pie, but is pretty tasty after a few swigs from the "kettle"
We are fortunate to have so many diverse cultures in the Atlanta area, and the markets that accompany these populations.  No matter what ethnicity, your food memories revolve around, you are certain to find a taste of what you are looking for in one of the markets.  My favorites are The Buford Highway Farmer's Market, Super H Mart and Cherians International Groceries.

As always, I am fascinated by learning about new foods and cooking techniques, but more importantly, the joy of cooking for others is what motivates me.  It was such a pleasure to be able to bring back some food memories from Mary Katherine's childhood and to share that with a group of friends around the dinner table.  I challenge everyone to step out of their culinary comfort zone and as always, make every plate something to be passionate about!




Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Check Your Pulse

Lentil Salad with Fresh Thyme Vinaigrette

Although lentils have been around since biblical times, they are a new staple ingredient in my kitchen.  They are an inexpensive source of protein and fiber, with a mild flavor and substantial mouth feel.  Lentils are extremely versatile, as they can be served warm, cold or at room temperature and can take on any number of flavor profiles.  My recipe today is an Italian inspired lentil salad, which is hearty enough to serve as a main course alongside a green salad or as a wonderful accompaniment to roasted or grilled beef, chicken or pork.  

Italian Inspired Lentils:
1lb packaged of dried lentils*
8 cups water
4 slices of prosciutto
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 boxes of baby bella mushrooms
3 shallots, sliced
4 oz parmigiano reggiano, sliced with a vegetable peeler
Fresh Thyme Leaves for garnish

Vinaigrette:
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove, grated
1 teaspoon whole grain Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste

STEP ONE:
Place dried lentils in a dutch oven and cover with water.  Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat and cover. Cook for 15-20 minutes until lentils are cooked through, but not mushy.  Drain any excess water
*If you have a couple of stems of parsley or cilantro or a scallion or a piece of onion, throw them into the lentil pot.  This will add another layer of flavor to your lentils.  Discard the additional herbs and onions once lentils are cooked.

STEP TWO:
While lentils are cooking, place prosciutto slices in a saute pan over medium-high heat and cook until crispy.  Flip prosciutto over to ensure that both side are crispy.  Remove from pan and set aside to cool and then crumble.  To the same pan, add 1 tsp of EVOO and one box of mushrooms.  Allow mushrooms to cook until dark brown and caramelized.  Remove the first batch of mushrooms to a plate and repeat the process with the second box of mushroom.  To the same pan, add two tablespoons of EVOO and saute the shallots until crispy.  Stir often, so that they do not burn.  Remove to a separate plate with a slotted spoon.

STEP THREE:
Make the vinaigrette by combining all the ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well to combine.

STEP FOUR:
In a large bowl, toss lentils and half of the mushrooms with about half of the vinaigrette.  Place this mixture onto desired serving platter and garnish with remaining mushrooms, prosciutto, shallots, cheese and thyme leaves.  Drizzle with extra dressing if needed or serve on the side.

Buon Appetito! And make every plate something to be passionate about!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Culinary Chameleon


The simple question, "Where are you from?", has been a source of anxiety for me my entire life.  My typical response to this question has always been, "Uhhh not really anywhere".  For some reason, in my younger years, I felt gypped that I did not have a singular place to call home.  I was born in New York City to southern parents,  and moved about every five years from there on out.  My family lived in some wonderful places, New Orleans, Brazil, New England, North Carolina and the beautiful South Carolina low country. Each locale, rich with it's own distinct character and food culture.  But where was I from?

Fast forward to present day, and the question I am asked most frequently, now that I cook professionally, is "What is your favorite dish to cook?".  In the beginning, this inquiry stirred up as much anxiety as the "Where are you from?" question of my youth.  For some reason, I felt that if I was a true professional, I was required to have a set focus, a dish or distinct cuisine that I could focus all of my energy towards.  Some people devote their whole lives to perfecting one specific dish.  What was my dish?  What was my cuisine?  I often envied cooks and cookbook authors who's name evokes an immediate knowledge as to what their book or restaurant is about.  Flay, Batali, Child, Yan and Lagasse all have a culinary identity.  But what was mine?

Over the past several years, I have been focused on "healthy" or "better for you" cooking.  This is a nice large umbrella that can encompass my chameleon-like culinary tendencies.  One can take a classic, Brazilian, Creole, or Southern recipe and most often find some way to make it a bit better for you.  This is my passion and focus now and while "healthy" and "better for you" do not immediately conjure up a specific cultural identity, I hope it incites curiosity.  You never know if you will getting French, Brazilian, Creole or Southern influences in one of my recipes, but you can be assured, that there will always be something about it that is better for you.

This week I had the pleasure of teaching a Brazilian vegetarian class at The Cook's Warehouse, with my partner in crime, Chef Nancy Waldeck.  Alas, Brazilian vegetarian seems like an oxymoron, but truly it epitomizes the marriage of my love for multicultural cuisine and healthier eating.  My recipe for today is one that we prepared in class.  I have taken a decadent fried, meat and cheese filled Brazilian snack called a Pastel, and morphed it into a lovely baked, veggie filled treat that can be enjoyed guilt-free.

Baked Veggie Pastéis:

Dough:
2 Cup WW Pastry Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
½ tsp Sea Salt
1 TB Unsalted Butter
1 TB Cachaça or Vodka
1 Egg
1 Egg White
1/3 cup Warm Water

Filling:
1 cob fresh Corn, cut from cob
1/2 cup Tomato, seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped Hearts of Palm
1/3 cup finely chopped Yellow Onion
1 cup shredded Monterrey Jack Cheese
Step One:
Sift together flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl of an electric mixer.  Add butter, alcohol and eggs.  Beat on medium speed until incorporated.  Turn off mixer and scrape down sides of bowl.  Resume medium speed and slowly drizzle in warm water.  Mix until soft dough forms.

Step Two:
Turn out dough onto a floured surface and form into a rectangle and wrap in saran wrap and chill for at least 30 minutes.

Step Three:
While dough is chilling, prepare the filling by placing all the ingredients in a medium bowl.  Stir to combine and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Step Four:
Roll chilled dough to a 1/8 in thickness.  Cut dough into rectangles that are approximately 3 inches x 6 inches.  

Step Five:
Place 2 TB of filling in center of dough and brush washer along edges of dough to seal.  Fold dough over filling and crimp edges with a fork.

Step Six:
Brush top and bottom of pastry with egg wash and place on a parchment lined sheet pan that has been brushed with olive oil.  Sprinkle a pinch of course sea salt on top of pastry and spray or brush with olive oil

Bake at 400 deg for 20-25 minute, until golden brown and crispy


Beautiful chopped veggies for the filling
A pizza cutter is an easy way to cut out your rectangles of dough


Place a heaping tablespoon of filling on one end of the dough and rub outer edges with water, using your finger or small pastry brush

Fold dough over filling
Crimp edges with a fork to seal in the filling

Brush the top and bottom of pastry with egg wash



The finish product!
Make every plate something to be passionate about!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Super Salad




I had an amazing time last Friday, speaking to the Sixty-Plus group at the Piedmont Hospital in Fayette County.  For this engagement, I was asked to talk about anti-cancer foods and demonstrate a couple of recipes using these items.  Since my allotted time was relatively slim, I needed to pack as many cancer fighting foods into one dish as possible.  To break down healthy eating into its most basic form, know that if you are eating a rainbow of colors (and I am not talking about Skittles or M&M's here), you are eating healthfully.  In addition to thinking about color, I needed to include some of our major talking points for anti-cancer eating and combine it all into to a beautiful and palatable dish. Below are some of the ingredients we use on a regular basis in the healthy kitchen, all of which are included in my Super Salad recipe.

Garlic:  Fresh garlic is at the top of the list of anti-cancer foods.  Always use fresh garlic and allow it to sit for several minutes after grating or chopping it.  This will allow the anti-inflammatory allinase enzymes to activate, which in turn increases the health benefits of the garlic.

Turmeric/Healthy Oils and Black Pepper: Turmeric is a native Indian spice with a beautiful golden color and an earthy smell.  This spice, when used in conjunction with a healthy oil (Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Grapeseed Oil, Canola Oil), and fresh cracked black pepper, increases the bioavailability of its active ingredient, curcumin.  Curcumin is an anti-inflammatory.  A teaspoon of turmeric can easily be added to sautéed vegetables or salad dressings, without compromising the flavor of your recipe.

Capers and Red Onions:  Both of these foods contain high levels of a flavonoid called quercetin, which has anti-inflammatory properties.

Fresh Herbs: Fresh herbs contain vitamins and add a beautiful pop of color and freshness, without adding a lot of calories or fat.

Whole Grains: Brown rice, quinoa, millet, faro, sorghum, spelt, kamut, amaranth, freekeh and teff are all examples of whole grains.  These grains are filling, easily digestible and chock full of antioxidants. Most of these grains gluten-free.

Tomatoes: Not only do tomatoes come in a variety of colors, they are high in the nutrient lycopene. Lycopene is especially important for prostate health.

Red Peppers: Red peppers also contain lycopene and have more vitamin C than an orange.

Low Fat Dairy Products:  Naturally lower fat dairy products like feta and parmesan cheese are great sources of flavor.  Because these cheeses are stronger in flavor, you can use less of them.

Lentils/ Beans:  Both of these foods are wonderful sources of non-animal protein and very economical.

Pomegranate Molasses: This is nothing more than reduced 100% pomegranate juice and a great way to add some extra antioxidants and sweetness to a salad dressing.  Pomegranate molasses can be found at Whole Foods, Cooks Warehouse, Buford Highway Farmer's Market, DeKalb Farmer's Market and Cherian's Market.


Super Salad:

For the Salad:

1 cup of your favorite whole grain, uncooked (quinoa, faro, kamut)
1 cup of lentils, cooked according to package directions
1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup dry packed sun dried tomatoes
1/4 cup chopped red onion**
1/4 cup sliced kalamata olives
3 TB of capers, drained and rinsed
1 cup of fresh chopped herbs, I like a mixture of dill, parsley and basil
1 oz of crumbled feta
5 oz box of arugula

Dressing:

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon pomegranate molasses (local honey can be substituted)
1 grated garlic clove (a microplane grater works best)
Sea Salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake to combine.

Step One:
Cook you chosen grain according to package directions.  Grains will have different cooking times, but in a pinch, a good rule of thumb for preparing these items is the 1-2-3 method. i.e. One cup of dried grain + two cups of liquid = 3 cups of cooked product.

Step Two:
Combine all of the above items, except the arugula in a large bowl.  Drizzle with salad dressing and toss gently to combine.  Serve on top of a bed of arugula.

Salad will keep well in the refrigerator for three days. Serves 4-6.

** Soaking raw red onions in a small bowl of ice water for about 5-10 minutes will take a lot of the sting out of the onion, making it more palatable.  Just drain the water off before you add the onions to your salad.

I love this salad recipe, but more importantly, I love sharing the knowledge I have accumulated over the past few years, working with healthy chefs and dietitians at all of the Thomas Chapman Family Wellness Centers in the Piedmont Hospital network.  How can you not be passionate about what is on your plate, when it is so healthy for you?  Enjoy!

Thursday, July 31, 2014

The New Recipe Box



My cherished recipe boxes from my grandmother Leak (left)  and grandmother Zachary (right).  Look at their handwriting, it tells so much.  Guess which one was the 1st grade teacher and which one was the artist?

One of my most prized possessions are the two recipe boxes that belonged to my grandmother's.  Each is overflowing with handwritten, food stained, index cards and newspaper clippings. These boxes are time capsules, perfectly showcasing the trends of the day as well as long cherished family recipes. Several times a year, I pull out these boxes and take a walk down memory lane.  

I love perusing the old index cards and clippings.  Feeling grateful for the many wonderful family meals  I enjoyed at each of their dinner tables.  I fondly remembering the fresh baked apple pie and my favorite chicken casserole.  I went in search of my grandmother Zachary's chicken casserole recipe last week, when I was in desperate need of some comfort food. I decided to make up a batch for myself.  It hit the spot, but I know it used to taste even better surrounded by family, as we sat at my grandmother's lace-covered dining room table.



Look at this collection of dinner party menu's.  Certainly, I have no recollection of what was for Christmas dinner in 1975, but it's nice to know we had oyster dressing, which is still a staple at all of our family holiday meals

Over the years, I have also, kept a record of my dinner party menus and have several journals dedicated to menus and party ideas.  I have never started a recipe box, but do have folders full of magazine clippings and recipes printed from the internet.  Of course, my newest "recipe box" is my blog and website.  It may not be as quaint, as an old handwritten box of recipes, but it is my way of preserving my family favorites, as well as my original creations.   I can only hope that one day, my grandchildren will be appreciative of the history I am collecting in my virtual recipe box.  

Below is the neatly written index card recipe for the favorite chicken casserole of my childhood.  It's not health food, and quite honestly, I would never even try to recreate this in a healthier version.  Sometimes, fond memories are all the nutrition your body and soul require.



Don't forget to make every plate something to be passionate about!
www.thepassionateplate.com


Thursday, July 17, 2014

Tomato Time!

Beautiful assortment of tomatoes: Canned, Yellow, Beefsteak and Sun Dried


Summer is tomato time in the south.  Before, I even enjoyed eating tomatoes, I recall my mom, aunt and grandmother, gushing over the delicious tomatoes from the garden.  These tomatoes were always on my grandmother's dinner table, simply peeled and sliced on a plate. Nothing more, nothing less.  Sadly, I did not appreciate these garden delicacies at the time.  It would be many years later before I comprehended the love of a home grown tomato, and how different it was from the unfortunate tasteless orbs on display year round at my local supermarket.

As my palate matured, I grew into a true tomato lover.   I have more than made up for my earlier lack of tomato consumption over the past twenty years.  In fact, last summer, I took part in a large scale tomato canning session with my Can-Can Girls.  I don't recall exactly how many pounds of tomatoes we put up, but I do remember that it took six of us, two full days to complete the task of preserving summer's bounty.  

So treasured, were my jars of canned tomatoes, that I refused to eat them, for fear of running out before the next tomato canning summit.  I had become a selfish hoarder.  Well, about a month ago, a date was set for tomato canning 2014.  This meant that I had less than ten weeks to consume the dozen or so quarts of tomatoes, sitting quietly in the cool, darkness of my canned goods pantry (formerly my hall coat closet).  

The beautiful canned tomatoes make a lovely rustic pasta sauce, which I have been eating quite a lot of lately.  This sauce requires nothing more than a can of tomatoes, two grated garlic cloves, red pepper flakes and salt and pepper, sauteed in a bit of olive oil.  As much as I enjoy this tomato sauce, it was time to come up with another recipe in which to use my stock of tomatoes.  Thus, the Tomato Mop was born.

Years ago, I enjoyed a dish called tomato mop at a British Pub, called The Fox and Hound.  I vividly remember the warm and richly flavored tomato sauce, topped with melty goat cheese and served with crunchy garlic toasts. This dish makes a great appetizer or a wonderful vegetarian main dish, along side a simple green salad.  

If you are not fortunate enough to have a coat closet overflowing with home-canned tomatoes, I would recommend using organic, fire-roasted tomatoes instead.  

I hope a home-grown summer tomato is in your future, but if not, enjoy the deep tomatoey flavor of my Tomato Mop.  And.....don't forget to make every plate something to be passionate about!




Tomato Mop:

1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, grated
2 15 oz cans of organic fire roasted tomatoes, drained 
1 can of organic tomato paste
1 cup of chopped, dry packed, sun-dried tomatoes 
1/2 teaspoon of raw sugar
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
4 oz of goat cheese

Step One:
Heat olive oil over medium-high heat in a skillet.  Add the garlic, canned tomatoes and tomato paste.  Cook and stir until tomato paste has melted and incorporated into the canned tomatoes.  Next, stir in sun-dried tomatoes, sugar, salt and pepper and red pepper flakes (if using).

Step Two:
Place tomato mixture into a pie plate, coated with non-stick spray.  Crumble goat cheese over top of tomatoes and place under a broiler, set on HIGH, until cheese begins to brown.  Tomato mop can be served warm or at room temperature with garlic toasts.

Garlic Toasts:
1 baguette in 1/4 inch slices
Non-Stick olive oil spray
1-2 large cloves of garlic, Peeled

Spray baguette slices with olive oil spray and grill on both sides on hot a grill pan, until crispy.  Or, place toasts on a sheet tray and toast in the oven on 350 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.

While toast is still warm, rub a raw garlic clove gently, over both sides of the bread.

Bonus:
If  you happen to have any of the tomato mop leftover, it makes a great breakfast, reheated and served with a poached or sunny side up egg on top.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Spreading the Love

For the past year or so, I have been learning the art of preserving from the wonderful women in my "Can-Can Girls" group.  My skills increased with each session,  but perhaps I relied too heavily on the other's expertise to get the job done.  Quite frankly, as much as I liked canning, I wondered if maybe, I was there more for the camaraderie, gourmet lunch and glass or three of wine. 
It is a good thing that I absorbed plenty of knowledge during our group work sessions, because as it turned out, the last time we girls got together, the price of admission, was a dish inspired by a recipe from the book Preserving by the Pint, by Melissa Mc Clellen.  This meant I had can all by myself!

My first three jars of Tomato-Corn Relish.  How cute are these jars?

Never one to miss a party, I dove head first into this charming book on small batch canning.  I chose the Corn and Tomato Relish featured on page ninety four.  With my ingredients and jars purchased, I began my solo canning session early one Saturday morning.  The house was quiet, except for the lovely sound of glass jars, gently clanking against one another in a large pot of boiling water.  I chopped, measured, sterilized, filled, processed and listened for the triumphant popping sound of the jars, sealing.  Success!  I had so much fun making that first batch of relish, that I made and processed another recipe the very next day.  One week later, I found myself teaching a neighborhood friend how to can.  I must have been feeling pretty confident that day, as we put up pickled okra and Spicy Apple Cider and Mustard Glaze  from Preserving by the Pint.  We had a great time and I was happy to be the instructor, rather than the student.  Even more satisfying, was that I feel certain that I have spread the love of canning with my friend. 

Apple Cider Glaze and Pickled Okra
The Glaze will be perfect on a pork tenderloin and the pickled okra is destined to garnish a spicy bloody Mary



Southern Summer Salad: Inspired by the corn and tomato relish
Southern Summer Salad:

Salad:
1 bag of mixed salad greens
1/2 of an English cucumber, sliced
1 large beefsteak tomato, cut into wedges
1 avocado, diced
2  scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup toasted pecan halves
1/4 cup of cooked and crumbled, proscuitto or bacon
1 half-pint jar of corn and tomato relish*

Place ingredients in a salad bowl in the order listed above.  Toss with a light coating of dressing just before serving.

*1/2 cup of seeded and chopped tomatoes and 1/2 cup of fresh corn kernels may be substituted for the relish.

Dressing:
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons local honey
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
Pinch of cayenne
Sea Salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a mason, attached the lid and shake it up.


I have certainly found a new hobby to be passionate about!







Thursday, May 22, 2014

Rekindling a Romance

Oh La La!
My love for all things French started with my first bite of a croissant amande, when I was ten years old.  We were visiting family friends who lived in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower, in an utterly fabulous apartment.  I remember that the kitchen was a city block from the dining room and the butter sat out on the kitchen counter and never spoiled.  It was magical.  At that age, I was a shy tomboy, who refused to wear the carefully chosen outfits that my mother had packed for me.  Instead, I wore my very faded, too large jeans, that were held tight around my waist by a purple hair scrunchie.  The look was completed with my favorite bright gold Brazilian soccer jersey.  I was not chic.  I was painfully shy.  But, I walked alone, every morning to the boulangerie to to purchase my beloved croissant amande, which I ordered in my best French and paid for in funny looking coins.  Thirty-plus years later, this is still a precious memory.

That initial trip to Paris, made me want to return there as often as possible.  Luckily, I had several more opportunities to visit the city of lights during my teens and twenties.  Then life happened.  Job, marriage, kids etc...  Thus, twenty years have passed since my last visit.  Where has the time gone?  Now,  I am the mother diligently packing suitcases for my children and hoping that they will wear the cute and appropriate outfits that I have selected for them.  More importantly, I hope that they will fall in love with this magical city, just as I did thirty years ago.

Certainly, I am a bit nervous, just as one always is when visiting an old friend who you have not seen in years.  But if you are truly friends, you will feel immediately at ease, once reunited.  I think my first bite of a true croissant almond, will be the perfect reunion with this special place.  I just hope Paris, did not hear me go on and on about how much I enjoyed Venice a couple of years ago.  It is never a good idea to temporarily toss aside an old love for a brief fling.  I hope Paris can forgive me for that brief indiscretion.  I feel certain that my love affair with this city will be renewed with fervent passion and continue to have a place in my heart for the rest of my life.  For this is a place that I am truly passionate about.




Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Feeling Saucy!

My version of mustard-based BBQ sauce
 I am far from being a barbecue expert, but I certainly have a very strong opinion of what good barbecue is.  For me, "barbecue" is a chopped pork sandwich with a North Carolina style thin vinegar and ketchup based sauce. Although I fancy myself to be quite an adept saucier, barbecue sauce is not really my forte.  Even more foreign, is the South Carolina style mustard-based sauce, that I have been challenged to create.

This sauce challenge presented itself last week when making Thai turkey burgers for an event at the new Chapman Family Cancer Wellness Center in Newnan.  The Thai turkey burger recipe is from chef Nancy's Taste and Savor cookbook and is always a hit every time it is served.  There was just one part of the recipe that we thought could use a little tweaking, in order to showcase the "better for you" mantra of our healthy kitchen.  The ginger-lime bbq sauce recipe, which accompany's the turkey burger, started with a store bought mustard barbecue sauce.  Although the store bought sauce was convenient and tasty, we just knew that we could make a mustard sauce base that was quick, delicious and above all, better for you.  I happily volunteered to see what I could come up with.  Below is the resulting recipe, which tastes wonderful as is, or can be adulterated with the additional ingredients in the ginger-lime sauce recipe.

A sampling of my sauce ingredients
Mustard BBQ Saucy Sauce:
1 cup yellow mustard
1/2 cup raw-unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat.  Stir to combine and cook until brown sugar has melted into the sauce.  Continue to stir and cook for another five minutes.  Sauce can be stored in the fridge for up to 5 days and reheated as necessary.  Yields 1/2 cups of sauce.  Recipe can easily be doubled or tripled if a greater volume of sauce is required.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Can Can Girls



The Can Can Girls: Brenda, Nancy, Renee, Jennifer, Lea and Mallory
The iconic glass Ball jar is a staple in many kitchens.  Some use them for drink ware, others use them for their intended purpose of preserving seasonal bounty.  Fortunately for me, I grew up in a family that practiced the latter.  Both of my grandmother's kitchen cupboards were always stocked with delicious pickles and jellies.  I have fond memories of driving to Gaffney, South Carolina with my paternal grandmother to buy bushels of fresh peaches for her famous peach jelly.  Equally as memorable, was the cut glass pickle tray, overflowing with bread and butter and okra pickles, that adorned my maternal grandmother's dining table.  While I always thoroughly enjoyed the fruits of my grandmother's labors, sadly, I never paid much attention as to how these sweet and savor delicacies were made.  My eyes were always firmly gazed on the end product. As my grandmother's aged, the cupboards grew bare of these jarred treats that I was so fortunate to enjoy for the majority of my life.  It was indeed a sad day, one that I remember well, when I opened my last jar of peach jelly.  Years have passed and I still yearn for some of my grandmother's jellies and pickles.  I was resigned to the fact, that the gentle pop of of opening a Ball jar would have remain a happy memory.  But as we all know, the world works in mysterious ways, and about three years ago, I received a gift of home made jam.  This small gesture, set me on a path to become part of a group that is preserving the past, in a thoroughly modern way.

The lovely ladies pictured above have all been canning together for quite awhile before I joined the group last year.  Thus far, I have canned pickles, tomatoes, onion marmalade, and just this past weekend, chow chow and strawberry jam.  These "Canning Summits" are quite an undertaking, as canning on such a large scale, requires lots of produce, jars and canners, along with nimble fingers to chop, stir, fill, wipe and seal.  We all have a job assignment and work as a team, while the sounds of 80's songs and burbling pots provide the perfect background music.  After a long morning of work, we sit down to lunch.  This has become and event in and of itself.  We are a group of passionate cooks, bakers and wine connoisseurs, and our afternoon meal is a genuine reflection of all of our collective talents.  

With full bellies, we tackle the afternoon's task of filling and processing the remaining jars.  Clean up, labeling and distribution cap off an exhausting, yet satisfying day of work and sisterhood.  I covet my beautiful Ball jars, filled with good things that I helped to make.  I know that these jars are just as precious to me,  as those my grandmother's used to share with me.  I feel honored to be able to spend the occasional Sunday afternoon with a group of women who's talents are great and who's passion for food and tradition equal my own.


Adorable labels designed by Jennifer

Perfectly hand chopped veggies, cooking down for the chow chow.  Thanks to Brenda, Mallory and Renee for  sacrificing some of their Saturday morning for prep.
Chow Chow jars are filled and ready for processing
The strawberries must be stirred constantly 

We know this is good, because we could not resist sneaking a taste 






Lunch! Photo courtsey of Jennifer

Action Shot of me at the lid station