Market Finds

Market Finds
Farmer's Market Bounty

Thursday, September 14, 2017

Smashed Chickpea and Veggie Salad

Portable Protein!

I've been thinking about this spread since last week, when I made something similar for a client.  I used my basic egg salad recipe, but swapped out smashed chickpeas for the hard boiled eggs.  Mayo, yellow mustard, chopped celery, green onion, salt and pepper.  Simple, easy, classic and delicious.

I have been busy all morning, researching recipes and working on client menus.  My senses have been inundated with visions and thoughts of beautiful food for a couple of hours, and let me tell you, this makes a girl pretty hungry.  I needed something, filling, fast and easily edible with one hand.  This was the perfect opportunity to make myself the chickpea salad I had been craving since last week.  I decided to tweak the recipe a bit with some ingredients that I had on hand.  Fresh parsley helps to bring some life to the canned chickpeas.  Minced carrot adds some nice color and crunch.  Lemon zest and juice to brighten the flavor and add moisture to the mixture, in an effort to reduce the amount of mayonnaise needed.  Lastly, I added a couple of teaspoons of sweet and dill relish, for some extra tang.

The potato masher is one of my favorite kitchen tools and it goes way beyond potatoes!

This jazzed up version of smashed chickpea salad, did not disappoint.  It comes together in a snap and provides a great opportunity to work on some knife skills as well as chance to take out any pent up aggression whilst smashing the chickpeas.  Educational and therapeutic!

Fresh parsley, scallion, lemon, celery and carrot, finely minced.  It's always a good time to practice your knife skills!

So, now, lets talk about mayonnaise.  I am a tried and true Duke's fan, it's what my grandmother used and what is always in my refrigerator, but, Duke's is not available at the Whole Foods market where I do the majority of my client shopping.  As a result, I have been experimenting with some of the different mayo's available there.  I stumbled up Sir Kensington's a couple of months ago, and let me tell you, I have been having some seriously debaucherous thoughts about this gentleman, errr mayonnaise.  Perhaps it's his jaunty monocle and spiffy top hat that get me hot and bothered, or just the plain fact that this is some seriously tasty mayonnaise.  Whatever it is, I have been dreaming of slathering this creamy delicacy on everything for the past few weeks.

I may lose my southern card, but I am loving this mayonnaise right now. And plus, Sir Kensington is super cute ;0)

Today, I ate my smashed chickpea salad, sandwiched between two slices of toasted 100% whole wheat bread.  My tummy is happy and satisfied and my brain is ready to get back to work.  Until next time, always remember to make every plate something to be passionate about!

The finished product
  • 1 15.5 oz. can of chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 rib celery, minced
  • 1 scallion, minced
  • 1/4 cup parsley, chopped
  • 1 small carrot, minced
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • 2 tablespoons, mayonnaise
  • 2 teaspoons yellow mustard
  • 2 teaspoons dill relish
  • 2 teaspoons, sweet relish
  • 1 teaspoon celery salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1- Place chickpeas in a medium bowl and mash with a potato masher, until creamy, with a few chunks remaining.
2- Add remaining ingredients and stir to combine.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tomatoes: A Love Story

My journey to true tomato love was a long one.  I spent the bulk of my childhood and teenaged years not liking tomatoes, for no other reason than the fact that  my father did not like tomatoes.  A pathetic reason to shun one of nature's most exquisite accomplishments, but little girls look up to their dads, sometimes not knowing or caring in the moment that he was terribly wrong. 

Every summer I would hear my aunt, mother, grandmother's and various other tomato lovers, extol the glories of a garden fresh tomato.  "There is just nothing like a summer tomato straight from the garden", they would say.  "So much better than the flavorless grocery store ones", they would prattle on.  I just did not understand; they all tasted like flavorless, gooey globs to me.  Perhaps my first taste of a tomato, was of the grocery store variety or perhaps I was just stubborn and had my mind made up that they were plain gross.  Who knows for sure?  Time seems to fade unpleasant memories.  What I do know, is that I spent several more years refusing to taste a tomato.

I spent most every summer in North Carolina, where my two sets of grandparents lived.  They both had lovely kitchen gardens that grew a variety of vegetables, but most prized, were always the tomatoes.  As time went by, I started to feel slightly left out of the excitement surrounding the arrival of what my family referred to as, the first "good" tomatoes.  My maternal grandmother would carefully peel the skin off of one of the plump, crimson orbs, still warm from the vine.  She would then lay thick slices on bread that had been slathered with mayonnaise, next, a dusting of salt and pepper, then topped off with another slice of soft, mayo covered bread.  The tomato lovers would oooh and ahhh with every bite of their sandwich; wash it down with a tall glass of iced tea and continue on with the remainder of their day with an extra twinkle in their eyes and bigger grins on their faces.  I knew I was missing out on something special.

I vividly remember the time when I finally tasted a "good" tomato.  It was sliced on top of a hamburger.  I don't believe that I was even aware that the tomato was nestled between the patty and bun, but I knew instantly, when I bit into that sandwich, what I had been missing all of those years.  It was an explosion of sweet juiciness that made my tastebuds dance and left me with the same knowing grin that I had witnessed on the faces of all the tomato lovers I had crossed paths with over the years.
From that moment on, I was hooked and have since dedicated every summer since, to the pursuit of the first "good" tomato of the summer.

More recently, my summer tomato ritual has included canning, cases and cases of tomatoes with my canning group.  We lovingly call ourselves, The Can Can Girls.  These can can girls are not into high leg kicks and ruffled skirts, but rather, cute aprons and Ball jars.  This group of six, is now like a well oiled machine, that can put up dozens upon dozens of quarts of tomatoes in a day.
Bathing beauties getting ready for canning

Our tomato packing skills improve each year!

The cute labels from this summer's canning summit.

These jars of juicy gems have become one of my most prized possessions. I greedily horde my jars of tomatoes and rarely share them with anyone else. (I readily admit that, I need to go back to kindergarten and re-read the chapter on sharing)  I will gladly share other items that we can, just not tomatoes.  My favorite thing to do with the jarred tomatoes is to make a quick sauce for pasta.  It is simply a  splash of olive oil, some chopped onion, a grated garlic clove, a splash of white wine or chicken stock and a jar of Can-Can Girls, juicy tomatoes.  In twenty minutes, I have a bright and flavorful sauce, that is especially welcome during the dark days of winter.

One of the heirloom tomatoes I bought at the Osage market.

This summer, I have been franticly searching for my first "good" tomato of the summer.  Although, it took a bit longer than usual this season, I finally found it!  I stopped at the Osage Farmer's Market in Dillard, GA yesterday on the way home from a family reunion in Franklin, N.C.  I loaded up on goodies from the farm stand, but it was the tomatoes that I was most excited about.  As I drove home, with a heavy foot on the gas pedal, the possibility of finally getting the perfect summer tomato was exciting!  I could smell the aroma of the fruit, wafting up from the back seat.  I called the house to make sure that we had a loaf of bread and some mayo on hand, as a stop at the grocery store would only delay my much anticipated lunch.  I rolled into the driveway, grabbed the bags of fresh veggies (the suitcase could wait till later), and breezed into the house.  I was on a mission.  After a quick "Hi" to the family and my pooch, it was on to selecting the perfect specimen for my sandwich.  I had built this up so much in my mind, that had the tomato sandwich been a flavorless bust, I might be at my therapist this morning, contemplating how a bad tomato sandwich had sunk me into a deep depression.  But alas,  I am here at my computer, writing like a maniac, in an effort try to capture the excitement that remains from the perfectly "good" summer tomato sandwich that I ate yesterday.

Unlike at my grandmother's house all those years ago, my sandwich did not make it to the kitchen table to be eaten in a civilized  manner, on a plate with a napkin in my lap.  This was a drippy kitchen counter meal, served on a paper towel; but, like at my grandmother's house,  it was washed down with a tall glass of iced tea, and I most certainly went about the rest of my day, with a grin on my face.  The grin that had eluded me for some many years; the grin of someone who had finally had their first "good" summer tomato.

Getting ready to bite into this tomato goodness!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Oodles of "Noodles"

I love when my clients challenge me to step outside of my comfort zone in the kitchen.  As a personal chef, it is my duty to adapt to the dietary needs and wants of my clients.  During any given week, I will cook vegan one day, paleo the next and a little gluten and dairy-free sprinkled in between.  In my personal life, I am none of those things.  My own food philosophy leans more towards a "flexitarian" approach to food; that is 80% plant based, 20% animal protein.  I like real, whole foods and have never found myself searching for a pasta, or dairy alternatives.  I will eat most anything, but strongly believe in moderation and portion control.  With that being said, I had to chuckle, when I realized that this vegan sweet potato "noodle" dish was probably on of the most favorite things that I had prepared this week.

So let me just say, I would not eat this as a substitute for for a bowl of spaghetti and meatballs, but I would prepare and eat it, because it is REALLY GOOD, in its own right.  This recipe does require some special equipment, a spirilizer and a high-powered blender, such as a Vitamix,  are a must in order to achieve optimal results.  I love the spirilizer and have enjoyed experimenting with various types of veggie noodles.  For spirilzing sweet potatoes, skinnier potatoes seem to work the best, also cutting the potato in half makes it more manageable.  Now, I am no expert on blenders, in fact, I have not owned a blender, since I received one for a wedding gift, twenty years ago.  I used it once; it broke; I threw it in the trash!  I have never found the need for a blender, because I don't enjoy the things you typically make in a blender, like frozen cocktails, milkshakes and smoothies.  I have been perfectly content with my immersion blender for years, because it makes things that I do like, such as, creamy soups and savory sauces.  Luckily my client had a Vitamix in her kitchen, which worked like a charm for this recipe.

There are plenty of cashew cream recipes on the internet, which I referenced to help me get started with the liquid to nut ratio.  With experimentation, I settled on 2 cups of soaked cashews to 2 cups of liquid.  I used almond milk and vegetable stock.  This produced a creamy, rich and pourable sauce. base.  Fresh garlic, salt, white pepper, lemon zest, nutritional yeast, and organic onion granules rounded out the flavor.

Another point of humor for me in this recipe is the nutritional yeast.  I was first introduced to this ingredient about five years ago, during a class I assisted at the Chapman Family Cancer Wellness Center at Piedmont Hospital.  Nutritional yeast was presented as a substitute for parmesan cheese. Needless to say, I was completely appalled by this notion!  Nothing, I mean NOTHING, could possibly be a substitute for real Parmigiano-Reggiano, one of the worlds finest and cherished ingredients.  I immediately disregarded nutritional yeast and did not think of it again, until years later, when it appeared as a garnish on a potato dish that I ate in a restaurant.  What was this savory powder on my roasted potatoes?  I loved it!  I asked the server what it was, and when he confirmed that it was nutritional yeast, I smiled.  I suppose the presentation and context of an ingredient are key.  As a substitute for parmesan, I was not interested, yet when presented in its own right as a garnish, I was hooked.  Mind games, I tell you!

This recipe is a prefect summary of many things that I thought I did not like or support over the years, but certainly shows that with time, experimentation and an open mind, one can broaden your horizons and palate.  So whether vegan sauces and veggie noodles are your norm or your nemesis, I encourage you to get in to the kitchen and try something new, and as always, make every plate something to be passionate about!

Sweet Potato "Noodles" with Sautéed Spinach and Cashew Cream Sauce:

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil, divided
  • 4 sweet potatoes, spirilized (skinnier sweet potatoes work best)
  • I box of baby spinach, chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 2 cups raw cashews, soaked for 1 hour or overnight.
  • 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
  • 1 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion granules
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground, white pepper
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
  • parsley and basil for garnish

-Spirilize sweet potatoes. Drizzle with  1 tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast at 400 deg. until cooked through and starting to brown. About 20 minutes.

-Sauté spinach in olive oil with ground nutmeg, until wilted.  Use tongs to incorporate and evenly distribute the spinach into the cooked sweet potato noodles.

-Drain cashews and add to a Vitamix, along with almond milk, veg stock, garlic, onion granules, white pepper, salt, lemon zest and nutritional yeast. Blend until creamy.

-  Pour sauce onto the noodle mixture and garnish with parsley, basil and an additional sprinkle of nutritional yeast. Serve Immediately.

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Veggie Bolognese

I was recently challenged with creating a menu for a new client who was on a low protein diet, due to a genetic disordered called phenylketonuria, or PKU.  Think vegan, minus beans, nuts and tofu.  This certainly stretched my culinary creativity, but I was able to come up with, a colorful and well balanced set of meals, that met all of the client's dietary restrictions. 

Low-Protein Menu:

Vegetarian Chili-PKU friendly
Vegetarian chili with red pepper, garlic, fire roasted tomatoes, zucchini, butternut squash and sweet potatoes with classic chili seasonings of cumin and chili powder.

Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
Fresh, seasonal vegetables, roasted simply with olive oil, salt and pepper

Meal 2

Vegan Stuffed Mushrooms (PKU-friendly)
Baby Bella mushrooms stuffed with a sun-dried tomato, parsley and basil pesto.

Dairy Free Scalloped Potatoes
Gluten free and dairy free scalloped potatoes. Thin sliced potatoes in a creamy sauce made with vegetable broth and coconut milk.

Meal 3

Cauliflower Bolognese
All veggie "bolognese" sauce, made with cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots, onion, celery and tomatoes. Serve on top of quinoa, pasta or zucchini noodles.

Meal 4

Cauliflower Fried Rice [Vegan, Gluten-Free]
Cauliflower "rice" loaded with corn, onion, garlic, peas and carrots sauteed in a sesame-soy sauce

Asian Coleslaw with Ginger-Soy Dressing
Napa cabbage, red cabbage, carrots, and scallions with a dressing made of lime juice, olive oil, ginger, rice vinegar and soy sauce.

I was quite pleased with all of these recipes, but particularly enjoyed the taste of the bolognese, or perhaps I should call it "Faux-lognese" sauce.  This dish keeps well in the refrigerator for up to 3 days and actually tastes better the next day, after the flavors have had time to mix and mingle.  I made this recipe for my meat-eating family and received favorable reviews.

I loved the challenge of creating something that veered from my norm and hope that you will enjoy this recipe as much as I did.

Always remember to make every plate something to be passionate about!

Veggie Bolognese:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped yellow onion
1/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup chopped carrots
4 cloves garlic, grated
16 oz cremini mushroom, blitzed into rice sized pieces a food processor
1 head cauliflower, riced in a food processor (about 4 cups)
1 teaspoon Braggs sprinkle
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 dried bay leaf
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 28 oz can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon granulated sugar

Optional Garnish:
Chopped fresh basil
Nutritional yeast


1)  In a large Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat and add in the onion, celery and carrots.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables have softened.  About 5 minutes.  Add in the garlic and stir to combine with onion mixture.

2)  Add in processed mushrooms, stir to combine and cook for 6-8 minutes until all the liquid from the mushrooms has evaporated.  It is very important to evaporate as much liquid as possible from the mushrooms or you will end up with a watery sauce.

3) Stir in the riced cauliflower and continue cooking for another 5 minutes before adding in the spices and tomato paste.  Stir to combine the spices and tomato paste and cook for 2-3 additional minutes.

4)  Stir in the crushed tomatoes and sugar.  Bring mixture to a boil, then cover and lower heat.  Cook for 20 minutes.  Remove lid, discard bay leaf and adjust seasonings. Serve on top of pasta, quinoa or zucchini noodles.

5) Garnish with fresh chopped basil and a dusting of nutritional yeast