Archive | September, 2012

Sexy Vegetables

30 Sep

Oh yeah!  I said it.  You too can rev up your vegetables and make them appealing to any one!  Vegetables are fantastic, and eating seasonally can be very budget friendly. Many vegetables are available year round but since we are entering fall, let’s talk fall vegetables.

Seasonal fall vegetables are sweet and hearty.  It is economically easy to eat in season with fresh produce, so with a budget in mind, let’s get going.  Vegetables in season, or coming into season quickly, include:

  • Artichokes
  • Arugula
  • Broccoli (available year round, but sweetest and in season in the fall)
  • Brussel sprouts
  • Carrots
  • Cauliflower (again, available year round but naturally a fall harvest)
  • Celery
  • Eggplant
  • Green beans
  • Onions
  • Pumpkin
  • Spinach
  • Turnips
  • Zucchini (hotly debated-summer or fall veggie-but it’s available until late fall!)

Most of these vegetables can be easily diced up and mixed in multiple combinations.  Toss them on a grilling sheet or put them in a tin foil pouch, but get them on the grill!  Here is what you do…and men, listen closely.  Why?  Because men who can cook are sexy!

Here we go guys.  Dice up 2-4 different vegetables in a nice 1 inch square dice.  Grab  your grilling sheet or make a tin foil pouch.  Fire up the grill to a solid 400 degrees.  Mix the vegetables up in a bowl.   Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil on them, some salt, some pepper, some fresh garlic, and if you are feeling naughty, some red pepper flakes.  The red pepper is sure to jazz up the works!

Toss the vegetable mixture onto your baking sheet or tuck them into a tin foil pouch.  If using a pouch, seal it up tight.  Put them on the grill, pour your best girl a drink, and sit back.  Grilled fall vegetables take about 30-40 minutes to cook.

A tray and a foil pouch of veggies on the grill. Still plenty of room for some chicken or salmon on the grill!

About 20 minutes into the vegetables cooking process,  toss your favorite protein on the grill too.  Salmon or a nice piece of well seasoned chicken will do.  Let that cook for about 20 minutes, and everything should be ready to come off the grill.

Grab some crusty bread, sweet delicious butter, take the food off the grill and voila!  A wonderful, flavorful dinner!  And you, my friend, are a huge hero!  Why is grilling so delicious?

Grilling, first and foremost, allows the Maillard reaction to occur.  Yup, go ahead and say that to your date and your sexy quotient just skyrocketed!  The Maillard reaction refers to the browning of food.  It is a chemical reaction usually requiring heat.  The amino acids in the food react with the reducing sugar, of which vegetables contain.  This produces fantastic odors and flavors.  It will also brown the food and give your vegetables delightful colors.

Second, grilling carmelizes the sugar in the food.  That adds to the browning, and also makes the food a little sweeter.  More savory.  And as far as clean up goes?  It is so easy when grilling.  Yes..this grilling thing just gets better and better.  So enjoy a fabulous meal.  Grill, enjoy a great meal, have minimal cleanup, and become king of your grill!

Saturday Splendor

18 Sep

Every once in a while, a little gift comes along.  Sometimes we know its coming, sometimes it surprises us.  But regardless of when this gift appears, it is always appreciated!  Always rich and plush!  And gone in a flash!

As a mother of three children, my weekends, like my weekdays, are tied up.  And that is exactly where I love my life to be.  With family.  With my children.  Spending time with friends, at sporting events, parties, and even running errands.  Sharing with them, laughing with them, kissing them goodnight, and just plain loving them.   That is good living in my book!  My family and my children make my life glorious.  Timeless.  Joyous.

As much as I love sharing every day with my children and being their mother, everyone needs a break every now and then.  And that is a healthy part of any good relationship.  I think my children and I welcome time apart occasionally, and that is normal.  Distance can lend appreciation and perspective to a relationship.  All good stuff.

I had one such break on a recent Saturday.  A precious Saturday with no scheduled games, events, or obligations.  My house was clean, my grocery shopping completed.    My children were otherwise engaged, and my house was blissfully quiet.  I seized the moment!  I welcomed the gift of some quiet time in which I could embrace some very rare “me time”‘.  I was determined to use this gift to it’s fullest!

Denis, with whom I share the same adventurous culinary spirit, and I decided to have a light and delicious lunch on this particular Saturday.  We discovered a refreshing summer beer that was made with watermelon, and had been waiting for just the right occasion to try it.  Voila!  This quiet day presented our opportunity.  As we so often do given the opportunity to try an offbeat food or ingredient, we took the watermelon beer and created a wonderful culinary event!

Watermelon beer. A refreshing summer treat!

We made the most amazing sandwich to accompany our beer.  Fresh turkey, rich swiss cheese, creamy wedges of avocado, and crunchy sprouts.  Oh did we pile that sandwich high!  We topped it off with a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

The building of a fabulous turkey sandwich!

It was a breezy summer afternoon.  The screened porch was beckoning us.  We could not resist.   Out to the porch with sandwich and glass of beer in hand, the location was adding to our culinary experience.

My porch. The perfect spot for morning coffee and afternoon lunches!

The beer was very interesting.  When it first hit the tongue, it tasted like a nice pilsner.  On the exhale, tones of watermelon gently chimed in.  It was a delicious summer treat.  The sandwich was packed with flavor.  A delight for the palate!   The beer paired with the mile high sandwich was fantastic.  Good well thought out food, a crisp refreshing drink, a breezy afternoon, and fabulous company. What a gift!  An appreciated treat!  A sweet and wonderful summer afternoon.

It wasn’t just the lunch that made the afternoon so special.  After a long lunch, the dishes had to be done.  Once the dishwasher was stacked, another gift.  The house was still blissfully peaceful.  Now it was not the porch beckoning, but the couch.  A nap.  Yup…that’s right.  I said it.  A luxury to cap off an another luxury.  A lazy, breezy summer afternoon.  A quiet house, delicious food, and a little nap.  A fleeting gift…but appreciated like no other!

Budget

17 Sep

“Beware of little expenses. A small leak will sink a great ship”.  Benjamin Franklin

Budgets.  Ugh!  It’s an ugly word for sure.  Budgets are so constricting.  They stink.                       But let’s face it.  To manage a family, a budget is a must.  It is a way to achieve some      financial goals for your family.  And there is no time like the present.

A successful business or company won’t survive without not only a budget, but a way to stick to it too.  Low cost recipes can be key.  Home cooked, inexpensive, and quick meals can sure help keep a budget within reason.  But the food has to be flavorful and nutritious as well.  So here comes sauce from a can.  This recipe will make you a hero!

Linguine with clam sauce from a can (several cans actually!)

2 T. Olive oil

2-3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 can tomato paste

1 28 ounce can chopped tomatoes

1 can tomato sauce

2 cans chopped clams in clam juice

2-3 T. chopped parsley

2-3 T. chopped basil

1/2 -1 t. red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Toss garlic in and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Do not let garlic brown.  Next, add tomato paste.  Saute in oil and with garlic for 4-5 minutes over medium heat.

Add the diced tomatoes and tomato sauce.  Stir.  Add parsley, basil, and red pepper flakes, and salt and pepper to taste.  Open and add the clam juice from 1 can of clams. Stir well to incorporate. Let simmer for 20-25 minutes.  Put a big pot of water for the linguine on high heat.

Drain the second can of clams.  Add during the last 5 minutes of cooking the sauce so they don’t get rubbery.  Serve with linguine.  I usually serve frozen green beans and garlic bread with this meal.  It is very inexpensive, colorful, and nutritious.  This meal can be done on a shoestring budget, so enjoy.  Bon Appetite!

Linguine with clam sauce! A delicious budget friendly main dish!

Stress-A Quiet Thief

11 Sep

Wellness is a core value of mine, one that I live every day.  I have (hopefully) been passing this along to my children as well.  It does not mean that I work out like a fiend, eat only “health” food, or preach to others about their bad habits from my righteous perch.  Not at all.

I am a normal everyday working mother.  I try to be mindful of balance in my life.  Wellness, in my humble opinion, hinges on balance.  An active lifestyle.  Good food.  Positive relationships.  Deep spirituality.   Maintaining a healthy mind, body and spirit is of utmost importance to me.  When one of these elements is out of sync, it throws everything else slightly out of whack.

Nothing throws this balance out of whack some days more than stress.  Stress is a quiet thief.  It seeps into daily life and grabs a tight hold, robbing us of optimum health at times.  But we don’t always recognize it.  Oh yes, the signs are there, but sometimes they go unheard.  Instead of quietly listening to our body we sometimes push forward.  We try to push past the little nagging voice of imbalance in our energy.   And if we are not listening to our own body, doesnt that create stress?

Not that I blame anyone or anything for stress.  Stress is something that, perhaps, we let into our lives.  We allow it in.  Unsuspecting.  Dressing it up to look like something other than what it is.  Fooling ourselves.  Letting stress seep in quietly robs us of our balance.  And our path to the best healthy body possible.

Coping with stress can mean taking a looking into personal history.  Asking core questions.  Where is my stress coming from?  Did I start letting someone else define my limits?  Am I being true to myself?  Does someone else have power over my decisions?  Answering those questions are tough.

It is embarrassing for me to admit, but I have had some stress from being bullied.  No one wants to admit that this has happened to them. I am a strong, smart, well educated woman.  I continue to achieve success with my career in the field of clinical nutrition.  I am a single mother.   Stress from a bully?  Yup, it happened.  It can happen to anyone.

It’s very degrading and really hard to admit to others that it’s happening.  Quite frankly, it was embarrassing to admit that I had been the victim of a bully.  Until I faced it head on.  The power that came out of me in that experience has helped push me forward.

Looking a bully square in the face takes guts.  Inner strength.  I had to completely let go of the fear that had been gripping me.  Fear of the bully.  The good news is that courage emerged from that experience.  Power.  A shift in energy.  Negative to positive.    And I was well on my way to restoring balance in my energy and reducing my stress level.

Yes, bullying can happen at any time in life.  And by anyone.  A spouse.  A boss.  A coach.  An in-law.  Being bullied, as I can attest, is stress to an unknown exponent.  And at any point in life, bullying can send stress through the roof.  It throws balance  off.

It is not a child hood phenomenon.  Not at all.  And it can be difficult to recognize.  Bottom line is, if someone is demanding, preying on (manufactured) guilt, degrading, it is a toxic relationship.  One that can lead to being bullied.  Stand up.  Look that ugly bully in the face.  Say no.  Empower your self.  Love yourself enough to end the negative energy.

Stress can come in many forms.  Poor health, unemployment, an unhappy relationship, money worries, and yes, even a bully.  When you happen to find stress in your life, and everybody does, try to sweep it right on out the door quickly.  Turn it into a positive force, let the stress go, and take a giant leap toward healthy life balance.  A positive force.  Wellness.  Happiness.  It’s there!  Grab it!

Pizza Palooza!

5 Sep

I grew up in Chicago.  That’s right…we are famous for our food, but mostly our pizza!  And it is spectacular for sure.  When I moved out of Chicago and started raising my family in the southeast, I missed my hometown pizza.  I missed the famous deep dish style, but also Chicago’s not-so-famous-but-every-bit-as-delicious thin crust pizza.  So I started creating my own.

I have made my own crust.  And I have done a lot of experimenting for that “just right” flavor and consistency.  I tried flour, cornmeal, crackers crumbs…you name it and I have tried it.  And my crust is pretty darn good. But it is a whole lot of work!  So truth be told, as a busy mother of 3, I usually buy the pizza crust dough at my local market.  Now onto the sauce.

I always make my sauce from scratch.  And usually a fairly large batch because if freezes so well.  My recipe can be easily adjusted-doubled or tripled.  So here it is:

3 T. Olive oil

2 cloves of garlic (adjust to taste, but add at least one)

2-3 T. sweet onion

1 small can tomato paste

1 large can tomato sauce

2 large cans roma or italian style tomatoes

2 T. parsley

2 T. basil

2 T. oregano, plus more to sprinkle on  top of the pizza

1 t. red pepper flakes

salt and pepper to taste

Put olive oil in a large pan or stock pot.  Heat for 1-2 minutes over medium heat.  Add garlic and onion.  Saute for 1 minute.  Add the can of tomato paste.  Gently whisk for 2-3 minutes.  Add all other ingredients.  Let this come to a boil and simmer for 30 minutes.  Use a stick blender to blend to a smooth consistency.  Let simmer for 10 more minutes and take off heat.

Now onto the toppings.  Be creative!  Use wild abandon when choosing toppings.  Of course if you want a sausage pizza for the kids that’s fine.  But expand your palate for the adult version!  I have made everything from cheese pizza to a meat loaded one to a “gourmet” version.  My signature pizza, if you will, is made with sautéed onions, blue cheese and dried cherries.   Go crazy here! Have fun!  Use your imagination!

I have done a “taco pizza” using salsa for the sauce, taco meat for the topping, and cheddar cheese.  I have done traditional pizzas.  I have made them with mushrooms, roasted peppers, and goat cheese.  I have gone over the line and created some extravaganzas.  I always have fun, and I always end up with something delicious.

So here is my true secret to great pizza.  I have a gas oven in my kitchen.  It doesn’t mimic a pizza oven, so I have turned to grilling my pizza out side most of the year.  My grill is closer to a pizza oven as far as cooking goes, plus, the house doesn’t get so stinkin hot when hitting that 500 degrees for the pizza.  I do, however, make Chicago style deep dish pizza in the dead of winter.  The house becomes cozy and the smells are fabulous!  But back to grilling.

Grilling pizza is easy.  Contrary to what most people fear, pizza dough does not fall through the grates on the grill.  But the grill has got to be piping hot to begin the process.  Roll out the dough, brush olive oil lightly on the dough, and toss it on the grill oil side down.  Put the lid down. Use a spatula to take it off after 3-4 minutes when it has some good grill marks and looks done on the bottom.  Flip it over so that the cooked side is up and the uncooked side is down.

Now brush a bit of olive oil on the crust.  Then load up your sauce and toppings.  Toss it back on the grill, uncooked side down, and put the lid down.  It only takes a couple of more minutes for the pizza to complete the cooking process.  Keep your eye on it, and pull it off when the bottom is grilled and the toppings are hot and bubbly.

Here are the steps.  A picture tutorial.

1.

Open and decant some bold red wine! Pour yourself a glass!

2.

get your grill up to pizza oven temp…500 degrees!

3.

skewer and grill your toppings! Onions, mushrooms, bell pepper…get creative!

4.

Roll out your pizza dough! Use your muscles to make it as thin as you like!

5.

Toss the dough on the grill and get good grill marks. Pull it off, flip cooked side up, and load up your sauce and toppings!

6.

Toss that pizza back onto the grill to finish cooking. Pull them off and get ready for delicious grilled pizza perfection!

There you have it!  Let me know how your pizza turns out.  Share your successes with me.  Bon Appetite!

 

Don’t like to drink water? Then eat it!

3 Sep

As a nutrition professional working in clinical nutrition, I am constantly counseling my clients to stay hydrated.  Hydration is critical for good health.  I encourage all of my clients to drink healthy fluids all day, most importantly, water.  And I hear many people say that they just don’t like to drink water.  Oh, they will say they know that they need to drink more water, they just don’t like it.  Now this is a dilemma.  And a possible barrier to optimum health.

Good news though!  For folks that do not like to drink water, I say “Fine-then eat it!”.  No, I don’t mean frozen drinks or ice.  Hydration can come in many forms.  The “8 glass” rule really doesn’t mean you have to drink that much fluid to stay properly hydrated.  The food in a properly balanced diet can contribute to daily fluid needs of the body.  Food contains water.  Some more than others.

Try these hydrating foods to increase your hydration if you do not like to drink water.  When your body is properly hydrated, your skin looks radiant, has wonderful elasticity, and increases energy.  It can also reduce painful infections such at a UTI, or urinary tract infection.  Eat these to keep those pipes clean!

  • watermelon
  • grapefruit
  • tomato
  • ice burg lettuce
  • blueberries
  • orange
  • pineapple
  • celery
  • cucumbers
  • grapes
  • cabbage
  • sweet peppers
  • Zucchini

Add these foods to your daily diet, and you will be increasing your hydration.  Our body has a high water content, and taking water in is important for good cell function. for keeping the systems all running properly.  Of course you need to keep drinking healthy fluids as well, but eating some of these foods daily can help you achieve better hydration!  It is a small change that can have a positive impact on your health quickly!    Eat up!