Monday, December 31, 2007

Easy Eggnog (non-alcoholic) ... and A Few Words About Eggs

This eggnog is so easy my two-year-old made it (with some help from Mommy, of course). Now it's one of his favorite things to make, and we'll probably be drinking eggnog well into the spring (Oy!). It isn't the uber sweet super goopy stuff from the supermarket, instead it has a thinner viscosity and tastes so good my son drinks it up enthusiastically. I recommend using the highest quality ingredients you have because the recipe is very simple and every ingredient will shine -- especially the quality of eggs, vanilla and cinnamon used. If you are concerned about ingesting raw eggs, see my note about eggs at the end. Happy holidays and enjoy!

Easy Eggnog
2-3 large eggs
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups milk
3 TBS sugar (I used confectioners)
pinch of allspice & cinnamon (more or less to taste)
1 tsp vanilla extract (more or less to taste, use the real deal)

1. In a blender, or with a mixer, beat eggs and heavy cream with 1 TBS sugar until thick and foamy. Add spices, remaining sugar and milk and mix until incorporated.

2. Serve chilled, spoon foam over the top (or whipped cream) and sprinkle with cinnamon (or something fun like colored sprinkles).

3. Cover and refrigerate leftovers and use for French Toast later! MMMMMMM.

* * * * * * * * *

A Few Words About Eggs

Disclaimer: This recipe uses raw eggs, so it does increase the risk of food borne contaminants being consumed and probably shouldn't be eaten by people with weakened or compromised immune systems, just to be safe.

However, with that disclaimer out of the way, I want you to know that I deliberately used cage free eggs because the chance of contamination is dramatically decreased compared hen house battery cage collected eggs. I support and encourage you to use cage free eggs (versus free range which can mean virtually nothing more than an open door at a commercial hen house), and to seek locally harvested, cage free eggs in your area markets or just in your neck of the woods.

You might be surprised how common and close your chicken neighbors are! Chicks in the City is a wildly popular class held quarterly at Oakhurst Community Garden here in Atlanta, smack in the middle of the city. People with inner-city chickens usually have more eggs than they know what to do with!

Fresh eggs taste better, have lab proven higher nutritional value, and make baking with eggs a sheer delight (also make for some CRAZY yellow scrambled eggs). For studies that show why grass-fed eggs, meat and dairy are more nutritious visit, a site that posts lots of easily "digestable" charts and statistics. EatWild states:
Meat, eggs, and dairy products from pastured animals are ideal for your health. Compared with commercial products, they offer you more "good" fats, and fewer "bad" fats. They are richer in antioxidants; including vitamins E, beta-carotene, and vitamin C. Furthermore, they do not contain traces of added hormones, antibiotics or other drugs.

In a recent study, one group of chickens was confined indoors (the conventional system) and another was allowed to free-range. Both groups were fed the same commercial mixed diet. The chickens that were able to add grass to the menu produced eggs that that were higher in omega-3s and alpha-tocopherol (vitamin E.) Both omega-3 fatty acids and vitamin E have been linked with lower rates of cancer and cardiovascular disease in humans. (Lopez-Bote et al, "Effect of free-range feeding on omega-3 fatty acids and alpha-tocopherol content and oxidative stability of eggs." Animal Feed Science and Technology, 1998. 72:33-40.)

...And for more good reading about that stuff we put in our mouths which we casually call "food" read The Omnivoire's Dilemma by Michael Pollan (or anything he's written actually.) Pollan's style makes for an easy read through what could be labourious and technical territory, and his first person research into the industries of foodstuffs allows the layperson to go where they could not tread otherwise. Intelligent and witty, Pollan's writing simultaneously provides the shocking education of a researcher and journalist with the subtle techniques of an artist and gourmand. His love of food is apparent. My kind of guy.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Looming Legislature Threatens Small Growers of Leafy Greens

Tis the season for winter greens and if you love your braising greens, organic kale or Georgia grown collards then I implore you, especially those of you who support local growers in whatever state you reside, and those who subscribe to CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture) from those local farms, to read the articles listed here, and read through the links at those sites as well to become as informed on the issue at hand as you possibly can.
The USDA was hearing comments on proposed legislature to regulate growing, packing and handling of leafy greens. The deadline for comments was Dec. 3, so we’re a little late jumping on the bandwagon. However we can still all write letters to our state and national representatives, because the reality is that there are more of us that depend on farmers, and increasingly on small and midsized organic farmers, than there are the few that grow what sustains us. They need our support. They need our voices, our dollars and our numbers. We all eat, and in this democracy, we can all have a say about what we eat. You have that power.

At the end I’ve listed steps you can take to make a difference (although in some of them we’ve missed the “due by” dates). This is only ONE issue affecting farmers, but one dear to my heart because as you know by know I adore and swear by leafy greens.

Let’s talk politics for a minute, because believe it or not, the government has a lot of influence on everything you put in your mouth and here’s YOUR chance to make a difference on national government policy. On the horizon looms sweeping legislature that appears under the guise of protecting consumers from outbreaks like last year’s nasty E. coli contamination from bagged spinach and salad mix. You know, those leafy greens that make life convenient but sadly were the cause of 200 individual illnesses and three tragic deaths of two older women and a child.

Well as Lane Liaw reported in a Nov. 29 article “USDA considering first-ever leafy greens regulations” in the Santa Cruz Sentinel, the government is looking for input from consumers, that’s you and me folks, regarding practices to help make leafy green produce safer. The government WANTS to hear from us so let’s step up to the plate.

On the surface, voluntary regulation and “quality control” by growers sounds like a good idea. Especially when would-be policy makers use such lovely prose to describe their plan as “a regulatory program intended to maintain the quality of leafy green commodities by reducing the risk of pathogenic contamination during their production and handling,” as in the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service proposal in a Federal Register announcement on Oct. 4, 2007. Since then, it has triggered a lot of resistance and criticism, and kicked off the Family Farm Food Safety Campaign.

This document details the possibly voluntary, potentially mandatory participation of growers in measures designed to prevent contaminations such as the E. coli outbreaks last year. However, critics say there is little suggestion to regulate handling and packing processes, which studies lead many to suspect are equal culprits in the case of contamination, if not the very fertile breeding ground for such contaminates. Critics also point out that in the USDA’s AMS proposal all farms and farmers, regardless of species of greens harvested or growing methods used get a blanketed treatment of rules.

But as Mark “Mental Masala” R. succinctly and eloquently breaks down in his Nov. 30, 2007 article “USDA Requests Comments on Leafy Green Rulemaking” posted on these broad spectrum standards, which don’t differentiate between growers of small weekly organic mache harvests or massive monocultured spinach crops, may not only fail to protect public health, but may also threaten the small- and mid-sized farming community (which is where most organic farms fall), and cause an environmental “dead zone” by wiping out native plants and sterilizing (versus enriching) the soil. That in itself can make the once-fertile ground more susceptible to pathogens which then may go along for the ride on harvested greens, and can contaminate other greens delivered by farms from miles around in the huge commercial washing facilities, where they are then packaged and shipped nationally.

In that article, Mark does a good job of outlining the economic hardships on small and midsized growers who typically grow diversified crops as opposed to monocultured harvests which supports resistance to poor soil conditions, and the ineffective public health protection that the proposed USDA rules would have due to the packaging and shipping of greens, and not the farming practices. He writes,
“An additional danger is the possible assault on nature through the creation of ‘sterile zones’ — growing areas where all species except for the desired greens are wiped out. This will eliminate beneficial insects, helpful microorganisms, and habitat for animals.”

In fact, it looks like the only survivors if such non-specific legislature does get passed are the farm-factories that breed sterilized acres of soulless monocultured greens. While I admit I eat those too, my drive and inspiration as a chef and foodie come from those heirloom varieties, or organically produced produce or the locally grown seasonal crops of smaller farms.

For a local expert on national policies I reached out to Georgia Organics Director Alice Rolls who said, “We are not favorable to the policy because it puts the burden on the farmers and not necessarily the handlers.”

Rolls agrees that some of the policies actively interfere with organic growers to support both their crops and their native habitats. “Sustainable farmers grow with biodiversity in mind to integrate surrounding habitats,” she said. “Some of these safety policies would potentially discourage wildlife in an attempt to keep animals off the farm.”

If you’re interested in the issue and its effect on small and midsized farms, which are largely responsible for seasonal organic locally grown produce, Rolls recommends you check out the Community Alliance with Family Farmers site. There you'll find information about the Family Farm Food Safety Campaign and you may also read the CAFF’s response to the Federal Register Proposal.

Rolls continues, “It would also require small farmers to comply when some of these issues, which are really designed for the bigger corporate sized farms.”

To that cause, Liaw's article provides a little hope for a middle ground, writing that in February of 2007 the leafy green industry in California created the California Leafy Green Products Handler Marketing Agreement “designed to insure safe food practices by handlers, including grocers and food-service companies. Federal regulatory agencies had concluded that the E. coli contamination may have originated during the production process.” Measures such as this could take the focus off of the “dirty farm” fallacy and increase scrutiny at the processing, handling, packaging and shipping levels of food production, where contamination is more likely to occur.

The Family Farm Food Safety Campaign website criticizes the proposed regulations posting, “While all growers should use safe farming practices, the ‘one size fits all’ approach of the rules does not work for family farms.” The FFFSC holds the position that if the proposed rules become mandatory, they will hurt family farms and undermine efforts to farm in an environmentally responsible manner.

In the article “Family farms may wilt under leafy-green law” for the Sacramento Bee Judith Richmond writes:

Much of California-grown "leafy greens," including spinach and lettuce, now go to the bagged salad mix market. This transformation from fresh to processed salads has created lucrative new and distant markets, but also has set the stage for heightened food safety concerns that do not exist with traditionally grown salad.

Since last year's terrible spinach E. coli outbreak that sickened 200 and took the lives of three, California's agricultural industry has worked overtime to create uniform "food safety" growing standards for leafy greens. The industry-driven Leafy Greens Marketing Agreement (LGMA) includes signatories from more than 100 handlers, shippers and buyers who promise to buy only from growers who meet these safety standards. For the more than 95 percent of California leafy greens growers who sell through these channels, the standards are now mandatory.

Soon all farmers who grow leafy greens in California may be required to comply with the LGMA. If this occurs, applying these standards across the board will not protect the public health or solve the state's E. coli problem, and could destroy our internationally heralded family farm economy.

How to make your voice heard
Both the CAFF and Cornucopia websites have sample letters that can help you formulate your comments.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Smoked Sausage and Apple Whole Wheat Dressing

Coconut Curry Soup w Tofu Mushrooms 010

Dressing is probably my favorite part of Thanksgiving dinner. It's really just a medium to carry gravy to my mouth without me tipping up the gravy boat like a total slob. However dressing is a malleable medium, capable of reflecting infinite textures and flavors. I can never get bored with dressing.

This particular dressing is, well, kinda healthy. It utilizes whole wheat bread -- crust and all -- and no egg or added flour for a “binder” so it has a “hearty” texture. The dressing is somewhat crumbly, although not dry. Nor is it dense like cornbread dressing. Great for soaking up gravy!

I used a tasty smoked beef sausage that's pretty low in fat content. I also used organic apples with the skin on for added texture and flavor, home made low-fat chicken broth.

One little pinch of cayenne pepper helps carry the flavor of the sausage with a minute amount of heat that is barely noticeable. If you want you may omit it entirely, but it was a nice subtle touch, and cayenne is one of those good-for-you “super foods” that I try to sneak into everything. The health impact of cayenne, like most “natural” supplements, is cumulative over time, so a little every day adds up over a lifetime.

The maple syrup I used for a glaze was an all-natural grade B variety and rather viscous so a little goes a long way to lend just the hint of sweetness to the crust of this rather savory stuffing.

I did add 3 tablespoons of butter, but that was just on general principle. I love butter. It's totally optional if you want to stay low-fat.

Smoked Sausage and Apple Whole Wheat Dressing

1 small yellow onion
1 cup diced smoked beef sausage
2 cups sweet apples, diced (gala or fuji apples)
1 tsp fresh thyme
1 pinch cayenne
8 slices whole wheat bread, lightly toasted
1 ½ cups chicken stock
1 Tbsp butter or cooking oil
3 Tbsp butter (optional)
2-3 Tbsp maple syrup
Salt, pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Tear bread into roughly 1-inch pieces and place in a large mixing bowl: crumbs, crust and all.

Over medium-high heat, sauté onions and sausage with 1 tablespoon of butter until the onions become tender. Add thyme and apples, and season with salt and pepper. Reduce heat to medium-low and cook until the apples start to become tender. Season with cayenne pepper and transfer to another dish.

Return the pan to the heat and add chicken stock, scraping up any brown bits from the pan. When the stock comes to a simmer, turn off the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of butter until melted.

Pour chicken stock over the bread and stir in the apple-sausage mixture. Mix thoroughly so that the bread becomes moist (if you need more moisture use more stock, water or apple juice) and transfer to an oven proof baking dish (9” round or smaller, or small-to-medium loaf pans). Pack lightly with the back of a spoon and brush with maple syrup.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thai Coconut Curry Soup with Mushrooms and Tofu

During the holiday season there is a lot of roasted, braised, baked and stewed food available. Rich, sumptuous decadence is the theme of the season. In fact, it was while making a sausage dressing and marinating a bird on Thanksgiving Eve that I made this light, yet satisfying soup for dinner.

I think subconsciously I wanted something fresh and light, and while this soup still packs plenty of flavor because of the spiciness of the Thai red curry paste, it didn’t leave us feeling weighed down. It is made of several of the same ingredients as the popular Thai soup Tom Ka Gai, or Coconut Chicken Soup, but it doesn’t require ingredients you may not typically stock, like fish sauce. Actually, instead of fish sauce, one of those condiments I always mean to purchase but always forget when I’m at the market, I used a generous splash of another fermented product, good old soy sauce. We all have about 20 packets of this stuff (and duck sauce) stashed in a drawer somewhere from all that Chinese take-out, right? Well here’s your chance to use it!

I have an organic miso tamari sauce would work really well here too, as would any similar fermented and salty flavoring sauce. Just a few splashes will do because the point isn’t to taste the condiment as much as to experience the depth of flavor just a dab will provide to the soup.

A note about the tofu: I used firm tofu and cut it into 1-inch strips, then added it in the last 5 minutes of cooking so that it wouldn't fall apart and crumble into the soup essentially making a mess of something that was supposed to be clean tasting. Also note that once the tofu was added I didn't boil the soup or do too much stirring. It can sit, warm, like this for a while if you need to do other things before serving your soup, but know that the longer it sits the higher the risk of the tofu breaking up. Even more so if you use silken tofu.

Thai Coconut Curry Soup with Mushrooms and Tofu

1 can coconut milk
½ cup water
1 clove garlic, minced
1 inch fresh ginger root, peeled and grated
1 tsp Thai red curry paste
½ pound button mushrooms, quartered
1 pound firm tofu, cut into 1 inch strips
salt to taste
soy sauce to taste

In a medium sauce pan, combine coconut milk, water, garlic and ginger. Bring up to a boil and immediately reduce to a simmer. Stir in curry paste and mushrooms, season with salt and soy sauce to taste, and simmer for 5 minutes. Gently add tofu and continue cooking on a med-low heat for 5 minutes. Spoon into bowls, top with fresh cilantro and a squeeze of fresh lime juice.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Kale in a Spicy Sundried Tomato Broth

For this dish, I borrowed a little spiciness from Jamaica and some sweetness from the Mediterranean sun. This dish was darned tasty in the 10-15 minutes of preparation and cooking, but it was even better when re-heated and served for dinner the next day.

This dish is low in fat (almost non-existent), vegan (not just vegetarian) and ready in 10 minutes thanks to two prepared condiments stocked in my fridge -- mild jerk paste and sundried tomato puree. And thanks to kale as the main ingredient, it’s mind-blowingly healthy. But don’t worry, I wouldn’t bother mentioning it if it wasn’t delicious. Or as Michael described it (and he’s a Southern-bred greens connoisseur): “fantastic.”

I mention how much I love kale at least once a week. And today I’m excited to share with you a different presentation of the deep green leafy vegetable that provides more nutritional value for fewer calories than almost anything I can think of.

photo from Live Earth CSA Farm in California
Being from the South, greens are a staple on the table. Collards, mustards, turnips and kale turn up at ever major gathering from Sunday dinner, to holidays, to weddings and funerals. However, the typical boil-it-to-death approach of traditional Southern greens has gone out of vogue with the younger set, and greens have found themselves being used as wrappers for sausage stuffing, as parsley replacements in tabboulleh made with quinoa and collards (I’ll have to post that recipe eventually) and even quick sautéed with garlic and lemon juice (one of Michael’s favorites). And those are just some of my “nouveaux Southern” uses for greens.

Quick background on kale: it’s a leafy member of the Brassica family which includes cabbage, brussel sprouts and collard greens. Kale is one of those fantastic vegetables for new gardeners because the plants are very hearty, easy to grow and withstand frost.

It is considered one of the “winter greens” but is available year round in most markets -- even pre-washed and cut for those in a time crunch.

For in depth information and a detailed nutritional profile on kale visit The World’s Healthiest Foods website. For those taking certain medications or suppliments, or with thyroid problems or iron/calcium/vitamin K absorption issues due to prescription meds, you need to monitor your intake of vegetables such as kale, so please do your research accordingly.

Kale in a Spicy Sundried Tomato Broth

½ pound kale, washed, stemmed and roughly chopped
1 Tbsp mild jerk paste
3 Tbsp sundried tomatoes in oil, minced or pureed
3-4 cups water

Combine water, jerk paste and sundried tomatoes in a medium pot and bring to a boil. In batches, add the kale, adding more as the greens wilt down. Reduce heat to a simmer, and cook until desired doneness, at least 10 minutes or longer if you like more tender greens. This is delicious reheated and served the next day, once the flavors have had a chance to meld together.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Garlic Stuffed Pork Roast with Cranberry Glaze

This is an easy roast, especially for those who don’t cook. I mean, let’s face it. Just the word “roast” sounds impressive, reminiscent of some long-lost housewifey tradition or closely guarded chef’s secret stuffed in a kitchen vault somewhere. But don’t be intimidated. A roast is just a big piece of meat that can pretty much take care of itself while you take all the credit.

Say you have guests coming over. You can’t cook and you were thinking of grabbing a rotisserie chicken from the local market. Don’t do it. With this roast you can look like a pro, and it takes no skill whatsoever, yet it’s delicious and smells divine.

This is a 2 pound pork ribeye roast, and can feed 6 adults if sliced and served with sides. If you’re just two guys eating, you’ll probably both eat half – go on, admit it. I picked it up at Wally World of all places, so you know we’re not talking anything that’s hard to find or a special trip to a butcher. If you get a better cut of meat, good on ya, but it’s not necessary.

You can see the little blue pop up thermometer in there – it makes cooking this thing foolproof. When it pops up, the roast is done. That’s it!

Ok now here’s how we take this blank slate and “trick it out” so to speak. I worked from the bottom of the roast, not the side with the popup thermometer, and using a sharp knife I essentially stabbed the roast. Or more specifically, in regular intervals about 2 inches apart I cut deep slits into the roast, and inserted large chunks cut from about 5 healthy cloves (not heads) of garlic (peeled, of course). The end result is the meat is studded throughout with chunks of garlic. Use less if you don’t just love garlic, because 5 cloves for this little roast is a LOT. You have been warned.

Now here’s where we Pimp My Pork. Thickly slice one medium yellow onion and place it in the center of a roasting pan to make a nice bed for your roast. I like to use a perforated pan or rack placed in a roasting pan or on a baking sheet. The roast does drip but not much. To make clean up easier you can line the pan or sheet w/ aluminum foil but I never think to do this until I’m washing the darned thing after the fact. Anyway, top the onion “bed” with plenty of fresh thyme sprigs, and don’t even bother “stemming” the thyme; just lay them as-is on top of the onions. Now place your roast on the “bed” and season generously with salt, pepper and cumin (don’t have cumin, don’t worry about it). Top with “stemmed” thyme, about 1 teaspoon. Don’t have fresh thyme? Don’t sweat it. Use dried. Use some of that groovy ubiquitous “Italian Herb Blend” that goes with everything. Remember, this is easy and foolproof.

Ok into a 350 degree oven she goes for about 1 hour and 10 minutes or until the pop up thermometer pops up. Resist the urge to open the oven door for at least an hour if you have a roast in the neighborhood of 2 pounds (or 1.79 pounds, as in this case). This is the best part, because while it’s cooking away, you have an hour to do something else. Make side dishes, go get dressed and set the table, clean up the kitchen so it looks like you never broke a sweat, wash the car, call your mother, start some laundry, read some books to the kids … whatever you gotta do. Set your oven timer and you’re off the clock for an hour. When the hour is up, make the glaze. It takes all of five minutes.

This glaze, and others like it, is the best use of that cranberry jelly that’s stocked sky high in supermarkets around Thanksgiving. This time of year Michael starts buying this stuff like it’s going out of style, although I’ve never seen him actually EAT it, so it’s usually in my pantry and I just have to check for expiration dates (does it expire?). Put 3 tablespoons of cranberry jelly (or orange marmalade if you have it instead) in a small pan, add ¼ cup of orange juice and over medium heat, stir until it all blends together. It should have a consistency slightly thicker than pancake syrup. That’s it. If you want, you can add some dashes of ground ginger, cinnamon, coriander, cumin, cayenne pepper etc. But I wanted the garlic and thyme to really stand out on this roast so I left it as is.

Once your pop up thermometer pops up, spoon this glaze all over the top of the roast, and put it back in the oven. Crank up the temp to 500 degrees for 3-5 minutes. The roast is probably done to about medium now, or possibly a little more. (From my restaurant experience of serving hundreds of pork loins I can speculate that most people don’t eat medium rare pork, but if that’s your preference, glaze it at one hour and pull it from the oven as soon as the thermometer pops up.) Pull the roast out of the oven and let it sit on the cutting board for a good 5-10 minutes so the juices distribute evenly throughout the meat, or at least that’s what we’re taught in culinary school. Discard the onion and thyme “bed”.

Now when you slice this, use a long sharp knife and cut across the grain using long slow strokes. Not only do you get nice slices that way, but it’s more dramatic when you’re slicing at the table for presentation. All eyes will be on you, and each slice will fall down dramatically, studded with garlic and filling up the room with fantastic aroma. You will look like such “da man” or “da wo-man” and your guests will actually start to introduce you as a “great cook” at parties.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Grilled Lamb in Rosemary-Tomato Broth with Crispy Curry Chickpeas

Around here we love our grill. What a great way to cook meat. Honestly, if it weren’t for our grill – a little cast iron kettle-style job – we probably would be vegetarians. Well, almost vegetarians.

What makes grilling so fantastic (besides being a low-fat cooking method that just happens to keep the house cool in the summer months and lets you keep an eye on the kids playing outside as you simultaneously knock out dinner) is the infinite flavor possibilities present when you learn how to marinate meat. Experimenting with fresh herbs, fruit juices, vinegars, oils, and a plethora of aromatics, condiments and spices is the part we look forward to most.

And we’re such grill nerds that we eagerly look forward to that first slice of still-warm meat that’s resting on the cutting board after a stint on the grill. Will the gentle acid of pineapple juice be enough to tenderize the meat? Did the hint of fresh oregano disappear into the tang of lemon zest? Were the coals hot enough to sear off the fat leaving lean, tender flesh behind without charring? Only that first bite will tell…

Sometimes, the next day there isn't enough leftover meat to make it fair for one or the other of us to eat it without feeling guilty. Especially if it was a particularly good marinade, cut of meat or grilling job. That was the case with this one lonely lamb shoulder chop. Michael made the marinade this time and described it as “a light jerk.” I have no idea what all went into it, but it was delicious. Today, however there was only one lonely lamb chop left and it would’ve been wrong of me to eat it in Michael’s absence. What to do? Make “stoupili” – my silly word for soup-stew-chili dishes.

I actually bought the lamb to make a stew, so I went ahead with my plans knowing that the lamb now had a delicious smokiness to it from being grilled and just the hint of spice from the marinade.

That inspired me to make some Crispy Curry Chickpeas to adorn the stew, which has a light yet rich tomato broth, given depth from the shortcut of caramelizing just a couple of spoonfuls of jarred spaghetti sauce (something that’s always in my fridge).

Some staple veggies went into building the base of the sauce as well, you know… carrots, onions, garlic. And at the end, for freshness’ sake I threw in a scant amount of thinly sliced kale leaves and a thickly cut zucchini. When it comes to adding zucchini to soups, sauces and the like, I like to add it toward the end and cut it larger than the other ingredients because few things are less appetizing than wimpy, slimy overcooked squash. Ew.

With only one cup of water added to this stew, it’s another thick and hearty batch of goodness, but with distinct, clean flavors, thanks to the addition of fresh rosemary and the short cooking time – from first slice to plate up it probably took me 30-45 minutes and that’s because I was ad-libbing, I’m a slow improviser. The body and depth of the shortcut tomato broth really compliments the smoky grilled flavor of the lamb.

Serve with a nice earthy grain like bulgur or brown rice and this is one solid meal that is low in fat, particularly if you are moderate with the Crispy Curry Chickpeas.

Grilled Lamb in Rosemary-Tomato Broth

1 yellow onion, small dice
1 medium carrot, small dice
1 healthy sprig rosemary, stemmed and finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 roma tomato, diced with juices
2-3 Tbsp spaghetti sauce
1 cup water
1 ½-2 loose cups cooked, diced lamb
2 large kale leaves, ribs removed, sliced into thin ribbons (chiffonade)
1 zucchini, medium dice (to retain firmness when cooked)

Sauté onion with carrot until onion starts to become translucent. Add rosemary and garlic and cook until garlic is tender. Add tomatoes and spaghetti sauce and cook until the mixture begins to caramelize slightly. Add water and lamb. Season with a little salt and pepper and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add kale and zucchini and cook 10 more minutes. Serve with brown rice or cooked bulgur and top with generous amount of Crispy Curry Chickpeas.

Crispy Curry Chick Peas

1 can chick peas, rinsed and dry
curry powder
crushed red pepper

Heat 2-3 Tbsp vegetable oil over med-high heat. CAREFULLY add the chickpeas (any residual moisture will make the hot oil splatter) and the spices. Fry the chickpeas until crispy being careful not to burn them. It should take 5-10 minutes. Drain on a paper towel and season with salt while still hot. These make a great snack. Salty and crispy like nuts, but with a spicy warmth and peppery kick!

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Post Birthday Miso Soup

So yesterday was my birthday and I turned 30 again! It was a very low-keyed day with “my boys” – we let our son play hooky from his day care so he could hang out with us... lounging around, eating pizza, watching DVDs and, eventually (after Jr’s bed time), jamming to loud music while swilling vodka tonics.

Well the latter lead to the signature leftovers of general malaise and tummy yuckiness typical of a late night of over-indulging. I probably could’ve muscled through with a breakfast of some fried protein and carbs and a strong cup of coffee… which leads me to my downfall. We’re uncharacteristically out of coffee, and without coffee I can’t do anything.

So fuzzily I shuffled into the kitchen craving soup – nourishing, hot, soul-satisfying soup – and this recipe is the end result. This soup came together in the time it took to boil water. How’s that for quick and easy? The ingredients were just whatever was hanging out in the fridge, which just goes to show you that ANY vegetables, meat, eggs, noodles, rice… ANYTHING will work in a miso soup.

"What’s miso?”you ask. My short answer is it’s an essential ingredient for making idiot-proof and flavorful soups. The official answer is that miso is a paste typically made from fermented soy beans, though other grains are sometimes used, commonly found in Japanese cuisine, though I think I’ve had miso in Korean soups as well. Miso comes in several varieties which vary in color from dark brown to red to white, with corresponding flavor intensity. In general the lighter the miso, the milder the flavor. The nuances of miso are subtle, generally earthy and slightly aromatic, but one common thread is that it lends saltiness and for that reason is used as a seasoning agent. You can find miso in the refrigerated section or in the produce section of most well stocked supermarkets. I keep some in the fridge because it has a long shelf life and just a couple of spoonfuls can quick-start a soup in the time it takes to boil water. No muss, no fuss. It’s the perfect shortcut. Think of it as bouillon with Asian flare…

As for miso’s health benefits, Nutritionist Sue Gilbert had this to say about miso: “Japanese scientists have found that miso may prevent stomach cancer. Men and women who ate a bowl of miso soup a day cut their risk of stomach cancer by two-thirds. Soy bean protein -- whether in the form of tofu, miso or soy milk -- seems to have an anti-breast cancer effect as well. Miso has reduced the occurrence and growth of breast tumors in animals.”

Ok back to my Post Birthday Miso Soup. In less than 10 minutes I went from slicing a carrot to slurping from a big hot steamy bowl of home made goodness. The key to this quick soup is to cut your vegetables either very thinly or very small so that they flash cook in the hot water.With some foresight I might’ve boiled off some noodles to go in there, but, well… like I said, my birthday was yesterday. I did manage to squeeze in some fresh lime and topped it off with cilantro and those two flavors, plus a generous splash of hot sauce really did the trick. This stuff was good, and pretty, and even nutritious! Not bad for a chick with a hangover, eh?

Post Birthday Miso Soup

½ medium carrot thinly sliced
½ medium zucchini, quartered and thinly sliced
½ cup cabbage, thinly sliced or pre-shredded
3 cups boiling water
1 heaping teaspoon of red miso paste
2 scallions, green tops only, sliced
2 splashes of soy sauce
½ lime, juice only
couple-few dashes of hot sauce

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil. Add carrots, zucchini, cabbage and miso. Let boil for a couple of minutes just until cabbage starts to wilt and get tender. Turn off the heat and add soy sauce and scallions. Spoon into two bowls and top with a squeeze of lime juice, fresh cilantro and hot sauce to taste.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Italian Sausage with White Beans and Kale

This falls into that category of stew-soup-chili that I like to call “stoupili” … because I’m a silly person. From start to finish this one-pot meal takes less than 30 minutes, yet it's nutritious and gives that stick-to-your rib satisfaction I crave this time of year in particular. Amazingly, it's also a low fat, high fiber and well just all around darned good recipe that's easily modified to please any number of palates.

Using just a cup of stock will yield a hearty stew-chili type of result, but if you want something brothier (is that a word?) and therefore lighter, add more stock.

Use any kind of canned white bean, winter green, and sausage that you like to add texture or flavor, and to control the heat and the fat content. Canned beans bring quick, convenient, heart-healthy fiber to any meal, plus they are a lean source of protein, and if you rinse them you decrease their sodium content.

I use sweet Italian style turkey sausage in this dish because it’s very low in fat and I can control the spice if I’m serving the family – kids and spicy often don’t mix. This particular lean turkey sausage claims to be 71% lower in fat that regular pork sausage.

Also I use kale here because it is one of my favorite greens, but fresh swiss chard would also work, as would spinach thrown in at the last minute (or frozen thrown in earlier). Greens bring calcium, Vitamins A&C, cancer fighting cartenoids (rich plant pigments) and folic acid to the dish.

Italian Sausage with White Beans and Kale

3 sweet Italian-style turkey sausage links, removed from casings
1 small bunch of kale, rinse, stems removed, and chopped
2 cloves garlic. minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 Tsp fresh thyme (or to taste)
1 cup low-fat chicken stock (veg stock, or water will work too)
1 can white or navy beans (rinsed)
1/8 tsp cayenne pepper

Heat 1 tsp oil and add onion, stirring occasionally until tender. Add garlic, sausage and thyme and stir to break up the sausage. Saute until sausage is browned (there should be virtually no fat in the pan if you’re using turkey sausage, but if there is, strain the fat off and return ingredients to the pan to continue cooking). Add 1 cup of chicken stock, kale and white beans. Add cayenne pepper, stir to incorporate, cover and let simmer over med-low heat for 5 minutes or until kale is tender.

You may add more liquid to make a soup, or you may let simmer longer if you like your kale more on the tender side. Depending on the size and tenderness of the beans, you won’t want to stir this too much b/c you may start to break up the beans. Serve in soup bowls or cups, topped with fresh thyme sprigs and herb-garlic toast.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Upcoming Events and Classes

Hi Folks!

The fall Healthy Cooking Class Schedule is underway as are some of the hottest food/wine events in the city.

Here’s where you can find me around town in the weeks to come:

Sept. 29-30, Wine South with Dish restaurant at the Georgia World Congress Center
Oct. 13, Taste of Atlanta with Dish restaurant at Atlantic Station
Oct. 20, Vegetarian Cooking Class for the sisters of Delta Sigma Theta, Inc. in the Virginia Highlands
Oct. 23-24, Nutrition Interactive Education with Kaiser Permanente’s Worksite Wellness program at the Coca-Cola Company.
Oct. 27, Quick and Healthy Foods Cooking Class for the members of Curves at Toco Hills

If you’re interested in holding a class or seminar please contact me!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Fall Healthy Cooking Series Launches!

You may have noticed I took the end of the summer off. I was knee deep in kid-tertainment mode and then the Back-to-School shuffle that follows.

And now the first day of fall has come and gone. The kids are back in school and perhaps, like me, you’re now doing across the board inventory. You know getting ready for cooler weather, checking the car out, eyeballing the lawn and the house to see what's needed to get through the winter, pulling out boxes and bags of clothes to see what still fits and what can be donated.

Perhaps, like me, you're even left contemplating your post-summer shape. During the summer I thoroughly enjoy all the barbecue I can eat along with pool side sweet drinks and our latest obsession – Mega Buffets, and I mean anything with a sneeze guard and a warming cart. Not to mention fast food joints and pizza, hotdogs, hamburgers, nachos … well you get the picture. Any and all foods found at the movies, the skating rink, the baseball stadium, amusement parks, packed into picnics and other places we end up going with the kids.

So now that it’s September, I have months of poor eating habits and frivolous indulgences weighing me down. Instead of throwing a pity part, I’m going to do what I do best -- cook! That’s right, and I’m inviting you to join me.

ANNOUNCING: The Fall Healthy Cooking Series!

It’s time to get together and relish the bounty of the fall season, reinvent holiday favorites and rev up the flavor of some cozy, sweater weather dishes.

Let’s delve into soups, stews, compotes and dressings with reckless abandon!

Let’s see how to deliciously and nutritiously navigate traditionally calorie-heavy dishes served during holidays such as Thanksgiving and Christmas!

Let’s make the most of cool-weather cooking techniques such as braising and roasting to boost the flavor of lean proteins, root vegetables and more!

Let’s come up with after-school snacks and 30 minute meals that are healthy and that the kids still love!

Stay tuned to learn details about some of the upcoming classes. Or to book a class for yourself, a group or organization, just give me a call at 404-513-6468.

Monday, July 2, 2007

Summer Salad is Just Peachy!

I don’t know what those hard fuzzy knots that popped up in grocery stores and supermarkets a couple of months ago were supposed to be. They called themselves peaches, and some of them even had the nerve to call themselves Georgia peaches, but those hairy mean little wannabes were anything but what the Great State of Georgia has long-called its pride and joy.

MMMMM peaches. Nothing says summer in the south like luscious, ripe, juicy peaches. Close your eyes and imagine the complete sensory experience of biting into the first peach of the summer… feel the fuzz on the tip of your tongue as your teeth penetrate the firm un-bruised skin and sink into the tangy-sweet oh-so-juicy meat of the fruit… hear your self slurping and crunching, smacking and gulping as each bite brings a torrent of peachy goodness flooding into your mouth and sweet ant-drawing juices dribble down your chin and arm… regress to your inner five-year-old as you actually lick the juices that are heading toward your elbow…

Ok now that I have you “jonesing” for some Georgia peaches let me show you something sophisticated and sexy that you can do with them once you get past the initial peach glutton fest that’s bound to happen.


Chef Sheri Davis at Dish restaurant is grilling up some Georgia peaches for a summer salad that is out of this world. I love when several varieties of locally grown produce can come together on one plate, and this is one such dish featuring Georgia-grown pecans and wild baby arugula.

So how does it taste? Fantastic. Peaches love the grill. They take on that smoky flavor famously. When paired with the peppery bite of wild arugula – which blows that bagged stuff out of the water – you get a crisp salad base with a punch. You may never go back to plain old lettuce again. The toasted spiced pecans used in this dish are sweetened by their time in the oven which enhances their nuttiness and is nicely complimented by the heat of the cayenne-based spice mixture Sheri uses on her nuts. The coup de grace is creamy rich mouth-friendly sprinkle of gorgonzola cheese that goes on top, which cuts perfectly through the sweetness of the raspberry and balsamic vinegars used for dressing the salad.

Tangy. Sweet. Crunchy. Crispy. Juicy. Smoky. Spicy. Fruity. Really, what’s NOT to love here?

It takes just minutes to pull this salad together so give it a whirl the next time you get those coals hot and have some time to kill between the hotdogs and the ribs. It definitely solves the question of what vegetables to eat during a cookout, and if you want to pack the ingredients in a cooler, you can grill the peaches at a beach or park picnic and throw the salad together in just seconds.


Chef Sheri sliced one of those fantastically gorgeous peaches and drizzled it with a bit of extra virgin olive oil which keeps the peaches from sticking and lends a layer of fruitiness all its own. Not too much oil because you don’t want it dripping down into the coals causing flame-ups which can discolor and ruin the flavor of the peaches. You want to cut the peaches into thick wedges that will be able to hang out on the grill for a few minutes with out becoming over cooked or slipping through the grill grates.

Next she seasoned them with salt and pepper, and popped them on a hot grill for about 2-3 minutes before flipping them over gently with tongs and grilling for another 2-3 minutes. It’s important that your grill or grill pan be hot enough to carmelize the juices in the peaches lending yet another layer of flavor. If the grill isn’t hot enough, not only will your peaches stick to the grill and fall apart when you try to take them off of the grill (thus ruining your chances of getting really cool looking grill marks), but the peaches will take longer to cook and lose their firmness leaving you with what is essentially just warm fruit. Not what we’re going for here. Here you want to capture the smoky flavor of the grill and still maintain the flavor and toothiness of the peaches.

Next Sheri seasoned some baby wild arugula with salt and black pepper, and tossed with spiced pecan pieces and a raspberry vinaigrette. She arranged the salad on a plate painted with a balsamic vinegar reduction, and garnished the dish with gorgonzola cheese. Finally she surrounded the salad with the grilled peach slices and viola! Perfection.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007


During a recent Food for Life: The Mature Woman’s Guide class held on June 9 at the Sylvan Hills Curves, I had the opportunity to hold court with some fantastic women who are interested in maintaining health for life. It was an honor to be in such energetic and sagacious company. Mrs. Romer, an octogenarian equipped with wit and wisdom, may have topped the list in terms of age, but all of the women were radiant, powerful and eager to learn more about staying healthy.

As we spoke about various healthful foods, some of the old standbys came up again and again: garlic, ginger, cayenne pepper, turmeric, complex carbs, and phyotestrogens.

A light bulb went off in my head as I recalled a “recipe,” if I can call it that, for one of my favorite lentil dishes. My usual preparation of brown or red lentils contains all of these ingredients. So I’m going to do my best to put measurements in, but feel free to adjust this recipe to your tastes. I dedicate this recipe to the fantastic ladies of Sylvan Hills Curves and their insatiable appetite for wellness today and every day. See the notes after the recipe to learn the healthful properties of these ingredients.

3/4 cup dry brown lentils
1/4 cup dry red lentils
4 cups water
5 whole garlic cloves
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 tablespoons clarified butter
1/4 onion, sliced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 cup milk (optional)
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro

Place drained lentils into a large saucepan or Dutch oven. Pour in the water, then add garlic, salt, coriander, cayenne, and turmeric. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until the lentils are tender, about 45 minutes.
While the lentils cook, melt the clarified butter in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onions, and cook, stirring often, until they turn golden brown. Stir in the cumin, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
Stir the onions and milk into the lentils; cook for another 6 to 8 minutes. Sprinkle with cilantro to serve.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Roasted Corn, Black Bean Arugula Salad with Cilantro-Lime Vinaigrette

A version of this Black Bean and Roasted Corn Salad was a hit at the Gathering in the Garden event at Emory University. Joyce Dillon of Healthy Living and Balance coordinated that event, and she thought it tasty enough to ask me for the recipe, so I thought I'd go ahead and post it here.

I ran into Joyce again last week at the Release Party for the Georgia Organics 2007 Local Food Guide. Here she is (in green)chatting with Alice Rolls, Georgia Organic's executive director, during the release party. The Local Food Guide is a fantastic resource for all things regional, seasonal and local including growers, markets, restaurants and businesses that suport sustainable foods and farms in Georgia -- some of which are right here in our neighborhoods. It's a must have so visit the Georgia Organics site where you can download a copy for your very own.

I'm sure you can scare up most of the ingredients for this salad using some of the references from the Local Food Guide. It's a very summer salad, and a hearty one thanks to the black beans, which also make it a great source of fiber and complex carbs and helps to assimilate some of the natural sugars of the corn. Using roasted corn lends complexity to the taste of the salad, and pairs well with the smoky subtle hint of cumin. The cilantro-lime vinagrette and the baby arugula bring a crisp brightness that lightens the earthy weightiness inherent in black beans. And if the secret incredient here is the Tomatoless Corn and Chili Salsa from Trader Joes which lends a touch of sweetness. The secret is out.


Here are two versions:

#1 The large-scale-gourmet-version: This version will feed at least 10 people so scale up or down accordingly.
4 cans of organic black beans, rinsed and drained
4 cups of sweet corn cut from the cob
4 cups of grilled corn cut from the cob (HERE is a website dedicated soley to grilling corn on the cob)
1 jar of Trader Joe's Tomatoless Corn and Chili Salsa
1 medium red bell pepper, finely diced
2 pounds baby arugula
2 Tbsp. ground cumin

2 limes, juiced
2 Tbsp. unfiltered organic apple cider vinegar
1/3 extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup of honey (or to taste)
sea salt & black pepper to taste

* In a pot combine the black beans, cumin and a few tablespoons of water (just to keep it from burning) and simmer over low heat. The purpose here is to add some flavor to the beans. Alternatively, you can used "seasoned" black beans. Still rinse and drain them, because the beans will retain some of the flavor. Drain any excess liquid and allow to cool to room temperature.
* In another pot combine the sweet corn (or you can use 2 bags of frozen corn) and the roasted corn with the bell pepper and a few tablespoons of water. Simmer/steam on medium-low heat until corn and bell peppers are tender. Drain any excess liquid and allow to cool to room temperature.
* In a medium bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the vinaigrette: lime juice, honey, salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil.
* Combine beans, corn and Trader Joe's salsa in a large mixing bowl. Stir in vinaigrette and fresh cilantro leaves.
* Arrange baby arugula on a platter. Spoon the bean-and-corn salad over the arugula greens and serve at room temperature.


#2 Go-to-Trader-Joes-for-the -5-Minute-Quick-and-Dirty-version: Pick up these ingredients for a side dish that's ready in minutes!

1 bag frozen Trader Joe's fire-roasted corn
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 jar of Trader Joe's Tomatoeless Corn & Chili Salsa
1 teaspoon cumin
1 bag of pre-washed arugula

* Combine ingredients 9except arugula) in a medium sized saucepot over medium-low heat and cook until corn is tender. Drain any excess liquid and allow to cool to room temperature. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl or serving platter.
* Prepare the vinaigrette as outlined above. Pour as much as needed to incorporate into the salad and reserve the remainder for a future use. Stir in a handfull of cilantro leaves. Toss in arugula immediately before serving.

Life Chef Fact Sheet

* Life Chef was started by food/wellness journalist and professional chef, Asata Reid.

* Life Chef teaches Asata's "Food for Life" philosophy, which uses great tasting and nutritious food as the fun, delicious and easy medium for wellness education.

* Asata created Life Chef to provide the "what's missing" in helping America learn how to eat to live, instead of just living to eat.


Life Chef makes healthy eating fun with:
* Hands-on cooking demonstrations
* Quick and easy menu planning
* Time-saving shopping tips
* Delicious and nutritious recipes
* Cooking classes for any age group
* Catering and "Chef Parties"

Life Chef makes learning healthy food choices easy with:
* Dietary and wellness consultations
* Individual classes
* Easy to follow articles and charts
* Customized group sessions
* Personal chef services
* Support of locally grown produce

According to Asata, Life Chef presents the a blogsite at to “put faces on the food we eat.” On it she posts articles, interviews and recipes from local growers, restaurants and every day people who are a part of the “circle of food.”

“We all have to eat,” Asata said. “The ‘circle of food’ encompasses all of us. Food is our common ground. My hope is to put a face on the community garden, a face on the local organic-supporting market, a face on the restaurant and the chef, the dietician and wellness worker that want us all to eat better.”

Visit to join the community and participate in the “circle of food.”

To find out more about classes, discussions and upcoming programs, or to book a Life Chef program for yourself or your organization contact Asata Reid at or, or visit for more information.

Life Chef Classes

To spread information about better eating and food-related wellness throughout the community, Life Chef offers classes and seminars for groups and organizations.

Life Chef 101 Series cooking techniques that lay the groundwork for eating well.
* Soup 101
* Salad, Sandwiches & Wraps 101
* Vegetarian Cooking 101
* Herbs and Spices 101
* Bake, Broil, Steam and Saute 101
* Fish & Shellfish 101

Superfood Recipes Series ancient healing ingredients with today's flavors.
* Grains and Beans: Unlock Your Energy Potential
* Greens, Glorious Greens: Global Recipes for these Powerful Antioxidants
* One-Two-Three Knockout: Fight Cancer, Stroke and Chronic Disease"
* Cooking by Color: Find Powerful Nutrients in a Beautiful Dish
* Regional, Seasonal, Local: Support Agriculture that Supports Your Health

Food for Life Series everyday foods that promote health and fight disease.
* The Mature Woman's Guide: Menopause and Beyond
* Food for Men: A Lifetime of Health & Vitality
* Preconception & Prenatal Eating: Getting Your Body to Ready for Baby
* Love Your Heart: Eating for Hypertension
* Finding Balance: Diabetes and Food

Table for One Series "less is more" for singles, students, divorcees and empty-nesters.
* Plan It, Prep It but Don't Sweat It: easy plan and prep for non-cookers
* The Starter Kitchen: Foods and Tools for a well-stocked kitchen.
* The Repertoire: Your “Signature” Recipes for Every Occasion

Kids Can Cook Series kid focused, food that’s easy, fun and tasty.
* Snack Attack: Healthy After School Snacks for Middle Schoolers
* Me Cook Too! Fun for Preschoolers and Caregivers
* Power On: Fuel for High School Athletes

New classes are being formed continuously so ask for details contact Asata Reid at or, or visit for more information.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Cinco de Mayo... and then some

The thermometer has pretty much stabilized in the 80s for now, and that means outdoor living, even for the city slickers, has hit its peak season. All over Atlanta people are seeking out decks, porches, verandas, patios, stoops and steps to bask in the balmy, breezy May weather… before that Southern summer sun realty starts to swelter.

Patio perching requires but a few key items to guarantee you’ll lose track of time while luxuriating outside for hours:
* Good company
* Good food
* Good beverages

Since you’re more or less in charge of the company you keep, I can’t say much there, but I can weigh in on suggestions for tasty morsels and libations because on May 5, I had a trial run at the housewarming of my dear friend and style maven, Natasha Gullet. Yes, that’s right, Cinco de Mayo! The perfect day to get started on summer fare.

The Cinco de Mayo Spread:
For this particular soiree I pulled inspiration from traditional Mexican cuisine and muddled it up with some other Latin and Spanish influences such as saffron rice with pimento and olives, Mojo chicken tortilla wraps with a creamy jalepeno sauce ... stuff like that.

The Menu:
* Smoked Chile Chicken Tortillas and Zesty Vegetarian Wraps with a creamy jalepeno sauce
* Ensalada of Jicama, Oranges and Corn over field greens with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette
* Dip Trio of Guacamole, Salsa Fresca and Queso Picante
* Tres Arroz y Frijoles de Hispania (an exercise in hubris) featuring Yellow, Red and White rice with Mexican Vegetarian Refried Beans, Cuban Black Beans and Corn, and Savory Puerto Rican Pinto Beans.

“The” Margarita for 2007:
The absolute stars of the day were these drop dead delicioso margaritas Natasha made – scratch that – lovingly hand crafted. I’m going to try and ply the recipe from her because it changed during the course of the night as we ran out of mixers. But I can say the basic ingredients included fresh lime juice, Cointreau, pomegranate juice and mango nectar and some Jose Cuevo.

“Where’s the mix?” you ask. “Hush your mouth!” I say. The “pure” margarita has no such thing. Instead let the ingredients shine for themselves. The tartness of fresh lime is a must, as is the orangey-essence of Cointreau, Grand Marinier or some other type of or Triple Sec. The juices lend gorgeous color, and somewhere between the pop of the red pomegranate juice and the brilliant yellow-orange of the mango nectar, which is thick and sweet, the drinks took on a beautiful rich hue the color of the setting sun in a tropical locale far from the swank digs in Inman Park where we were partying.

Until I can get the mix-mistress herself to give up the ratios, we’ll have to suffice with the standard Pom Margarita recipe. This is a good base to play with and see if you can come up with your own sexy version:

The basic Pomegranate Margarita:

* 1.5 oz. Jose Cuervo Especial
* ½ oz. Triple Sec
* 2 oz. pomegranate juice (or other juices)
* 1 oz. lime juice
* Ice Cubes

Shake and pour, baby. That’s it. You can garnish with whatever your heart pleases including salted and/or sugared rim, but I’m a purist and this beverage was simply fantastic with the original cocktail garnish: ice.

So you have your crew assembled, and some snacks to munch on. Be prepared to make several pitchers of these margaritas and move your self and your posse out to the closest piece of outside you can find. It will be hotter than noon during July in Hell soon, so don’t squander these end of spring days doing something foolish like working late at the office or spending your weekends indoors rearranging your storage space.

Sunglasses, hats, tank tops and flip flops are optional, and sunscreen is recommended. Now go. Get off the computer… Go!

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

May 19 "Gathering in the Garden" at Emory University

This lovely event at the Miller-Ward Alumni House on Emory University's campus is about Balanced Food and Balanced Living. It's coordinated by Joyce Dillon of Healthy Living and Balance, an Atlanta-based wellness coaching company.

Joyce is a certified coach specializing in work-life balance and health coaching. Joyce combines a Masters Degree of Psychiatric Mental Health Nursing Consultation and Education with twenty-five years of clinical experience and extensive training in mind-body medicine, meditation, energy medicine and transformational work.

Joyce is also the publisher of Healthy Living and Balance eZine, a monthly lifestyle subscription newsletter featuring innovative ideas and resources that empower people to pursue optimal health and a balanced lifestyle. You can subscribe at her website. Hopefully, I'll get a chance to interview her personally about her business and I'll post that here in a date soon to come.

Meanwhile come dine with us at the Gathering in the Garden event on May 19. I'll be donating a healthy salad of organic black beans and corn with a cilantro-lime vinaigrette and I'll be representing for the Dish team b/c Sheri will be at another function that same day. Hope to see you there! Proceeds from the $25 ticket sales will benefit the Atlanta Children’s Shelter.

* * * * * *

Balanced Food, Balanced Living
Gathering in the Garden Spring Brunch

AWE (The Alumnae Women of Emory) and the Office of University Community Partnerships Present
A Benefit Brunch and Lecture for the Atlanta Children’s Shelter

May 19, 2007 • 10:00 am – 1:00 pm • Miller-Ward Alumni House

Join the Alumnae Women of Emory (AWE) for Balanced Food, Balanced Living, a summer brunch and panel lecture on eating and living well in balance.

Balanced living is a choice. When you become aware of what you eat, how it’s prepared, where it comes from and how it’s grown, you live in balance. You live in balance when you consider the human body and its innate connection to nature; and again when you seek the sensory pleasures of eating whole, natural food.

Join us for a summer brunch of convivial presentations on eating and living well in balance. Local purveyors Dish, Whole Foods, Chefs Avalon Catering and others will provide a luscious spread of thoughtful cuisine.


Benefits of Balanced Eating
· Delicious food
· Health and wellness
· Community enrichment
· Sustainable lifestyle
· Healthy planet

How to Get Started
· What to eat
· Why it’s healthy
· How it’s grown
· Where it’s grown
· Where to get it

Joyce Dillon. Panel Moderator.
Alice Rolls. Georgia Organics.
Julie Shafer. Slow Food. Atlanta Coordinator.
Amanda Manning. Edible Atlanta.
Laurie Moore. Moore Farms.
Tara Simpson, MPH, RD, LD. Nutritionist.

Purchase tickets Online for $25.00 at then join us for brunch at the Miller-Ward Alumni House, 815 Houston Mill Road on campus. For more information, please call Joyce Dillon at 404-881-1322 or

This Alumnae Women of Emory event benefits the Atlanta Children’s Shelter.

May 29th "Meet the Author" Wesley Chapel Creative Writers Group

Hey y'all. I'm going to be discussing my life as a writer on May 29th at the Wesley Chapel Library. Check out the details below...

The Wesley Chapel Creative Writing Group Presents
Meet the Author

WHO: Ms. Asata Reid, Journalist, Cross Roads Newspaper

WHEN: Tuesday, May 29 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

WHAT: Ms. Asata Reid is currently a staff writer at Cross Roads News (with a weekly readership of almost 100,000) where she has interviewed physicians, nutritionists, legislators, activists and patients on a number of health and issues: lung cancer, birth defects/premature birth, HPV vaccine, diabetes, obesity/overweight and HIV/AIDS among others. Come hear Ms. Reid share her writing process for publishing non-fiction articles in newspapers and magazines.

WHERE: Wesley Chapel Creative Writing Group is a support group for aspiring writers. The group meets the last Tuesday of every month from 7:00 PM to 8:30 PM at the Wesley Chapel – William C. Brown library. 2861 Wesley Chapel Road in Decatur.

CONTACT: Tuwanda Muhammad at (404)579-2715 or for more information. Registration is not required.

June 9th "Mature Woman's Guide" Class

Join me at the Sylvan Hills Curves on June 9 for the "Food for Live: The Mature Woman's Guide" class.

In the class we'll discuss every day ingredients that can help aleviate and even prevent common ailments that tend to show up in women as we mature:

Protect Your Heart * Fight Cancer * Cool Hot Flashes & Mood Swings
Strengthen Bones * Nourish Skin & Hair * Boost Energy & Improve Sleep
Relieve Joint Pain * Protect Your Teeth
Ease Reflux & Heartburn * Improve Digestion & Elimination

12:30 -1:30 p.m. Saturday June 9 @ Curves Sylvan Hills
1683 Sylvan Rd. SW Atlanta, GA 30310
Only $10! Register @ 404-755-8434

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Dishing Up Spring

I got a chance to catch up with my very busy friend Sheri Davis, who is the executive chef and owner of Dish Restaurant in the Virginia Highlands.
We were giggling like school girls in anticipation of the lovely produce that comes with this time of year. She said the strawberries grown regionally have been particularly beautiful this spring, and that she’s been enjoying the wild baby arugula brought in from local growers like Neil Taylor over at TaylOrganic Farm and other Georgia farmers and co-ops.

"In fact,” she said, “We’ve been running the strawberries and arugula as a salad special with gorgonzola from Sweet Grass Dairy, spiced pecans which also happen to be Georgia grown, and an aged-balsamic vinaigrette.”

That set my mouth a-droolin’ and I asked her about her favorite spring time ingredients. Dreamily she said, “Soft shell crabs, English peas and morel mushrooms – what a great combination that is.” A great combination that sure to be a special one night soon if it’s not tonight.

Sheri said due to the big nor’easterners and other ugly weather up north the cold water fish from the North Atlantic has been particularly gorgeous. “We’ve been getting beautiful halibut. It’s been screwing up the lobster but the fish is gorgeous,” she said, adding that the plump diver scallops and snapper have been beautiful as well.

Dish is open nightly at 5:30 p.m. and has been serving up delightful food with an always-relevant and pairing-friendly wine list for over eight years. The all-seasons patio is a fantastic place to sit and enjoy the best weather Georgia has to offer while dining on locally grown produce and watching the beautiful people of the Virginia-Highland district drift by. Call 404-897-3463 for more info and tell Sheri I sent you!