Monday, August 25, 2008

Poached Pears: 2 Ways

I’ve made this easy fruity, creamy, yummy dessert twice in the past week and in two different forms. I’ll post both because I want you to see how simple this elegant looking dessert is, as well as how FLEXIBLE this dessert can be.

The first time I prepared poached pears it was for a Healthy Desserts class at the Roosevelt Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation. This particular Healthy Desserts class had the added challenge of no on-site oven, and when I think of desserts firing up the oven is in the forefront of my mind. Poached Pears were one of three desserts I prepared that day, along with a surprising low-fat and fresh tasting Almond-Raspberry Trifle made with Dark Chocolate fat-free Angel Food Cake, and Grilled Plums & Apricots with Ice Cream and Black Pepper Balsamic Glaze.

Typically poached pears recipes call for wine or port or brandy or liquors like Amaretto or Grand Marnier, but I wanted to make a virgin version for those who are leery of cooking with alcohol, or who abstain for other reasons.

I went kind of Mediterranean for the first version, filling the pears with Greek yogurt and figs, and topping the dessert with toasted almonds and pine nuts.

The second time I made this dish, we shot a video of it over at our cousins’ house. It was a Family Day Sunday and all the kids were playing. I wanted a family-friendly dish, so I sweetened up the filling by using vanilla yogurt scented with cinnamon and vanilla, and fresh strawberries.

The basic four steps of the dish are: 1) poach the pears in a lovely fragrant liquid, 2) toast some nuts, 3) combine yogurt, fruit and spices for filling, and 4) reduce some of the poaching liquid to make a syrup. That’s the short version.

Of course you could poach apples, or any other “hard” fruit. And you could use ice cream instead of yogurt. If you don’t like nuts, leave them off. This dessert is wide open for reinterpretation. If you give it a try, or make up your own, then please email me and let me know how it turns out for you.

A note about pears: some are very tender, some are very hard. Choose a variety of pear that can withstand a good 15 minutes of poaching without turning to mush. This is not the recipe for over-ripe, canned or frozen fruit. However, those pretty green Bartlett pears that are miraculously available 365 days a year will need to hang out in the poaching liquid a good 30 minutes. Those suckers are typically hard and not very juicy. The point of poaching these pears is to get them “fork tender” where you could get a spoon or fork through them in one swoop.

If you over cook your pears: Once the pears are mushy you have two options, both of which benefit from the use of a blender: pear sauce or pear cider.

To assemble the dish: Regardless of which version you try, the assembly of the final dish is simple and pretty. Place a pear in a shallow dish or bowl with the cut side facing up, spoon filling into the cavity and drizzle over the side, top with toasted nuts and drizzle lightly with syurp. Simple, pretty and elegant. Enjoy!

Poached Pears with Greek Yogurt and Figs
For the Pears6 Pears
1 cup of honey OR agave nectar OR fruit juice concentrate
½ cup turbinado (raw) sugar or brown sugar
3-4 cinnamon sticks
2 2” pieces of ginger, peeled and grated
juice from 1-2 lemons
1 Tbsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp ground allspice

For Toasted Nuts
¼ cup almonds
¼ cup pine nuts

For Greek Yogurt and Fig Filling
1 – 1 ½ cups dried or fresh figs diced
½ cup of water (for fresh figs) or 1 cup of water for dried figs
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp allspice
2 Tbsp turbinado or brown sugar
juice from 1 lemon
1 ½-2 cups Greek style yogurt


Poached Pears with Strawberries and Vanilla Yogurt
For the Pears

6 Pears
1 cup of honey OR agave nectar OR fruit juice concentrate
½ cup turbinado (raw) sugar or brown sugar
3-4 cinnamon sticks
2 2” pieces of ginger, peeled and grated
juice from 1-2 lemons
1 Tbsp ground cloves
1 Tbsp ground allspice

For Toasted Nuts
¼ cup almonds, blanched and slivered

For Yogurt and Strawberries
2 pints strawberries, stemmed and quartered
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 ½-2 cups vanilla yogurt

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Life Chef Update with Recipes

Hey Y’all! I’ve been a busy girl, so I have a lot of recipes to share with you. Click on the embedded links to see any full recipe. I’ve also put a link in for the first ever Life Chef Video, and at the end I have a list of upcoming Life Chef Classes. If you’d like to have a Life Chef presentation at your church, office or next group meeting please give me a buzz.

Let’s start at the last Natural Foods class held at Sevananda Natural Foods Co-op. There we taste-tested all natural sweeteners like fruit juice concentrate and agave nectar. We also sampled some organic dark and milk chocolates. Finally we simple some milk alternatives: hemp, almond and rice to see first hand what the differences were. The recipe that stole the show was Miso Soba Noodles with Gingered Shiitakes and Nappa Cabbage Slaw. Yum!

Then I had the pleasure of participating in the 4th Annual Wellness Fair at Saint Philip AME Church where we focused on a great lunch and snack time optionin "That's a Wrap!" Wraps travel well, can be made in advance, are an easy and sophisticated choice for older kids to make themselves for school lunches, and are even a great use for leftovers! Adults and kids alike thoroughly enjoyed the Salmon BLT wraps and super-quick and easy Pizza Wraps. The fruit and nut laden Peanut butter, Banana and Honey wraps and the Strawberry Kiwi wraps were a tasty and healthy addition. The turkey and cheese sandwich got a face lift with the Roasted Turkey and Smoked Gouda wrap that also benefited from an easy roasted red pepper mayo. There's another yummy wrap option and a great way to reinvent tuna in the Mediterranean Tuna Wrap.

I returned to Saint Philip for the 25th Annual Health Ministry Annual Breakfast where I prepared a light repast with my sous chef Mr. Patterson. The star of the morning, besides the scholarship awardees and the past and present members of the Health Ministry, was a spinach laden quiche that was so easy to make. I’m putting the Spinach Quiche recipe up because so many people asked about and because it really was just that easy. Loaded with spinach and roasted red peppers, this quiche is relatively light on the eggs, for those watching their cholesterol – maybe 3 eggs per pie crust – however you may substitute 3 egg whites and one whole egg, or even use Egg Beaters instead of whole eggs.

The good folks at Piedmont National Corp. and Henry County were my next two stops during the week as I conducted Healthy Cooking classes as part of Kaiser Permanente’s Worksite Wellness program. Here I made yummy Chicken Salad with Mango and Apple, as well as a Warm Bulgur Salad with Vegetables. Finally I presented a super-quick method for cooking greens and green vegetables: a steam-sauté method finished with the Mediterranean flavors of lemon, olive oil and pine nuts. In one case I used a gorgeous curly savoy cabbage, and the next time I prepared tender Summer Turnips with Pine Nuts and Lemon.

Finally, I wanted to thank everyone who took the time to check out and comment on the first ever Life Chef Video. There will be more to come, and I would greatly appreciate it if you could forward it to anyone you could think of who would enjoy learning how to prepare healthy and delicious meals (that are easy to make and economical too!).

August 21 "Healthy Desserts" @ Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation
September 6 "Natural Foods 101" @ Sevananda Natural Foods Coop
October 4 "NF 102: Food as Medicine" @ Sevananda Natural Foods Coop
October 16 "Healthy Holidays" @ Warm Springs Institute for Rehabilitation
October 18
"Shop & Cook: Meal Planning and More" @ Saint Philip AME Church
November 4 "Healthy Cooking" @ Heidelberg USA for Kaiser Permanente
November 15 "Vegetarian Holiday Favorites" @ Sevananda Natural Foods Coop

Miso Soba Noodles with Gingered Shiitakes and Nappa Slaw

I gotta be honest, I'm not to precise on these measurements. It's one of those dishes that I just made because I'm familiar with the ingredients. Adding the measurements is an after thought. They shouldn't be too far off, but if anyone is relying on this to be a precise recipe, you should be forewarned. This is more like home cookin' than science.

People with wheat/gluten sensitivities will appreciate this dish because soba noodles are traditionally made from buckwheat, which despite it’s name, contains no wheat at all. Please read the package carefully to be sure the soba noodles you pick up are made purely from buckwheat and not a blend if you have a wheat allergy.

This is a three step dish, but it can easily be combined into a one-step noodle bowl. All you would change is the presentation.

Miso Soba Noodles with Gingered Shiitakes and Nappa Slaw
1 package soba (buckwheat) noodles
2 Tbsp sesame oil
toasted sesame seeds
1 Tbsp red pepper flake (or to taste)

1 pint of shiitake mushrooms, sliced
1 Tbsp red miso
2” piece of ginger, peeled and grated
2 cloves of garlic, minced

½ Nappa cabbage, sliced
2 scallions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
generous handful each of mint and cilantro, minced
2 Tbsp hydrated hiziki seaweed (soak 1 Tbsp dried in water for 10 minutes and drain)
2 Tbsp sweet rice wine (mirin)
1 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
2 Tbsp dark sesame oil

Cook noodles according to package directions. Drain and toss with red pepper flake, sesame seeds and enough sesame oil to coat thoroughly. Set aside.

In a bowl combine cabbage, scallions, bell peppers, herbs and seaweed. Add the mirin, vinegar and sesame oil and toss the slaw to distribute the flavors. Set aside.

Meanwhile sauté sliced shiitakes over medium high heat with a bit of olive oil, ginger and garlic. Once mushrooms are cooked through add miso and 1-2 Tbsp of water, or just enough water to allow the miso to coat the mushrooms.

To plate the dish, arrange noodles on a platter and top with mushroom mixture. Arrange the slaw in a delicate pile in the center of the platter. Sprinkle the entire dish with a little sesame oil and serve warm or at room temperature.

Summer Turnips Greens with Pine Nuts and Lemon

“Summer turnips” are a variety of turnip greens that are harvested during the warmer months. They tend to be a lighter green, with a thinner texture than “winter turnips.” In this dish, they serve as a great example of a fast, last minute vegetable dish.

This is a VERY forgiving recipe, so have fun playing with your food. Substitute just about any green such as spinach, kale, or mustards, or use asparagus, broccoli or Asian cabbages like dai choy and bok choy. Use slivered almonds, toasted sesame seeds or even crushed peanuts instead of pine nuts. Or drizzle lime juice, soy sauce or sesame oil in at the end instead of lemon juice.

Summer Turnips with Pine Nuts and Lemon
2 bunches young, tender turnip greens, rinsed and chopped
2 scallions, sliced (or ½ a small onion)
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
juice from 1 lemon, or 2-3 Tbsp or so
2-3 Tbsp pine nuts, toasted
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place garlic and oil into a cold pan and turn on the heat to about medium high. As garlic becomes aromatic (3 minutes or so) add the scallions.

Toss in the hot oil a few turns, then add the greens. The greens should still be damp to help steam them along, if not add about 2 Tbsp of water.

Continue stirring as the greens cook down and season with salt and pepper.

In about 5 minutes the greens should be tender. Add the lemon juice, toss and place into a serving dish.

Top with toasted pine nuts.

Warm Bulgur Salad with Vegetables

Don't have bulgur? Don't sweat it! This dish will work great with just about any grain or rice you can think of: brown rice, couscous, wild rice, quinoa, the sky's the limit!

Warm Bulgur Salad with Vegetables
1 ½ cups buglur (should be 3 cups once cooked)
2 yellow squash, diced
2 zucchini, diced
1 pint grape tomatoes
¼ cup good quality cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbs fresh thyme
4 cloves garlic, diced
¼ cup feta cheese (basil & sundried tomato flavor)
½ bunch fresh parsley, chopped
2 scallions, thinly sliced
juice from 2 lemons
salt and black pepper

Cook buglur by seasoning 3 cups of water with salt and bringing it to a boil. Stir in uncooked bulgur, reduce heat to medium and cover. Let simmer for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to low and continue cooking for about another 10 minutes. Fluff with a fork and set aside.

Meanwhile, combine olive oil, tomatoes, thyme and garlic in a small sauce pot. Bring up to a simmer, stirring to ensure even cooking of the tomatoes. Season with salt and black pepper and cook until tomatoes are tender but are not breaking apart. Drain off excess oil and set tomatoes aside.

Heat a pan over medium-high heat with 1-2 Tbs of olive oil. Add squash and zucchini, in batches if need be, to sear then sauté until just tender. Season with salt and black pepper and set aside.

Compose the salad in a large bowl. Add the fluffed bulgur, zucchini and squash, tomtoes, parsley, scallions and lemon juice. Toss to combine ingredients and top with crumbled feta cheese. Serve warm or room temperature.

Salmon BLT Wrap

No need to waste leftover salmon when you can make this quick and easy lunch wrap.

Salmon BLT Wrap
Spinach or Tomato wraps
1/2 cooked salmon, flaked
2 strips of cooked bacon
2 slices tomato
shredded lettuce
1 Tbsp ranch dressing

Arrange ingredients on the center 1/3 of a large wrap or tortilla. Roll, wrap and refrigerate until ready to eat, or slice in half on a bias and enjoy. For finger foods, slice into rounds and secure with a toothpick.

Mediterranean Tuna Wrap

Give boring tuna salad a makeover with fresh vegetables and Mediterranean flavors.

Mediterranean Tuna Wrap
2-4 Wraps or tortillas, multigrain, tomato or spinach varieties
1 can tuna in water, drained
2-3 slices of tomato, or a handful of grape tomatoes cut in half
1 Tbs capers, drained
Handful of parsley, chopped
2 Tbs lemon juice
1/2 cucumber, sliced
1/4 red pepper, diced, or 2 Tbs jarred diced red pepper
2 Tbsp red wine vinaigrette (or Italian or Greek dressing)

Combine all ingredients except wraps, mixing well. Place 1/4-1/2 cup of filling (depending on the size of the wrap) in the center 1/3 of the wrap. Roll, wraps in plastic wrap or foil and refrigerate, or slice in half on a bias or slice into rounds for "finger food."

Pizza Wraps

Have great pizza flavor in only minutes without mystery additives and preservatives.

Pizza Wraps
Tomato wraps or tortillas
Spaghetti or pizza sauce
sliced pepperoni (or any of your favorite pizza toppings)
shredded mozzarella cheese or cheese slices

Preheat broiler of the oven. On a baking pan, lay out wraps being sure not to over lap. Spread about 2 tablespoons of red sauce on each wrap, concentrating primarily on the center. Top with cheese and pepperoni, or pizza toppings. Place pan under the broiler for about 2-3 minutes or until cheese melts. Remove from oven and carefully roll up each wrap. Allow to cool slightly, then slice into rounds. You may skewer rounds with toothpicks to secure them. Serve immediately.

Strawberry Kiwi Wrap

Breakfast, lunch or snack time, this wrap is a hit!

Strawberry Kiwi Wrap
1-2 multigrain wrap or tortilla
3 Tbs whipped (spreadable) cream cheese
1/4 cup sliced strawberries
1/4 cup kiwi, peeled and diced
sliced almonds
a few sprigs of fresh mint, thinly sliced

Spread whipped cream onto the center 1/3 of a multigrain wrap. Top with fruit, almonds and mint. Roll the wrap, wrap in plastic or foil and refrigerate. To serve. Slice in half on a bias or slice into rounds for "finger food" and remove foil or plastic wrap.

Curry Chicken Salad with Mango, Apples and Curry Yogurt Dressing

This chicken salad is an excellent use of leftover chicken. In a rush? Pick up a precooked rotisserie chicken from your local market.

Curry Chicken Salad with Mango, Apples and Curry Yogurt Dressing

3 cups cooked chicken, diced
1 apple, diced
2 mangoes, peeled and diced
1 8 oz container of plain yogurt
2 Tbsp yellow curry powder
1 handful fresh parsley, minced
1/2 cup slivered almonds or toasted pecan pieces

Place curry and yogurt into a small bowl for the dressing.
In a large bowl combine the remaining ingredients. Stir in the curry-yogurt dressing and serve atop greens or use for the filling for a wrap.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Life Chef Video

Hey look over there on the left side! What's that? It's a new Life Chef video! How exciting is that? Somebody call the Food Network!

Please take the time to click on the image and check out my first ever video featuring the ever-popular Life Chef recipe of Curry Chickpeas with Kale (or spinach or turnips, or whatever green you like). The recipe is at the end and don't forget to read the credits. The kids and M were my crew! Awesome.

I have a ton of recipes to post from the 4th Annual Wellness Fair at Saint Philip AME Church where I was also honored during the 25th Annual Awards Breakfast by the Health Ministry. So those recipes along with the recipes from our cooking demo at Piedmont National Corp yesterday will be up by the end of the week.

We're shooting new Life Chef vids as we speak, so stay tuned!