Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Roasted Chicken with Couscous and Greens


Here's an inexpensive and flavorful meal that's interesting enough to serve when you have "company" for dinner. It's also a one-pan meal with minimal clean up, and most of the cooking takes care of itself in the oven, so you're free to get out of the kitchen.

I chose chicken thighs because I love the flavor of the crispy skin once the fat has been rendered out. But if you want to skip that step and reduce the fat content of the dish, simply brown some chicken breasts on one side and continue with the rest of the recipe. Browning the meat adds flavor and texture (in other words: it adds interest) to a dish.

A box of couscous and canned tomatoes are part of my pantry staples, and I usually have a bitter green of some sort in the crisper bin of my fridge. With those basics on hand dinner is a snap to pull together, even at the last minute. On this night I added some lightly spiced carrots on the side to echo the hint of cinnamon on the chicken. Kick up the flavor of the meal by adding some chili flakes or fresh chili when the rest of the ingredients go in the pan.

Roasted Chicken with Couscous and Greens
5 chicken thighs
1 tsp cinnamon, ground
1 tsp cumin, ground
1 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 can diced tomatoes with onions and herbs
1/2 c whole wheat couscous
1 cup blanched broccolini (see Broccolini with Parmesan for blanching)
OR 1-2 cups winter greens such as turnips, collards, kale, stemmed and rough chopped

Trim excess fat and skin off of the chicken thighs. Season the skin side with salt and pepper. Season the flesh side with the remaining herbs and spices.

Heat a thick bottomed skillet over medium high heat and transfer the chicken to the pan, skin side down to render the fat out. Cook for about 7 minutes, carefully drain away he fat, and continue cooking until the skin is crispy and most of the fast has cooked off. Remove chicken to a plate and discard any fat left in the pan.

Return pan to heat and add the tomatoes, couscous, and boccolini or greens. Nestle the chicken, skin side up into the tomato mixture so that it's all evenly distributed and transfer the pan to a 400 degree oven. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is done (test the meat at the bone for doneness)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Food Find: All Natural Break-n-Bake Cookies


I love a good food find and this one is sweet and yummy! We had a new baby for the holidays so I didn't really get my "bake on" like I wanted too. And in the back of my mind floated the vaguest recollection of a food recall on prepared cookie dough but I couldn't remember what brand or how long ago and, of course, didn't bother to Google it either. However while restocking essentials one of our tentative early trips out of the house with both kids, I did see these: Immaculate Baking Co. Cookies.

Using all natural ingredients, Immaculate Baking Co. makes dough for break-and-bake cookies and brownies, as well as biscuits and scones. And even snack cookies but I haven't seen those in the store yet. Check out their site for their home-grown history and their fundraising efforts, as well as for some Valentines specials and ideas.

Good cookies. Good ingredients. We keep 'em stocked in the freezer now for those rainy days and "I sure could use some hot-from-the-oven-cookies" moments. This is the kind of "convenient" food I can get with!

Curried Greens with Butternut Squash

This is a fat free side dish bursting with flavor. I only wish I was better at photography so you could see how pretty the vibrant green and deep orange color of this little bowl of happiness is. And what an antioxidant bomb! The greens (I used turnip greens, but mustards or kale or spinach would work) and the squash are loaded with nutrients. Read more on the World's Healthiest Foods website about turnip greens here and butternut squash here.

By simmering the veggies in water or stock (which would add more flavor) in stead of sauteeing them, we cut any fat right out of the dish, and all that's left is lots of flavor. Using curry powder means that as the dish cooks, the liquid will thicken until you have a consistency like a stew, a nice stick-to-your-ribs vegetable dish for the winter months.

Curried Greens with Butternut Squash
2 cups water or stock
8 oz winter greens, trimmed and roughly chopped
2 cups of butternut squash, peeled and cut into 2" cubes
2 Tbsp of Jamaican style curry powder, mild
1 tsp ginger, ground
1 tsp garlic, ground
1 tsp chili flake (optional)
salt pepper

Heat stock/water in a large pot and when it starts to simmer add the squash and greens. Continue to simmer, uncovered until the greens wilt, then add the spices and curry powder and stir to incorporate. Continue to simmer until the vegetables are tender and the liquid has thickened. Serve with a whole-grain rice.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Spiced Cupcakes

This is a very easy recipe (so easy I made it w/ my kidlet while the baby was napping) adapted from the Easy Cupcake Recipe found at www.cupcakerecipes.com This particular recipe came was inspired by my desire to make spice cookies and the kidlet's desire to make cupcakes. So why not combine the two for the best of both worlds?

If you follow this recipe the cupcakes will come out on the light side, kind of muffin-ish, and won't be overly sweet either so feel free to frost away (or eat for breakfast with coffee).

Frost how you like (chocolate with sprinkles for the kidlet) or not at all if you're like me and simply like cake. You can whip this up by hand and burn a couple of extra calories in the process or breakout the hardware use the kitchen mixer with the paddle or whisk attachment.
Spiced Cupcakes makes 2 dozen
2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 1/3 cups sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup vegetable shortening
1 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon ginger, ground
1 teaspoon cinnamon, ground
1/2 teaspoon cloves, grond
2 large eggs

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake pans with paper liners, or spray with baking spray.

Combine the dry ingredients, including spices, in a large mixing bowl. Add shortening, milk, and vanilla. Beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Add eggs and beat for 1 minute on medium speed. Scrape bowl and beat on high speed for 1 minute 30 seconds until well mixed. Spoon cupcake batter into paper liners or greased cup cake pan until 1/2 to 2/3 full.

Bake for 20 to 25 minutes (or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean as ovens may vary).

Cool 5 minutes in pans then remove cupcakes and place on wire racks to cool completely. Once cooled, frost or decorate as you desire.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Chicken in Sage Sauce

To me, sage is an herb that packs quite a punch most of the time. However, on a recent trip to the farmers market I picked up a couple of bunches that are really mild and that's nice because I can fearlessly use sage without worrying about drowning out other flavors in the dish. It's also a good lesson in that you should always taste your ingredients before using them, especially if procured from a farm or organic source, because unlike mass-produced genetically modified foods, each crop can have nuances of flavor and texture.

This dish is a great use of leftover chicken, which I seem to always have on hand because I typically roast a chicken at least once a week.

1 small onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp evoo
1/2 bunch sage, chopped
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
1/4 half and half or heavy cream
9 oz chicken breast, cooked
salt & pepper

Saute onion, garlic and sage in a sauce pan until fragrant and garlic is golden. Add the stock/water and heavy cream, season with salt and pepper.
Photo-0817.jpeg Add cooked chicken and continue cooking until sauce reduces and thickens slightly. Serve with a rice side dish like a pilaf.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Broccolini with Parmesan

Sometimes less is more.

This is a very simple dish but that's because broccolini doesn't need any gussying up to be delicious. However, the vegetable does go by many names including broccoli raab, rapini and broccoletto.

This was a cause for pause at the checkout time at Wallyworld (I know, I was surprised to see it there too and just couldn't resist bringing it home). The cashier said "This isn't parsley." I nodded and said, "I call it broccoli raab, but I think the sign said broccolini." She checked her illustrated produce guide to no avail and finally, with the line behind me growing restless, she asked if she could look inside of the clear plastic produce bag to see the label on my not-parsley. It said rapini.

Ah well, all that confusion for a vegetable that here, is prepared very simply. Read more about broccolini, its heritage and health benefits here and here.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Rinse and trim the tough ends off of the broccolini.

Heat a large pot of salted water until boiling. Blanche the broccolini by submerging it into the salty boiling water until it turns a beautiful emerald green. Immediately remove broccolini from the water and dunk it into a large bowl of ice water to stop the cooking.

When cooled (just a few minutes) drain thoroughly, toss with 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Top with grated cheese and bake in a 400 degree oven until the cheese is melted and starts to brown.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tortellini w Chicken Portabello & Spinach

Photo-0803.jpeg />This is a leftover makeover! Yay!
After my Spinach Pecan Stuffed Portabello Caps I had mushrooms and spinach left (hey, bagged spinach was BOGO at Publix) so this became dinner shortly thereafter. Another quick and easy meal whipped up for the blink of an eye that the baby wasn't in either arm.

Tortellini with Chicken, Mushrooms & Spinach

1 9 oz package of fresh cheese filled tortellini
1 6 oz bag of pre-washed baby spinach
2 large portabello mushroom caps, cut into batons
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup chicken stock or water
2 6oz chicken breasts, cooked
2-3 Tbsp basil pesto, prepared or homemade
1/2 cup shredded cheese such as Asiago or Parmesan
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, reduce heat slightly and gently cook the tortellini until tender. If you boil them, they will break and spill their contents as well as cook unevenly. When plump and tender, drain the water and set aside.

Meanwhile in a skillet, heat 2 tbs of olive oil and saute the mushrooms and garlic until the garlic just begins to brown.

Stir together the stock/water with the pesto and pour into the mushroom mixture. Add the cooked chicken, spinach and the cooked pasta and gently stir to incorporate. The dish should be well covered in pesto but not soupy or saucy.

Transfer to a serving platter and top with shredded cheese and toasted pecan pieces.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Spinach Pecan Stuffed Portabello Caps

This dish is quick and easy and has a lot of flavors for so few ingredients. The toasted pecans are delicious and were compliments of my mother-in-law who brought them with her from south Georgia last weekend when she came to visit her new grandbaby. These days I rarely have two empty hands so dishes like this are vital! Also the addition of protein from nuts and cheese help make this vegetarian side dish worthy of entree status. I served it with a little yellow rice on the side.

Spinach Pecan Stuffed Portabello Caps
Sin pecan stuffed shroom
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 bag pre-washed baby spinach leaves
1 tsp garlic powder
1/4 cup toasted pecans, chopped
1/4 cup each shredded parmesan and asiago cheeses
2 large portabello mushroom caps, stemmed and de-gilled
salt, pepper
splash of sherry vinegar

Preheat oven to 400.

Over medium-high heat, heat the oil in a saute pan and quickly saute the spinach with the garlic powder until spinach is wilted (5 minutes, max). Drain off any excess liquid (I didn't have any) and stir in the nuts, cheese and sherry vinegar. Season with salt and pepper and mix well.

Remove the stems from the portabello caps, and use a spoon to scoop out and discard the black gills from the underside. Place on a foil lined sheet tray and season with salt and pepper.

Stuff each cap with half of the spinach mixture. Bake in 400 degree oven for 10-15 minutes or until the mushroom cap is tender and the cheese is golden.

NOTE: This dish is gluten free if the cheese is procured from reliable gluten-free brands. This dish is easily made vegan by substituting your favorite dairy-free cheese product.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oxtail Stew

Oh the weather outside is frightful... I think it's been raining in Atlanta for 40 days and 40 nights. And now the temperatures are falling as we ease into Autumn. There's nothing better than soups and stews during this kind of weather to help knock the damp and chill out of your system.

This is a very hearty stew, with Souther/Caribbean/African roots -- anyplace you find oxtail in the regular grocery store. Apparently in some cities you have to request oxtail or visit specialty butchers, but here it's commonplace. In fact, I can remember a few years ago when oxtail was CHEAP meat, but it's come en vogue since then and chefs were braising them and using them like mini-ossu bucco and stuffing handmade raviolis with pulled oxtail and all kinds of marvelous stuff. One thing has outlasted the oxtail trend, and that's the oxtail price tag. Still, here in the south the meat is common enough that you can catch it on sale, or buy it in bulk and for me, it's a child-hood nostalgia related comfort food.

This version is more vegetable laden and "lighter" than the stewed oxtail in gravy that I grew up with, but it's delicious and satisfying any day the weather isn't cooperating. If you're pressed for time, just throw everything in the crock pot in the morning before you got to work and dinner will be waiting for you when you get home. The results won't be identical, but you'll still have a yummy oxtail stew.

Making oxtail stew
Rinse and pat dry your oxtail pieces. Don't season yet because you're going to get a good browning on them.

Brown oxtails on all sides
Brown the oxtails on all sides by cooking in about 1-2 Tbsp of oil over medium high heat in a large, uncrowded pot (crowding causes steaming and prevents carmelization). Take your time to do this because you're developing texture and flavor that you won't get if you just threw all the ingredients together in a crock pot.

Add 1 onion, carrot, bellpepper
Add onion chopped onion, carrot and garlic and saute until you get some light caramelization (browning) on the vegetables as well. This will help add depth of flavor to the overall dish.

Deglaze the pan by adding one can of diced tomatoes, or the equivalent of fresh chopped tomatoes if they're juicy and in season. Using a wooden spoon scrape all of the yummy brown bits (called the "fond") from the bottom of your pot. This will add beefy flavor to your stew.

+ bayleaf garlic 1can tomato 1c h2o

Stir in bell pepper, 2-3 bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

+ 1tbsp each paprika turmeric cumin

Allow the stew to come up to a simmer, then add 1 Tbsp each of turmeric, cayenne and Hungarian paprika. If you prefer a smoky flavor substitute smoked Spanish paprika for the Hungarian paprika and consider using about half the amount.

Simmer covered til oxtail are tender

Cover the pot and cook over a low simmer, medium to medium-low heat, for about 2 hours or until the oxtails are tender and the meat is falling off the bone. Alternatively, you can prepare this dish in a dutch oven, and transfer it to a pre-heated 375 degree oven and allow to cook, covered in there for at least two hours as well.

Serve over cooked brown rice with some hot sauce on the side.

Well, oxtail has a lot of connective tissue. It's part of what makes it so good. It also has marrow and cartilage, all of which have nutritional value IF you can break them down, and that takes two things: heat over time and acid. The acid is present in the form of our tomatoes, however the real force at work here is heat over time. The longer they cook, the more the tissues are broken down (and the more the meat absorbs flavor) which results in something tender and oh-so-yummy.

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Quick Salmon Patties

#Dinner salmnpatty wild rice sriracha sc
My mom always has canned salmon in the pantry. In fact, I’m pretty sure she’s still living off of her Y2K stash. While salmon patties made with the fresh fish are far superior to the canned, for the price and convenience, canned salmon really can’t be slammed. Seems like most brands, and I’ve done no research to back this up, use wild caught Salmon, which has a reputation for better nutritional value. Check out this link for LOTS of info on wild caught versus farm raised salmon.

The bones in canned salmon, which is thoroughly cooked by the way, are a point of argument for some. Some folks leave the bones in, because, like in canned sardines, they’re soft and edible. Some people detest the bones and won’t bother with canned salmon at all because of the bones. They’re easy enough to get out. Usually if you drain the liquid off and pour the salmon into a bowl you can use a fork to find a “fold” where the spine is and all the ribs will run right down through the meat. Simply remove this section and you’re 90% bone free. Easy. And since the salmon’s already in a bowl, you can continue to break it up with a fork, toss in the remaining ingredients, and dinner’s almost done!

So here’s a quick and easy salmon patty recipe, perfect for those nights when you have to get dinner on the table NOW and have just maxed out on the chicken-breast-tilapia-fillet routine.

Quick Salmon Patties
1 can wild salmon, drained and bones removed
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp dried Italian Herb Blend
1 Tbsp garlic powder
2 scallions, green and white, sliced
1 egg
¼ cup bread crumbs or panko

With a fork, flake the salmon until it is uniformly broken up. Add the remaining ingredients, stirring well to incorporate. Form into 6-8 small patties.

Heat 2 Tbsp oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Cook the salmon patties about 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown, on each side.

Serve immediately with a side salad or veggies, some wild rice and a creamy sriracha sauce.

Creamy Sriracha

2 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp sriracha or other chili-garlic sauce
1 tsp honey

Combine all ingredients by stirring well and serve.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Operation Zero

Kaiser Permanente’s Operation Zero is an eight-session program designed for overweight children ages 11-17 to help them and their parents learn healthy tips and habits to fight obesity. I was happy to be a part of a recent session at the Cascade medical facility to show the kids how to make some dishes that are high in protein and complex carbs, low and fat and big on FLAVOR! To learn more or register a child call 404-365-0966.

Very Berry Soda
Berry soda

Fill a tall glass 2/3 full with ice cubes.
Pour half full with club soda or sparkling mineral water.
Top off with an all-natural dark berry juice blend such as cran-blueberry.
Stir and enjoy the refreshing burst of antioxidants and flavor!

Fiesta Nachos
Fiesta nachos
1.5 lbs ground lean turkey
1 lb bag of frozen corn and black beans with peppers (Fiesta Blend)
1 Tbsp dried Italian Herb Blend
2 Tbsp ground cumin
Salt and black pepper
1.5-2 cups mild salsa
1 ½ lb bag of baked tortilla chips
½ cup “Mexican style” shredded cheese

Brown turkey in a skillet, stirring frequently until well crumbled. Drain off excess fat in necessary and add the remaining ingredients. Continue cooking until heated through. Place tortilla chips onto a large platter and top with shredded cheese. Carefully spoon the hot turkey mixture on top and serve immediately.

Fruit & Cream Pizza

Fruit pizza
1 multigrain pre-cooked pizza crust
1 8 oz pkg whipped cream cheese (plain or flavored)
an assortment of fruits, sliced into bite sized pieces
Honey or agave nectar

Spread cream cheese onto the top of the pizza crust.
Arrange the fruit in a creative pattern with no spaces in between.
Drizzle lightly with honey or agave nectar.
Slice like a pizza and enjoy!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Dear Life Chef: Butternut Squash Soup

Dear Life Chef,

I love butternut squash. Do you have a good soup recipe using it?

-Hungry in Atlanta

Butternut squash soup is INSANELY EASY so here's a really basic approach to a bowl of yumminess that easily adapted to be vegetarian or vegan. The hardest part is peeling those doggone butternut squashes. But once you peel and seed it, cut it into cubes and cook it in a pot with enough stock (veg or chicken) to cover it by 2-3 inches along with peeled and grated ginger, a couple of bay leaves, 1 cinnamon stick and some curry powder. Simmer it long enough for the squash to become tender, remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick and season with salt and pepper. Next, puree the soup in batches in a blender, dropping in a few chunks of cold butter as you blend to emulsify the soup (extra virgin olive oil would work too). Or if you have an immersion blender (stick blender) this is a great opportunity to use it. If the soup is too thick, carefully add more (hot) stock, water or cream to the blender. If you want a refined soup, strain it before returning it to the pot to heat all the way through. I'll have a full fledged butternut squash soup recipe coming soon!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Blackeyed Pea Burgers with Jalapeno Mayo

Bep & burgers chix artch spin pasta

Pictured here with Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Spinach, Artichokes and Chicken

Blackeyed Pea Burgers

• 1 (16 ounce) bag frozen black eyed peas
• 2-3 Bay leaf
• 2 cloves Garlic, diced
• 1 small onion, minced
• Salt & pepper
• 1 onion, diced
• 1 bell pepper, diced
• 2 Jalapeno peppers
• 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
• 2 eggs
• 2 tablespoon cumin
• 1/2 steel cut rolled oats
Place peas in a large pot, cover with water by 2 inches. Add 2 cloves of garlic and minced onion. Season with salt and pepper and cook over medium high heat until beans have simmered about 20 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside.

When beans have cooled enough to handle, puree in batches if necessary, in a food processor until the beans are broken down (Don’t be surprised if they don’t become creamy in texture, but remain a little crumbly. That’s fine.)

In a large pan heat 2 Tbsp of oil over medium high heat. Add 1 diced onion, bell pepper and jalapeno and saut̩ for about 3 Р5 minutes or until tender. Add the oatmeal, thyme and cumin and stir continuously until fragrant and cumin is toasted. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.

When cool enough to handle combine pureed beans and onion mixture in a large bowl, and mix in the eggs until thoroughly incorporated. Form into about 6 bun sized patties (these will not shrink).

Heat 1-2 Tbsp oil in a skillet over medium high heat and cook the patties about 4 minutes on each side.

Serve on toasted whole wheat buns with Jalapeno Mayo.

Jalapeno Mayo
½ cup mayonnaise
2 jalapenos, diced
Pinch cayenne pepper (to taste)
Juice from 1 lemon (about 2 Tbsp)

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, mixing thoroughly. Can be kept refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

The Future of Food

Please watch this full-length film about the food industry.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Scottish Shortbread Cookies


I've loved shortbread all my life. Even as a Girl Scout I like the shortbread cookies more than the Thin Mints and the Samoas, and while visiting Edinburgh Scotland last month I rekindled my love of shortbread with the authentic Scottish treat. After buying less than satisfying substitutes back home I thought I'd try to recreate the real deal and asked my Twitter community if anyone had a recipe for the authentic buttery shortbread I was craving.

@chefrb Chef R-B was the first and only to respond with a family Scottish Shortbread recipe her mom made when she was a kid. Click the link to see her full original recipe and the detailed and perfect baking directions on her website BakingSOSAnswers where she uses a butter substitute in pursuit of a healthier end product.

I'll provide my modified version here with a photo demo by my 4 year old sous chef, Zen. I had to substitute ingredients b/c we're moving in a week and most of my stuff is packed up, plus I want to use up what we have before the move. So I used selfl-rising flour (I know, crazy, right?), salted butter and granulated sugar. And as @chefrb said this recipe is foolproof. Even with the substitutions and the beating the dough took from my 4 yr old the cookies turned out fantastic! I will make this recipe again and again experimenting with ingredients and flavors b/c it's simple, clean and yummy!

Scottish Shortbread Cookies

adapted from Chef R-B's version of the recipe found in “Bentley Farm Cookbook” by Virginia Bentley
½ pound salted butter, softened to room temperature
½ C. granulated sugar
2 ¼ C. self-rising flour flour

Cream butter & sugar by hand
Cream .5# butter & .5c sugar by hand

Incorporate flour in batches
Incorporate flou in batches then knead

Knead by hand
Keep kneading

Keep kneading for at least 5 minutes
...And kneading

Shape into a 7x9 rectangle, score into 6x5 grid and poke each cookie w/ a knife for "dimples". Bake 300 degrees for 40-50 minutes or until just golden.
Cut, poke and bake

Remove from oven, cut and let cool thoroughly.
Score w sharp knife, cool thoroughly...

Fajita Night

When grilling, you ever notice that once the coals are "just right" you've cooked your steak or whathaveyou? Well we've remedied this by cooking any and everything that ever had a face when we light the grill, and it will result in some point in Fajita Night, either because of the plethora of fresh meat hot off the grill, or the tsunami of leftover meat in the subsequent nights.

There are two things that make Fajita Night the best night of the week: 1) marinated meat, 2) fresh condiments.

In this house we're BIG on marinating meat cuz let's face it, chicken tastes like chicken I don't care how you cook it. So if you want to impart flavor and make THIS chicken taste different from the LAST chicken then you gotta mix up a flavor profile using herbs, spice and whatnot. I'm also big on the Three Ingredient Rule when it comes to marinades b/c much more than that, the flavors get muddled.

Fresh condiments are vital b/c they bring those top notes to the table, fresh cilantro and onions and lime, salsa fresca, queso fresco, whatever it is you like, it needn't be overly processed, or processed at all. When the meat hits the grill, I start slicing onions and tomatoes, melting cheese and picking cilantro, and by the time the carne is finito the side fixin's are done and we can sit and grub.

So here's the meat and marinades from last night's Fajita Night:
Pork Chops with ginger, nutmeg, clove and soy sauce
Prk chops w ginger nutmeg clove & soy sc

Split hens with cumin, garlic and lime zest
Split hens w cumin garlic & lime zest

Ribeye with oregano, garlic and black pepper
Ribeye marinating w oregano & garlic

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad w Chicken, Spinach and Artichokes

This week's cooking demo at Delta Dental was in a No-Cook Zone up on the seventh floor of an office building. There was also the time constraint of only 45 mintues, when normally I do at least an hour to an hour and a half for a demo. I decided to prepare a rice dish and a pasta dish for making salads which are a breeze to throw together, but would still give me time to "walk through" the ingredients discussing the important nutrition, shopping and culinary tips along the way. I cooked both the rice and pasta ahead of time and rinsed them under cold water to prep for the salads that I prepared on site.

The rice dish was a version of the popular Black Rice Mediterranean Salad that's been a hit all summer (don't think I ever make this dish exactly the same way twice b/c it really depends on the best produce available).

The pasta dish was a Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Roasted Chicken, Spinach and Artichokes. This makes a BIG BATCH so cut the portions in half for a dish to serve 4-6 people as a side or main dish.

Most of the ingredients can be picked up already prepared in the grocery store, but you'll have to me mindful of the increased sodium content that comes with prepared foods, and honestly your roasted chicken will taste better than Hormel's (I'm just sayin') and this is a great dish to use up any leftovers.

Substitute ingredients as the mood and availability strike, and keep in mind the marinated artichokes and the lemon juice will provide the "dressing" for the salad so no need to add more fat.

Want a vegetarian version? Simply omit the chicken and put in your protein of choice: nuts, eggs, un-chickn, tofu, whatever floats your boat. This is a very forgiving, yet tasty recipe.

Whole Wheat Pasta Salad with Roasted Chicken, Spinach and Artichokes
1 box of cooked whole wheat linguine
1 bag of pre-washed baby spinach
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 6 oz jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained & roughly chopped
18 oz roasted chicken breast, roughly chopped
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves, chopped
juice from 2 lemons
grated Parmesan cheese

Break linguine into 2" lengths and cook following package directions. Drain, rinse under cold water, drain and set aside.

Combine onions, artichoke hearts, lemon juice, bell pepper, oregano, spinach and chicken in a large bowl. Toss in the cooled pasta and garnish with parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Late Summer Harvest Recipes

Todays class
These yummy recipes came together to make a great lunch during the September "What's Cooking?" Class at Sevananda Natural Foods Market. I'll be back on the second Saturday in October to start our Halloween and holiday celebrations early with Fair Trade chocolates and other naturally good treats. See you then, and in the mean time enjoy these recipes using the best of late summer produce!

ciabatta pomodoro & zucchini tom gratin
Ciabatta Pomodoro

This is like a vegan open faced sandwich, almost a bruschetta. The ciabatta is fantastic for sopping up every last bit of the chunky pomodoro sauce. Traditionally, pomodoro sauce is a lot like marinara – tomatoes, onion, garlic, basil – but cooked longer and therefore thicker. This is my 15 minute version which is finished with a good quality olive oil for a decadent feeling. The tomatoes I used were garden fresh and huge for Romas and very meaty. Most plum tomatoes or tomatoes used as “paste tomatoes” would be a fantastic option as well.

1 large cipolini onion, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
4-6 large Roma tomatoes (or other meaty vs. juicy tomatoes), large diced
Salt and black pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil

Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a pan until shimmering. Add the onion, cook, stirring occasionally for 3, add the garlic and continue cooking until the garlic becomes aromatic and tender. Add the tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes soften but are not falling apart. Season with salt, pepper and basil, allow to cook for just a few moments more then finish with 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Serve over warmed ciabatta rolls or lightly toasted slices.


Zucchini Tomato Stove Top Gratin

This is a stove-top gratin, made in a pan, in less time than it takes to pre-heat an oven. For that reason I think of it as a “summer” gratin partially because it features summer-ripe foods and partially because it’s quick and easy to make during hot weather without firing up the oven. Just that little handful of olives really brings a nice flavor to the dish, and the breadcrumbs and cheese provide just enough texture to barely hold it all together, so that it's still light and summery.
2 zuchhini, sliced ½ inch thick
2 plum tomatoes, sliced ½ inch thick
6-8 kalamatta olives, pitted, sliced
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp seasoned bread crumbs
Shredded parmesan reggiano or mozzarella cheese (or a combo)

In a large skillet heat 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over medium high heat. When the oil is hot (but not smoking) arrange the zucchini and tomato slices overlapping and alternating, in a spiral pattern starting from the outside edge of the pan until you cover the entire surface of the pan. Do not shake or stir. Season with salt and pepper, and basil. Sprinkle bread crumbs and shredded cheese over the top. Continue cooking over medium heat until the cheese is well melted and begins to brown around the edges. Cut into four wedges with a spatula and serve immediately.

Cucumber jalapono soup w herbed goat chz
Cucumber Jalapeno Soup with Herbed Goat Cheese
The goat cheese really does bring something to pull this soup together. It’s good without it, but it’s better with. A vegan version of this no-cook soup is easily adapted by using soy yogurt/sour cream and the vegan herbed “feta” cheese that’s widely available in many natural foods markets. Keep the seeds in the jalapenos for a spicier soup, this version is mild enough to serve everyone.

4 garden cucumbers, seeded, peeled and roughly chopped
1 green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 jalapeno peppers, 2 seeded, all chopped
1 cup fresh parsley
¼ cup fresh dill
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Juice from 2 lemons
½ cup plain greek style yogurt
½ cup sour cream
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 6 oz pkg of herbed goat cheese (or flavor plain goat cheese with lemon zest, black pepper, parsley and dill)
Salt and pepper

In a large blender (or in two batches) combine all of the ingredients adding the yogurt, sour cream, lemon juice and olive oil in first. Then the cucumbers and the rest. Puree until smooth and pour into a large bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes to allow flavors to meld. Before serving, stir well and check the seasonings, you may want to add more cayenne, salt, pepper or lemon juice. Ladle soup into bowls and drop dollops of herbed goat cheese on top of each bowl. Garnish with the zest of a lemon and a sprig of dill.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

September Life Chef Schedule

Catch these September Life Chef Classes & Demos!

Saturday Sept. 12
Late Summer Harvest featuring the season's freshest produce "What's Cooking?" class at Sevananda Natural Foods Market.
10 a.m. to noon, in the Education Room
$10 for members, $12 for non members

Saturday Sept. 19
Kids Can Cook "Operation Zero" to combat obesity in youth at Kaiser Permanente Cascade facility
9 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Saturday Sept. 26
FREE Healthy Cooking Class at Saint Philip AME Church
11 a.m. - 1 p.m. in the Youth Cafe

If your employer is listed below, you can catch me at these corporate functions!

Friday Sept. 18
Art of Healthy Cooking Demo for Kaiser Permanente
Delta Dental
noon - 12:45

Tuesday, Sept. 22
Art of Healthy Cooking Demo for Kaiser Permanente
Atlanta Food Bank
10 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 24
Art of Healthy Cooking Demo for Kaiser Permanente
Families First
11-noon and 1-2 pm

Visit www.lifechef.net for recipes and more!
Get the latest Life Chef news and views by following Chef Asata on Twitter & Facebook

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Recipe Round Up - Summer 2009

What an amazing summer! It's been incredible seeing you all at the Green Market at Piedmont Park, FREE monthly healthy cooking classes at Saint Philip AME Church, the National Black Arts Festival demos, lots of on-the-job lunch and learns and the Art of Healthy Cooking classes presented by Kaiser Permanente, KIDS CAN COOK sessions at the Atlanta Fulton County Public Library, as well as the monthly the "What's Cooking?" class at Sevananda Natural Foods Market... and more! I've barely had time to wash dishes, much less blog, but I've promised the recipes all summer long, and now here they finally are. Thanks for being patient, and please let me know how they turn out for you.

Yours in health and good taste,
Asata, your Life Chef

Watermelon jalepeno salas
3 jalapenos, seeded and diced
juice from 3 limes
1 bunch cilantro
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/2 small seedless watermelon, cut into cubes
1 bag mixed lettuces
6-8 oz feta cheese, crumbled
salt and pepper

In a large bowl combine jalapenos, lime juice, olive oil, cilantro and salt and pepper. Stir will. Toss in the watermelon and salad greens. Top with feta cheese and serve.

Warm blackeyedpea salas
1 white onion, diced
3 cloves garlic
2 bay leaves
1 16 oz bag frozen black eyed peas
1/3 each red, yellow and green bell peppers, diced
2 links andouille sausage, small cubes
2 jalepenos, seeded and diced
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp cayenne
2 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
juice from one lemon
2 Tbs fresh parsley leaves
salt and pepper

Saute onion and garlic in a large pot until tender, add frozen black eyed peas, bay leaf and enough water to cover by two inches. Season with salt and pepper. Bring peas to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes or until tender but not mushy. Drain and discard bay leaves.

In a large pan, saute sausage with bell peppers and jalepeno. Add cumin and cayenne. Stir in the cooked beans. Prior to serving stir in lemon juice and garnish with parsley.

Click here for the recipe

Click here for the recipe


1 pineapple, peeled and sliced
2 mangos, peeled and sliced
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 large vine ripened tomatoes, diced
1 jalepeno, seeded and diced
1 bunch scallions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
juice from 2 limes
salt and pepper

Toss pineapple and mango slices with balsamic vinegar and cook on grill or griddle 3 minutes on each side. Set aside to cool, then cut into medium dice.

Combine the tomatoes, jalepeno, scallions and cilantro with the lime juice and season with salt and pepper. Toss in the grilled fruit, chill and stir prior to serving with grilled meats, fish or tortilla chips.

Click here for recipe

Photo-0151.jpegClick here for the recipe

Click here for the recipe

Fruit pizza

1 multigrain pre-cooked pizza crust
1 8 oz pkg whipped cream cheese (plain or flavored)
an assortment of fruits, sliced into bite sized pieces
Honey or agave nectar

Spread cream cheese onto the top of the pizza crust.
Arrange the fruit in a creative pattern with no spaces in between.
Drizzle lightly with honey or agave nectar.
Slice like a pizza and enjoy!


(image by torani italian sodas)

Fill a tall glass 2/3 full with ice cubes.
Pour half full with club soda or sparkling mineral water.
Top off with an all-natural dark berry juice blend such as cran-blueberry.
Stir and enjoy the refreshing burst of antioxidants and flavor!

Thank You!

Thanks to everyone who has come out to the recent demos and classes! It's been a busy summer and I know I've promised some recipes! So bear with me just a few more moments while I get it all together. Recipe post coming soon!

Monday, July 27, 2009

FREE chef demos @ NBAF this weekend

Meet me at the festival! FREE chef demos from myself and other chefs at the National Black Arts Festival Fri-Sun. Join us at the Publix Healthy Cooking Pavilion at Woodruff Arts Center and see for yourself how good healthy food can taste!