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!