Saturday, November 23, 2013

Week J - Spice it up with Jalapeno

Jalapeno a Day Keeps the Doctor away

Jalapenos are native to Xalapa, Mexico. They can add a spicy or smoky flavor to a variety of dishes, and they are jam packed with health benefits! 

Capsaisan is an active compound found in chile peppers that hold the spice of the pepper. From building a strong immune system, unblocking nasal congestion, cancer fighting, weight loss, blood pressure reduction there are many medicinal benefits to adding this sweet spicy pepper to your diet. 

When you are at the grocery store, the spicier peppers will be more mature and packed with that spicy punch!

Sadly my photos were lost, but I have a deliciously simple Italian inspired soup that will spice up a cold night.

Spicy Tomato Fennel Soup

  • 3 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 small yellow onion, diced 1/4"
  • 3 garlic bulbs, minced
  • 5 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 large fennel bulb, diced 1/4" (4 cups)
  • 1/2 jalapeno, you can seed or keep seeds in; depending on how spicy you want the soup, minced
  • 2 Tbs. sherry vinegar
  • 4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 28-oz. can crushed tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
  • 3 Tofuky Chick'n Apple Sausage, sliced into ½-inch-thick rounds (2 cups) - if you aren't veggie, chicken apple sausage works too.
  • 3 Tbs. chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste (approximately 1 tsp salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper, fresh ground)
1. Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add diced onions and sauté until translucent. 
2. Continue by adding fennel, and sauté 3 to 5 minutes. Add in mushrooms and continue to cook down the mushrooms, letting the waters from the mushrooms release. You might need to add a little more oil, as the mushrooms need the oil once the water has evaporated. Add in garlic and jalapeno. Continue to gently sauté
3. Add tomatoes and sherry vinegar, to help delgaze if any fonds that start to stick to the pot. This will absorb the flavors into the tomatoes. After a minute add the vegetable broth and parsley; cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer 15 minutes. 
4. In a separate pan, preferably iron skillet, heat pan with a table spoon of oil on a medium high heat. Add the sausage and let the first side brown, then repeat on flipping the sausage to the second side. Once this is complete, remove from heat and place in a separate bowl to add the soup once it has reduced. I place these in later because they are made with wheat; they do not hold the same way a meat fill sausage would. Plus the browning from the skillet keeps the firm texture to the sausage. mmmm...
5. Right before serving, stir in sausages and cook 5 to 7 minutes.
6. Garnish with fresh parsley and Parmesan Cheese. 
Option: Serve with a fresh olive bread and enjoy!! 

Here are some links to the health benefits of jalapenos:

Monday, September 6, 2010

Week I - Innovate with your Imagination!

The Letter I stumped me for nutritious ingredient starting with the letter "I". Sure we could look at Idaho Potatoes or Italian Eggplant, but what was the point when I could feature them as "corn" or "eggplant" with out a country representing?

Stumped for a few months... I came home the other night after a long day at work in the kitchen. My fridge was looking a bit bare, but there were leftovers and random vegetables amongst other ingredients to make something delicious and nutritious for dinner. I decided to graze the contents of my refrigerator and let my imagination go to work. It was settled, we were going to have BBQ Tofu Sandwiches. Once I figured out the meal it came to me in a flash! This week is dedicated to using our imaginations, being inventive and improvising with what we have available to us. I was super excited to see what can come together. 

I started to grab fried rice we had made the night before, freshly made tofu from the Korean Market, BBQ sauce, panko bread crumbs, and a little egg to keep them together.  My sweetie shaped a beautiful large Spanish Tortilla like pattie. Once it was cooked through we cut it in four quarters and voila!  We made breaded BBQ tofu patties and serve it on some delicious whole grain bread with fresh heirloom tomatoes from the farmers market and a delicious cabbage slaw already made from the night before.  Purrrfect!!  

What will you make?

Ingredients:  (I will list our ingredients with out measurements. Its up to you to create it how you like it!)
Two small tofu loafs
Fried Rice with edamame, carrots and red onions
BBQ Sauce (approx 1 Cup)
3 Eggs, whipped
1-2 Tablespoons  chili paste
fresh basil leaves, chopped 
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp sweet spice mix (basil, thyme, oregano, paprika)
salt & pepper
3 Tbsp Vegetable oil (sunflower, safflower, grapeseed)

  1. Get out a large mixing bowl. With clean hands, crush tofu until there are no chunks.
  2. Mix in fried rice, BBQ sauce, bread crumbs, basil and spices.
  3. Continue to mix until all the ingredients are incorporated together.
  4. Wash hands and whisk eggs in separate bowl. Slowly pour the egg, while mixing, into the large mixing bowl.
  5. Using a large non stick skillet, turn on to a medium high heat to get your pan nice and hot. 
  6. Add vegetable oil to skillet and scoop the filling into the pan and form into patty.
  7. Once one side is completely cooked through (5-7 min), take a dinner plate and cover the top of the pan. Using a towel to protect your hands, turn the pan over onto the plate. Place the pan back on the heat and slowly slip the patty back into the skillet. Slowly is the key word. Guide it with a spatula or utensil if needed. We don't want it to break after all your hard work!
**we attempted to make small patties with the panko on the outside but the broke, so with our improvisational minds we mixed it all back in to make one giant patty. Its up to you!!

**If you decided to do this as single patties: 

    1. Scoop a golf ball amount of mixture into hand and roll it into a ball.  
    2. Roll the ball in the egg.
    3. Place the panko bread crumbs spread out on a plate. Place the ball on the plate, roll it, then shape it into a hockey puck size width and height fully breaded.**

photo found from website:,imagination/?perpage=18

Monday, May 31, 2010

Week H - Hazelnut & Cherry Bruschetta

Yesterday at the farmers market every where I looked I saw cherries!! Plump and delicious cherries! I thought to myself what delicious early summer dish can I make with this beautiful fruit?  The signs were all there. There was a short cooking demo and I couldn't help to think what is missing from this cherry relish? Hazelnuts!! The magical nut! There it came to me, cherry and hazelnut bruschetta with no other but the Cypress Grove goat cheese...mmmmmm... This is a great appetizer for a summer BBQ, picnic or dinner.

In many European countries, such as Switzerland, hazelnuts are consumed regularly the way we obsess over almonds in the United States. Only in the past few hundred years have hazelnuts been cultivated in the Northwest of the United States.
Have you ever thought to connect the shape and health benefits of a specific a nut? Doesn't the Hazelnut look like the heart? Well it is said that Hazelnuts have been deemed the most beneficial nut for heart health. Hazelnuts are high in oleic acid, a monounsaturated fatty acid that helps to lower cholesterol.  Hazelnuts lower blood pressure because of minerals such as calcium, magnesium, and potassium.  Hazelnuts contain cardioprotective arginine, an amino acid that relaxes blood vessels. Hazelnuts are rich in oil. It is said that 60-70 % of hazelnut consists of oil. This structure provides not only energy to organisms, but also another beneficial acid in hazelnut oil is Linoleic Acid which can be found heavily in hazelnut oil.
Now lets take a bite!

Cherry Hazelnut Bruschetta

Ingredients about 10 pieces 

2 Cups cherries, chopped small
1/2 Cup shallots, minced
2 Tbsp basil, chiffaunade (thin ribbon like strips)
2 tsp red wine vinegar
1/4 Cup hazelnuts, toasted, roughly chopped 
pinch cayenne peper, ground
to taste sea salt, fine
to taste black pepper, fresh ground fine
drizzle extra virgin olive oil

1 loaf baguette, toasted
1 round loaf goat cheese - If you are in the Bay Area I love Cypress Grove, Chevre 


1) Preheat oven to 275F. Toast Hazelnuts for approximately 20 minutes. After 10 minutes, gently toss the nuts to allow for all sides to evenly toast. 
*If you have a toaster oven it is much more energy efficient to toast the baguette and hazelnuts. For toaster oven: toast nuts at 325F for approximately 5-7 minutes, check regularly to be sure they do not burn. They can go from toasty to scorched in seconds. Toast baguette and set to side.
2) Mean while, using a mixing bowl, add the cherries, shallots, red wine vinegar, cayenne, salt, pepper and basil. Mix thoroughly and season to taste. 
3) Once the hazelnuts are toasted roughly chop and mix in with cherry mixture. 
4) Spread goat cheese onto the crostini and top with a little extra hazel nut or basil for garnish.

Bon Appetito!!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Week G - Let's Goji Berry

Goji Berry Gyoza
It was a snowy night in the sweet country of Utah when I decided to try something different for dinner with my lovely Hanks family. It was a fun group project. We made an assembly line. One person cut the dough and   rolled out circles, the next added the stuffing and followed down the line pinching ends together perfectly.  It makes eating them that much more rewarding! We spoke of the magic the Himalayan berry provides. The goji berry has been used in the countries surrounding the Himalayas for thousands of years. It is said that the Himalayans were the first natural healers, and that   they shared their wisdom with the ancient herbalists of China, Tibet, and India. One of their most prized secrets was the fruit of the native goji vine, which had been flourishing in the Himalayan valleys since the beginning of time. The remarkable goji berry are awed by its unmatched health-promoting powers.
Some of the legendary health giving properties of the goji berry are: Weight Loss, Free Radical Prevention,   Enhanced Immune Response, and Anti-Fatigue Effects that also help with healthy memory and brain activity.

Goji Berry Gyoza Dumplings
Serves 6-8
Step 1 - Dumpling Wrapper
2 cups   unbleached flour, sift
1/4 tsp   sea salt, fine
1/4 cup  warm water, not boiled

1)  Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add sea salt to flour. Lightly stir together with wooden spoon. Make a hole in the middle of the bowl and slowly stream in the water while mixing with wooden spoon. Be careful not to over mix.
2)  Cover dough with a clean towel and let the dough set for 45 minutes at room   temperature.
3)  Once the dough has set, roll into a long log about 1" around.
4)  Cut the dough into 1/2" pieces. Roll into small balls.
5)  Dust the dry surface with flour and roll out the dough with your rolling pin into small flat disks. Place onto a dusted sheet pan or plate until its time to stuff the dumplings!

Step 2 - Goji Stuffing Mixture
1 med     carrot, shredded
1 cup      napa cabbage, shredded thin
1 Tbsp   garlic, minced
1 Tbsp   ginger, minced
1/4 cup  goji berries, hydrate in warm water for 10 minutes
1 cup     tofu firm, crumbled (or desired protein)
2-3 Tbsp  soy sauce
2 Tbsp   sesame oil
1)  On a medium-high heat add oil to a medium sized sautee pan.
2)  Add garlic and ginger and sautee until fragrant. Then add the tofu and continue to sautee for another 2 minutes. This allows the water from the tofu to absorb.
3)  Add the carrots, cabbage, goji berries and soy sauce. Sautee for another minute or until the cabbage and carrots are soft.
4)  Place in dish and set in refrigerator to cool.

Step 3 - While the mix is cooling:
Start your steamer.  There are many types of steamers, most commonly used is the stainless steel steamer.    There are plenty to choose from. My favorite is the bamboo steamer.
The most important aspect for this use is to create a cover over the steamer and a great use is cabbage leaf,   chard, lettuce or parchment paper. Up to you, but since we are using cabbage I suggest keeping a few to the side for your steamer.

Step 4 - Now that the mix has cooled:
1) Add a spoonful of mixture. Fold in half. Press edges together and pinch closed.
2) Place dumplings in steamer on high for approximately 3 minutes.
3) Heat frying pan on high heat and add vegetable oil. Get the oil hot, but not smoking, then place the dumplings in the oil. Be sure to move the dumpling around so not to stick.
4) Fry until golden brown and serve immediately with the Dipping Sauce.

Step 5 - Chili Ginger Dipping Sauce
1/4 Cup low sodium soy sauce
3 Tbsp  rice vinegar
2 Tbsp  mirin or sake
1 1/4    sesame oil
1 tsp     honey
1 tsp     ginger, grated
1 tsp     garlic, minced
1/2 tsp  chili paste or 1 tsp chili oil
green onion, sliced thin
toasted sesame seeds
1)  Whisk all ingredients together in mixing bowl. Place in serving dish and garnish with green onion and sesame seeds

Friday, May 7, 2010

Week G - Tea Time! Go Ji Berry Tea

A month ago I was at my dear friend's baby shower, who are now proud parents of a beautiful baby girl. As a gift to all of their friends they sent us home with a wonderful tea that just happened to have Go Ji Berries. How perfect to go along with Week G! Each ingredient is dense with all sorts of health benefits. Thank you Bettina! Bettina is also a practicing acupuncturist. I highly recommend her if you are based locally in the Bay Area. She is amazing!

To find out more about her practice please take a look at her website:

Tea Time!

Make the tea with the following dry ingredients:
Go Ji Berries (she taught me how to spell it properly)
Chrysanthemum flowers
Peach Pit

Health Benefits:
Go Ji Berries - nourish blood and benefit the eyes, good for people who exert themsleves too much either physically or mentally, don't we all? again, good for people who overuse the computer to nourish their eyes
Chrysanthemum flowers - disperse wind and clear heat, which is helpful with fever and headache, it further clears the Liver and eyes, good for red, painful, itchy, burning eyes due to allergy or dry eyes due to staring at the computer lot
Peach Pit - moves the intestines and unblocks the bowels as well as breaking up blood stasis- good for constipation and painful menstrual problems

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Week F- The Food Mill: A Look into Our Local Grocery Stores

Last year I moved out of San Francisco to settle in Oakland. I have found quite a affinity for the life style over here, and my hobby is finding all the local health food stores from El Cerrito to Oakland!

In honor of Week F - I thought to introduce The Food Mill to those of you who have not had the opportunity to check it out. I was pleasantly surprised to find an array of bulk spices, herbs, dried fruit, sweet goodies as well as a large supplement selection. You can also make your own nut butters there too!
Their website has a plethora of information from nutritional guidance to yummy recipes.

3033 MacArthur Boulevard
Oakland CA 94602

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Week F - Feeling the Fennel

Fennel offers an aromatic unique flavor and a wealth of medicinal purposes similar to anise and licorice. A part of the Umbelliferae family, fennel is a relative to celery, carrots and parsley. Do we see anything in common here? Maybe Vitamin C?
Let's also note a great source for potassium and dietary fibers, phosphorus, folic acid, and minerals.
I found a great web site called Organic Facts that shares great information on the health benefits of fennel.
Symptoms of the to relieve intestinal spasms, strengthens the stomach and helps ease constipation. Helps reduce PMS symptoms, Colic babies, eye care, respiratory conditions and more. Please check the web address listed below. Great website. Now lets make some soup!!

Creamy Fennel and Celery Root Soup with Rosemary Lavash Crackers

Ingredients 8 servings

1Tbsp fennel seeds
1Tbsp olive oil
2 med fennel bulbs, quartered, cored and coarsely chopped, feathery fronds from 1 bulb
2 stalks celery ribs, coarsely chopped
1 med yellow onion, coarsely chopped (approximately 1 cup)
1/2 Cup dry white wine
5 Cup vegetable stock, homemade see Beet Risotto recipe for details:
1 med celery root, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 med potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled
Bouquet garni:
5 flat-leaf parsley stems, 2 fresh thyme sprigs and 1 bay leaf, tied with string
to taste sea salt and pepper

1) In small skillet, toast fennel seeds over med-hi heat, tossing frequently, until fragrant, about 1 min.
2) Let cool then transfer to spice grinder and finely grind. In large pot, heat oil over med heat.
Add chopped fennel bulb, celery and onion, and cook, stirring often, until veg are softened, about 7 minutes.
3) Add wine, increase heat to high and boil until almost all liquid has eveporated, about 5 min.
4) Add stock, celery root, potato and garlic and bouquet garni. Bring to a gentle simmer over med heat. Reduce heat to med-low and simmer until vegetables are very soft, about 45 min. Remove Bouquet garni.
5) Working in batches, puree soup in food processor or blender and return to pot.
6) Season w/salt and pepper.

Rosemary Garlic Lavash Crackers

3 lavash crackers, whole
2 Tbsp garlic, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp rosemary, dried
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp Italian spice mix
to taste sea salt, fine

1) Preheat oven to 350F. Place lavash bread straight onto rack in the oven. Bake for 5-7 minutes depending on oven. You want a hard cracker like texture. Once the lavash is baked, place on cooling rack.
2) Meanwhile, heat small sauce pan with butter and olive oil. When the butter is melted add the garlic and lightly blanch it. Then add the spices and remove from heat.
3) Brush the mixture across the entire bread. If you want to add a little more flavor add a hard cheese and finely shredded it over the cracker before breaking into bite size pieces.