Sunday, June 29, 2008

Healthy Week Ahead

We're going low-cal this week...

Sunday - Asian shrimp noodle bowls
Monday - Spicy roasted veggies and chicken with bulgur
Tuesday - Split pea soup, salad
Wednesday - Creamy pasta "risotto" with broccoli and chicken

The rest of the week we'll be floatin' down the Ichnetucknee River. Happy birthday, America.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

What's for Dinner?

Sunday - Lemon-Basil Shrimp with Angel Hair, Traditional Bruschetta, simple salad
Monday - Grilled Herbed Chicken, Sauteed Summer Squash with Fresh Breadcrumbs & Parmesan, simple salad
Tuesday - Pork with Orange-Soy-Ginger Glaze, Tomato-Spinach Couscous
Wednesday - Patty Melts, Sweet Potato Fries, sauteed spinach
Thursday - ???

Friday, June 20, 2008


Would you think I was crazy if I told you I found my restaurant soulmate? Because I think I may have. There are two restaurants in northern California that I feel a deep affinity for. The only thing is, I've never been to either one. (OK, now you really think I'm crazy.) I can't even remember how I found out about sister restaurants Zazu and Bovolo, but I think they are places where I could go again and again and never get bored. I subscribed to their email lists just so I could read about their monthly specials and imagine I'm not thousands of miles away from there.

If I were to list everything I love about these places, you'd be reading this for 45 minutes. So I'll just touch on the best points. Chef/owners John Stewart and Duskie Estes grow much of what they cook and serve and are considered pioneers of the slow food movement. They use local artisinal cheese and local wine (they're in the Napa Valley), and they make their own salumi (which may be my favorite part). The food at both looks uncomplicated and fresh. But really, I think the best part about these restaurants is that they just seem friendly. Bovolo holds family-style dinners once a month. They offer reasonably priced bottles of wine (many under $30, and always a
$5 glass of red and white). And they make their own salumi! (I know I already said it, but I can't hide my passion for cured pork.)

mean, how can you not fall head-over-heels for a place that serves stuff like this...

zazu cured duck prosciutto - charentais melon, hand torn basil
grilled sweet corn, cascabel chili butter
j.b.'s slow roasted balsamic pork shoulder - melting onions, mashed potatoes
apple fritters, maple crème fraiche

grilled tiny octopus on a fat slice of grilled bread, preserved lemon
pork cheek sandwich

And almost every delicious morsel comes from somewhere within a 50-mile radius of the place. It just doesn't get much better than this. Sigh. I must make it to nothern California sooner rather than later to eat at Zazu and Bovolo. I may buy a house around the corner. There's no telling.

(all photos from and

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Breakfast, To Go

There might be three words that seem to be the key to maintaining a healthy weight, having energy in the morning, and starting your day off right. Don't. Skip. Breakfast. Even Jason, who used to claim he "just wasn't a breakfast person" has noticed a difference since he started eating a regular morning meal.

Though it can take an extra few minutes in your morning routine, breakfast is something everyone should make time for. And making something portable for breakfast is always a good idea—either something that you can eat at your desk, or even better, as you walk out the door/in your car/on the train.

Breakfast sandwiches are nothing new. Actually, some of the absolute worst-for-you breakfasts are contained in sandwiches. But the concept is, well, pretty brilliant. While most of us are familiar with the savory bacon-egg-and-cheese bagels or sausage biscuits, I bet you haven't seen many sandwiches that lean toward the sweet side of things.

I made this recipe to accomplish a laundry list of ideal breakfast goals. Filling but not heavy, check. Nutritious, check. Protein-plus-grain, check. It also hits the all-important mobile breakfast quality—you can eat it with one hand. Good morning!

Peanut-Butter Waffle Breakfast Sammy
makes 1 sandwich

2 whole-grain waffles (such as Van’s)
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1/2 banana, sliced or 6 thin apple slices
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Toast waffles and top each half with one tablespoon of peanut butter. Top one half with banana or apple slices, sprinkle with cinnamon, and top with other waffle.

Le Menu

Sunday – Pizza Margherita, simple green salad
Monday – Summery Grilled Shrimp, sautéed corn, green salad with Lime-Garlic Vinaigrette
Tuesday – Southwestern-spiced burgers, Guacamole Salad
Wednesday – Sweet and smoky pork paillards, creamy slaw, whole-wheat couscous
ThursdayChicken Provençal, roasted potatoes & broccoli

Friday, June 13, 2008

Deliciously Healthy

As some of you know, for my master's thesis, I created a healthy eating magazine for parents with young kids. I developed a handful of healthy but yummy recipes that would get lots of good-for-you things into kids but still taste delish.

They were a hit with my tasters (a bunch of 13-year-olds) and I think they do a pretty good job of being healthy. But just because kids would like them doesn't mean grownups won't. I had sort of forgotten about these recipes, but now that it's so darn hot outside, lighter, healthier fare just seems appropriate. Hope you enjoy!

Sweet and Savory Chicken salad
serves 4
1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 cups chicken broth
1/3 cup low-fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup fat-free plain yogurt
1 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons agave nectar*
1/2 apple, diced
1/4 cup dried cranberries or raisins
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

  1. Place chicken breast in shallow pan. Add chicken broth and enough water to cover. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer 5 minutes. Turn off heat, and allow chicken to cook 10 minutes more, or until the middle is no longer pink.
  2. While chicken cooks, whisk together mayonnaise, yogurt, lemon juice, and agave nectar in a large bowl.
  3. Remove chicken from broth, and set aside until cool enough to handle. When cool, cut chicken into bite-size cubes, and place in bowl. Add fruits, almonds, salt, and pepper, and stir to combine. Refrigerate for 30 minutes before serving.
  4. To pack for lunch, put 1 cup of the chicken salad inside a whole-wheat pita pocket or place leaves of bibb lettuce at the bottom of a resealable plastic container, and mound 1 cup of chicken salad on top.
*Agave nectar is a sweetener made from the agave plant that doesn’t cause spikes in blood sugar. You can substitute with honey.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Spice Road

I have always wanted to go to India. The colors, the smells, the tastes seem so exotic, so all-consuming. From the vibrant marigold garlands to the brilliant magenta and turquoise silks to the ever-present aroma of spices in the air, India has always been a place that intrigues me. And the food. Ah, the palak paneer, tandoori chicken, chutneys, dal, naan bread,'s just all too good.

The beauty of Indian food is in its complexity. It's piquant and full-flavored and absolutely delicious. Curry powder alone usually has at least 5 or 6 different spices in it, such a
s cardamom, ginger, coriander, turmeric, cumin, mustard seed, fennel...bland is one thing Indian food definitely is not. But with all those spices comes a lot of intricacy in the kitchen. Indian food is not known for its ease of preparation.

I must admit I'm not a food purist. While I'd like to think that I could spend an afternoon carefully toasting and grinding my own perfect curry blend, let's keep it real.
I don't have many days with afternoons blocked off just for spice blending. And during the week, when I come home in the evenings, I want something on my plate in 30 minutes. So out of my impatience in the kitchen, I've created a few shortcut meals that—I hope—give the same flavors as the original in a lot less time. Here's my take on Indian curry.

Crazy-Quick Curry

serves 2 with leftovers
Serve this with brown or white rice and a simple salad of fresh summer-sweet tomatoes and crisp cucumbers.
A really good, fresh purchased curry powder does make a difference and is better that a cheap-o brand that's been sitting in your pantry for 2 years.

1 tablespoon olive or vegetable oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
1 big pinch kosher salt
1 jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped

1 (1-inch) piece ginger, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup coconut milk (lite is fine)
1/4 cup chicken broth
2/3 pound chicken tenders, cut into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup frozen peas
kosher salt, to taste
ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, or until onions are soft and golden. Add jalapeno, ginger, and garlic, and stir to combine. Cook mixture for 3 minutes, or until very fragrant.

Add curry powder and tomato paste, and stir to fully combine. Mixture will look dry. Add coconut milk and broth, and stir well. Simmer sauce until thickened slightly, about 3 minutes. Add chicken, and stir to coat in sauce. Simmer for 5 minutes, or until chicken is fully cooked. Add peas, and simmer mixture until peas are heated through and everything is combined.

Taste, and add salt and pepper. Serve over warm rice.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Te Quiero, Mexico

I fell in love in Mexico. Head over heels. It was more than a schoolgirl crush. I fell hard and fast...for a tamale. When the small lady with the big white bucket showed up at our door, I had no idea what I was in store for. And then she said the word. "Tamale?" she asked. "Oh yes!" I couldn't hide the sheer joy in my voice. I rushed in to grab my wallet. "Cuanto?" I asked. "Diez pesos." Diez? As in ten? As in
one dollar? "Ummmm, quatro." I couldn't help myself. I had to try them all.

As I unwrapped my little present, the aroma of chiles and tomato wafted up. The warm corn masa was soft and pillowy. Just inside lay the most delicious carnitas I have ever tasted. I was instantly smitten. Spicy and meaty and was just incredible. I had the next one, filled with cheese and chiles. Then another—chicken. I could have had 3 more.

She came back, my tamale lady. Every day. On the last day, I feared I'd missed her visit to our villa. She hadn't been by, so I thought she must have taken the day off. But as we walked up the beach, I spotted her. Releived, I bought my last two tamales, and thanked her profusely for making one of the best things I've ever eaten. I never found out her name, but that's OK. She'll always be the tamale lady to me.

These are a few of my favorite things...

Just a few things that are inspiring me right now…

I found Hint water more than a year ago as I was working on my master’s thesis (healthy eating for kids, and whatnot). It’s flavored but not sweetened. I mean, how has no one thought of this before? I have yet to find it at any store near me, but every time I go into Whole Foods, I leave a little comment in their suggestions box and ask them to consider carrying it. The mango-grapefruit sounds the best. Keep an eye out for it and let me know if you try it.

Heidi from posted this sushi bowl and now I can’t stop thinking about it.

In November I’m heading to New Orleans for the wonderful Miss Peyton’s Bachelorette extravaganza. It may be nearly 5 months away, but I think about what we’ll eat on a daily basis. One of our stops must include a meal at Cochon. Pure pig heaven.

This is not directly food related, but I have been so enchanted by my dear friend Maggie’s sweet angel of a daughter, Annie. She’s got her first tooth, which means she is well on her way to eating yummy things. And she already loves avocados—a girl after my own heart.

Matt Armendariz is a phenomenal food photographer (and stylist, I think). I am completely obsessed with his web site and his blog. It’s total eye candy. (See below.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Meals for the Week

Sunday – Roast chicken, simple salad, tomato cous cous
Monday – Caesar salad with warm chicken and roasted tomato crostini
Tuesday – Grilled lemon chicken on garlicky croutons, sautéed spinach
Wednesday – Smoky rotini with white beans, chicken, tomatoes and spinach
Thursday – Chicken Curry, brown rice, tomato & cucumber salad