Food Buzz


Monday, November 29, 2010

Warm food, cold weather and happy family. Gobble gobble!

This past week I spent five days in Big Bear with my family for Thanksgiving.  It went from cold to colder to 3 inches of snow while we were there, but the days felt warm while we spent time enjoying each other's company and the insane amount of Thanksgiving food that we prepared.  What a feast!

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays!  It is a time to remember how thankful we are for health, family, friends, and life in general.  It is also a time to eat like a pig.  What a combination!

Traditionally, Thanksgiving is a time for us make many dishes that have been part of the family for years, and then I typically add one or two new dishes to make it interesting.  I can always count on my brother in law to make a brussels sprouts dish (before eating his sprouts, I told people I was allergic to avoid having to taste them, now I crave them!), my sister's cranberry chutney (this year pomegranate seeds were added for a great tart crunch) and my dad's rutabaga (he mashed them with potatoes this year for a new version of the savory treat).

I always make mom's stuffing (this year subtracting one stick of butter to make it "healthier"), not one, but two small turkeys with an herb butter spread under the skin, bourbon sweet potatoes with walnuts, just like last year.  I added for a fresh twist: baked buttermilk biscuits that came out really great, Giada's spicy parmesan string beans and kale, gravy and for dessert an apple and a pumpkin pie with cinnamon spiced whipped cream.  To save on time and frustration, I bought crust for the apple and made one for the pumpkin pie.  Home made crust really is better.

Did I tell you all of this food was for just four people (and one six month old who is just starting solid foods)?  Yeah, we ate well for three days and there were leftovers when I left to come back to LA.  Time to get back to eating healthy!

Here are some photos of the spread...  Pretty proud of this year's feast!

What were some of your favorites at dinner this year???

Chow for Now! :)

*** Stay tuned for some exciting website news about Chow for Now personal chef service!***

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Please vote for me (and Murphy!) so I can win a KitchenAid mixer!


The economy sucks, I am trying to start a business (and don't have tons to spend on kitchen gadgets) and this chef does not own a KitchenAid stand mixer (insert sad music sound byte here).   If you don't already know, the KitchenAid mixer is sort of the Ferrari of kitchen mixers.  It is a must have for anyone who considers them a home cook, let alone a professional chef.  Here is a picture of one from

Isn't it purty?  And shiny?  And beautiful?  Well, I think so, too.  So, I want one and there is a very simple way for me to get one for FREE!  Remember the dessert tasting/cookbook signing I went to last week with the Bite Me sisters?  Well, in addition to their awesome book and recipes, they are running a very cool contest which I have entered but I need your votes to win!

If you could just go to this website and vote for me (my entry is the photo of my dog Murphy with the "Bite Me" sign on his sure to "like" the picture to make your vote count), and if I get the most votes, I will win!  I am currently losing to a very cute baby biting the Bite Me book, so I really need your help to reach the winner's circle!  Also, while you are on their site, be sure to check out the Bite Me Cookbook and their recipes.  They totally rock!

What's in it for you?  Well, you will have the joy of knowing that you have helped me to enhance my skills as a chef by giving me the top of the line equipment that I need! Isn't that enough?

Thanks for your help everyone!!  And speaking of "thanks,"  Happy Thanksgiving!!!

Chow for Now! :)

Friday, November 19, 2010

Surfa's + decadent sweets = this chef's fantasy!

Last night my friend and fellow blogger, Ellen, and I attended a great tasting/book signing at Surfa's.  For those of you who don't know of it, it's in Culver City and is basically a warehouse filled with chef porn.  You laugh, but if you are someone who must have the coolest new kitchen gadget or needs just about anything related to cooking or baking, including gourmet sauces, cheeses, vinegars, spices, candy making supplies, tableware, catering items, pots, pans, you name it, they've probably got it.  They also hold food related events year round.

This event was free (such a nice thing to find in LA) and was held by the Bite Me sisters, Lisa Gnat and Julie Albert.  The cute, funny and talented chefs have a new cookbook out and if all the recipes in the book are anything like the delicious fare we sampled last night, it is SURE to be a hit.

We got to try their "go to" cookie, cranberry white chocolate.  It was so tasty!  Crispy on the bottom, chewy on the inside and bursting with tart cranberries and sweet, delicious white chocolate.   This recipe is definitely something I will attempt for the holidays.

Julie holding a platter of amazing cranberry white chocolate cookies!
Apple cake with (wait for it.....).  Butterscotch sauce!!!  OMG.  This cake was moist and sweet and smelled of autumn spices.  The butterscotch sauce added an other layer of good stuff.  Being a huge fan of quick breads myself, I will try and recreate this one at home for sure. Forgot to take a pic :(

We also tried a decadent chocolate pecan pie.  I am not typically a fan of pecan pie but the addition of chocolate really put up a notch in my book.  Simple and decadent at the same time.

Chocolate pecan pie
Next up were two cupcake recipes.  The pumpkin cupcake was perfect, sweet, but not too sweet, great cinnamon and nutmeg flavor, moist and pretty to look at.  Making them in a mini muffin pan was genius.  They were adorable to look at and maybe you won't feel so bad popping two or three of those little guys in your mouth.  They would be a perfect addition to the Thanksgiving dessert table.

The secret of the s'mores cupcake is to bake the graham cracker cupcakes, then cut a small hole in top, fill with marshmallow fluff (yum!) and top with chocolate icing.  What a nice surprise inside!  They looked amazing, but unfortunately by then my sugar level had hit dangerous heights so I didn't get to try it.

The chefs gave great stories and also gave away "Bite Me" swag... I didn't win an apron or a book (bummer!), but I everyone in attendance received a Bite Me shopping bag filled with Surfa's goodies, including a couple of great kitchen tools (each bag was different, but I got a pastry scraper and a silicone basting brush, which I totally needed.)

I hope to buy this book some day to add to my collection, but until then I will savor the recipes which were shared at the event. And I plan on going back to Surfa's again to shop, taste and take a class... very soon.  Check out their schedule for more info!

Chow for now!  :)

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Did somebody say chili?

I haven't been eating a lot of meat...not a conscious decision but today my body was definitely craving it.  Since I have been trying to approach this holiday season as calorie conscious as possible, I wanted to have something on the leaner, healthier side so I found this great recipe for turkey and white bean chili!

I really wanted the chili to have a ground turkey base so I sauteed some in a pan with a little salt, pepper and cumin before adding it to the recipe.  It was a great addition and as it sits, it gets thicker and more delicious.

White Bean and Turkey Chili

original recipe from Cooking Light
Yield:  8 servings (serving size: about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 medium to large sweet onion (maui or vidalia)
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 (15.8-ounce) cans small white beans, cannelini beans or Great Northern beans, rinsed
4 cups fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
3 cups ground turkey, sauteed  with cumin and salt/pepper
1/2 cup diced seeded plum tomato (about 1)
1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. 
Add onion; sauté 10 minutes or until tender and golden. Add chili powder, garlic, and cumin; sauté for 2 minutes. Add oregano and beans; cook for 30 seconds. 
Add broth; bring to a simmer. Cook 20 minutes.
Place 2 cups of bean mixture in a blender or food processor, and process until smooth. Return pureed mixture to pan. 
Add turkey, and cook 5 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Remove from heat. Add diced tomato, chopped cilantro, lime juice, salt, and pepper, stirring well. Garnish with sour cream and corn tortilla chips!

I thought this chili was delicious!  Not too spicy not too mild, just right.  And it served its purpose - a hearty meaty meal full of flavor, without all the calories and fat of regular chili.
What are you craving these days?

Chow for now!  :)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Brunch with friends old and new

A  couple of months ago, my good friend and new mommy, Diana and I decided we needed to get friends together and cook for them.  Both of us are good cooks (if we do say so ourselves) and enjoy entertaining.  Also, Diana hasn't shown off her 6 month old baby Bryan to everyone yet.  So we decided to throw a little brunch get together today.  It went so well!  We cooked but it never felt like work, we cleaned up but did it together so it went by quickly.  Cooking and eating (and even clean up) is way better with company!

Here are a few pics of the goodies:

Dorie Greenspan's mushroom and shallot quiche (I added spinach) and berries with honeyed greek yogurt

Ina Garten's Cape Cod Salad

Crispy and flavorful potato hash and fragrant pumpkin muffins served with honey butter

moist and delicious buttermilk raspberry cake
Great girls, delicious food and a great afternoon.  I was excited to make pumpkin muffins (again) and decided to make them a little healthier - knocked out about 1/2 the oil and more than 1/3 of the sugar... still ended up delicious, without the guilt!  We ended up keeping the meal pretty light and none of us felt too full afterwards. We provided the right combination of sweet and savory.

I got the recipe from Kirbie's Cravings and when I just went to her site to pull the recipe up, I noticed that she has post titled CINNAMON SUGAR PUMPKIN DONUT MUFFINS... Aaaaaaah I gotta try those next!  !!!  Anyway, here is the recipe and I've noted in bold italics any changes I made.

Pumpkin Bread
(Kirbie says this makes 3-7x3 loaves... I say it makes 2-9x5 loaves OR 24 muffins OR 1 9x5 loaf and 12 muffins)

  1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin puree
  4 eggs
   1 cup vegetable oil (i used 1/2 cup oil, 1/2 cup no sugar added apple sauce)
   2/3 cup water
  3 cups white sugar (I used 1 c brown sugar, 2/3 cup white sugar - consistency didn't change at all)
   3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
   2 teaspoons baking soda
  1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (I used a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon)
   1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
   1/2 teaspoon ground cloves (I used a pinch - probably 1/2 tsp... not a huge clove fan)
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger (I didn't have ginger so left it out)

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Grease and flour three 7×3 inch loaf pans. (see above for other pan options)
  2. In a large bowl, mix together pumpkin puree, eggs, oil, water and sugar
    until well blended. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour,
    baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and ginger. Stir the dry
    ingredients into the pumpkin mixture until just blended. (I usually use the hand mixer here for a little bit because my flour mixture always clumps.  I only mix it until most of the clumps are out.) Pour into the prepared pans.
  3. Bake for about 50 minutes in the preheated oven. Loaves are done when
    toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.


What are some of your favorite brunch foods?  Feel free to share with me here!

Chow for now!  :)

Monday, November 8, 2010

Healthy comfort food does exist!

You may have noticed a trend in my posts recently... Lots of comfort food!  My guess is it's the time of year... I mean we all reach for comfort food in the fall and winter when the weather gets a little cooler and you feel like snuggling under a blanket instead of going out.   I figured if I am going to keep this up through the winter, my comfort food needs to be healthy... lower in fat and sugar and higher in fiber and vegetables!  I think I found my first truly healthy lasagna!

Cooking Light (online and magazine) has been a favorite of mine for years.  I especially love the magazine this time of year as they help us lighten up holiday dishes! They don't push "diet" foods, just healthier options.  They also profile exercise in addition to nutrition.  CL helps us to become less round and more well rounded. :)  I knew I could find some great comfort foods on the website.

My friend came over for dinner last night and we decided because of the cool night to make lasagna!  How can lasagna be healthy, you ask?  You do this by cutting out the whole milk cheeses, béchamel and high fat ground beef and including skim cheeses and making it a vegetarian dish, using butternut squash to bulk it up!  At only 254 calories, 8.5 grams of fat and 18.6 grams of protein per serving (if you follow the cooking light version of the recipe), you still get the lasagna taste without the lasagna hips.

I made some changes (shown in my version of the recipe below), such as roasting the squash instead of microwaving it, but kept it as close to the original as I could.

Butternut Squash Lasagna 
(original from

Yield:  2 lasagnas, 6 servings per 8x8 pan

Cooking spray
2 cups chopped onion
10 cups fresh spinach
3/4 cup (3 ounces) shredded mozzarella cheese (not pre-shredded)
1/2 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
2 (15-ounce) cartons part-skim ricotta cheese
3 cups diced peeled butternut squash
6 cups marinara sauce (I used CL's
smoky marinara sauce)
12 oven-ready lasagna noodles (such as Barilla)
1 cup (4 ounces) grated fresh Parmesan cheese

1. Preheat oven to 375°.
2. Place cubed butternut squash on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking spray and roast in the oven for about 20 minutes (check with a fork to see if it is tender).  Remove from the oven when done, season with salt and pepper and using a potato masher, mash until smooth.  Set aside.
3. Heat a large Dutch oven coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until tender. Add spinach; sauté 1 1/2 minutes or until spinach wilts. Combine mozzarella, parsley, salt, pepper, eggs, and ricotta cheese in a large bowl.
4. Coat the bottom and sides of 2 (8-inch-square) baking dishes with cooking spray. Spread 1/2 cup Smoky Marinara in the bottom of one prepared dish. Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup cheese mixture over noodles. Arrange 1 1/2 cups squash over cheese mixture; spread 3/4 cup sauce over squash.
5. Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup cheese mixture over the noodles. Arrange 1 1/2 cups onion mixture over cheese mixture; spread 3/4 cup sauce over spinach mixture.
6. Arrange 2 noodles over sauce; spread 1 cup Smoky Marinara evenly over noodles. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup Parmesan. Repeat procedure with remaining ingredients in remaining pan. Cover each pan with foil.
7. Bake at 375° for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes.
To freeze unbaked lasagna: Prepare through Step 6. Cover with plastic wrap, pressing to remove as much air as possible. Wrap with heavy-duty foil. Store in freezer for up to 2 months.
To prepare frozen unbaked lasagna: Thaw completely in refrigerator (about 24 hours). Preheat oven to 375º. Remove foil; reserve foil. Remove plastic wrap; discard wrap. Cover lasagna with reserved foil; bake at 375º for 1 hour. Uncover and bake an additional 30 minutes or until bubbly.

This lasagna is not your Italian grandmother's gooey, cheesy, meaty lasagna, but the flavors and textures are still there, and you can have a second serving (or dessert!) and not feel bad about it!

Do you wish you had a "lighter" version of a not so healthy family recipe?  Feel free to post here and I'll do my best to help make it a little healthier.

Chow for now!  :)

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Catch up: Greek food in class and comfort food with friends!

I definitely have to get back on the workout bandwagon if I want to stay at my current weight this holiday season.  It's barely November and I am already eating comfort food like it's going out of style!

Let's start with class this week.... After a couple of weeks of uninspired meals that were just sort of "eh," our group made up for it by making a delicious Greek meal!  Instead of each team making one dish to share with the whole class, each team made only enough food for themselves.  This meant serious teamwork and organization.  I think we did really well!

Our menu included tzatziki (which I have made before), Greek Salad, Spanikopitas and the grand finale, Moussaka.  Everything came out really delicious! Greek cuisine is known for it's use of fresh vegetables, olive oil, olives, lamb/poultry, nuts, honey and filo (phyllo) dough.  We incorporated many of these ingredients into our meal this week.

The Moussaka recipe was really quite delicious.  A total comfort food which has a similarity to the Irish Shepherd's Pie.  It's basically a layered dish of (from top to bottom) Bechamel Sauce, Meat sauce and eggplant.  Something you'd want to eat on a cold night with a fire going and a nice glass of red wine.

Speaking of comfort food, last night I had a wonderful dinner with my some (old and new) friends who are working on their culinary careers.  It was a potluck/networking/gossip session that was a total blast.  We will certainly have more of these dinners in the future!

We were asked by my friend and occasional cooking partner, Mandy to bring over something with an autumn theme so I decided a few days ago to make Chicken Pot Pie with autumn vegetables (from Anne Burrell of the Food Network).  Little did I know that it would be 95 degrees outside when I was cooking it.  Nevertheless, we all made some form of comfort food and were able to eat most of it despite the heat.  LA may not feel like it, but it is fall in our hearts.  Mandy has some great pics on her blog of everything we made. It was a feast.

It was my first time making a pie crust from scratch and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was.  I think  the most important suggestion I can make is not to handle the dough too much.  Only pulse it until it just comes together in the food processor.  Only knead it until it just looks like it's smooth. Less handling = tender, flaky crust.  I used some bits of the leftover dough to cut out leaves and make the top look pretty.  :) This recipe is a little time consuming but don't be afraid...  it is worth the effort!

What are some of your favorite fall comfort foods?  Feel free to share with me here!

Chow for Now! :)