Sunday, August 23, 2015

Veggies 'R Us!

Ah yes, as adults we know we need them but as kids we dread them (for the most part) but even though I do not have any kids myself, I see my friends struggle to get their kids to eat them. So I want to show you some tricks on how to get kids to enjoy veggies or at least try them. As a nurse I see all kinds of patients with different backgrounds- but the one thing that I can always teach is food and nutrition especially for chronic illnesses. With that said, I see how obesity in both adults and kids is probably the biggest problems that as Americans we face today. So why not take advantage and get your kids involved in the kitchen? Stop being lazy or scared!! Yes- I said that.. because it is the truth.

If we can engage kids early then we can change eating habits early and it then becomes engrained in them to make better choices as they venture off in school and social gatherings with other kids. We are the ones who can make it happen, because as they say- it all starts at home. Prior to becoming a nurse I obtained a degree in Hospitality Management. In the cooking classes I took, one thing always stood out. Colors and presentation will always prevail when you put a plate in front of people. That is it.. keep it simple, colorful and creative and I guarantee your little humans will have their curiosity going wild.

Quick Mini Pizzas
What you need:
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper
Spaghetti sauce or pizza sauce
Any variety of toppings:
Cherry tomatoes, spinach, ham, shredded mozzarella, pineapple chunks, sliced red bell peppers

How to make:
Spread a little of either sauce and let the kids add their own toppings. Allowing them to create their own dish will get them more eager to eat their masterpiece!
Bake for 3-5 minutes at 350 in a regular oven or use a toaster oven if you have one. Works just as good.
** You can substitute the flat bread for eggplant slices. Same concept but you have to bake the sliced eggplant first for about 10 minutes at 350 degrees with a little olive oil. Then top with whatever you like and broil for another 3-5 minutes to melt the cheese.

Fruit Skewers
What you need:
cubed or sliced- variety of fruits including: peaches, pineapple, kiwi, mango and strawberries.
Grill- safe skewers
1/2 cup apple jelly

How to make:
Skew the fruit in no particular order. In a small bowl mix the apple jelly with a couple of tablespoons of water and brush the fruit with this mixture. Grill for 3 minutes on each side or until you start seeing the grill marks. Take them off the heat and brush with a little more of the apple jelly mixture. Serve with whipped cream
***This recipe is from The Pioneer Woman

Sushi with a twist
What you need:
White or wheat sliced bread
Rolling pin
Smooth peanut butter
Whipped cream cheese
Sour cream
Matchstick veggies: cucumber, carrots, celery

How to make:
Gently flatten the slices of bread with the rolling pin. Mix cream cheese with sour cream. Spread peanut butter or cream cheese & sour cream mix and line with a few pieces of the assorted veggies. Carefully roll and serve.
*** You can cut off the crusts of the bread prior to assembly to make it look prettier. This recipe is from Martha Stewart with my own spin on it.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Using what you got

I often improvise in the kitchen when there is not enough time to actually plan a menu. I like doing this though because it forces me to use items that perhaps have been sitting there without purpose while being creative. A lot of people are afraid to not follow recipes and there is nothing wrong with that. If you have never taken the plunge in the kitchen it can truly be intimidating but with a few basic skills anything is possible. Cooking is about love, connecting with people, enjoying the simple things in life and it is simply amazing to be able to make something that others absolutely can't get enough of.

Some basic kitchen knowledge includes things like learning about all the different gadgets, ingredients and important items like how to work the oven, a blender and your most important tool- the knife. Flavor combinations are a little more complicated but with time that too can get easy and fun to play around with. Following recipes is a good idea when you are starting out, especially if you are going to be brave and bake (baking is the one thing that you should always follow measurements). Overall, I believe the key is to have fun.

Just yesterday I was at a BBQ and someone asked me why I do not do food as my full time job. I would be rich if I had a dollar for every time someone asked me that same question. While the story behind why I had to change professions is interesting, there is not much to be said except that "life happens." Today my profession is very rewarding and what I do with food is for fun and with love.

With that in mind, a recipe like this one is simple, refreshing and quick to make. You can change the type of pasta depending on what you have in your pantry. Same goes with pretty much all the ingredients and that is the best part of this dish.

What you need:
3 Cups of farfalle pasta, cooked, cooled
4 Oz of your favorite sliced ham, chopped
1 Can of black beans, rinsed
1 Can chickpeas, rinsed
1 medium red pepper, chopped
1 medium mango, chopped
1/2 Cup of purple onion, chopped
2 Tbsp of fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 Cup of your favorite dressing. (Choose something light like a lime vinaigrette)

How to make:
Combine everything... and that is it!


Sunday, April 5, 2015

Gearing up for summer BBQ

Recently I have discovered a love for grilling. Yes, I know I am kind of late in the game but like they say.. "Better late than never". Now, I am not an expert but I have picked up a few things along the way which can benefit anyone who is just starting to get comfortable with a grill. Now it is impossible for me to tell all because it is endless but there are a few "musts" to keep in mind if you are going to try your luck at grilling.

First rule is easy- good BBQ takes time and if you are in a rush then perhaps this method of cooking isn't the one use. Second- make sure you allow the meat, pork or chicken rest after you take it off the grill- this allows the juices to redistribute and keep the flavor in. Third- if you are going to marinade the meat, poke the holes while its marinating- never do it while its grilling because not only will you cause a mess but you will lose flavor. Fourth- do not use cold meat, let it sit out in room temp before grilling but no more than 45 minutes otherwise it can grow bacteria. Fifth- If you are scared of not knowing what the right temperature is, invest in a thermometer- this will help you assure safe temperatures for the different types of meats.


Sounds simple right? It may be intimidating at first but trust me, the more you do it the more comfortable you will feel and the less scared of the heat you will get. Start with simple things like hot dogs and corn on the cob. Also, do not step away from the grill, until you figure out how hot things cook it's best to stay close in case things start getting burned (yes this can happen). So, if you are up for it but still feel a little intimidated try a store bought marinade.

What you need:
One pack of apple chicken sausages
1 Bottle of beer (light ale is fine)
Pork tenderloin (amount depends on how many people you will feed)
Salt & pepper
Corn on the cob
4 Tablespoons of melted butter
1 bag of small red potatoes
Garlic powder and whatever herbs you have in your spice cabinet

How to make:
Pre heat grill on medium high and oven at 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Poke tenderloin with a fork and marinate with whatever store bought marinade you have on hand, set aside in room temperature for 30 minutes. Poke the sausages with a fork as well and place in a separate container, add the beer and let them soak for 30 minutes as well. For the corn, make sure it is clean, apply the melted butter, salt and pepper and set aside. Once you have all these ready, wash the potatoes real well. Quarter them to about the same size. place them on a baking sheet, sprinkle a little evoo (extra virgin olive oil), salt, pepper, powdered garlic, and whatever dry herbs you have available like rosemary or thyme. Place the tray inside the oven and bake for 45 minutes or until you see the potatoes start to turn golden brown.
In the meantime, you can place all your grilling items at the same time on the grill. Make sure you keep the same items together. Note- the corn will take the longest so you can actually prepare this one first and put in on the grill while you work on getting the other items ready. The sausages can take anywhere from 20-30 minutes to get a nice color on all sides. Once you place the pork on the grill, do not try to move it, or turn it right away for it will stick and tear the meat apart. Give it time but check it periodically. This cut can take 45 minutes to an hour to get cooked (use the thermometer to check the internal temperature). Allow it to rest at least 15 minutes then cut and serve with your other items.

There are plenty different ones that only need about 30 minutes to sit. Making your own will take more flavor understanding but if you have a recipe go for it! For this BBQ I had a few people over for some board games so I added a few other things like herb & garlic roasted potatoes and a few other munchies including mozzarella wrapped in salami, hummus, chips, fresh salsa and Colombian empanadas.
*Tip: pork should have an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees. Squeeze a little lime on the corn right when you take it off the grill for extra flavor. Use a serrated knife to cut the pork.


Sunday, February 22, 2015

Because this world is huge!

There are so many things I wish I could do but like many- unless I have a lot of money and no job it is hard to do. However, I am a firm believer of bucket lists because they give you a sense of fighting for what you want and working hard for all those experiences. To me, they are more meaningful than resolutions and as I accomplish them and check them off a feeling of happiness just takes over and there is nothing that can compare. A lot of people ask how to even do one and it really is simple. You can pretty much anything on it from having a white Christmas to learning how to ride a horse or traveling to Australia.

One piece of advice... get crazy! Who cares if you put things on there that sound impossible, the point is to have fun. I like to combine the crazy with the realistic meaning short term goals and out of this world ideas like perhaps meeting Michael Jackson (which I know can't happen because he is dead). By putting realistic short term goals that you can achieve will definitely give you hope to go for the big things though. So what are some of my items? well I am in the process of buying a house so that one is a work in progress. Another one is to travel to Machu Pichu and this one is also in the works (I have a travel agent putting a package together).

Being that I have half the world on my list, I try to expand my foodie experiences as much as I can. This happens thanks to the many different little festivals that showcase a variety of cultures and good food. With that said I went to a Greek festival at a Greek Orthodox church. Which will help me a lot since I have an activity coming up at work and our team will be serving Greek food. This amazing piece of history has been around since the 40's. Built in the Byzantine style, it will charm you with its high ceilings, stained glass windows and intricate drawings. Some common components of Greek cuisine include olive oil, vegetables, lamb, cheese, yogurt, olives and their desserts often use honey nuts and filo pastry. They are known to use a lot of local fresh food and like many other cultures food is a reason to have family and friends over for a good time.

Here is a quick and easy Tzatziki sauce that you can use with any meat especially if it is grilled or you can serve it as a dip at your next party with fresh vegetables.

What you will need:

1 Cup Greek whole milk yogurt
1 English cucumber, seeded, finely grated and drained
2 Cloves of garlic, finely minced
1 Tsp of lemon zest
1 Tbsp of fresh lemon juice
2 Tbsp of fresh dill, chopped
Kosher salt and freshly cracker black pepper

How to make:

In a bowl, combine all the ingredients. Yes.. that simple!




Saturday, January 10, 2015

A little knowledge goes a long way

I often get asked many different things about food. "What can I make fast?" "How can I replace certain ingredients?" "I am afraid to cook because of whatever!"
So I answer over and over and try to install confidence in everyone. Yes, it can be a little intimidating but so much fun and relaxing at the same time. It is like learning a new skill, you gotta face it head on without fear so that you can truly learn and who knows maybe even end up enjoying yourself.
So with that said, perhaps I feel the urge to share with you some essentials to help you on that journey of cooking so that it is a memorable experience. Please remember one thing though, there are sharp objects that need to be used as well as heat, spicy, freezing items- so just be careful.

If you do not know where to begin... look around in the kitchen. Check what utensils you have and what you are missing. Some items that are absolutely necessary:
A chefs knife, a paring knife and a serrated knife
A spatula
A wooden spoon
A good set of pots and pans
A ladle
A whisk
A grater
An apron (I have a collection.. can't cook without them)
Measuring cups
Oven save baking dish

Now I know this sounds like a lot but it is actually a very reduced list. I am the type that needs to stay away from stores like Bed Bath and Beyond or Williams Sonoma because I always find something I do not have that I will use. However, with the items listed you can pretty much get by in the kitchen.

It is hard to cover all bases on one post but I will try to share a little knowledge from now on. With that said I also wanted to say a few words about produce and how to keep it fresh. Produce can get expensive so it is very important to know where to store it. Just follow these tips-

Items for the counter:
Potatoes (sweet and regular)
Onions and tomatoes
Avocados (until ripe, then in the fridge)
Citrus (lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruit)

In the fridge:
Leafy greens
Summer squash (zucchini)
Bell peppers

Ok to freeze:
Berries (blueberries, raspberries, strawberries)
Sliced peaches
Pitted cherries
Corn stripped from the cob

NOT ok to freeze:
Lettuce and tender salad greens

~Hope this helps.. now get cooking!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

How spices can rock your food

I often wonder why it is so hard for people to be positive. The first few minutes after you wake up, you have a choice. Make the day count or let it conquer you. Now, don't get me wrong, we all carry burdens that perhaps nobody knows about but once we step out that door there is a whole other world who may be experiencing something even worst. So what do we do? we moan and groan, get cranky with others and allow that bitterness to show through our work, our attitudes and body language. But what if for those few minutes in the morning we make a choice to not let those problems rule our day?
I challenge people all the time with different things depending on what the situation is and what they share with me. This is something we can all practice and it will not only bring you some peace, but you might make someones day that much better. Let that sink in...and try it. We can only control so many things in life!

The other day I got home from work and found that my sister had left ground turkey outside to make dinner. I am the first to say that I really don't like turkey that much but in this particular recipe you cannot even tell what it is. So after a couple of phone calls she tells me to use a recipe from a book that her friend gave her but after looking at the ingredients I realize that I am missing a few items not to mention not everyone likes onions in the house (yes- you read right, they have to be invisible in order to go on the table). Thankfully our spices are always on point and after taking out 6 different ones I decided to just wing it.

What you need:

2 Lbs of ground lean turkey
1/4 C Evoo
1 Tbsp butter
2 1/2 C of low sodium chicken broth
1 medium onion chopped
1 small tomato
1 Tbsp flour
3 cloves of garlic- mashed, peeled & chopped
1 Tsp of the following: cinnamon, oregano & cumin
2 Tbsp of chili powder
3 Tbsp dark brown sugar
Salt & pepper
2 Tbsp tomato paste (if you do not have any, substitute for 1/2 c marinara and a little ketchup- what I did)
1 can of chili beans
Garnish: sour cream, shredded cheese, salsa, chopped green onions

How to make:

In a large pot on high heat add the evoo, butter, onion and garlic and allow to cook for about 4-5 minutes until softened. Add the chopped tomato and stir for about 1 minute. Add the turkey and break with a wooden spoon; saute until no longer pink. Sprinkle the flour and mix well, then add the paste or marinara and all the spices including the sugar. Allow to cook for 3 minutes. Add the beans and broth, combine well and bring heat down to medium (simmer). The time will vary depending on how you like your chili. If you like nice and thick then let it sit for maybe 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Serve over white rice and add whatever garnish you like.