Friday, March 29, 2013

:Green and White Chicken Salad with Tahini Dressing::

Green and White Chicken Salad

I think I penned the titled of this recipe when I wasn't giving anything much thought. Just feeling carefree and accepting the pace of my day, I pulled random ingredients where I could instantly visualize what the taste would be like just by looking at it. It was unusually sunny outside and I could sense a perfect change of weather emerging.  With the influence of the beautiful sun and cool air, I subconciously selected lots of  green and white food, for me the spirit of feeling fresh, crisp and clean. And that's the state which this salad amplifies. 

I do have a small confession to make. I was half way into this dish when I realized I didn't snap a photograph. Embarassing, but it's the truth. As a result the avocados are absent. That's what happens when you put the importance for having a meal on the backburner. You become ravenous and senseless; best to keep a schedule with your meals. I am most productive when I carve out slots of time for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Since this recipe was worth sharing, I know I'll be making it again and will certainly snap another photo before I dive in. 

serves 1

2 cups of greens (arugula, green leaf, kale, romaine--whatever the heart desires)
1 cup alfalfa sprouts
1/2 cup chicken breast shreds (oven roasted w/oil, salt, pepper in its former life)
1/8 avocado
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1 tablespoon tahini
1/4 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon lemon juice
1 drop soy sauce
1/8 teaspoon Za'tar- Middle Eastern Spice blend (optional--just as good w/o it)


Grab a nice, big bowl...
1.)   Whisk the olive oil, tahini, white wine vinegar, lemon juice, soy sauce, and za'tar to create the dressing. Done. 
2.)  Toss the dressing with the greens, shredded chicken, and avocado. . 

* Be creative and add your own medley of vegetables. (Turnips, jicama, carrots or cremini mushrooms work well here. Toasted pepitas are great too.)

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

:: Grilled Vegetables & Balsamic Vinaigrette ::

Grilled Vegetables & Balsamic Vinaigrette

In a perfect world you would eat vegetables every meal, every snack, every day. But in order for you to eat them this frequently you have to be intrigued by the flavor (and the time). I believe it should be lazy method so the food itself makes you want to revisit it again and again.

This medley of eggplant, zucchini, and red bell peppers injects a bit of joy on your plate and your taste buds. It’s embarrassing, because this isn’t really a recipe, but everyone has a ninety nine problems and it’d be nice if cooking wasn’t one of them.

If you choose to make this it shouldn’t carve out too much time—just some strategic slicing, a few minutes of waiting, and patience to whip up a 4-ingredient dressing.

Grilling always morphs vegetables into a nice symphony of textures: creamy, crunchy, and sweet. And because of the smoky flavor it imparts, it’s suitable to refresh it with a vibrant dressing like one. The vegetables shrivel up perfectly and allow the tart balsamic vinaigrette to pool and cling every where. It’s also an all rounder; versatile enough to be paired with meat, chicken, fish, or added to a salad.  


2 medium size zucchini
3 baby eggplants
2 red bell peppers
1 tablespoon olive oil + 1 tablespoon olive oil for the vinaigrette
Salt, to taste,
Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
¼ teaspoon brown sugar
2 tablespoons fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped


Preheat your grill to medium-high heat. 
1.)   Cut vegetables in half; leave the stems on every vegetable.
2.)   Brush with olive oil. Be sure to smother every nook and cranny.
3.)    Sprinkle salt and pepper, lay vegetables face down on the grill.
4.)   Times: for me, zucchini needed 10 minutes; eggplants 5-6 minutes; bell peppers 4-5 minutes on the first side. I finished off the other sides of all the vegetables with 4 minutes extra. (These are guidelines. Heat intensity varies, so it’s best to check frequently to cater to your liking.)
5.)   For vinaigrette: whisk balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Add extra herbs if you feel like it.
6.)   Arrange vegetables on a platter, spoon over vinaigrette, sprinkle parsley. It’s ready. 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

:: Spaghetti Squash & Spicey Honey Butter Dressing ::

Spaghetti Squash 

Spicey Honey Butter Dressing

I've certainly changed my daily rhythm in the kitchen. I can feel myself extracting the unessential out of my life and carving out time for what matters now. Which leads me to say, I really hate spending more than 15 minutes to cook something. So this is a mindless recipe because all you do is throw the squash into the oven and dilly dally for an hour. Then you come back to make the dressing which can be made even without chopping any of the herbs, throw the leaves in if you wish. All I did was smash the garlic and started plucking things out of the fridge...what a tasty elixir this dressing morphed into. It's sweet, kinda spicey, and lemony--it makes the squash. I suppose this is a breaking point on this blog now; on to the less labor intensive dishes now. I hope you feel me on this one. Happy Palm Sunday!  :-)


1 medium size spaghetti squash                              1/4 teaspoon thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons butter                                              1 tablespoon parsley 
2 tablespoons olive oil (make sure it’s quality)        1 teaspoon honey
1 small clove garlic, minced                                    pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of red pepper flakes                                      pinch of nutmeg
1 tsp lemon juice

1.)   Slice squash in half (lengthways), scoop out seeds (can be saved for later), place cut side down. Roast at 400° F for one hour.
2.)   Over low heat, add all the ingredients except the lemon juice into a small skillet. The intent is to gradually warm all the ingredients—not to scorch it over intense heat because it will bubble and split the solids in the butter.
3.)   Once the squash is done roasting, grab a fork and gingerly scrape the flesh out, giving it plenty of room to keep it’s stringy  nature intact. Alternatively, scoop out the flesh with a large spoon and separate with your fingers. Arrange the spaghetti squash in a serving bowl.
4.)   Pour the dressing over the squash, squeeze lemon over to your liking--it's ready.  (Be free with the honey and lemon if you need more)


Tuesday, January 29, 2013


As a kid, I was always paranoid of smelling like ginger and garlic. My mother would always begin a curry with some hot oil and spices, but inevitably...the ginger and garlic would have to make its appearance and leave the home infused with a smoky, nutty fragrance. I used to close my bedroom door to save myself from embarassment later on, but these days I'm running to ginger and garlic. 

Here, ginger and garlic are used to enhance the flavor of sirloin. I've used 95/5, which translates to 95% lean/5% fat--you gotta respect your heart my friend. Any ground meat, for that matter, which is 90% lean is a splendid choice for your health. Since ginger and garlic is too powerful when it's raw, you'll start by mellowing the burn over low heat. Once it's cooled down, it's safe to follow through with the remainders of the recipe.  

The ingredients here are easy to find: soy sauce, for a complex flavor you won't get from the sole addition of salt, and wasabi cream made with low fat Greek yogurt and wasabi powder. A cute package of roasted red peppers tucked into the center serves as a nice escape from all the ginger and garlicky goodness that meanders throughout this juicy burger.  


For the burgers:
1 tablespoon olive oil or canola oil + 1 extra TB for grilling
½ cup onion, grated
2 teaspoons ginger, finely minced
1 clove garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup cilantro, chopped
1 ¼ pound lean 95/5 ground sirloin
salt, 1 teaspoon
pepper, ½ teaspoon
½ cup roasted red bell peppers, chopped
4 whole wheat hamburger buns
Romaine lettuce, optional

For the wasabi cream:
4 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature or warmed 10-15 sec. in microwave
wasabi paste, 1 tablespoon
2 tablespoons low-fat Greek yogurt
2 teaspoons lemon juice

1.)    Heat oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat and cook the onion, garlic, and ginger for 3-4 minutes, just until the onion is translucent and the mixture thickens. Set aside to cool.

2.)    Using a large mixing bowl, add the soy sauce, cilantro, cooled ginger-garlic-onion mixture, salt, and pepper to the sirloin.  Mix lightly with a fork . Optional: Cook  a small spoonful of meat in 1 teaspoon of oil to check the seasons and adjust to your taste, or skip if you don't care to. Separate meat into four sections directly in the mixing bowl.
3.)   Scoop one section out and divide it in half. Flatten each half to form two slender patties. Place 2 tablespoons of the roasted red peppers on one patty and top it with the other patty. Seal the edges with your fingers to ensure the red peppers stay in the center. If necessary, gently cup your palms around the burger to restore a uniform round shape. Form the remaining burgers using this same method.
4.)    Preheat the grill to medium-high heat. Brush remaining tablespoon of olive oil over the surface. Place burgers on the grill and cook 3-4 minutes per side for well-done. 3 minutes for medium-well.  Toast the hamburger buns on the grill while the hamburgers are cooking.
5.)    Meanwhile, mix all of the ingredients for wasabi cream in a small bowl.
6.)    To assemble: spread 2 tablespoons of the wasabi cream over each hamburger bun, sandwich a sirloin burger  in between and top with romaine lettuce, if using.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Eggs in Purgatory

Shakshouka, also known as Eggs in Purgatory, is really just a warm, scrumptious pot of creamy eggs bobbing about in a sea of tomato soup. If you have your basic ingredients waiting for you in your fridge (and pantry) you can easily make this simple dish. I start by roasting whole spices (the Indian way) and then grind them in a mortar and pestle to get the best flavor out of them; however, do not feel that you have to have whole spices because this is just as good with the pre-ground spices you may already own. The only thing better than it's taste is its price tag. Thank goodness that eggs are plentiful and inexpensive. 



3 tablespoons olive oil
½ large white onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
½ teaspoon caraway seeds 
2 teaspoons whole coriander seeds
1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup roasted red bell peppers, diced
1- 28 ounce can diced tomato with basil, garlic, and oregano (suggestion: Red Gold®)
2 teaspoons sugar
salt, to taste
pepper, to taste
4 eggs
Fresh flat leaf Italian parsley, ¼ cup chopped


1.) Toast coriander and cumin seeds in a small nonstick skillet over medium low heat until light golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the caraway seeds at the end and continue toasting for another 30 seconds. (To prevent them from burning). Grind everything in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until it becomes a fine powder.Add red pepper flakes to spice mixture and set aside.

2.) Heat oil in a large nonstick sauce pan over medium high heat. Add onions and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Add the red bell peppers and spices and cook for an additional 3 minutes. 

3.) Add tomato paste and canned tomatoes, stir. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes and stir occasionally. Lastly, add the sugar and season with salt and pepper to your taste.

4.) After 30 minutes have passed, crack each egg into a small bowl and gently place on top of the tomato mixture. You can crack the eggs directly into the pot but the other method ensures that the eggs won't easily sink to the bottom. Once all eggs have been added, cover the saucepan with a lid and cook for 8-9 minutes for well done eggs. If you like your eggs underdone, cook 5-6 minutes. 

5.) Sprinkle the parsley over the top and serve immediately with toasted  bread.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

"New" Food Pyramid.

This is a change that I was waiting for. In this blog, I have never talked about the food pyramid simply because I was never convinced that it helped us Americans. Even as a nutrition student, immersing myself in human nutrition for the last 4 years, I barely referred to the food pyramid. What I always believed in was the  simple image of an everyday plate cut into sections that makes it  easy to remember and practical for people to use. I even wrote a post on the healthy plate a few months ago, you can read about it here How to fill a Healthy Plate. If you haven't heard, the food pyramid has been swapped by something new. The government has officially replaced it with a fresh new idea called MyPlate.

When friends ask me advice on how to lose weight, I steer away from preaching about the top 100 health foods, or listing the "bad" foods and giving them a detailed list of what they should or should not eat. To answer their questions, I send my friends back to the basics. The basic task of setting up their plate.

I explained the MyPlate (although it didn't have an official name back then) to a few coworkers a couple years ago. I drew a large uneven circle and slashed a line vertically down it's center. The circle was now divided into half. I concentrated on the right half of the circle and carved an additional line, only this time I sliced my ball point pen horizontally. Now the circle was divided into three sections. This is the blueprint I used five years ago to lose 15 pounds. It is easy and effective and does a very good job of helping you eat more healthfully. The USDA has created something similar, the only difference is that the plate is divided into quarters--which is much less confusing--and a serving of dairy has been added to the side. Take a look. 

I'm not going to go into detail in every section of  MyPlate, but it is very important for you to pay attention to the kinds of foods you choose in each category. I've said it before and I'll say it again. Go for whole grains. Eat lean protein. And choose lean dairy. Some of you may already know this, but I've come across a few people who are following the MyPlate guide yet are still eating pork shoulder, a plate of processed pasta, and a full fat milk shake. No. You have to choose the right foods in each category. And I want to add and clarify three things that  MyPlate does not address. 

Whole grains are less processed than regular refined grains. Take for example brown rice. It has a chewier and nuttier flavor compared to regular white rice. Why? Brown rice has not been stripped of it's layers. For 30 seconds just picture a kernal of brown rice. There are three main layers: 1.) the bran layer, 2.) the germ layer, and 3.) the endosperm layer. The bran layer is where the money is at, nutritionally. It has ALL of the vitamins and minerals; vitamin B, vitamin E, calcium, zinc, selenium, iron, etc. This bran layer also holds a lot of fiber. The germ layer sits at the bottom of the kernal. It's rich in protein, healthy fat (polyunsaturated, in moderate portions this is fine in your diet), and more vitamins and minerals. Because this is what makes brown rice go rancid, it's removed to create white rice. This is why white rice has a longer storage life than brown rice. The endosperm, the third layer, is what white rice is made of--it is the most inner layer found in brown rice; but again, all of the outer layers are removed from brown rice to create white rice. In other words, the endosperm layer is white rice. Essentially, a whole grain is natural and hasn't been worked on too much in the factory. 

Why are whole grains better for me?

Brown rice digests slower than white rice. It doesn't convert to sugar as quickly as white rice does, and this is because of the present outer layers that are rich in the vitamins and minerals. Brown rice is a carbohydrate and so is white rice, so they both get converted to glucose, or sugar, and stored into the liver and muscles as glycogen when your body is in need of energy.  Both rices get converted to sugar, but because brown rice has the bran and germ layer intact, the conversion to sugar is much slower than if you ate a bowl of white rice. 

In short, choose whole grains not just any grains.
It's okay to eat regular refined grains like white bread or white rice, but be cautious of how much you're eating.  In Indian cuisine, rice is more than a staple. It is a necessity. My dad always eats a heaping mound of white rice and later complains he "feels funny" shortly after dinner. We learned later that he has type 2 diabetes and the white rice, which converted into sugar, was irritating his diabetes. Just be mindful of how much you are eating!

 Next, choose LEAN protein. 

Chicken breast, turkey, Canadian bacon, pork tenderloin, sirloin, egg whites (yes the yolks are full of cholesterol, but the nutrients are awesome; no more than 1-2 yolks per day), tri-tip steak, flank steak, beef tenderloin, venison, bison, etc. Pretty much any protein with the word "loin" or even "round" in it is a good lean choice. When purchasing ground meat choose 90% lean or more because this means that 10% of that product is fat. My fridge is stocked with ground turkey and 95/5 ground sirloin (95% lean 5% fat) to make tasty burgers. 

Finally, choose lean dairy.

Go for low-fat milk most of the time instead of whole milk or 2% "reduced fat" (which is actually quite high in fat even with the reduction). Low-fat yogurt, low-fat sour cream, part-skim mozzarella, and Neufchatel cream cheese are lean dairy options. What I don't recommend doing is buying fat free cheeses--it's like chewing on burned tire rubber. When an ingredient is "fat free", it's safe to assume that it has been swapped with artificial flavorings and chemicals to make it taste like it is "full fat". You don't need that extra crap. Eat the real deal, just less of it, but savor every bite. The recipes I post will guide you reasonable serving portions for full-fat cheese like blue cheese, Parmigiano Regiano, Gorgonzola, or even fancy French cheeses like Brie or Camembert. Goat cheese and feta cheese are naturally lower in fat. They add the same slightly sour and salty taste like any other cheese but the bonus is lies in it's lean fat content.

MyPlate is a great visual to have in your mind when you are setting up your plate. Use it! But be sure to choose whole grains, lean protein, and lean dairy.   

Friday, June 3, 2011



Why is everyone in such a noisy scramble in the mornings? The sense of hastiness to get the kids set for school or to quickly toss on  work clothes leaves very little time for yourself. It seems that the rest of the world knows how to relax a bit more than we do. I'm sure you are aware that breakfast is important. The importance of breakfast is slapped onto the cover of tabloid magazines, mentioned by coworkers in the morning as they shamefully guzzle down their latte from Starbucks, and it's even noted by Mc'Donald and Wendy advertisements--because they want you to buy their food. Healthy breakfasts are daunting to people, but they don't have to be. A post I wrote a few months back, How to Fill Your Plate, shows you what food groups to include when having a meal; this recipe follows that model.  The truth is, breakfast can take 10 minutes of your time, granted that you have the ingredients within your reach and ready to use. Here is one quick idea.



1 egg, beaten
1 slice whole wheat bread
2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup fresh cherries
1 small peach
1 sprig of chives
dried basil, optional
salt, to your taste

1.) Heat 1 teaspoon oil over high heat. Add the egg. Leave alone 10-20 seconds, then begin scrambling with a fork until cooked. Sprinkle with salt.* Cut the chive sprig with kitchen shears onto the egg. 
2.) Toast the bread in a regular toaster. Cut long matchsticks using  kitchen shears. Drizzle the remaining teaspoon of olive oil. Sprinkle a little salt and dried basil. 
3.) Arrange the fresh peaches and cherries on the plate; add the egg and fresh fruit.

Serve with one cup low fat milk, if desired.