Friday, December 17, 2010


So, I rarely invest in good skin care products, which is strangely ironic given that I really advocate investing in good quality food. I really value quality over quantity in so many aspects of my life, I should know better. Using cheap shampoo means coarser hair that needs to be cut more frequently. I know all of these things, yet, I still use an organic soap to clean my face and an organic moisturizer or olive oil in it's place. It's a good start, but there is certainly room for improvement.

Last week, I was killing some time in Venice when I happened upon a "pop up shop" called the Detox something or other on Abbot Kinney. It sounded right up my alley so I went in and spent some time speaking with the owner of Odacité, an all natural skin care company. Now I should caution that many companies who claim to have "all natural" products, do not. There is no real regulation to that phrase, so approach it cautiously. But, Odacité, they are the real deal. There is no weird, chemically sounding ingredients, jut real stuff that isn't harmful. I bought a sample pack, I guess the starter kit for skin care and have fallen in love. There are no added scents, yet it smells really good, fresh and clean. I'm a new convert.

You can order this stuff online but if you live in LA, you can go for yourself to the Detox Market on Abbot Kinney, from now until the end of December.

Friday, December 10, 2010


Tis the season for butternut squash and winter greens. It is also that time of the year when we start to consider the New Year and resolutions. If one of your New Year's resolutions is to eat better, cook more, lose weight, eat out less, or anything like that, then you should check out some of the healthy cooking classes I will be teaching at The Beverly Hills Adult School.

Detox-Healthy, Clean and Fresh Flavors
I promise, there will be no mention of green juice or weird ingredients. Tonight’s class will be an introduction to the benefits of giving the body a much needed break, especially after the gluttonous holidays. I will introduce some easy, clean and fresh recipes that not only taste good but are great for your mind and body. $25 Food fee payable to the chef in class, cash/check only.
  • 213810 January 10 (1 Monday) Jessica Hilton
  • 6:15-9:15 pm, HS Rm. 361 $35

Healthy Meals for Kids and Adults
I know several people whose kids only eat four things: pasta, cheese, baby carrots and chicken fingers. (Do chickens even have fingers?) Tonight, we will learn how to introduce healthier food selections into your kids’ meals, and master a few tricks on how to hide their veggies so they’ll never know. $25 Food fee payable to the chef in class, cash/check only.
  • 213824 January 24 (1 Monday) Jessica Hilton
  • 6:15-9:15 pm, HS Rm. 361 $35

Greens & Grains
Are you unable to tell the difference between kale and quinoa (pronounced Keen-Wa)? Are you puzzled as to why some restaurants are serving what appears to be bird seed? Tonight, I will give you a primer on leafy greens and whole grains so you not only know how to pronounce them, but also how to use them in quick, easy and delicious recipes. $25 Food fee payable to the chef in class, cash/check only.
  • 213807 February 7 (1 Monday) Jessica Hilton
  • 6:15-9:15 pm, HS Rm. 361 $35

So we’ve all heard “breakfast is the most important meal of the day,” but how can we fit a healthy breakfast into our hectic mornings? Many of us are lucky if we can cram a muffin down our throats while swigging a latte on the 405. With this modern dilemma in mind, I’m going to show you how to prepare nutritious breakfasts in less time than it takes to brush your teeth. $25 Food fee payable to the chef in class, cash/check only.
  • 213806 March 7 (1 Monday) Jessica Hilton
  • 6:15-9:15 pm, HS Rm. 361 $35
Here is a link to online registration.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010


I entered this recipe into a healthy Thanksgiving recipe contest and was one of the winners! I served it on my Thanksgiving table, it's one of my favorites. It is easy, and can be made in advance and you can be sure no one else will have had it.

2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 pomegranate, seeds removed
1 small bunch parsley
4 ounces feta, chopped
4 ounces pine nuts, toasted**
1/4 cup capers
1 lemon, juiced and zested
2 tablespoons mint, chopped
2 tablespoons dijon
1/4- 1/2 cup olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Toss Cauliflower with 2 tablespoons olive oil and roast until golden. When cauliflower is done, remove from oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, combine lemon juice, zest, dijon and olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Set aside.

When cauliflower is cool enough to handle, finely chop florets until they resemble israeli couscous.

Combine chopped cauliflower with feta, pine nuts and capers. Toss with vinaigrette and herbs. Lightly fold in pomegranate seeds.

serves 8

** As an interesting side note, several of my friends have experienced a strange, metallic, bitter taste in their mouths and the culprit has been...pine nuts. Here is a link to an article about it.

Feel free to substitute toasted sliced or slivered almonds.


As soon as I saw the picture, I knew I would love this dish. Unexpectedly, a package arrived at my door a few weeks ago. It was a book from Robin, one that she had and been drooling over. I also, had been drooling over it not only because of the delicious, seasonal recipes but also because it is beautifully written.

Immediately, I got to work flagging the recipes that I had to try and this was one of the first. Essentially, it is a crustless quiche with, as Robin would say, an assload of greens. The recipe calls for 2 pounds of spinach, which I used but I also added a bunch of random beet greens that been hanging around in my fridge. You couls use any of your favorite greens here or a combination of them all. If you'll notice, the greens in the cake weren't enough for me, I had to add a little arugula salad on the side. One can never really have enough greens and this is a great recipe for that purpose.

I do recommend free range eggs and organic milk.

Spinach Cake

from David Lebovitz,

Ten servings

Adapted from A Platter of Figs and Other Recipes (Artisan) by David Tanis

I liked this very much, but be sure to season the mixture very well, like, more than you think, before baking. I’m curious, and next time I’m going to add small bits of cooked bacon or proscuitto to the batter just after pureeing it in a blender.

David says to simply puree the spinach and custard mix until smooth, but I’m thinking it might be better a little “leafy” so will also blend it to the point where the spinach is fine, but not entirely smooth.

2 medium leeks (you could use two onions, or a bunch of scallions or green garlic instead)
2 tablespoons (30 g) butter, salted or unsalted
salt and freshly-ground pepper
2 pounds (.75 kg) fresh spinach, well-washed and stemmed
big pinch of chile or cayenne pepper
whole nutmeg
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk
6 large eggs
Parmesan cheese

1. Remove the green part of the leeks, slice each lengthwise, rotate them a quarter turn, then slice them lengthwise again, keeping the end intact. Swish the leeks in a bowl of water until they’re grit free, and towel-dry. Cut into small pieces.

2. Melt the butter in a deep pan and sauté the leeks with a little salt and pepper, stirring occasionally, until they’re translucent. While they’re cooking, cut the spinach into ribbons.

3. Once the leeks are cooked, begin adding the spinach in batches, putting on the lid until the spinach has cooked down, then you can add more. Add salt and pepper as you go, and include a scraping of nutmeg and chile powder during the final batch.

4. When all the spinach is just barely wilted, turn it out into a large bowl (along with any juices) and let cool. Stirring it a few times will speed it up.

5. Preheat the oven to 400F (200C.) Liberally butter a 9- or 10-inch (23-25cm) deep round baking dish. I used a 2 qt (2l) baking rectangular baking dish.

6. Working in batches, puree the spinach mixture with the milk and eggs until almost smooth. (At this point, if you want to add some cooked bacon or chopped proscuitto, you can.)

David recommends adding more salt and pepper here, which is a good idea: you want the mixture pretty well-seasoned.

7. Pour the batter into the prepared baking dish. Grate a wispy layer of Parmesan over the top and bake for 45 minutes, or until a knife poked into the center comes out clean.

Serving: Let cool to room temperature, then serve.


Friday, November 12, 2010


I have been such a slacker about blogging, but in real life, I have been really busy. It all goes back to October when I was working a job as a personal chef on a film set. This was a really cool job, totally loved it. Part of what makes being a personal chef a great job is when you have a client who appreciates what you cook, which doesn't always happen. Right after that, I picked up a few other clients and have been filling their refrigerators with delicious meals for a week, meanwhile my fridge sits empty.

After a couple of weeks of cooking for others, I thought it was about time that I fill our fridge. I headed down to the Culver City farmers market, grabbed a bunch of veg and headed home to cook. I prepared all of the vegetables that I bought, including 2 kabocha squash (roasted and topped with brown butter and sage), 2 cauliflower (roasted and tossed with salsa verde), 2 bunches of kale (sauteed with garlic and a wee bit o' bacon), 2 fennel (braised and dusted with pecorino). To this mound of veg, I also made some lentils and topped them with some feta (also from the farmers market) and roasted the one chicken breast that I had. It was a spectacular feast, but the best part was that I had all of these great leftovers to enjoy the next couple of days.

Often, when I cook (which, as you know is pretty often) I make extra food, especially the vegetables. This allows me to eat when I am hungry without having to put too much thought into it. So, there's your tip for the week-get some vegetables, make a lot of them and then eat frequently.

Monday, October 4, 2010


Note how the carrots take up half of the plate?

Last week a study was released telling us that Americans are still not eating enough vegetables. Shocking. I talk to people all the time who tell me how "healthy" they eat, yet when I look at their food journals or listen to their diets, vegetables are not high on the list. Somehow, many of them think that eating low fat will make them healthy. I am here to tell you that unless you are eating loads of vegetables, you are not going to be healthy-you may be thin, feel ok, look good, but eating your veg should be your number one priority.

It's raining here in LA, which happens so rarely, so I decided to roast a chicken for lunch. The smell of roasted chicken is so comforting when the weather is dreary. Keeping in mind the study about how Americans aren't eating enough veg, I am recommitted to making this a priority. We tend to eat a lot of vegetables already but now I am committed to telling you how we do it. So, in addition to our roasted chicken we had a salad to start our meal. It wasn't anything fancy just approximately two cups of baby lettuce leaves with some homemade vinaigrette. That right there is 2 servings of our 5-9 recommended daily servings. Then I roasted a whole bag (about 1 pound) of carrots along with the chicken and some fresh thyme leaves-another 2 servings. By the end of lunch, I have now had 4 servings of vegetables and I know that I am going to have at least 2 more with dinner.

The key to eating lots of vegetables is to plan ahead. I always cook extra veg so that they are ready to go. If I am making carrots, I will make a double portion so that I can ad them to a salad or soup or have them as a snack the next day. Another trick up my sleeve is to roast or grill a bunch of different seasonal vegetables and then I have them at my disposal for a couple of days worth of salads or sandwiches. If you don't have time, you can buy pre-cooked or pre-chopped vegetables at most grocery stores, you can even use the frozen vegetables if that will make you eat more. Regardless of how you get them, make eating vegetables daily a priority.

Monday, September 13, 2010


Flax seeds are tiny little seeds, about the size of sesame seeds, crammed with nutritional goodness. They are ancient, originating in Mesopotamian river valley and have long been know for their healing properties.

Flax is a really good source of healthy Omega 3 fats; fiber; phytosterols, which block cholesterol absorption; and is the richest source of lignans. Lignans are phytoestrogens. What the heck is a phytoestrogen? It's a compound that either has estrogenic properties (behaves like the hormone estrogen in the body) or anti-estrogenic properties. Estrogen, as you know, is the female sex hormone, but in elevated amounts can lead to breast and other cancers. Whether a phytoestrogen mimics estrogen or develops anti-estrogenic properties depends on how much is ingested. Phytoestrogens can be divided into two camps, the flavonoids (found in soy) and lignans both groups are good sources of antioxidants. Studies have shown that eating lignans can have reduced rates of breast, prostate, ovarian cancers, osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease.

Flax has long been used for relieving gas and abdominal pains, improving digestions, preventing and treating constipation, stabilizing blood sugar and inhibiting tumor growth. Studies have also shown flax to be beneficial to lowering elevated cholesterol levels. These golden or brown seeds are best bought whole but must be ground so that the nutritional benefits can be absorbed. The pre-ground flax seeds are often rancid and should therefore be avoided. I grind mine in my coffee grinder or in my blender when making a smoothie. Flax oil is readily available but because it is extremely sensitive to light and heat, it also goes rancid quickly and there is no way of identifying rancid oil, so it is best to leave it on the shelf. There are some online resources where "fresh" flax seed can be ordered. If you buy the oil, it should always be refrigerated, sold in a dark bottle and NEVER used for cooking.

Flax seeds are high in Omega 3 fats (w3) which by now, we should all be aware are the "good" fats. Alpha linolenic acid is a health promoting fat that many of us do not get enough of. When we consume a diet rich in vitamins and minerals (by eating fresh fruits and vegetables often), the alpha linolenic acid can be converted to anti-inflammatory substances which can prevent many common diseases and illnesses.

You can get flax seeds at your local health food store or Whole Foods. Remember to buy them whole, grind them yourself and start adding them to salad dressings, smoothies, sprinkling on your sandwiches. Adding a couple of tablespoons each day of flax is a great nutritional boost.

For more information:

"Fats That Heal, Fats That Kill" by Udo Erasmus

Friday, September 10, 2010


My mom always had pearls of wisdom for me. One of her biggest sayings was to remind me to eat breakfast, "it's the most important meal of the day." You know what? She was right. Most of us consider breakfast a cup of coffee and a muffin from the local coffee shop. Well, that is not going to cut it! There is nothing nutritionally sound in that breakfast. More than lacking in nutrients, that version of breakfast is ultimately going to give you a short burst of energy, but then leave you feeling tired, hungry, grouchy or another whole host of not good feelings.

I totally understand that everyone is in a rush in the morning. I've been there. As a result, we turn to convenience food to satisfy us. When I lived in NY, Pick-A-Bagel used to deliver to my office a large coffee and bagel for $2.25. I didn't have to leave my desk. Now, I know better. Look, I am not going to tell you to give up your morning coffee, but if you cannot even think about starting your day without it, it might be time to consider reducing the amount that you drink. Instead of that muffin or bagel, though, there are plenty of convenient and quick breakfasts that you can have.

The above picture is one of my normal breakfasts. I put all of that into a blender and in less than a minute I have a really healthy smoothie. Not all smoothies are the same! There are tons of juice bars and the like that will sell you a perfectly terrible smoothie under the pretense of it being "healthy." I like to use frozen fruit, but remember if using thin skinned fruit like peaches or berries get the organic. I also add a scoop of non GMO whey protein powder, flax seeds, nutritional yeast, 1/2 an avocado and some almond milk.

It is important to have balance in your meals, a little bit of good fat (avocado, nut butter), protein (eggs, whey powder) and complex carbohydrates (fruits, vegetables). The protein from the whey powder and the fat from the avocado in my smoothie prevent your blood sugar from quickly spiking and then dropping. They will also keep you satiated longer. The blood sugar spike is something that many of us experience when we eat simple carbs like muffins, bagels, cold cereals or many smoothies that consist of only fruit or fruit and frozen yogurt. Flax seeds and nutritional yeast are two "super" or "booster" foods, meaning that they pack a powerful nutritional punch in a small dose. The flax seeds are a good source of omega 3 fats and the nutritional yeast is an excellent source of B vitamins.

Smoothies may not be your thing, but there are tons of other quick options for you. Eggs of course are a good idea, they have both fat and protein add to them some vegetables and you have a nutritionally sound meal. Bagels are still a staple, certainly for many of my east coast friends. Rather than slathering on some butter or cream cheese, consider cutting the bagel in half, scooping out some of the middle (like we used to do in college following an article where it was revealed that's what Jennifer Aniston did) add some lettuce, tomato, avocado, sprouts, maybe some roasted turkey or feta cheese.

Whatever your preference, it is really important to eat breakfast everyday. Your body has gone hours without food and in order to function properly, it needs to be replenished. Remember to choose something that has some good fat and some protein rather than a simple carb which is nothing but empty calories. We are somewhat conditioned to want sweet things in the morning, but if we could break free from that, it would open a lot more healthy options.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010


First, I must start by saying that I HATE when people say "I cheated" or "I was bad" when referring to something that they ate. It is ridiculous, which is why I took the opportunity to point it out by using it as today's title. This post is to illustrate to my legions of readers, that sometimes I eat out. Rarely, do I not want to cook, but often, I don't want to clean up.

Chipotle is about as close to fast food as you will ever see me get. Fast food is poison. Yes, it really is and if you remotely like animals, you should never eat it. Fast food supports factory farms that abuse and torture animals, yet allow you to eat a hamburger for under $1. Think about it, what the hell kind of meat are you eating if it costs less than $1. Yuck. Look, I am not saying that we should all become vegetarians, far from it, but if we are going to eat meat, we should be responsible for where it comes from and how the animals are treated. Would you buy anything if you knew it was made in a sweat shop using child labor? If you are friends with me, I really hope your answer is "no." So why is it ok for you to support business that use animals that are treated the same way as children in a sweat shop? That's all I'm saying.

Back to Chipotle. I love not only the establishment, but I love the flavor-smokey and spicy. They support local farms and use animals that are humanely raised. As a result, you can find me eating there from time to time and I always get the same thing. I always get the vegetarian burrito bowl-I love it. The husband hates legumes and guacamole so the burrito bowl is a magical combination that contains both and I cannot resist it. Today, I added the leftover kale from dinner into the bowl for a nutritional boost.

I love eating, I really do. When I plan a trip, the first thing I think about before airfare and hotels is the food. Where will we eat? What restaurants are around? It's all about the food. It is a huge part of any trip for me. Food is obviously a source of nourishment but it is also a source of comfort at times and pleasure often, but I still have a really healthy relationship with food. You will never find me getting a packaged donut from a gas station or ANYTHING from 7-11 as a source of food. I really believe that we are what we eat and as a result, I probably spend more time than most people I know planning out my meals. I know some people think I am really strict about what I eat, and they're right. I am because it is important to me and Chipotle has its own little place in my diet-in moderation.

Ugh. Just read some disturbing news about Chipotle not being as good as I thought they were. Here is a link to a new article that questions the practices they use with farmers. Sounds like we will be taking a break from Chipotle until this matter is addressed.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010


There is rarely a night when the husband and I don't have dinner together, but tonight was one of those very rare times. I decided to make one of my favorites, scallops. I used to hate them. It was a textural thing, but now I love them, although I don't have them as often as I would like. I served them with a bunch of sautéed kale, thinly sliced potatoes and pea puree. The whole dinner took about 15 minutes to put together.

I simply roasted some potato slices in a 400 degree oven. While the potatoes were cooking, I sautéed the kale with some olive oil, shallots and red pepper flakes and dropped some frozen peas into boiling water for a couple of minutes. When the peas were done, they were drained and pureed with a hand blender but you could use a regular blender or mini cuisinart. Using the same pan that I cooked the kale, I cooked the scallops, about 2 1/2 minutes per side. Easy.

Thursday, September 2, 2010


Za'atar or zaatar as it is also commonly known is a Middle Eastern spice mix. I guess like most spice blends, it varies a little by region. I have seen Lebanese and Syrian versions of zaatar in the local spice shop, but I can also get a sort of generic version from Whole Foods, specialty shops and even Cost Plus. It is a combination of sesame seeds, thyme, sumac, marjoram or oregano and savory. I've read that even among families, the recipe is very guarded.

I really like using zaatar with lamb. I'm making lamb burgers for dinner and was prepared to scrap the whole idea unless I could come up with some zaatar. Of course you can make this yourself, but it is just as hard to find sumac as it is to find zaatar. If you do happen upon sumac, it's another spice worth having. It's a little lemony, slightly floral and it goes really well with lamb too. Zaatar also pairs really well with feta a quick recipe is to grill some flat bread, drizzle liberally with olive oil, sprinkle on some zaatar and crumbled feta. Apparently, many homes in the Middle East serve a variation of this for breakfast, simply using pita, zaatar paste (which is typically the spices mixed with olive oil) and lebneh which is similar to yogurt.

Adding a teaspoon or so of a new herb can really change some of your traditional recipes. I try to avoid most blends that have salt or any preservatives or colors added, but if they are straight up spices and herbs I am game.

Middle Eastern Lamb Burgers

1 pound ground lamb
2 tablespoons zaatar
salt to taste
cayenne pepper to taste
1/4 plain yogurt
1 lemon, juiced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
arugula or watercress
bun or baguette

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and red onion. Set aside.

Mix zaatar, salt and pepper with the ground lamb and form into patties. Cook patties either on a hot grill or on the stove to desired doneness.

Drain the onions and serve on the burger with a drizzle of the yogurt and topped with the arugula or watercress.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010


Generally, when I go to the market, I don't follow a list. I just buy what looks good and then figure out what to do with it later. Today, I had a plan. I am so sick of strawberries, I cannot stand to eat another one, so apples were high on my list. They are just starting to come into season and there is nothing better than that first crisp, tart bite of an apple. I got New Jersey apples this morning. Seems fitting, given that is where I originate, so I decided to try them. Texturally they are like McIntosh which is my least favorite apple, but the taste is a bit sweeter. I don't know that I would seek these out again, but they will serve their purpose of being eaten!
Rarely can I find any organic hot peppers, serranos or jalapenos-even at Whole Foods. When I see them at the farmers market, I always pick up a few and since I have been thinking about an Indian curry, these will do nicely.
I did not want to leave without broccoli which was going to be a main ingredient in today's lunch-leftover soba noodles with an asian vinaigrette and steamed broccoli. These baby broccoli are really tender and delicious.
I am growing a few basil plants, but since they are from seeds, they never grow very much before I pick all of the leaves off. I got a basket of heirloom cherry tomatoes yesterday and figured that paired with some fresh basil, it would be a perfect pasta sauce.
These are the aforementioned heirloom cherry tomatoes. I love heirloom tomatoes. Not only do they taste amazing but they are also beautiful and colorful, they really brighten up a dish. Here in LA, we can get good tomatoes through October and even into November and I never get sick of them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


This afternoon I went to the farmers market for the sole purpose of getting kale to make the massaged kale salad that my friend Aarti made on her new food network show Aarti Party. Coincidentally, I ran into Aarti at the market.

I love kale! I always have it in the fridge and generally eat it at least three times per week. It incredibly nutritious-from the same family as broccoli. My recipe is a loosely based on Aarti's recipe, but it is a good example of how you do not have to follow a recipe word for word. I used the same technique of massaging the kale, but I swapped out the mango for another sweet ingredient, golden raisins and instead of the pepitas, I opted for toasted almonds. Now, back to the kale massaging, you might think that sounds weird, but kale is pretty tough. By literally rubbing it with a little sea salt, olive oil and lemon juice (or a bit of your favorite salad dressing), you break down the fibers in the kale and it becomes really tender. Give it a try.

Kale Salad
1 lemon, cut in half and juiced
olive oil
sea salt
1 tablespoon honey (optional)
1 bunch kale, cut into ribbons
1/4 cup almonds, toasted (or your favorite nut raw or toasted)
1/3 cup golden raisins (or mango or apple)

Mix the lemon juice with several tablespoons of olive oil to make a simple vinaigrette. Place the kale in a large bowl, sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle with half of the dressing. Using both hands, gently rub the dressing into the kale for about 2 minutes. You will notice that the kale turns deep green and becomes softer. Stir the honey into the remaining dressing. Add the nuts and raisins to the kale. Drizzle with the remaining dressing to taste.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010


Not only do I choose the healthiest foods to cook and to eat, but I also choose the healthiest cleaning supplies for my home. I am not a huge fan of cleaning, I'm not very good at it. My mom, on the other hand, is an excellent cleaner. That woman leaves a bathroom sparkling, not me. Thanks to all my free time this summer, I have been committed to at least trying to really clean and learn how to do it well.

I just got this new fantastic book, NONTOXIC HOUSECLEANING by Amy Kolb Noyes. It's really more of a guide than a book. It cuts right to the chase, starting with natural ingredients for housecleaning, the appropriate sponges and scrubbers and then gives recipes for cleaning concoctions and how and when to use them.

Today, for instance, I made my own soft scrub using castile soap and baking soda. This could not have been any cheaper. The baking soda was about $1.30 and the soap was $11 for a huge bottle of which I used about 10 drops. This mix that I whipped up completely cleaned my bathroom and left it smelling very minty! Hurray!

It's important to use natural or "green" cleaning products, because while the others work, they are toxic. They give off fumes and contain chemicals that are not so good for the body. I generally buy the seventh generation brand and I'm totally committed to only using non toxic cleaning supplies for the health of me and my husband, but also for our two little dogs. My dogs weigh 4 and 7 pounds respectively. They have short little legs and their little bodies are close to the ground. They also will lick anything and everything they come across, so using safe cleaning products is the only option in this house.

I can't wait to tackle the rest of the house using my new all natural homemade cleaning recipes! Next up is the stovetop.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010


This week, I couldn't resist the heirloom tomatoes. Tomatoes most represent summer, in my opinion. They are the one thing that I never buy any other time of the year. In fact, I don't ever buy them from the store, not even Whole Foods because they are nowhere near as good as they are fresh from the garden. During the summer months, I always have heirlooms around. They are so good, that you really don't have to do anything to them. I love to buy a bunch of different kinds, thinly slice some, quarter others and serve them with some basil and a drizzle of olive oil.
Eggplant is another summer favorite. We have all seen the regular Italian eggplant and probably the long and skinny Japanese eggplant, but did you know there is a white eggplant, a green striped one and these little purple baby eggplants? Last year I bought all of the varieties to do a taste test and found that there wasn't really a discernible difference in flavor. The little ones in the picture are about the size of my thumb! My plan is to halve them and saute them later in some olive oil and garlic along with the peppers...
Peppers are on the list of the "dirty dozen." The dirty dozen is a list of the fruits and vegetables with the highest concentration of pesticides, therefore, you should always seek out organic options for them. These are another truly seasonal item. You see peppers at the grocery store year round, but they never have any organic ones. As a result, I have a very short window during the summer months where I get to enjoy them. In general, I prefer them cooked to raw, but my favorite way to have them is roasted. To roast a pepper, you simply place it directly on the flame of your stove's burner and char it. Once the outside is black and fully charred, put it in a paper bag or in a bowl covered with cling film. Let it cool for a few minutes and then, simply peel off the skin.

When I was a kid it was a toss up between peaches and strawberries for my favorite fruit. I used to pick every last piece of flesh from the pit before finally throwing it away-it was a tedious but well worth it practice. I love peach and blueberry tarts with nut crusts, grilled peaches with ice cream or fresh yogurt but nothing is better than biting into a perfectly ripe, sweet O Henry peach.

Sunday, August 8, 2010


This morning I went rifling through the produce drawers of my fridge. I took out some stuff that had been there and replaced it with the new items that I got at the farmers market this morning. What was left over from the week was a tiny head of broccoli, some cherry tomatoes, mushrooms and an avocado. These ingredients seemed like a good combination for an omelet. Although it looks huge in the picture, I only used two free range eggs.

First, I sautéed the vegetables in a little oil then removed them from the pan and added the lightly beaten eggs. Once they were almost set, I added the veg back to the pan and folded eggs over and topped with sliced avocado. This is a great way to get extra veggies into your diet.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010


Tonight was the first night in a while that I was on my own for dinner. I could have anything, go anywhere, so many choices what should I do? Ultimately, I decided to make a grassfed beef burger and salad. The burger can go on the grill and the salad, obviously didn't involve any cooking-which means minimal cleanup.

Having recently completed a 20 page paper on gluten, I have really been rethinking the grains that I eat. For example, using a bun for my burger would just be filler, so I opted out of the bun. After all, I was getting all of the carbs I needed through the giant salad that took up almost the entire plate and some leftover rice that I added to the salad.

Grassfed beef is much better than conventional meat because it contains vitamin A and Omega 3 fats, which we all need to eat more and is lower in fat. An added bonus with the grassfed beef is that the chance of e. coli is virtually unheard of.

So there you have it- a quick dinner with hardly any cleanup. Yum.


My beloved blueberries have been replaced with a new favorite-Persian mulberries. I was tipped off that they would be making an appearance at the farmers market this week, so I made sure to get there early and snatch some up. Oh my god are they good. They are incredibly sweet with a slightly acidic finish and went perfectly with my raw yogurt this morning. I am not sure how long their season is, but you can bet that I will be getting more, hopefully as early as this weekend. They are not cheap, running at about $10 a pint, but they really are worth every penny.
I ran into my new friends Susan and D.J. who is the head chef at Lou on Vine this morning. D.J. gave me a fig and that was my second stop, after the mulberries. I love figs on their own, as part of a cheese platter and roasted with some goat cheese and drizzled with balsamic vinegar. These figs are really sweet and need to be eaten raw, so they will be appearing in a fruit salad along with some of the early O'Henry peaches I picked up this morning. I should take a moment to say that this weekend I ate some of D.J's amazing food and I have been dreaming about it ever since. I have not yet gone to Lou, I am ashamed to say, but it has shot to the very top of my list.

I grew up picking and eating string beans right from the vine in my grandfather's garden. Anyone who has ever eaten fresh picked green beans know that they are so much more flavorful then those bland beans found year round in the grocery store. Normally, I like my vegetables rather al dente, but last year when I was in Italy, I had some braised Romano beans and that is the only way I ever want to eat them. They taste just like string beans yet because of the flatness have more surface area and that makes me love them more. These beans will be appearing in the near future on my table with some olive oil and garlic, perhaps along that grassfed bison steak I got at the market.
Amaranth greens are not something that I find very often but I always get them when I do happen upon them. They are a slightly bitter, less so than arugula and they are a good source of protein and vitamins. I usually sauté them lightly in olive oil and garlic but my favorite way to prepare them is to fold the sautéed leaves into olive oil smashed potatoes. I then use those leftovers in a fritatta.

So that's it for this week's farmers market. Assuming that I remember to take pictures, you will be seeing some of these items in future posts as they make their way into my menus.

Monday, August 2, 2010


Tonight's dinner took me less than 30 minutes to put together and it was delicious! Tomatoes are in season and I picked these right from my garden and made them into a super quick pan sauce that I served over local halibut. This sauce is really versatile and can be used on pasta, chicken, fish, beef or lamb and only takes a sec.

I just thinly sliced some garlic and added it to a skillet with some olive oil and red pepper flakes, of course. Then add the sliced cherry tomatoes to the pan and cook until they are wilted. Simple.

The green beans were simply blanched then tossed with a mixture of minced shallots and pancetta cooked in olive oil.

Sunday, August 1, 2010


I've got to be honest, I am not a fan of the master cleanse-you know the one that people start January 1st when they resolve to eat healthier and to get into shape. It's the one where you don't eat anything but you drink water with lemon juice, cayenne and honey. I could NEVER do that. I like to eat but more than that, I am really active. I run at least 30 miles per week, there is no way I could do a traditional cleanse while not eating. I had heard a lot about "CLEAN" by Alejandro Junger and decided to give it a go.

Junger suggests following his plan for 21 days, although he admits that one or two weeks will be beneficial as well. I decided to try out with one week. The plan is an elimination diet. There is no alcohol, caffeine, dairy, wheat, red meat, sugar, soy and more. In addition to eliminating certain foods from the diet, you are to eat two liquid meals and only one "real" meal during the day. Replace breakfast and dinner with fresh juices and smoothies (not the kind from Jamba Juice that are loaded with frozen yogurt) but nutritious smoothies that include fresh fruits and vegetables. The idea is that in replacing real food with liquids, you are giving the digestive system a break and allowing the liver to deal with the toxins it has been storing away for a raining day.

Remember that episode of I Love Lucy where she and Ethel are working at the chocolate factory. The conveyor belt speeds up and they cannot manage the chocolates and start stuffing them wherever they can. The liver does the same thing. The liver processes all the toxins that we take in from the air, water, food but because we live in a toxic environment and are constantly stuffing our faces, the liver cannot tackle all of the toxins that enter the body. So it stores them in the body, it stores them in fat cell with the hopes that it can deal with them at a later time. Following a cleanse gives the liver that break it needs to process the toxins.

Most people I came into contact with last week swore that they could never do a cleanse, but most people would benefit from giving the body a little rest to recover from all of the abuse it sustains.
I'll be honest, I was a bit skeptical, but I felt great and I wasn't really hungry. Ok, maybe toward the end of the day, I was slightly hungry, but it was really manageable. If you are thinking about cleansing, pick up CLEAN. It's a great read explaining the importance of detoxing from time to time. It also gives you a clear understanding of how to begin and follow his program, recipes included.

Monday, July 19, 2010


Poached eggs over sauteed kale with guacamole and asparagus

My mom always said breakfast is the most important meal of the day. She used to drive me crazy saying that, but she was right. The reason is that the body has been fasting for presumably 6-8 hours (hopefully closer to 8), without replenishing nutrients, it will not function properly. Ideally, you should eat within an hour of waking up. Now, for many of us, this is tricky because we like to work out first thing in the morning and the last thing we need is one more obstacle (making breakfast) in our way. For others, they say that they just aren't hungry when they first wake up. Both groups still have to eat, even something small and even if you don't feel like it.

In addition to the skipping breakfast altogether, the mistakes that I see with breakfast tend to involve eating the wrong thing. Baked goods are never the answer, I don't care if they are sugar free, fat free, low fat, high fiber. It's really not a good balance of macronutrients. In other words, baked goods (muffins, croissants, etc) are generally sugar bombs with little healthy fat and very little protein to keep your blood sugar stable. From time to time, it is ok to have your favorite muffin (hopefully homemade by someone, rather than from a package at the convenience store) but it should not be part of your routine. Another common breakfast-cereal with skim milk, is on my list of not great breakfasts. Let's just assume that we are talking about some sort of "whole grain" variety and not the sugar loops kind. First of all, the "whole grains" label on many of the packages is misleading. There may be other grains, beside wheat or corn but most of them are not in the "whole" form, but no one monitors the accuracy of that claim, so it can slide. More than the false claims of health on the box is the simple fact that many cereals are not enough calories to keep you going through the day. Again, there is not enough protein and coupling it with non fat milk, there's not enough fat to keep you satiated for very long.

The key to maintaining good health and to losing weight is to keep blood sugar levels even and the way to do that is to eat often and to include protein and healthy fat at every meal-in addition of course to all the vegetables that you should be eating too. Make breakfast part of your routine and mix it up-don't have the same thing everyday. Prepare some hard boiled eggs when you have some time and they will be ready for you as you head out the door. Smoothies are another quick fix. You can use fresh or frozen fruit, almond milk or full fat coconut milk or coconut water throw in some flax seeds, maybe a little spirulina (a seaweed that is packed with nutrients), half of an avocado (for some healthy fat) and a scoop of organic protein powder for a completely satisfying meal. The addition of the fat and protein will keep you going until lunch.

I already have my breakfast planned for the morning, how about you?

Wednesday, July 14, 2010


I love FIG!!! It has been my favorite restaurant for quite some time because the menu is insanely delicious. It is the epitome of seasonal California fare, with an emphasis on local and organic food. The menu has a runner along the bottom listing seasonal produce, specifically what is at its peak and what produce is about to hit the market and it is obvious that the chef respects the value of perfectly seasonal produce. You really can see and taste the influence that the Santa Monica farmers market has in every dish. For someone like me, a menu that emphasizes seasonal produce is right up my alley, but for god sakes they also have something called bacon wrapped bacon for all of the meat eaters. That dish is crazy, pork belly wrapped in bacon and served as a starter with cabbage and baby heirloom tomatoes. I could eat a plate of that alone.

Here is the greatest thing about Fig that I just found out. Apparently, starting yesterday, everything on the menu from wine and cocktails through dessert is 50% off daily between the hours of 5-6. This may be the best deal in the city. There is no special menu, no smaller sized plates, it's the whole menu at 50% off! Now, granted this might be a little early for most of us to eat but it is so worth it. If you work, you need to leave early to take advantage of this deal. They also have some really good lunch specials as well, but nothing compares to this 50% off deal.

Fig needs to be at the top of your restaurant if you love to cook or eat. It is such a great, shining example of simple, clean food that lets the ingredients speak for themselves. It isn't fussy or pretentious, and it displays how perfectly seasonal fruits and vegetables can taste so good. As someone who loves to cook and eat, I love Fig and get so much inspiration from its menu. I can't wait to go back.

Fig Restaurant
Located in the Fairmont Miramar
101 Santa Monica Blvd.
Santa Monica, CA 90401

Thursday, June 24, 2010


I don't know what I am doing lately. I have been trying to shop mostly at the farmers markets and supplementing a few items from Whole Foods. The problem is, I am completely in a fog and have no idea what I am doing. When I get home, there's a random assortment of vegetables in my bags and a piece of chicken or something. I have been pulling recipes from my you know where. Yesterday I came up with this veggie burger with leftovers that were in the fridge. Since there was nothing in the fridge except some quinoa and black rice, this is a pretty minimal burger.

Veggie Burger
1/2 ish cup of quinoa, cooked
1/2 ish cup of black rice, cooked
1 onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 cup flour (any kind-I used quinoa and rice flour)
1 or 2 eggs
olive oil

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Sauté the onion and garlic until translucent. While it's cooking, mix the quinoa and black rice in a large bowl. Add the remaining ingredients, including the onion and garlic and form into patties. You may need to add a little more flour as necessary to hold it all together.

Heat a medium frying pan and add a couple of tablespoons of olive oil. Cook patty until golden, then flip and cook the other side. When both sides are nicely browned, transfer to the oven to finish cooking.

I mixed the cooked quinoa, black rice an egg, some flour, chopped onion and chopped chives. I promise you this is all the food that I had.

Options- You could add shredded carrot, chopped spinach or any other cooked vegetable. You could use substitute any rice or grain for the quinoa and rice in this recipe.

Sunday, June 20, 2010


So, the truth is that I may eat a little better than many, but I eat "normal" food too. In fact, I am about to order a pizza. I just cannot look at the chicken that is in my fridge. First of all, I had chicken for lunch and I cannot face it again tonight. Secondly, I am feeling slightly uninspired tonight. Sometimes, I don't feel like setting foot in the kitchen or trying to come up with something interesting to make out of a boneless, skinless chicken breast. So I am choosing to do nothing. I think it is unrealistic to eat well 100% of the time and tonight is one of those times. More often than not I do, but sometimes, I just throw it all out the window.

So here are a few photos of some of the things I have made recently. Merguez sausage which is a Moroccan lamb sausage with carrots and onions, chicken breast with sauteed vegetables, rosemary shortbread and olive oil braised zucchini. The zucchini is going along side of the pizza. The shortbread has nothing to do with anything, except to show you that I am a kick ass baker and I eat sweets from time to time.

Regardless of what I eat, I insist on a lot of vegetables. They are full of vitamins and minerals, fiber, antioxidants. One of my guidelines for eating healthy is to include a lot of vegetables, even with your pizza. Just one serving of salad or one scoop of vegetables might just prevent you from eating one extra slice of pizza and who could argue about that not being a good thing?

Friday, June 11, 2010


Sometimes, I plan my dishes, other times I just open the fridge, nose around and then put something together and hope it works out. Usually, it does. I knew I had some chicken leftover from one that I roasted last night. I also knew that I had mustard greens that were on their last leg and some asparagus. A closer inspection of the kitchen revealed an open box of orzo, a bag of organic slivered almonds, some vinaigrette from a previous meal and of course the staples-red pepper flakes and garlic. If you haven't figured it out yet, those two along with some good olive oil form the basis of many of my meals.

As I was looking upon all of these, a plan started to come together-toast the almonds, shred the chicken, sauté the greens with the olive oil, garlic and red pepper and toss it all together with the orzo and a splash of dressing. Voilá!