Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Carrot Soup for the Soul

This soup is a delicious, healthy treat on cold nights or even served chilled in the spring and summer for simple elegance. It is rich and flavorful while still being vegan, prepares in a flash, is easy to multiply and makes quite a gorgeous statement on your table with its bright orange color. 

Carrot and Sage Soup

6 large carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped 
1 tsp fresh ginger zest
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1 3/4 cup vegetable broth
1 14 ounce can coconut milk
1/2 tablespoon of finely chopped sage

Bring the vegetable broth to a simmer on medium heat. Add carrots, onions, ginger and curry powder, simmer until carrots are soft about 25 minutes. Remove broth and carrot mix from heat and allow it to cool a bit. When warm (verses piping hot) puree the carrot broth mix in a blender. When pureed, add contents of blender to a saucepan, heat and stir in coconut milk until incorporated. Remove from heat, sprinkle in sage and stir. Season with salt to taste and garnish with a sage leave. Enjoy! 

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Ruby, Red Pomegranate Delight

The beautiful pomegranate. The fruit of the gods, enjoyed since ancient times, this fruit has always been a gorgeous source of nourishment. Recently, growing massive popularity for its antioxidants, it is now seen as a key to youthfulness and health. I personally love the sheer beauty of the pomegranate and it has become one of my favorite fruits for the holidays. That being said, I must share this super healthy, quick and easy desert. I used my special farm delivered pomegranates to make it and it was very flavorful, refreshing and surprisingly rich. Enjoy!

Pomegranate Compote - Adapted from Farm Fresh to You
2 pomegranates
1/2 tablespoon of ginger zest
1 tablespoon of fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon of orange zest
1 tablespoon of honey
1 tablespoon of chopped mint

Gently mix all ingredients together, chill and serve.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Nickel Diner - Downtown Los Angeles

Stuffed Artichoke

Stuffed Artichoke

Frim Fram Sauce with Ausen Fay and Sha Fa Fa

Not the best picture, but this is the inside, to give you an idea.

Turn up the Louis Armstrong and pour yourself a scotch on the rocks, its time to travel back to the 1940’s. Todd and I had quite the trip in to the past at the Nickel Diner in downtown Los Angeles. After I saw it featured on the Food Network’s, Diners, Drive Ins and Dives, I had to venture into the heart of downtown to try this place out. On a chilly November night, the cozy 1940’s themed, diner nouveau, was just what was in order. Now, I must warn that this place does come with a sprinkle of controversy. Located on skid row, we took normal safety precautions for our 10 minute journey, removing valuables from the car, making sure to lock the doors, etc. I read a Los Angeles Times article that shared a view about the insensitivity of the restaurant. The Nickel is not only just the name of the diner but also a nickname for the skid row area at 5th street in downtown  (the diner sits at Main and 5th). This, along with several drug references on the menu (thanks to my school girl naivety, they all went right over my head) were seen as flippant nuances towards the misfortunes that currently and have in the past,  plagued skid row.  Another interesting bit about the the location is that it was once in fact a diner in the exact location in the 1940's called the "Big Nickel." Ruffled feathers and geography aside, I will focus on the most important elements: the food and the experience. From chef Monica May, the food was nothing short of amazing, I literally have not stopped thinking about my phenomenal dinner. I ordered the  Frim Fram Sauce with Ausen Fay with Sha Fa Fa on the side, translation: classic chicken and dumplings in an amazing broth with lemon cream and fresh herbs on the side. This very dish warmed my soul. The chicken was moist, juicy and flavorful, the dumplings were like eating little delicious pillows of fluffy gooey goodness, the broth was savory and robust, made even better with the lemon zest infused cream, and the herbs? Fresh dill stirred in, what a delight. We were lucky enough to look so indecisive over the menu that one of the owners and head designer, Kristen Trattner kindly came over to offer suggestions. She told us the it is legend that Louis Armstrong was sitting in a diner listening to jazz eating a similar dish as I had ordered while he wrote one of his famous songs, which one, I'm not sure because Frim Fram Sauce was written by Redd Evans but did become famous through Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong. Nonetheless, it perfectly set the tone to lose ourselves in the environ and the food of the 40's. Todd ordered the Buttermilk Brind Pork Chop Served with My Neighbors Jam, another party of flavors in our mouths. The pork chop was juicy, the succotash in the jalapeno jam was phenomenal and the sweet potato tater tots were really something that had to be tried, delicious. As Kristen Trattner said while Todd was ordering, "other restaurants call them croquettes, here on Skid Row we call them tater tots," we did have chuckle at that one.The chop came with a side of this sweet and sour, apple and vinegary dipping sauce that really enhanced all the flavors wonderfully.  We shared the double stuffed artichoke which was heaven, an artichoke stuffed with mashed potatoes, herbs, capers and parmesan cheese in a delicious lemon sauce. We took desert to go, with pastry chef Koa Duncan, who took over in 2010 from predecessor Sharlena Fong (Bouchon) we couldn't pass up the opportunity to try the sweets. Nickel diner is famous for homemade bacon maple donuts, ding dongs and pop tarts. I neglectfully failed to note the names of our deserts but we had a secret cupcake, which all we were told was that it was inspired by Cher, we couldn't resist the curiosity of not knowing what we were getting only knowing whatever it was, was Cher inspired, pretty awesome. The cupcake was a perfect butter cream (not too buttery or creamy) dipped in dark chocolate sprinkled with pop rocks. The cake was a chocolate cake which I swear I tasted a hint of orange and peanut butter cake on the bottom. As fabulous as Cher, the most fun was eating desert while pop rocks explode in your mouth. Our other desert was a slice of cake, layers of chocolate cake, the same delicious butter cream and a filling of sweet peanut butter (think the inside of a Reese's cup) with get this: crumbled POTATO CHIPS. Salty sweet, peanut butter, chocolate and butter cream, the slice did not stand a chance of sitting around for long. Overall, both of your reviewers (Todd and I) seriously loved the Nickel diner. We cant wait to try their much touted about breakfast.
Oh, and one last thing, if you go, make sure to look at the window display of mannequin heads with hair made of real, edible meringue.

Famous Deserts

Amazing Cher Inspired Cupcake

Donut Display Case


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Essence of Fall - Harvest Grains Full of Thanksgiving Flavor

Early the other morning I awoke with a massive Thanksgiving craving. I am literally counting down the days until I get all the flavors of the day of giving thanks in my mouth.  That being said, it would be terribly irresponsible of me to spend my hours cooking up a Thanksgiving feast for two, two weeks early. Irresponsible is a gross understatement. I tried to sink back in to my slumber, only to be tortured by dreams of dancing turkeys, candied sweet potatoes, luscious cranberries and the such. Action had to be taken. In my half conscious state, I began obsessing over a healthy, smaller scale Thanksgiving dinner alternative. I was also lucky enough to have a big box of farm produce packed full of inspiration sitting in the kitchen. Below is the result, and it might just hold me over for the next 16 days. 

Thanksgiving Dinner Adaptation

8 oz of Trader Joe's Harvest Grain Blend
½ cup of wild rice
3 cups of Turkey broth
1 cup of white wine
2 very small sweet potatoes, cubed
½ acorn squash
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
6 oz of dried cranberries
1 chopped brown onion
6 oz of cooked, peeled chestnuts
1 tablespoon of orange zest
½ tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary
1 bundle of kale – red spines removed and torn into large pieces

Wash the grains and wild rice a sieve to clean. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a medium saucepan with 2 cups of turkey broth, heat on medium heat, add wild rice, bring to a simmer, lower heat and cover for 45 minutes. Cut acorn squash in half, clean out the seeds, drizzle with olive oil sprinkle with half of brown sugar and cinnamon. Cube the  sweet potatoes, lay in a foil lined baking dish and drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with remaining brown sugar and cinnamon, add the acorn squash to the dish, place in the oven and roast until tender, about 25 minutes. In a large saucepan pour in remaining 1 cup of turkey broth, white wine and the harvest blend over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, cover, turn heat to low and cook for about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Add the cranberries and onion to the harvest blend, cover so the cranberries can plump and onion can cook, set aside. Remove potatoes and squash, set aside to cool then cut into chunks. Fill a large pot with water, heat on high until it boils, add the kale, cover and cook 3 minutes. Drain. Add the wild rice, squash, sweet potatoes, chestnuts, orange zest and rosemary to the harvest blend, stir gently to mix, heat to desired temperature, salt to taste. Serve on top of kale.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Friday Libation - Classic Vodka Martini - Master Mixologist Todd Bjurstrom

Straight vodka martinis mean quite a bit to me. They are what my mom and I drink together, my "go-to" drink of choice and it was what initiated conversation between Todd and I leading us to meet. I thought after this long week, tonight is a definite vodka martini night. Perfection is a difficult goal to accomplish thankfully for you, I will share Todd's recipe to help you achieve the goals of all goals: mastering the art of the vodka martini.

Todd's Amazing Martini

What you need:
Martini Glass
Pint Glass
Premium Vodka

Using a chilled glass, pour a small amount of dry vermouth into the glass, swirl it around lightly coating the glass. Fill a pint glass with ice and pour 2 1/2 ounces of vodka (or gin) over the ice. Cap with the cocktail shaker and shake it vigorously. Discard vermouth and place olives in the glass, strain vodka (or gin) over the olives. Enjoy. Sip and repeat as necessary.

Todd's tips: "dry" means little or no vermouth, a "perfect" martini uses dry and sweet vermouth, "dirty" martini has olive juice. Try making a Gibson by following all the above instructions and substituting onions for the olives. Another great tip: store your olives in a mason jar full of vermouth and use those in your martinis.

Great recipe, great tips! Thank you so much Todd. I will vouch that this is an absolutely fantastic martini recipe, trust me, I'm an expert.

Native Foods

Vegan, AMAZING Chili "Cheese" Fries

Last night I had dinner at the casual Native Foods in Westwood. I eat there quite often due to the fact that it is very close to my office, let alone phenomenal. I always describe it to friends as vegan comfort food and I think that offers a pretty accurate description. For some reason, when I'm eating a burger or chili cheese fries that are vegan, I feel a million more times better about it, though well aware the vegan does not equal low calorie but healthier fats? I'll take that. Ethical eating? Ok, I don't feel bad at all about those chili cheese fries. Native Foods was founded by Chef Tanya Petrovna in 1994. Its all organic, all vegan menu is always a memorable experience for me. The chili cheese fries taste pretty darn close to the "real" deal, sans post-heartburn. The fries are the perfect crispness with delicious seasonings without being overly salty. The beans tasted like delicious hearty chili straight from the home front and the cheese topping, is a wonderful creaminess that has been boggling my mind all day long. The Ranch Run Burger was phenomenal. The buns were nice and grainy while not being dry. The "chicken" inside managed to be super crispy and moist in the center. Delicious!
Chicken Run Ranch Burger

A Serious Addiction of Mine, Lavender Lemonade

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Heaven in Your Mouth - Chef Sarah Britton's White Velvet Soup (Vegan and Healthy)

I came across this recipe while reading the Stockholm based, family blog, Green Kitchen Stories. This particular post was a guest post from chef Sarah Britton of the Copenhagen based, My New Roots blog. Both blogs are fantastic especially for healthy, vegan and vegetarian recipes, they are literally a feast for the eyes.  This recipe enticed me from the second I saw it, not only for it's nutritional value but also because it looked like guilt free decadence. Boy, I have never been so right. This soup was fabulous. An absolute treat, it tastes like a cream based winter soup with amazing rich flavors, when in all reality, it is all vegetable based. No cream, no butter, no guilt, and extremely filling thanks to its high fiber content. The recipe is also super easy, quick and makes a very large quantity (although, it disappeared extremely fast, it is just that tasty). I'm even thinking of making another batch of this recipe over the weekend to have on hand for a healthy treat throughout the week. Next time, I think I will try it with saffron oil verses the paprika just because I have a love affair with saffron, other than that, I vow to never alter this recipe because it is that perfect and delicious just as is.


White Velvet Soup,  Sarah Britton
1 head cauliflower
2 medium onions
1 head garlic (about 6-8 cloves)
3 cups cooked Lima beans (about 2 cans)
2 cups water
2 cups vegetable stock
juice of 1 lemon
sea salt to taste
olive oil
smoked paprika

Preheat oven to 400°F. Cut up cauliflower into bite-sized chunks and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil or melted ghee. Sprinkle with sea salt. Peel onions and slice into chunks. Peel garlic cloves. Place onions and garlic baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt. Place all veggies in oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes until everything has golden edges and is nicely caramelized. Let veggies cool slightly and add to blender along with all other ingredients except olive oil and paprika (process in batches if you have a small blender). Blend on high until very smooth. If you have a Vita-Mix, I would highly recommend using it. If the soup is not hot enough after blending, transfer soup to a large pot and warm until steaming. If the soup is too thick, simply add water to thin to your desired consistency.
Bonus: For each bowl of soup, combine 1 tsp. extra virgin olive oil with 1/8 tsp. smoked paprika and drizzle as a garnish (this is optional).

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

100% Guilt Free Fettuccini with Basil Tomato Sauce and Mushrooms

You wouldn’t know it from reading my blog thus far, but I do like to eat healthy. I shamefully admit, name a fad diet, I’ve done it. I’ve been vegetarian, low-carb, I’ve fasted, cleansed and actually had a wonderful six month fling with veganism. As I get older, I realize everything is about balance. I accept who I am, and want to be the healthiest me while still enjoying all life has to offer. So, I thought it’s about time to share my healthy side on my blog; I want all my readers to be healthy too! For today and tomorrow I have two great healthy recipes in mind. This one, for fettuccini is a great way to enjoy a comfort food that I often crave with zero guilt, it is also very filling. I see a lot of recipes that claim to be “guilt free” then after one look at the nutrition label you realize, it’s just a smidgen less guilty then the real thing. This recipe is pretty shocking, low calorie, lots of protein and fiber! The fat you do see in this recipe is from olive oil, which can be substituted for fat free spray but I prefer the health benefits of olive oil and the taste. The bulk of the carbs and sugar are natural from the tomatoes. I used Shirataki Tofu noodles which I have been eating for years, they can be found in the refrigerated health food or tofu aisle at your grocery store and definitely at any health food store. I warn, they are not the most fabulous consistency, they are chewy compared to an aldente noodle but the savings on the health front are well worth it. I always boil the noodles for 3 minutes to rid of the tofu flavor.

*Low Calorie, Vegan, Gluten Free, Low Fat, High Fiber, High Protein* 

Total Nutritional Info:                                                                Compared to:
Calories: 115                                                                            Calories: 560
Fat: 4 g                                                                                     Fat: 6 g
Carbohydrates: 19 g                                                                 Carbohydrates: 111g
Protein: 9 g                                                                               Protein: 19 g
Fiber: 12.5 g                                                                           Fiber: 9 g
Sugar: 15 g                                                                               Sugar: 20 g

Noodles, per serving 4 oz ½ one bag:
Calories: 20
Fat: 0.5
Carbohydrates: 3
Protein: 1 g
Fiber: 2 g
Sugar: 0

Recipe (two servings, I made double to keep for quick healthy lunches)
1 bag of Shirataki Noodles (style of your preference)
Olive Oil
4 cloves of garlic
4 ripe tomatoes of your preference, I used Roma
4 sprigs of basil
1 small can of Del Monte tomato paste

Fill a large pot with water, put over heat to bring to a boil. In a large saucepan over medium heat, heat 1/2 Tbs of olive oil; add garlic and sauté until aromatic. Lightly salt the tomatoes, slice of the top, add to saucepan. Heat tomatoes for about two minutes to tenderize the tomatoes, add basil, when tomatoes are tender, smash the tomatoes. I’d love to tell you that I used a fancy gadget but I honestly used the bottom of a pint glass to break the tomatoes, it worked wonders, then I used a wooden spoon. Give to tomatoes a good smash. Add tomato paste, stir, season to taste and simmer on low for about 4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Heat a modest drizzle of olive oil or water in a small saucepan, sauté mushrooms on low-medium heat until tender, sprinkle with salt to taste. Drain the Shirataki noodles from the bag and add them to the boiling water for 3-5 minutes. Drain noodles from pot. Serve on a plate, add sauce over noodles, spoon mushrooms over the top of the sauce, garnish with a basil leaf. Bon appétit!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Halloween Night Pot Roast


Don't think I forgot about Halloween, now. Although, I didn't make any mention of it yesterday, I did celebrate in full force. I also made a very hearty and flavorful pot roast. Simple, robust and an old fashioned favorite, pot roast is always one of those dishes that warms you down to the soul.  I always love the aroma from slow cooked beef and even more so, I love going about my business while dinner is cooking all day long.


1 3 LB Beef Chuck
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp of butter
1/4 cup of flour
Salt Pepper
1 1/2 cup of red wine
1 12 oz container of low sodium, natural beef stock
4 large or 6 small red potatoes
1 brown onion
6 carrots, peeled and cut into thirds or fourths
4 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
1 tsp of peppercorns
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of rosemary

Heat olive oil and butter over medium heat in a large skillet. Lightly flour and season beef with salt and pepper. When oil is hot, gently place the beef in the pan. Sear the outer layer of the beef, turning after about a minute or so on each side. Remove from heat. Layer onions and garlic in a stock pot or slow cooker. I used a slow cooker for this recipe. Pour in wine and broth, add carrots, bay leaf, rosemary and peppercorns. Turn heat on medium, then to low when brought to a simmer. In the slow cooker, on low heat cook for about 6 hours, on high about 4 1/a hours. Test to see if the beef is cooked by the tenderness of the meat. Serve hot.