Welcome to my LA World

Food Anthropologist and Personal Chef

A delicious 3 day vegan menu plan of client favorites

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Tomato Bisque

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pepper crusted portabello mushrooms with bearnaise sauce and mash

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Cajun portabello sandwich with avocado & remoulade

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Tomato, ‘mozarella’ & pesto pannini

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Black pepper shortcake with blackberry basil sauce and cinnamon cream

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Gardein chick’n scallopini with shitake sake sauce, braised pea shoots & udon noodle cakes

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California gardein chick’n salad wrap

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Lemon pistachio cookies with dried cranberries

 

Working as a personal chef for high profile clients in Los Angeles, I have gradually developed a preference for what I cook and prepare for my clients.  However, as it is food being put in their stomachs and not mine, I don’t have a say in how they eat. My favorite food to create is vegan cuisine.  I have been fortunate to have clients who request vegan meals.  Then I am in my element.  The downside of creating vegan fare, it is time consuming, therefore not always possible to prepare.  My two favorite cookbooks are: Tal Ronnen’s The Conscious Cook and Myra Kornfeld’s The Voluptuous Vegan.  

 Many friends and clients ask me what I prefer to cook. The answer is always vegan fare.  “Why?” they ask, especially as I am not a vegan.  It is simple, I love handling and creating  fruit, vegetables, oils, nuts, herbs, spices. These are the tastiest and most flavorful items I can put together.  I love combining fruits with nuts and herbs, or vegetables with fruit, nuts and herbs.  Also, in this time of cutting out sugar, wheat and dairy from people’s diets, there is so many flavors which burst together in these items. 

The next question asked: “why are you not a vegan?”  Simple, I have a hard time with soy and wheat products.  I can eat them occasionally but not all the time.  Without soy and wheat, I would find it hard to sustain a vegan diet. Also,  I prefer to eat only green veggies because white and yellow veggies are too carb heavy.  Therefore these food limitations decrease my daily dietary needs to only a few items. I need some meat and fish to keep up my energy.  If I could afford my own vegan personal chef, I would attempt a vegan diet, however, as I need to service others and have limited prep time for my own culinary desires, I will remain with chicken and fish to fill my protein needs.

I have put together a 3 day vegan summer menu for a client today; on the list are a sample of the meals my clients enjoy:

Summer Vegan Menu Ideas

 Breakfast ideas:

Tofu scrambled with a choice of spinach, mushrooms and onions. Served with a ‘hollandaise’ sauce. On a Ezekiel wrap or toast.

or

Oatmeal with Almond milk served with chopped maple pecans, dried cranberries and berries

or

Blueberry pancakes with berries or blueberry muffins or buckwheat granola

 

**( add vegan bacon and sausage, although I don’t like most available brands and prefer to leave out)

 

Fruit and veggie smoothies.

 

Lunch ideas:

 Always have lettuce and chopped veggies prepared in the fridge, with homemade vegan dressings.   Dressings include vinaigrette and creamy green ranch.  I currently love making kale salads

 Tomato Bisque (a client favorite)

 or

Cajun Portabello Sandwich with Avocado & Remoulade

 or

Tomato, ‘Mozarella’ & Pesto Panini (a client favorite)

 

Dinner ideas:

 

Old Bay Tofu Crabcakes w Pan-roasted Summer Veggies, Horseradish Cream, with Apple and Beets topping. (a client favorite)

 or

Peppercorn encrusted Portobello fillets with Tomato Béarnaise and Mash Potatoes (a client favorite)

 or

Gardein Chicken Scallopini with Shitake Sake sauce, Braised Pea Shoots and Crispy Udon Noodle Cakes (a client favorite)

 

Desert ideas:

 

Lemon pistachio cookies with dried cranberries

 or

Shortcakes with blackberry basil sauce & cinnamon cream

 

Please note, the lunch and dinner ideas listed above are all recipes from Tal Ronnen’s cookbook.  Although I love these recipes, they are not low in calories, so are not for daily consumption.  For sauces, Ronnen uses raw cashews and Earth Balance, both products are high in calories. 

For a day to day lifestyle,  a carb breakfast of oatmeal and fruit, a kale salad lunch with nuts for protein and a veggie, protein and brown rice dinner sounds ideal to me.  I would love people to comment and add some of their favorite books and recipes.  Especially low calorie and gluten free.

 

My Healthy Breakfast Options

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Pauline Young’s deliciously healthy granola

 

Lately, several friends have asked me about ideas for healthy breakfast options. As this important, daily meal sets up my eating habits for the day, I understand peoples’ curiosity and confusion surrounding the morning fuel required to sustain them for the morning. 

 

The human body, upon awakening, requires different food groups than needed for the remainder of the day. When asked about lunch and dinner options, my simple response is protein and greens are your primary staple, with a small amount of carbs.  However, most of my ideal breakfast options supply the body with more carbs than protein. When reading these meal ideals, please note I am not a nutritionist, only a person obsessed with trying to maintain a healthy, balanced diet.

 

These are breakfast menus I toggle between:

2 eggs and bacon

or

An omelette with fillings (for example: fresh herbs, cheese, bacon, mushrooms etc)

or

porridge with almond milk, slivered toasted almonds from trader joes and a few berries. I also add flax seeds or hemp seeds for my daily omega 3’s and 6’s

or

homemade granola. 

My favorite granola recipe was created by Pauline Young, she generously shared her now not so secret recipe with my readers. After many years of searching for the perfect, healthy combination, Pauline has hit the jackpot! Please enjoy, Pauline welcomes any comments about her product.

 

Yoghurt and fruit (except for a few in the porridge) have been left off the list. This breakfast denial has a simple explanation.  If I start my day with fruit sugars my hunger spikes for the rest of the day, I eat again sooner, and larger quantities throughout the day.  Therefore, fruit and yoghurt are reserved for my afternoon treat when my sugar level plunges. 

 

Also, by discovering my complicated relationship with sugar,  I never supplement meals with a shake. However, I do drink Evolution‘s green juices, but the jury is out on the nutritional value of the drink because it has a 4-week shelf life. 

 

For your information, fast cooking porridge is higher in carbs and less nutritious than slow cooking oats. For time efficiency, I prepare 2-3 cups of oatmeal at one time and reheat as needed on the stovetop, with milk added. 

 

Although I suggest flax seeds, flax oil is more beneficial. The oil’s flavor has a distinct after taste, which, for me, ruins the subtle flavor of porridge.

 

 

 

Pauline Young’s fantastically healthy and delicious granola recipe

4 cups of Old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup of mixed nuts
1/4 cup of warmed coconut oil
1tsp of vanilla extract
Just under a 1/4 cup honey
1 tbsp shaved, unsweetened coconut
1/3 cup of sunflower, sesame, and flax seeds

1. Place all the dried ingredients in a bowl together.
2. Mix oil, honey and vanilla together
3. Heat oven to 250F
4. spread mix out on baking sheets covered with parchment paper
5. Bake in oven for 25 minutes, until golden. Turning ever 10 minutes
6. Remove from oven, let cool and add dried cranberries, raisins or dried apricots

Brentwood Country Mart’s restaurant: The Farm Shop

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Formerly Thomas Keller’s right-hand man, Cerciello and his team are turning out some wonderful country cooking in the city. The ingredients are impeccable, the execution skilled. Service is crisp and assured, and servers know a great deal about the food. Ask any question about a dish, they know the answer” (Irene Virbilla, LA Times, November 3, 2011).

Having worked long hours training babies for the past two weeks, it was time for a special treat. As a personal chef (and baby training specialist), for me, a treat is tasting a critically acclaimed chef’s food. Jeffrey Cerciello’s restaurant has been on that list. However, due to tight purse strings as a poor college student, I had to wait for the financial constraints to be lessened, to justify a visit.  Breakfast being the least expensive option, I set my treat in motion.

Scanning the menu for 10 minutes, I narrowed my options down to:

rolled herb omelette

pastrami and eggs with heirloom cauliflower and pole beans

or

shirred eggs with wild greens, fennel cream and Zoe’s bacon.

My decision – the shirred eggs. A disappointing choice. The mingling of ‘mushy,’ sauteed, garlicky greens with equally disturbing raw-in-the-middle eggs led me to ponder how I would have presented this dish. However, before my recipe, I hasten to add, the in-house, cured bacon, perfectly salted, was some of the best bacon I have eaten. 

My ideal recipe:

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Shirred Eggs with Thinly Sliced Toasted Soldiers
serves 2

4 eggs
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons shredded Gruyere cheese
a few sprigs of thyme
2 pieces of toast, cut into thin slices

Preheat oven to 425°F. Lightly grease two 4-inch ramekins.

Crack 2 eggs into each ramekin, and pour 1/2 tablespoon of cream onto each egg. Sprinkle the cheese,  and a few thyme leaves onto each egg.

Bake for 7 to 10 minutes (7 for a very runny yolk, 10 for a firmer yolk).

Serve immediately with toast soldiers.

I would thinly slice some Kale, massage in some olive oil and lemon. Add S&P.  This would be added delicately to the top of my eggs and ladled onto toast. Delicious. 

 

 

Cafe Gratitude opening in Venice, CA on Monday

ImageImageImageImageI am creamyImageThai Sauce

All Vegan food lovers living on LA’s Westside, have eagerly been waiting for the opening of Venice’s Cafe Gratitude.  The local residents have been watching the building’s structure slowly get built over the last few months, but, until now, there has been no signs of an opening.  I am here to inform you from good authority of my friend Maria, a pastry chef in the Larchmont location, Monday is finally the day when the Venice location will open their doors.

Today I needed to be in the Larchmont area for a meeting, therefore I finally went and tried out CG for myself.  Walking into the impressive, green-friendly building, filled with good-looking, fresh-faced, thirty-something crowd, I immediately felt the energy resonating the company name.

For lunch, I tried the tacos and german chocolate cake.

The tacos and salad burst with local, fresh flavors, complimented with a white, delicious sauce dribbled over the tacos. Also, the salad leaves with pea shoots had a perfectly dressed, delicious tasting salad dressing, with a slight punch to it.

However, the German chocolate cake was dry and although the chocolate was delicious, I am not a fan of the coconut layer. Chocolate and coconut do not make a food marriage. As a fan, and also a cook of vegan fare, I will compare Real Food Daily and Veggie Grill to Cafe Gratitude. CG definitely comes out tops.

Real Food Daily is a dated preparation of Vegan fare, and offers too much in the form of old fashioned, heavy sauces and soy / wheat products to replace meat.  As soy and wheat are not healthy replacements for meat, they need to adapt to a more nut and veggie based cuisine. Also, I have it on good authority that they use white sugar in their desserts, whilst CG is using coconut sugar and agave, as sweeteners.

The newly popped up chain of popular Veggie Grills provides meat loving Americans with vegan alternatives which mirror their burgers and salads.  Although tasty, the menu is heavy on soy and wheat dishes to replace meat. If I gave up meat, wheat and soy would not be the alternatives. 

I look forward to becoming a regular at our new Vegan haunt once it opens next week and hope to see many of you there.  For now, I am going to leave you with a couple of delicious recipes straight from Cafe Gratitude’s website:

Salad Dressing:  “I am creamy” (Hemp Seed Ranch)

3/4 cup olive oil

1/4 cup lemon juice
2 Tbl. tamari
1 cup water
1/2 cup soaked sunflower seeds
1 cup hemp seeds
1 tsp. garlic
1 Tbl. chopped jalapeno
3/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp.black pepper
1 Tbl. dried dill
Blend the above ingredients well
Add 
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup chopped cilantro 
Blend well
enjoy
 
AND
 
Thai Sauce
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 jalapeno –  remove seeds
  • 1/4 cup ginger juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 Tbl. tamari
  • 1 Tbl.. salt
  • 1 Tbl. agave
  • 1/2 bunch cilantro
  • 1/2 bunch basil
  • 1.5 cups almond butter (or peanut butter if you don’t mind it not being raw)

Blend well in vita mix or high speed blender

 

 

How to Effectively Lose Weight and Keep it off: Without Feeling Deprived

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How did you lose so much weight? That is the big question I am being frequently asked.  Having gained 30lb over 3 years and a wardrobe of clothes that no longer fit me, I decided to get back into shape. Getting into shape again is foremost an emotional process, followed by a discipline. 

The mental recognition that I didn’t want to be emotionally dependent on carbs and sugars any longer was the first step.  As a personal chef for the glamorous Hollywood crowd, I know the actions necessary to empower my body once again.

These are the rules:

1. Keep things simple. The 2 big food groups to cut out when first losing weight – sugar and wheat.

2. Focus on what you can eat, not what you can’t

3. Have naughty binge foods to curb the craving in the begining – for me, I use nuts

4. Make sure to get your body moving at least 1/2 hour a day – gets the endorphins going

5. Recognize if you are Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT) – fulfill that need before you use sugar.

By removing sugar, I also mean fruit, orange veggies etc.

The friends and clients my age who look healthy and lean, eat this way:

BREAKFAST:

Eggs with either spinach, cheese, avocado, bacon some berries

or

Oatmeal with sliced almonds & dried cranberries

tea, coffee and water

LUNCH

Grilled chicken breast, with salad mix, cucumber, olives, nuts and olive oil, splash of vinegar

Water

DINNER

Ground Bison or Beef, steak, chicken, fish with greens, I like spinach, brocoli or kale

I found by cutting out sugar, my hunger didn’t spike at all in the day.  I did eat rice sometimes and gradually added back into the diet more fruit and other foods. 

The “trendy” food on LA’s Westside at the moment, is kale salad.  The most popular one is from the restaurant Gjelina on Abbot Kinney. I keep a bowl of it in my fridge to eat for lunch etc.  This is the recipe and to adapt slightly, I sometimes add smalled diced pieces of salami.

GJELINA’S KALE SALAD RECIPE (SEE PHOTO ABOVE):

1 Bunch of Kale, stems and centers discarded, finely sliced
1 Bulb of Fennel, finely sliced
4 Radishes, finely sliced
1 cup Ricotta Salata, finely sliced
Splash of White Balsamic Vinegar
1/2 Lemon, juiced
1 1/2 tbsp. of olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large bowl, combine finely sliced kale, a drizzle of olive oil, 1/4 of lemon and a pinch of salt. Massage the kale until it starts to soften, about 2 min. Massaging the kale in the oil makes all the difference.

Then add the sliced fennel, radish and ricotta salata. Toss with the rest of the lemon juice, a splash of white balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper to taste.

**The thinly slicing of kale leaves is time consuming, most grocery stores now provide pre-sliced kale

 

For those of you who have trouble eating greens. Evolution green veggie drinks are easiest to digest. I sometimes take one bottle for my lunch if I know I will be too busy to eat lunch. 

 

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Evolution's cold pressed green veggie drink

Merry Christmas & a Happy New Year

“Our real journey in life is interior;
It is a matter of growth, deepening,
and of an ever greater surrender
to the creative action of love and grace in our hearts.
Never was it more necessary to respond to that action”. Thomas Merton

As the christian calendar comes to a close, many Americans remain stagnant in regards to the people within their communities that are losing their jobs on a daily basis; and who also observe the 1% getting wealthier from this helplessness that rapidly traverses the country. I witness the dismay that poverty brings to the multitude of families who have lost their sense of hope. This upheaval of life, with nowhere to turn, is etched on the homeless faces in Bell’s Shelter, as these women and men struggle to smile as the carol singers harmoniously try to raise the resident’s spirits. I struggle to understand these dire circumstances, which manifests this inability to survive without charity. In my momentary pause, I know that every person in this shelter is no different from me, except for the fact that their lives are full of unkind circumstances. In that moment too, I remember the magical power of love and kindness for lifting their souls to a place where strength can once again bloom.
The power of love and kindness resides in all our hearts, and the reciprocation of love towards each other unites our souls to a higher plain.
This ability to love is subtly present within the food we make and eat. The childhood memories that surge through my heart and belly when I eat Shepherd’s pie, and the satisfaction I feel when I stick to my diet by consuming a bun-less burger with crispy Kale, unites the past with the present. Therefore these human connections to food sustain us in that urgency of necessary time to repair the soul from the inside out.
In this year of “less is more,” food plays a larger role in community responsibility. It is essential to make certain that no child or adult goes hungry. Gluttony is prevalent in our society, portions are too big. Meanwhile the crop growers are providing a less than substantial product and charging the consumer more money.
I urge you all to remember the importance of food and to be mindful of what we consume in the New Year.

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

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About 3 million people visit the Taj Mahal every year. This blog was viewed about 27,000 times in 2010. If it were the Taj Mahal, it would take about 3 days for that many people to see it.

In 2010, there were 32 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 50 posts. There were 130 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 32mb. That’s about 3 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was November 2nd with 200 views. The most popular post that day was Suzanne Goin & Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Lemony Halibut skewers and Gjelina.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, misswhistle.blogspot.com, jewelsfromtherovingstove.blogspot.com, twitter.com, and becomingjennie.wordpress.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for fish and chips, gjelina, bread and butter pudding, gordon ramsay, and fish n chips.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Suzanne Goin & Sunday Suppers at Lucques, Lemony Halibut skewers and Gjelina February 2010

2

Jamie Oliver’s Fish and Chips and my favorite English trifle recipe February 2010
1 comment

3

A Typical British Sunday Lunch courtesy of Delia Smith February 2010
3 comments

4

Neela Paniz, Bombay Cafe and Madhur Jaffrey’s Chicken Vindaloo recipe March 2010
3 comments

5

Ye Olde Kings Head in Santa Monica, Gordon Ramsay and his Shepherd’s Pie recipe March 2010

Real Food Daily, Cashew Cheese Nachos recipe and Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution Petition

Inside Real Food Daily in West Hollywood

Once again I am back on my aim to cook delicious and nutritious vegan meals that delights commited meat eaters. A client and her family are slowly achieving this goal, so I get to cook many delicious vegan dishes that anyone will enjoy.

For help and inspiration, one of my sources is the popular restaurant Real Food Daily. I now eat at the original one in Santa Monica. The West Hollywood restaurant is better known.

Here is a copy of their menu:
RFD menu

My client has children to satisfy, they wanted the cashew cheese nachos. The cashew cheese is delicious and easy to make. A great crowd pleaser for an appetizer where you need to cater to someone who needs to eat dairy free.

RFD's Cashew Cheese Nachos

“RFD’s tempting take on this cheesy favorite has layers of all the gooey and yummy things that make Mexican food so satisfying. Using a frying pan rather than saucepan to fry tortillas provides more surface so that you can cook larger batches without crowding.”

1 cup canola oil
12 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into wedges
Sea salt
1/3 cup melted Cashew Cheddar Cheese (recipe follows)
1/2 cup black beans
1/4 cup pico de gallo
1/4 guacamole
2 Tbsp. tofu sour cream
1 green onion (white and green parts), thinly sliced,

Heat the oil in a large, heavy frying pan over medium-high heat. Working in batches, add the tortillas and fry, stirring occasionally, for 2 minutes, or until golden. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the chips to a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Sprinkle with salt.

Arrange the warm chips over a large platter. Spoon the warm melted cheese over the chips, then spoon the over the cheese. Spoon the pica the gallo over the beans and top with the guacamole. Drizzle with on the sour cream, sprinkle with the green onion, and serve immediately.

CASHEW CHEDDAR CHEESE
Makes 4 cups

“This cheese is great for shredding or melting. Cashews work better than other nuts because they blend into such a creamy, rich consistency. If you are not satisfied with the cheese’s final consistency or texture, blame the agar flakes; all store-bought brands of agar flakes are cut differently which unfortunately affects the amount if measured by volume. If you rather not learn the hard way like as I did, go by the provided weight rather than cup weight.”

1 1/4 cups raw cashews
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
2 tsp onion powder
2 tsp sea salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1/8 tsp ground white pepper
3 1/2 cups unsweetened soymilk
1 cup agar flakes (about 2 ounces)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup yellow miso
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 lemon)

Using the pulse button, finely grind the cashews in a food processor; don’t allow the cashews to turn into a paste. Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, garlic powder, and white pepper. Pulse three more times to blend in the spices; set aside.

Combine in the soymilk, agar, and oil in a heavy saucepan. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-high, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until the agar is dissolved.

With the food processor running, gradually pour the soymilk mixture through the feed tube and into the cashew mixture. Blend for 2 minutes or until very smooth and creamy, and then blend in the miso and lemon juice.

The cheese will keep will keep 4 days covered and refrigerated.

FOR GRATED OR SLICED CHEESE:
Transer the cheese to a container, cover and refrigerate about 4 hours until very firm. Once its firm, grate or slice as desired.

FOR MELTED CHEESE:
Use the cheese immediately as melted cheese. Alternatively, make the cheese in advance, cover and refrigerate. When you’re ready to use the cheese, melt it in a saucepan over medium-high heat until smooth and creamy, stirring frequently. If needed, add more soymilk for a thinner consistency.

FOR JALAPENO CASHEW CHEDDAR CHEESE:
Stir in 2 Tbsp. minced jalapeno pepper chiles into 2 cups of melted cheese.

On a final note, if you haven’t done so already, please sign Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution. His goal is to bring more nutritious food to school dinners in America. Here is the website to add yourself to: http://www.jamieoliver.com/campaigns/jamies-food-revolution/petition