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Forks Over Knives

November 22nd, 2010 G Posted in COOKING, DINING, LIVING, SEEING No Comments »

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”
- Hippocrates

Forks Over Knives is set to be released March 11, 2011. Click here to see the trailer.

Suspend judgment until you see it.

It’s not about guilt. It’s about hope. And I’m all for that!

Whether you agree or disagree, it’s a conversation worth engaging in.

From the Forks Over Knives website:

What has happened to us? Despite the most advanced medical technology in the world, we are sicker than ever by nearly every measure.

Two out of every three of us are overweight. Cases of diabetes are exploding, especially amongst our younger population. About half of us are taking at least one prescription drug. Major medical operations have become routine, helping to drive health care costs to astronomical levels. Heart disease, cancer and stroke are the country’s three leading causes of death, even though billions are spent each year to “battle” these very conditions. Millions suffer from a host of other degenerative diseases.

Could it be there’s a single solution to all of these problems? A solution so comprehensive but so utterly straightforward, that it’s mind-boggling that more of us haven’t taken it seriously?

FORKS OVER KNIVES examines the profound claim that most, if not all, of the so-called “diseases of affluence” that afflict us can be controlled, or even reversed, by rejecting our present menu of animal-based and processed foods. The major storyline in the film traces the personal journeys of a pair of pioneering yet under-appreciated researchers, Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn.

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Decadent Desserts 101

March 12th, 2010 G Posted in COOKING 1 Comment »

organic dessert,organic chocolate,vegan chocolate,organic cooking,organic baking,vegan cooking,vegan baking

As much as I love to cook, lately I just haven’t had time.

BUT with a few tips from Culinary Curator extraordinaire, Catherine DeOrio, I’ll be whipping up some deliciously decadent desserts for my next swanky soiree.

All you need in your kitchen for elegant desserts-on-demand are 5 simple ingredients:

  • Nuts – salted cashews, toasted almonds, pecans, walnuts, whatever you want
  • Raw Sugar – way better than the over-processed white stuff with a nice little crunch
  • Chocolate – choose your favorite. you can easily find fair-trade, organic, and even vegan options
  • Heavy Cream – don’t bother looking for low-fat versions. you don’t need to use that much
  • Puff Pastry - I’m happy to let Sara Lee do the heavy lifting with the frozen puff pastry dough.
  • Although I’m not a fan of any food-in-a-box, it’s a great cheat and totally acceptable when the finished product comes out looking as fabulous – and tasting as DELISH – as these yummy little suckers.

    Sweet breadsticks
    12 breadsticks

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
    • 1/2 cup salted cashews, toasted and finely chopped
    • 1/3 cup raw sugar
    • 4 ounces milk or dark chocolate, melted
    • Butter, melted

    DIRECTIONS

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl mix the sugar and nuts together.
    2. Unfold pastry puff dough on a lightly floured surface. Using a rolling pin, thin dough to ¼-inch thick. Cut in half. Lightly brush one side with melted butter.
    3. Sprinkle entire surface with sugar-nut mixture, pressing it into dough.
    4. Lightly brush other half of dough with melted butter and place over other side, butter side down. Using rolling pin, seal pieces together.
    5. Brush the top of pastry with melted butter and lightly sprinkle with sugar if desired. Cut into 12 strips
    6. Take a strip and twist. Transfer to a silpat mat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Press ends into baking sheet to prevent breadsticks from untwisting during baking. Chill for 15 minutes before baking.
    7. Bake for 15-20 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Let cool.
    8. Drizzle melted chocolate across breadsticks.

    Flaky chocolate nut turnovers
    12-14 mini turnovers

    INGREDIENTS

    • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
    • 1/2 cup almonds, toasted, and a little extra for garnish
    • 1/2 (2 ounces) cup dark chocolate, finely chopped

    DIRECTIONS

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Place almonds in food processor and run until it turns into a smooth paste, approximately 3-5 minutes.
    3. Transfer almond paste to a small bowl. Add chocolate and work ingredients together with your fingers until well combined.
    4. On a lightly floured surface, unfold puff pastry dough.
    5. Using biscuit cutter, cut out 12-14 circles. Using a rolling pin, roll into an oval shape.
    6. Place 1 teaspoon of mixture on one side of each dough oval. Fold the dough over it and seal the edges using the tines of a fork. An egg wash can be used here to seal if desired.
    7. Pierce top with fork. Brush with egg wash if a glossy finish is desired.
    8. Bake for 12-15 minutes until golden brown, transfer to wire rack to cool.
    9. Melt chocolate and drizzle over top of each turnover. Sprinkle with chopped, toasted almonds.

    Creamy chocolate-praline filled vol-au-vents
    2 dozen

    INGREDIENTS
    Vol-au-vents

    • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry dough, thawed
    • 6 ounces dark chocolate (53-65% cacao), finely chopped
    • 2 cups whipped cream

    Hazelnut praline

    • 1/2 cup hazelnuts, skinned and toasted
    • 1/2 cup sugar
    • 2 tablespoons water

    DIRECTIONS
    For hazelnut praline:

    1. Place all ingredients in a heavy-bottomed saucepan and bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally.
    2. Boil until amber in color. Do not stir once it comes to a boil.
    3. Pour out onto a silpat mat-lined baking sheet.
    4. Let cool completely before handling.

    To assemble:

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Unfold puff pastry onto a lightly floured surface and lightly smooth puff pastry dough with a rolling pin.
    3. Cut out 24 circles with biscuit cutter and place on a baking sheet lined with a silpat baking mat or parchment paper.
    4. Using a paring knife, score a smaller circle within it to create a border (be careful not to cut through the dough). Prick center of circle with fork.
    5. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.
    6. Make praline. While the praline cools, bake shells until golden brown, approximately 12-15 minutes. Let cool.
    7. Press down centers if they puffed during baking.
    8. Melt chocolate, reserve 2 tablespoons for drizzling.
    9. Add chopped praline to melted chocolate and stir to combine.
    10. Spoon a small amount of chocolate praline in pastry shell, top with whipped cream, drizzle with chocolate and sprinkle with crushed praline.

    Chocolate almond bark
    3/4 pounds

    INGREDIENTS

    • 8 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped
    • 1 cup slivered almonds, toasted

    DIRECTIONS

    1. In a double boiler set-up, melt one-third of the chocolate. Add in 1/3 increments until chocolate is smooth and evenly melted.
    2. Stir in almonds, being sure that all are thoroughly covered in chocolate.
    3. Pour onto a silpat mat or wax paper-lined baking sheet.
    4. Spread and smooth until about ¼-inch thick.
    5. Chill until set, approximately 20-30 minutes.
    6. Break into pieces.

    Nutty napoleons
    12 servings

    INGREDIENTS
    Nutty napoleons

    • 1 package frozen puff pastry, thawed
    • 1/4 cup hazelnuts, skinned, toasted and chopped
    • 2 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
    • 2 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped

    Sweetened cream filling

    • 2 cups heavy whipping cream
    • 4 Tablespoons sugar

    Hazelnut chocolate spread

    • 3/4 cup hazelnuts, toasted and skinned
    • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped.
    • 2 ounces milk chocolate, finely chopped

    DIRECTIONS

    For sweetened cream filling:

    1. Chill metal bowl, whisk attachment in freezer.
    2. Mix sugar into cream and let sit in refrigerator to allow it to dissolve. Stir again before transferring to mixing bowl.
    3. Whisk cream until soft peaks form. Transfer to pastry bag.

    For hazelnut chocolate spread:

    1. Place hazelnuts in the bowl of food processor and run until a creamy paste forms.
    2. In a double boiler, melt the chocolates and mix until smooth.
    3. Remove from heat and stir in hazelnut paste until combined.
    4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and place in refrigerator until thickened but spreadable, approximately 25 minutes.

    To assemble pastry:

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Make chocolate hazelnut spread.
    3. While chocolate hazelnut spread cools, unfold puff pastry on a lightly floured surface. Cut into 12 equal rectangles and transfer to a parchment paper or silpat-lined baking sheet. Bake for 12-15 minutes until puffed and golden brown. Let cool. Cut each in half crosswise, creating a top and bottom.
    4. Take bottom of pastry and spread with chocolate hazelnut mixture.
    5. Create the next layer by piping on a generous amount of cream filling.
    6. Top with pastry. Melt chocolate and drizzle both milk and dark chocolate over the top.
    7. Sprinkle chopped hazelnuts over top.
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    How To Un-Funk Your Veggies

    August 16th, 2009 G Posted in CLEANSING, COOKING No Comments »

    Water and Vinegar Produce WashOk, so just two days into my fasting prep I started to contemplate the irony in detoxing with fruits and veggies that were probably covered in more pesticides and other “funk” than I could hope to clear out in a couple of weeks.

    I’m not a big fan of commercial produce washes because a) they are insultingly expensive ($4+ for the ones I found); and b) those plastic spray bottles aren’t very environmentally friendly. (See, I’m making progress!)

    So I consulted a few of my eco-conscious friends – who were very happy to hear that I was doing something with celery other than sticking it in a Bloody Mary – and they all concurred that a mixture of water and white vinegar will do the trick. Yup. Seriously, that’s it. Put three parts water + one part vinegar in a spray bottle (yes, this is ok because you’ll REUSE it!), spray the fruits and veggies, rinse and voila!

    There you have it: clean AND green!

    Supposedly researchers say it’s even better than using a scrub brush – which is awesome because those things will totally jack up a good manicure!

    PS – don’t forget to recycle the vinegar bottles ;-)

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    Preparing For My Summer Fast

    August 13th, 2009 G Posted in CLEANSING, COOKING 1 Comment »

    It’s THAT time of the year…

    Actually, I’m about 6 weeks late. I usually try to do this quarterly (at the change of seasons) but alas, I was off gallivanting in France and Italy during that time and well, what can I say? I’ll work on detoxing my priorities some other time…

    fruits-and-veggiesFor someone who loves food as much as I do, dietary restrictions or restrictions of ANY kind are just plain brutal. But I have to say, I’m looking forward to the next two weeks because I know how amazing I’m going to feel after I survive this little mini-cleanse. My friends think I’m crazy so for those of you who are going to yell at me about not needing to lose any weight, let me remind you that fasting is NOT a quick (or easy) weight-loss plan nor is that the goal - although after all the snacks I’ve been eating lately thanks to you-know-who, it will be a most welcome side benefit…

    I don’t profess to be an expert on fasting, cleansing, detoxing, or any other health-related subject. I just know what works for me and believe me, if it didn’t there’s no WAY I’d voluntarily give up food! I check in with my doctor regularly and I highly recommend the same for anyone who wants to try a fast for themselves. Incidentally, she thinks I’m crazy too, but she always encourages me to stick with it because I’m the healthiest person she sees all year!

    Want to join me? Ok, here’s the plan for the next 8 days:

    Eat: Only raw or lightly-steamed fruits and veggies, preferably organic and locally-grown. This may sound like torture but you’d be surprised at how many yummy raw food recipes you can dig up when you have to. There are probably some great raw food restaurants in your area as well. Try not to think of this as cruel and unusual punishment – you are embarking on a new culinary adventure! (Fortunately, you have a valid round-trip ticket…)

    Drink: In addition to tons of water (add fresh lemon juice when you can), try to squeeze in the following supplements to facilitate the cleansing process:

    • 3 oz. prune juice in the morning
    • 3 oz. aloe vera juice at lunch
    • 1 cup of laxative tea after dinner
    • 2 Tbsp of olive oil at bedtime

    Do: Here are a few more suggestions to help prepare for the full-on fast next week:

    • Walk at least 20 minutes a day - it’s important to keep your metabolism and circulation up but also to be mindful of overexertion. If you’re used to working out for several hours a day it’s hard to keep up that pace on nothing but fruit and veggies if you’re not used to this diet. Having said that, there is a whole subculture of vegan and vegetarian athletes who seem to do just fine. I’m not enlightened enough to go totally meatless yet, but I’m doing my best.
    • Take a detox bath daily - If you have the luxury of time and a tub, you can get some great detox bath powders online. We Care Spa carries a whole line of products that are perfect for a DIY-Detox at home.
    • Dry-skin brush daily - The skin is responsible for 1/4 of the body’s daily detox. In addition to facilitating detoxification, dry brushing also exfoliates dead skin and stimulates the growth of new soft skin. There are several other benefits including cellulite removal, tightening the skin, and muscle toning but I’ll have to save that for another post.
    • Avoid oils and lotions - Dry brushing expedites the removal of toxins through the skin, but all those wonderful oils, lotions and potions that lock-in moisture will lock the toxins in with it. So if detox is one of your goals, let your skin do what it’s supposed to do. Hey, no one said this was gonna be glamorous.

    Once you’ve gotten through this week – especially the first day or two – you will be amazed at how NOT hungry you are! And all this will prepare your body for the main event: the 7-day fast.

    If anyone plans on joining me let me know. It’s SO much easier with a buddy!!! But choose wisely – lest you find yourself partnered up with someone who believes with all her (or his) heart that an organic limoncello martini with orange garnish is a sanctioned libation.

    Save those for your celebration toast – I do!!!

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    Cooking with Aphrodisiacs

    February 14th, 2009 G Posted in COOKING No Comments »

    Valentine's Day Dinners

    aph⋅ro⋅dis⋅i⋅ac
    [af-ruh-dee-ze-ak]

    1. arousing sexual desire.
    2. an aphrodisiac food, drug, potion, or other agent that arouses sexual desire.

    Smart girls (and guys) know that cooking is sexy.

    But when it comes to making a romantic dinner to set the stage for an unforgettable evening, not all foods are created equal.

    Many foods considered to be aphrodisiacs are low in fat and high in vitamins and minerals. Therefore, a diet rich with these foods yields a healthy body with the energy, blood-flow and nutrients needs for a peak sexual experience!

    In addition to the usual suspects (chocolate, strawberries, oysters), here is their list and descriptions of some lesser known aphrodisiac foods that you might consider incorporating into your next romantic meal:

    1. asparagus – finger food extraordinaire, easy to prepare and dripping with sensuality (and butter if you wish)
    2. chiles – get the blood rushing, the heart pumping, the face flushing and the pores sweating
    3. coffee - its alkaloids help maintain sexual performance and delay the inevitable for a few sweet, luscious seconds
    4. honey -provides the body witha usable form of sugar that converts easily into energy. Hippocrates prescibed it for sexual vigor.
    5. artichokes – steam, dip in melted butter, and feed to each other
    6. ginger – thins the blood to allow it to flow easily to all parts of our system, engorging sensitive areas with oxygen-rich blood
    7. black beans – lore has it that they increase fertility
    8. seafood – iodine makes you feel vivacious, energetic and passionate
    9. pine nuts – reported to increase fertility, or maybe just copulation. worth a try!
    10. avocado – so powerful that virgins were locked indoors while it was being gathered
    11. figs – pure unadulterated sensuality

    Pick up your own copy of InterCourses for more recipe ideas!

    And don’t underestimate the power of perception. From the obligatory Valentine’s dinner to the unexpected breakfast in bed, the act of preparing food for someone (or better yet, with someone) speaks volumes. It says: I love you. I care for you. You are worth the effort.

    That’s a great message to send any day of the year!

    Happy Valentine’s Day everyone!

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    HCFS is a four-letter word!

    January 15th, 2009 G Posted in COOKING, DINING, LIVING No Comments »

    HFCS - YUCK!Would mercury by any other name taste as sweet?

    Mercury contamination is the food scare du jour, the latest attack on high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and many name-brand food products that contain it. Perhaps you’re content with the FDA’s lack of concern on the mercury front, but are more disturbed about the links between HFCS and obesity or diabetes. Or maybe you agree that the evidence is inconclusive, but you want to err on the safe side – just in case…

    Fortunately, it is possible to avoid the HFCS found in processed foods without resorting to a diet of water and tree bark. It’s easy to find accessible, affordable substitutes that are just as yummy as the stuff that is constantly being called into question:

    1) Ditch the soda and juice “cocktails” and opt for 100% juice or other tasty alternatives like mixing 100% juice with seltzer or adding fruit to regular water – cheaper, healthier and more environmentally friendly than bottles of “natural sodas” or flavored waters.

    2) Choose 100% whole grain breads. Or better yet – BAKE YOUR OWN – it’s not as hard you might think and fresh-baked bread is delish! Freeze the bread and defrost what you need to extend its shelf life beyond a couple of days and avoid the need for chemical preservatives.

    3) Enjoy your breakfast! Get up a little earlier and make some scrambled eggs instead of loading up on breakfast cereal. For something quick and sweet, use natural preserves made with 100% fruit on toast or grab a piece of fruit instead of a breakfast bar. If you simply can’t start your day without your grain in a bowl of milk, try making your own granola or buy it in bulk.

    4) Substitute pre-packaged lunch “meats” with unprocessed meats like lean turkey breast, chicken, or roast beef. If you can find grass-fed meats that would be ideal, and your local butcher or deli are good options too. Anything that someone has to cut for you is better than a package you have to cut open.

    5) Canned soups are notoriously high in HFCS. Make and store your own soup!

    6) If you already enjoy spending time cooking, take it to the next level and seek out fresh, seasonal ingredients and spices from local farmers markets. Preparing food that is naturally delicious and flavorful will reduce your need for condiments.

    7) If you are hard-core condiment collector, try some that are made by your local farmers. In a pinch, Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have a great selection of HFCS-free condiments. You can also source great artisanal selections online at Foodzie.com and Annie’s Naturals.

    The do-it-yourself route may seem more time-consuming, but in reality it’s not much more. And considering it is healthier and tastier – not to mention environmentally and economically friendlier – to maintain a hands-on connection to your food, isn’t all that good taste and good karma worth a few extra minutes of your time?

    You know, just in case…

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