The Food Plan

IMG_20140320_194514

One week down on my clean eating 30 Day challenge.  I am pretty proud of myself.  I usually get off track in two situations.  One, is when people come to visit.  Two, is when I am catering.  I tend to skip meals.  This weekend I catered four events and had eight house guests – and I stuck with my plan!

What is clean eating?  Wikipedia’s very vague definition is “…eating foods without preservatives, and on mixing lean proteins with complex carbohydrates.”

Fitness Magazine takes a deeper and less specific definition:

 “Clean eating is a deceptively simple concept. Rather than revolving around the idea of ingesting more or less of specific things (for instance, fewer calories or more protein), the idea is more about being mindful of the food’s pathway between its origin and your plate.”

Clean Eating Magazine has by favorite, but long definition (I’ve paraphrased a bit here).

 “The soul of clean eating is consuming food in its most natural state, or as close to it as possible. It is not a diet; it’s a lifestyle approach to food and its preparation, leading to an improved life – one meal at a time.

Eat five to six times a day

Three meals and two to three small snacks. Include a lean protein, plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, and a complex carbohydrate with each meal. This keeps your body energized and burning calories efficiently all day long.

Choose organic whenever possible

If your budget limits you, make meat, eggs, dairy and the Dirty Dozen your organic priorities.

Avoid processed and refined foods

This includes white flour, sugar, bread and pasta. Enjoy complex carbs such as whole grains instead.

Know thy enemies

Steer clear of anything high in trans fats, anything fried or anything high in sugar. Avoid preservatives, color additives and toxic binders, stabilizers, emulsifiers and fat replacers.”

 

My Clean Eating regiment is a lot like the one above. I eat five to six small meals a day.  I eat a lot of lean protein (chicken, turkey, and fish).  I have some complex carbs (oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice), but I eat them early in the day.  I generally avoid wheat and gluten.  I sometimes have a piece of toast or pita bread, but it is always the Ezekiel brand, which is sprouted grain and a complete protein. I eat some fruit and TONS of veggies.  I am careful to limit veggies that are high in starch and sugars.  I limit fats (even the good ones).

I do count calories.  It helps me keep track of my day from meal to meal.  For breakfast, lunch, and dinner, I keep my calories around 250-300. My snacks are around 150-200.  That gives me some wiggle room.  If I have a really long workout, I can eat a little more after, or sometimes I am really hungry after dinner.

My fitness pal is an app that is a great way to keep track of calories.  It also keeps track of protein, carbs, fat, sugars, etc. It can seem a bit tedious at first, adding everything in, but once you get some foods established, it goes more quickly. It’s very important to measure your food.

Breakfast:

1 cup of oatmeal or ½ cup of low calorie granola with ½ cup unsweetened almond milk.

AM Snack

Lunch:

4 ounces of lean protein, 4 ounces brown rice, quinoa or sweet potato, and unlimited (approved) veggies.

PM Snack

Dinner:

6 ounces of lean protein,  and unlimited (approved veggies).

The snacks vary.  I make my own gluten free banana bread and protein bars.  Smoothies, 2 Hard boiled eggs, frittata, rice cake with sun butter and raisins, greek yogurt, cottage cheese…

I will be posting some meals and snacks through my 30 Day plan.

Below is a recipe for my low calorie granola.  I eliminated the honey and cut down the almonds from my original post on this blog.  ½ a cup with ½ cup of unsweetened almond milk in the morning is about 200 calories.  I look forward to it in the mornings.

 20130626_102519

SKINNY ALMOND GRANOLA RECIPE

10 cups rolled oats

2 cups slivered almonds

8 Tablespoons flax seeds

4 teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 teaspoons ground ginger

1 teaspoon Diamond Krystal kosher salt (use 1/2 the amount if using Morton’s)

2 Tablespoons water

2 teaspoons almond extract

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 cups raisins

¼ cup powdered stevia

Procedure:

  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees.  Measure oats into a large bowl.  Measure almonds, flax seeds, ground cinnamon, ground ginger, and kosher salt into the bowl.  Stir well to combine.
  2. In a liquid measuring cup, place, water, and almond and vanilla extract.  Using a small whisk or spoon, and stir to combine liquids.
  3. Pour liquid mixture over oat and nut mixture.  Using your hands or a spoon, stir well to combine.
  4. Spread the mixture in a single layer between two sheet pans lined with parchment paper.  Place the pans in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven and toss with a spatula.  Return pan to the oven on opposite racks.  Cook for another 15 minutes.
  6. Remove pans from the oven and sprinkle 1 cup of raisins and half of stevia evenly over each pan.  Allow granola to cool completely.  Place in an airtight container for up to three weeks.

Makes about 16 cups granola.  Recipe is easily halved.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged | Leave a comment

Goal Setting

20141211_073102

Day two of my 30 Day challenge is almost over.  It’s going pretty well.  I have been working like crazy, but I have been able to stick to my clean eating plan – thanks to proper preparation and bringing my meals and snacks along with me. I have also kept up with my exercise goals.  My body has been a bit sore and tired, and overall I have been a little low on energy, particularly toward the end of the day.

I am a big fan of Jack Canfield.  He’s the co-author of the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” book series.  He’s written several books since, including, “The Success Principles.”  He is a big believer in the Law of Attraction.  The basic idea is that whatever you focus on, you attract more of.  If you are always stressing about not having money and bills you cannot pay, you will attract more of that.  If you focus on abundance and prosperity, you will attract more of those things.

Jack goes a bit deeper in his teachings.  He has a whole set of behaviors and practices he recommends which include setting goals and visualizing the outcome you want.  He recommends setting goals in seven areas of your life.

  1. Finances
  2. Career
  3. Health and Fitness
  4. Relationships
  5. Personal (things you want to do just for you)
  6. Recreation
  7. Legacy (what you want to leave for the world, your contributions)

Jack recommends having three goals in each of these areas, reviewing the goals twice daily while visualizing the desired outcome. I know it seems like a lot.  It does take time, but it’s important to have a clear vision of what you want to accomplish.

I have been using this technique for my business and career goals for several weeks now.  It has made a huge difference.  I’ve noticed opportunities popping up from places I never expected them to.  I have five solid, consistent clients who I cook for weekly. I’ve scored an amazing professional kitchen to cook in. It’s in a beautiful spot where they want me to do catering and offer clean eating workshops. My clean eating programs have been taking off with happy, successful clients. It’s seems as though every day a new opportunity pops up.

Health and fitness was the easy one for me. I love eating clean, and I LOVE working out, running, doing yoga, and other physical activities. I consistently do these activities, and I am in very good shape.  I have, however, surrendered to too many treats.  One main reason I am doing this 30 day challenge and posting it here is to keep myself accountable.  I want to embrace and succeed in ALL areas, and achieve ALL of my goals.

I am not going to list all of my 21 goals, but here are a few.

  1. Finances: Totally debt free with all of my taxes and bills paid with ease.
  2. Career: To write a book which will inspire people to eat and live well through clean and healthy, delicious foods.
  3. Health and Fitness: To get back to my clothes fitting well, maintaining my eating and exercise regimen, and feeling great.
  4. Relationships: To really be available for my kids, husband, family, and friends.  To listen to them without judgement, and to offer pure, unconditional love.
  5. Personal: I want a big garden and to grow herbs and vegetables. I want to pickle, make salsas and flavored vinegars, and can them.
  6. Recreation: I want to attain and start riding a mountain bike.
  7. Legacy: I want to help public schools serve nutritious, scratch-made food.
Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Reeling it In

Apple_blossoms

I have been working very hard on getting my personal chef business established.  I have also been working very hard in personal development.  I have been setting goals and visualizing the outcome I want. I have been meditating and learning to control my mind. All of these developments have been amazing transformations in my life.  My business is taking off, and I feel focused on my vision.  I have, however, let other aspects of my life get a bit out of focus.

I’ve gained some weight.  My jeans are tight.  Living in the remote Adirondack Mountains of New York, it was easy to stay on target with health and fitness goals.  There was only one small grocery store in town, which opened at 8, and closed at 7. There were only two restaurants in town, a diner and a pub. To get anywhere in town, you had to go either straight up or straight down.

Moving to Asheville, NC, brought big changes into our lives.  The food scene is booming. There are unique and interesting restaurants all over town.  There’s also a craft brewery on every street corner, and a weekly beer festival to go along with it.  There are a lot more temptations at my fingertips, and a lot more people asking join them out for a drink or a meal.  I’m a lot closer to my family, which warrants a lot of celebrations.

This is what I do.  The programs I offer are designed for weight loss. I provide food to people to help them lose weight.  I have healthy, light food at my fingertips all the time. Every time I get back on track, life gets in the way.  I tell my clients not to avoid experiencing life because they are dieting. I fully believe in this, but it is time to reel it in.  Even Chef Katie can get off track.  It happens to the best of us.

I am inspired by my recent personal growth.  I am ready to fully get back on track.  I am starting a 30-Day Get Clean Program.  For thirty days, I am going to be focused on getting my body and mind aligned for success.  I will be posting recipes, tips, and other great information I have learned.  I will also feature some amazing people and facilities that offer great teachings and motivation for overall wellness.  Join me in my journey.  I took today to get organized. It officially starts tomorrow.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Environmental Working Group

The Environmental Working Group has a new logo!  I cannot stress enough how important this organization is.  When it comes to living clean, the EWG does the research for us.  They are an amazing resource for all things safe and clean when it comes to the food we eat, the household products we use, and the environment we live in.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s Not All in the Food

20140528BCFB_BANNERv2

 

Several years ago, before I decided to become a chef, I became concerned about what was being put in our food.  I learned that processed foods were driven by big business and contained toxic additives and chemicals, white sugar, and high fructose corn syrup; with little to no nutritional value.  I was introduced to the organic movement, learning about the toxic chemicals that are sprayed on our fruits, vegetables, and grains.  Shortly after entering culinary school, I was introduced to the “Farm to Table” movement.   People began to demand to know what was in our food, where it came from, how far it had to travel, and even, who was growing it.

I am still embracing all of the above movements today.  I have made a career out of cooking food that is healthy and clean.  For several years, I have made great strives to buy organic and locally grown food products.  I also believe that it is safer to buy fruits and vegetables produced in the US, due to this country’s strict laws and regulations.

Recently, through a company called Beautycounter,  I learned that these laws and regulations did not extend to personal care products.  I learned that our shampoos, lotions, shaving creams, and cosmetics are loaded with toxins and chemicals that have been linked to cancer, reproductive issues, and other diseases.

In this day and age, 1 in 2 men, and 1 in 3 women, in the US will be diagnosed with cancer. Ask anyone my age to ask their parents how many friends they had that had problems getting pregnant.  In the past two decades, the European Union has banned more than 1,300 ingredients in personal care products, while the US has banned only 11.  The US has not passed a federal law to regulate personal care products since 1938.  The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), actually allows companies to add chemicals that are know to be harmful, such as lead, formaldehyde, and phthalates.

Facebook Banner Countertime

Beautycounter not only produces personal care products that they have deemed safe, but they are also trying to get the word out about the harmful toxins in the products we use daily.  The company has banned more than 1,500 ingredients, setting a new industry standard.  Beautycounter ensures that their products perform, and are on par with any luxe shampoo, lipstick, or oil on the market.

Facebook Banner Lip Sheers

The company works closely with the Environmental Working Group (EWG), which has developed an app that I urge you all to use and download, “Skin Deep.”  You can either scan the barcode or enter the name of your personal care products to see where they measure up on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the most toxic and harmful.  All of Beautycounter’s products measure as a 0 or 1.

theneverlistbw  8x10

 

Referring to myself a “Wellness Chef,” or “Healthy Chef,”  who focuses on eating and cooking clean, I could not help but join this movement.  I care A LOT about where my food comes from, who grows it, how it’s grown, and what is sprayed on it or put in it.  Today, it’s not all about the food.  It extends to all the products we use.  We cannot always control water, air, and soil quality.  Nor can we control other environmental hazzards that we are knowingly or unknowingly exposed to, but we can control what we put into our mouths, and what we spread on our skin.

Check out these links to some press that Beautycounter has gotten:

http://articles.latimes.com/2013/may/12/image/la-ig-beauty-counter-20130512

http://www.goop.com/journal/do/281/the-dirty-on-getting-clean

http://www.fastcompany.com/3032834/most-creative-people/whats-really-in-your-eyeshadow#4

 

Contact me or visit my website for more information:  http://www.chefkatie.beautycounter.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

The Incredible Egg

20141211_072841

It’s very hip these days to throw an egg on most everything. Traveling through Southeast Asia in my twenties, was my first experience in seeing eggs on top of fried rice and noodle dishes.   I once ordered soup and they had floated a hard-boiled egg right in the middle.  In that region of the world, it seemed to be out of necessity.  Most Malaysians and Indonesians eat noodles for breakfast, and white rice for lunch and dinner.  They don’t get a lot of meat.  Most of the chickens they slaughter are past their prime, not the three month old plump ones we raise here in this country.  To kill a chicken that young would be wasteful to them, because the chicken can lays eggs.  The older chickens they eat are boiled for stock, and the small amount of meat is cut up and used almost like a garnish.  They don’t waste any of it, either.  The head, neck, and feet are eaten as well. So, whenever possible, they throw an egg on it.

Perhaps that’s where the recent trend here in the US has come from.  Southeast Asian food is very trendy these days.  Throwing an egg on top of it, however, has become a sign of excess, or gluttony.  Which the latter also seems to be a trend lately.  Order a burger with cheese and bacon, and why not fry an egg and throw it on top Pizza, crack an egg right in the center before cooking, and have all that eggy goodness ooze out when you slice it.

Somehow eggs got a bad rap back in the 80’s and 90’s.  Remember back when all fat was bad, and margarine and Snackwell cookies were good for us? Trans fats were unknown, and cholesterol was evil.  Eggs are actually quite good.  Cholesterol comes in good and bad forms nowadays, and eggs contain both.  They are full of protein and low in calories.  One hard-boiled egg is about 78 calories and 6 grams of protein.  Sure, they contain cholesterol, but as long as you don’t have issues, two eggs a day is perfectly fine. Dr. John Berardi, Ph.D, and founder of Precision Nutrition, says, “Unless you have diabetes, or a rare genetic disorder (Familial Hypercholestorolemia), eating a few eggs every day is not bad for you.” If you are still scared of the cholesterol levels, then bypass the yolks, or have one egg with yolks and two egg whites.  Egg whites are cholesterol free!

There are so many great local farms around raising superb eggs fresh out of the hen house and into your kitchen these days. Besides, eggs are about the coolest food out there.  What other food transforms in cooking quite the way an egg does?  Meat maybe?  Not really.  No, eggs are way cooler.  Think of what cookies or quick breads would be without eggs.  Shortbread is good, but where would the chocolate chip cookie be without our friend, the egg?  Have you ever made a meringue?  Now that’s some cool stuff.  It’s the base of most light and fluffy cakes.  Think Angel Food.  That’s a cake that is basically egg whites and sugar with a bit of flour sprinkled in.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to throw an egg on top of your burger, or your pizza, or your burrito, or whatever.  When I eat eggs, I like them to be the star.  Especially in a clean and healthy eating sense, when I am not treating myself, eggs are a powerful ally. I like having them for my mid-morning snack.  Just two simple hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper are delightful. Sauté up some kale or some spinach, and scramble some eggs right in.  Throw on a little hot sauce, and you got yourself a bona fide low calorie treat.  I also like to add them to my lunch or dinners in place of a meat protein.  A couple of chopped hard boiled eggs transforms a good spinach, or lettuce, or kale salad.  A nice pot of simmering broth with lots of veggies and a soft boiled egg is true comfort.

Bring water to the boil.  Once it starts to boil, set a timer for 8 minutes.

Bring water to the boil. Once it starts to boil, set a timer for 8 minutes.

When the timer goes off, immediately plunge the eggs in ice water.

When the timer goes off, immediately plunge the eggs in ice water.

20141211_073058

Preparation = Success. Snacks and lunch for the day.

How to Boil a Perfect Egg:

Place eggs in a sauce pan or pot and cover with cold water.Once the water comes to the boil, set a timer for eight minutes. Immediately scoop the eggs out and place them into a bowl of ice water.

These eggs are easy to peel and just perfect. The yolks will be just a bit gooey in the center, but that’s the way I like them. If you would like your eggs cooked through, set your timer for 10 minutes.

Posted in chef, clean eating, healthy and wellness | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Tis The Season for Soup!

20141022_173639

Ah, the Holidays…  Since I have had kids, the season has been kind of a love-hate thing (maybe hate is too strong of a word).  Don’t get me wrong – I love the Christmas story, all of the lights, the parties, the cookies, the music, the food and drink, the tree, and more.  On the flip side, there’s the stress of having enough extra income to pay for gifts, the food and drink, decorations, etc.  Hosting relatives that can be less than the best houseguests.  The bombardment of advertising, the expectations, the thought of having to work off all the food and drink (and cookies), vacuuming all of those pine needles.

My husband always has to work like crazy.  He’s tired and stressed.  Last year I admitted to my mom that I was finding it difficult to enjoy the Holidays, and she laughed out loud for about three minutes.  I guess that is just another one of those parental satisfactions that I will experience when I’m sixty something. I try to keep things simple and easy, but all of the above seems to creep back in. I am trying hard to focus on the LOVE and not the (not) hate.

One thing that keeps me grounded and healthy throughout the season is chicken soup.  As much as I want to jazz it up, the simpler it is, the better.  I love the simplicity of it all.  The methodical simmering of the bones to make the stock.  I love simmering them long enough that when the stock cools, it becomes a solid.  I love gently cooking (sweating) the vegetables, slowly bringing out their flavor, while I gradually add more layers of flavor with salt, pepper, garlic and ginger.

The traditional vegetables for a good chicken soup are onion, celery, and carrots.  I love swapping out the carrots with the delightful root vegetables that are available this time of year.  Parsnips, fennel, rutabaga, celery root, turnips, oh my!  I sometimes try and push the envelope with the celery flavor.  I double up on the celery AND add lots of celery root.  I know. That’s crazy, right?  Celery root is the best.  I suppose slightly adapting subtle flavors on a classic dish like chicken soup while still keeping it simple, is what I love so much about cooking.  These simple, methodical techniques are what I have come to appreciate about cooking after doing it for so many years.

Consider the recipe here a guide for a simple chicken soup.  I encourage you to make it your own. You can add and/or substitute whatever vegetables you want. Add mushrooms and finish the soup with cooked brown or wild rice.  Add some fresh ginger, lots of garlic, and fresh chilies, and finish it with a splash of rice vinegar and tamari for an Asian hot pot.  Play around with the fresh herbs that you finish your soup with.  Add chopped fresh sage, rosemary, basil, thyme or mint.

Buying a raw chicken, roasting or poaching it, and then making stock for soup can be ambitious.  I buy a rotisserie chicken from Earthfare.  They sell nice, regionally produced chickens without antibiotics, hormones, and the like.  The chickens aren’t coated with a bunch of nasty chemicals to season it, either.  Even better, they have already done half of the work for me by cooking it. It has been sitting on a rotisserie, cooking slowly and evenly all day.  The meat is flavorful and fall off the bone tender and juicy.  It’s a better cooked bird than I could have hoped for, and the best part is that it’s actually cheaper than the raw chickens for sale.  Also, these chickens have been cooked so long, that the stock “goodness” that you want to simmer out of the bones, is already on it’s way.  You don’t have to simmer the bones as long to make a great stock.

20141022_153820

The meat is really easy to separate from the bones. I start by removing the legs.  Remove all the skin.  Carefully separate the meat from the bones.  Remove the wings and set them with the leg bones (it’s not really worth my time to separate the small amount of meat from the wings).

20141022_154643

Remove the breast meat from each side of the chicken.  I reserve one of the breasts for other uses, like salads.  Once the breast meat is removed, turn the chicken over and remove all of the meat from the back and whatever is left from the sides of the chicken.

20141022_155303

Pick through all the meat once more to be sure you’ve removed all of the bones and fat.  Dice up the meat and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

20141022_164222

Place the bones in a small stock pot or dutch oven. Cover with COLD water.

20141022_155709

Bring the pot to a simmer, and cook slowly for 3-6 hours.  Once the stock is finished, strain it into another container, discarding the bones.

20141022_160337

Meanwhile dice up the vegetables.

20141022_16145220141022_161727

Get another pot or dutch oven hot. Add a bit of olive oil, and then the vegetables.  Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, and cook slowly, stirring often until they are translucent and slightly tender.

20141022_164532

I like to add garlic and/or ginger after the vegetables have cooked for a bit.

At this point, add the stock.  If it’s a small amount, I like to strain it right into the soup pot.

20141022_173323

Bring the soup to a simmer, and add the chicken.

20141022_173233

Allow the soup to simmer for about 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.  Adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed.  Finish the soup with fresh herbs.  Add rice or pasta if desired.

20141022_182832

CHICKEN SOUP RECIPE

1 Rotisserie Chicken

¼ cup olive oil

3 small to medium yellow onions, diced small

4 stalks celery, cleaned and diced small

3 parsnips, peeled and diced small

½ celery root, peeled and diced small

3 cloves garlic, small dice

5 teaspoons Diamond Krystal kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper.

½ bunch flat leaf parsley, washed and chopped

Procedure:

  1. Make Stock.  Remove chicken meat from bones.  Reserve one chicken breast for other uses.  Carefully pick through meat to make sure you didn’t miss any bones.  Chop chicken meat and set aside in the refrigerator.  Place the bones in a small stock pot or dutch oven.  Cover with cold water.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Turn the heat to low, and simmer bones for 3-6 hours, depending on the desired depth of the stock.  Add water as needed as the stock reduces.  Once the stock is finished.  Allow it to cool and strain it through a fine mesh sieve.  This step can be done a day or two in advance.
  2. Get another pot or dutch oven hot over the stove. Add the olive oil.  Add the vegetables and 3 teaspoons of the salt, and one teaspoon pepper. Slowly cook the vegetables, stirring often, until they start to release their water.  At this point add the garlic, and continue to cook, stirring until the vegetables are translucent and slightly tender.
  3. Add the stock to the pot of vegetables. Add the chopped chicken, and remaining salt and pepper.  Bring the soup to a simmer, cooking for 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.  Finish the soup with the parsley.    Soup will keep up to five days in the refrigerator and three months in the freezer.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Forty in New York

Running on The West Shore

Running on The West Shore

Warning: This is not a low calorie post, and has nothing to do with clean eating. I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago.  I was planning on being really tight with my diet and workouts leading up to my birthday.  I wanted to do a “This is 40!” blog post, showing off my hot bod, and how I was in the best shape of my life. Instead, I went on a three week bender of celebrating with drinks and not-so-skinny food. Now I am feeling very LARGE heading into the Holidays. Not exactly a good place to be. You only turn 40 once, right?

Kirk and I went to New York City for a few days to celebrate.  We had an amazing time.  Our time there went pretty much like this…Eat, Eat, Run, Eat, Walk, Walk, Eat, Walk, Walk, Eat, Eat, Eat, Walk, Sleep. Eat, Run, Eat, Eat, Walk, Walk, Walk, Eat, Eat, Eat,Walk, Sleep. I do not lie.  When a couple of chefs go to New York, they aren’t going to Broadway shows or visiting various tourist sites.  It’s all about the Food. If it wasn’t for all the walking and a bit of running, I might have gained 100 pounds.  A great tool for knowing where to eat comes from one of my favorite food blogs, Serious Eats.  They have a section called, “Serious Eats New York.”  You can type in what general location you might be in, and it will give you several restaurant choices that they consider to be worth a visit. They list them starting with food carts all the way up to fancy, expensive choices.

20141104_103914

Statue in Riverside Park

The restaurants where we did eat were a dream come true for us. Upon our arrival (thanks to Serious Eats), we found this little hole in the wall Cuban Diner, Margon, for lunch. The cafeteria-style hot line was really tempting, but we both could not resist ordering Cuban sandwiches, and we were not disappointed. I have had an obsession with Mario Batali after reading Heat several years ago.  I love his style.  I own all of his cookbooks.  Our first night in New York we ate at Babbo.  It was surprisingly more quaint and cute than I had anticipated.  We ate grilled octopus, testa (house made charcuterie), beef cheek ravioli, lamb chops, grilled quail, and more. The most impressive part was the huge table (there was one upstairs and downstairs) completely covered with open wine bottles.The next day, I had a latte and a croissant at Amy’s Bread in Hell’s Kitchen.  After a run up the western shore of Manhattan, I met an old friend for lunch at Le Pain Quotidien, a cute and healthy café.  I ordered the Kale Ceasar with Salmon.  It was delicious, and quite healthy.  The base of the ceasar dressing was tahini.  Our second night we ate at BLT Steak, an upscale steak house/bistro where they served these goat cheese popovers that were bigger than your head.  Around midnight (thanks again to Serious Eats), we went to Sake Bar Hagi.  It was a very small underground restaurant (which is difficult to find after having lots of wine, steak, and popovers), serving Japanese pub food.  Our waiter was really friendly and helped us order.  We feasted on a sashimi dish with scallop, octopus, and sea urchin wrapped in seaweed.  We also had a pork and noodle dish and they were both mind-blowingly good.

 After waking up, we stopped for a latte at Blue Bottle Coffee in the very cool Gotham West Market, before striking out for another run. After our run we headed downtown, browsed the Union Square Greenmarket, and headed to Eataly.  Eataly is this amazing market with everything Italian you can imagine. In every corner of the market was a counter featuring a different Italian specialty. There’s Gelato, Espresso, Fresh Pasta, Charcuterie, Cheese, Meat, Seafood, Breads, Desserts.  In between all of this is more produce, dry pasta, olives, cookbooks, beer, olive oil and other stuff than you can imagine.  Peppered throughout all this are restaurants. There is a meat restaurant, a pizza restaurant, and my favorite, a section with high tables that you stand at. It is located between the charcuterie and cheese, and we sampled some of each with wine.  We then headed to yet another restaurant that was all glass on the roof, where they were brewing beer in casks. We sampled the beer and had some house made Cotechino sausage and lentils. After two and a half hours, Kirk said to me, “I know this is very sad, but we are going to have to leave Eataly now.”

Charcuterie at Eataly

Charcuterie at Eataly

20141105_124345

Our final dinner in New York was the grand finale.  We dined at Le Bernardin, one of the fanciest places in New York. The chef, Eric Ripert, was born in France and worked in some of the best restaurants in the world before joining this Michelin star, seafood-focused restaurant in Manhattan. We both ordered the chef’s tasting menu which was mind-blowing to say the least. It was a fine dining flurry of French servers, expert sommeliers, and tweezer cuisine that did not disappoint.  Eight courses of fish and seafood, flawlessly prepared with fancy butter sauces poured on at the table. It included sea urchin, monkfish, lobster lasagna, and more.  The highlight of the meal was a surf and turf entrée with with Escolar and the most tender, flavorful piece of (waygu) beef I have ever had.  It literally melted in my mouth.  After three dessert courses and a cappuccino, it was everything we could do to waddle back to our hotel.

I must say, it feels good to be back in my clean eating routine.  I feel like I should detox for months, but I have to weather the Holiday storm ahead.  In this journey of mine to be healthy, thin, and happy, I believe treats and indulgences are very important.  It’s important to enjoy life to the fullest which, in my world, involves wine, beer, and rich foods. I choose to eat clean and healthy so I can feel good. After being disciplined, I enjoy the indulgences much more. Did I slip too much toward indulgence? Perhaps.  Like anything else in life, it’s about finding a balance.  It’s also about the journey and what you learn along the way.  Forty feels good so far.  I feel good knowing what my goals are.  I feel good knowing that I will reach those goals, and that I will enjoy the journey.

Posted in chef, restaurant, travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Braised Taco Turkey

10683325_10204904621514021_1585113623_o

I like roasting turkey breasts that still have the wing attached.  The breasts seem to be bigger, and have more flavor and juiciness due to the bone.  I then cut the wing from the breast and have the wing left over.

I also like buying rotisserie chickens from my neighborhood natural foods store, to add to a dinner salad or a different meal.  I often have leftover wings or legs that I wrap and freeze.  Once I have a plethora of frozen leg and wing pieces, I braise them and use the meat for tacos, soups, or burritos.  It’s quite simple, it just takes time.  Here I’ve used Southwestern flavors, but you could make any flavor combination you like.

First, take your wings or legs.

10477768_10204883834434357_1702008365_o

Place them in a large roasting pan.

10722433_10204883815873893_1660615478_o,

I like to add green salsa.  You could also add red sauce, herbs, or other seasonings of your choice.

10676943_10204884137201926_304210498_o

I also add about a quart of chicken stock and a quart of water.

10676958_10204884131801791_1929253372_o

You want the meat to be covered about half way with liquid.

10732270_10204884090200751_401326652_o

I usually don’t add salt until after they are cooked.  Most likely, the meat has already been seasoned, and you don’t want to make it too salty. Cover with foil and place in a 325 degree oven for at least three hours.

10722951_10204883941477033_1029100551_o

Once the meat is cooked, I allow it to cool on my counter for a bit. I then let it cool overnight in the refrigerator. This will allow any fat to rise to the top of the liquid, which makes it very easy to remove.  The liquid will probably be solid due to the high amount of collagen.  This is really good for flavor and nutrition.

10677113_10204883972557810_414999653_o

The meat should fall right off of the bone.  Take the time to pick through the meat while shredding it, removing any skin or tendons.

10736538_10204904633514321_62844473_o

Once the meat is picked through and shredded, you can add in the liquid to add more flavor and moisture.  Feel free to re-season the meat with salt and spices as I have done with chili powder, cumin, and salt.    Use the taco meat in my previous post, Kale Tacos.  You can also use the meat for other meals.  Below is a Sweet Potato and Brown Rice Bowl with Braised Turkey and Chilis that I threw together.  Enjoy!

10720821_10204892607933689_1959407063_o

<a href=”http://www.bloglovin.com/blog/13002663/?claim=mgpce4p8reu”>Follow my blog with Bloglovin</a>

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Kale Tacos with Sour Slaw, and Apple Salsa

20141001_180422

Today is National Kale Day.  Kale has come a long way. Who would have thunk it?  Remember when it was just a mere garnish for Shoney’s and Pizza Hut salad bars?  Who knew that it was easy to grow and extremely bountiful?  Who knew that it carried super powers that would make you feel fabulous about your body and soul after eating it?  Who knew that it was even edible?

Even in the early days of kale’s coming out, I had trouble selling it.  In the early 2000’s, the farm for our restaurant, Sugar Snap, was cranking out kale at an epic pace.  I was putting out kale chips, kale fillings for burittos and frittatas, tons of garlic sauteed kale, red wine braised kale, and the ever popular cheesy kale bake.  Kale was (and still is) a rock star of locally-grown crops in Vermont.  I thought it was a Vermont thing.

 Upon moving to North Carolina, I realized that the “Kale Kraze”  was universal, and it had hit hard.  My biggest seller at Chef Katie’s Cafe was the Kale and Sweet Potato Salad.  I was processing a case a day.  There are places where the most popular sandwiches have kale pesto as the main ingredient. Even at our local pizza joint, Marco’s, the “Kale Pizza Special” has been on the board since we moved to Asheville. I admit – it’s what I order every time – and its delicious.  Let’s face it people – you can’t take kale down, King Kale cannot be beaten.  Just face it, celebrate and embrace kale!

20141001_181116

These Kale Tacos are gluten free, low calorie, ultra tasty, quite healthy, and easy to make.  You can use any protein you like.  I like to take chicken or turkey legs and braise them with green salsa and Mexican spices.  You can also use the Mexican chicken from my previous post, Mexican Chicken Dinner Salad.    Blanched kale is the base of the taco, taking the place of a tortilla.  I top the kale “tortilla” and braised chicken with fresh sour slaw, apple salsa, and pickled jalapeno.  The slaw and the apple salsa give the tacos a nice crunch.  Cheese is optional.

Place vinegars, 2 tbsp kosher salt, and ground cumin into a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer.

20141001_171847

Thinly slice cabbages and add to a bowl.

 20141001_172444

Pour hot liquid over cabbage, mix well with tongs, and cover with a plate.

20141001_17305520141001_173136

Place diced apples in a bowl.  Add chopped onion, cilantro, pepper, and salt.  Mix well.  Squeeze  the orange and lime into the mixture, discarding any seeds.  Mix well.  Meanwhile, bring a bot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare a bowl of ice water.  Dip the kale leaves in the boiling water, and immediately add to ice water.  Remove leaves, gently wring out extra water, separate leaves, and drain on a clean kitchen towel.

20141001_175556

Build tacos:  Lay kale leaves down.  Top with hot chicken or turkey, sour slaw, apple salsa, and then jalapeno.  Enjoy!

20141001_180157

Kale Tacos with Sour Slaw and Apple Salsa

Makes About Eight Tacos

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked protein of choice (braised chicken or turkey, sliced seasoned chicken breast)

1 bunch lacinato kale

1/4 head red cabbage

1/4 head green cabbage

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp Diamond Krystal Kosher Salt

2 tsp ground cumin

2 fresh apples (Gala or Macintosh), peeled and diced small

1 fresh orange

1/2 fresh lime

1/4 cup finely chopped sweet yellow onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 tsp Diamond Krystal Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup pickled jalapeno

Procedure:

1.  Make slaw:  Place vinegars, 2 tbsp kosher salt, and cumin in a small saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Finely slice cabbages with a knife.  Add cabbages to a bowl and pour hot vinegar liquid over the top.  Toss the mixture well with tongs, and cover with a plate.  Set aside.

2.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare a bowl of water with ice cubes.  Carefully and quickly drop the kale leaves in the boiling water, and immediately remove with tongs, and dunk into the ice water.   Wring the kale leaves out without ripping them.  Separate the leaves and drain on a clean kitchen towel.  Set aside.

3.  Place diced apples in a bowl.  Add sweet onion, cilantro, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and mix well.  Squeeze the orange and lime over the salsa, removing any seeds.  Toss well.

4.  Gently heat chicken, turkey, or other protein.

5.  Build tacos. Lay kale leaves flat on a plate.  Top with chicken, turkey, or other proten.  Top with sour slaw, apple salsa, and pickled jalapeno.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment