Health tonics...

My January is abnormally colorful amidst the early nightfall and often grey skies. I happen to love winter. This month is a perfect time for cleansing your body of the indulgences and temptations from the holiday season. Fresh shakes and juices are a great vehicle for vitamins and minerals in their natural form. No pills or preservatives. I am not suggesting a full cleanse for all, but perhaps adding one or two drinks per day will start your days off right. A smoothie with yogurt can even be a meal replacement. You will find your favorite combination and look forward to creating new ones. It takes a little planning and a decent blender, but I encourage you to commit to a drink or two a day for a week. Your skin will brighten and your energy will get a boost. They taste best fresh, but if you make a large batch, it will keep for a couple days. Choose organic ingredients whenever possible as well as frozen ‘out of season’fruits. Experimentation is encouraged!

*Unless you have a high speed blender like a highly recommended Vita-mix, please small dice each fruit or vegetable. You may have to half the recipes to fit your standard blender. Also, these are just guidelines, so if you don’t like a particular item, take it out or use less.

As seen in the photograph, recipes are listed clockwise starting from my favorite basic green drink at the bottom.

1. Basic Green Drink: 1 apple, juice of 1 large lemon (skin can be left on for high speed blender), ½” knob of ginger peeled and minced, 6 mint sprigs chopped, 1 cup spinach, 1 cup lacinto kale chopped, 1-2 cups cold filtered water. Blend all together.

2. Root juice: 2 beets peeled and trimmed and chopped, 3 carrots peeled and chopped, 1” piece of ginger peeled and minced, juice of 1-2 oranges, 1-2 cups cold filtered water. Blend all together.

3. Good morning sunshine: 1 apple chopped, 2 carrots peeled and chopped, juice of 1 orange, juice of 1 lemon, 1” knob of ginger peeled and minced, 1 cup cold filtered water. Blend all together.

4. Health tonic: 1 ½ cups spinach, 1 granny smith apple, 1 cup pineapple or green grapes, 1 cup cucumber skin on, juice of 1 lemon, 5-6 sprigs of mint, 1-2 cups cold filtered water. Blend all together.

5. Strawberry Banana smoothie:1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries, 1 banana, ¼ cup Greek plain yogurt, 1 tsp vanilla extract, 1-2 cups cold filtered water and a handful of ice cubes. Blend all together.

6. Berry-lemon smoothie: 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries, 1 cup fresh or frozen strawberries, juice of one l lemon, ¼ cup Greek yogurt, 1 cup cold filtered water and a handful of ice cubes. Blend all together.

7. Mango lassi: 1 cup frozen mango, 1 cup fresh or frozen pineapple, 1 cup coconut water, ½ cup Greek yogurt, 1 handful ice cubes. Add cold water to thin it out. Blend all together.(drink not shown).

Other supplements include bee pollen for an energy boost (can be purchased at PCC), coconut water for electrolyte balance, protein powder, peanut butter, or honey for a natural sweetener or healing agent. Questions? Email me at chefschu@gmail.com.


No-Fuss Christmas Cookies (New York Style)

These are inspired by my favorite cakey New York style black-&-white cookies. They are light and fluffy and with a quick flip, they are a perfect vehicle for icing and sprinkles. Best thing about this recipe is that these cookies require no cookie cutters. As much as I love snowmen, snowflakes, and gingerbread men this time of year, the need for cookie perfection forces me to abandon those cookie cutter projects….These are an easy 60 min start-to-finish project that will satisfy your December induced sweet tooth.
Makes approx 3 dozen

For cookies:
1 1/4 cups AP flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 ­cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
7 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg

For Icing:
3 cups confectioners’sugar
2 tablespoons agave nectar (light corn syrup can be used)
2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4-6 tablespoons water

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or silpats. Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a bowl. Stir buttermilk and vanilla in a cup.
In a larger bowl, beat the butter and sugar with an electric mixer until fluffy, approx 3 minutes. Add the egg and mix until combined. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture and buttermilk mixture, alternating in batches.
Drop spoonfuls of batter one inch apart onto baking sheets. Bake until the tops of the cookies are rounded and puffed, and the edges are light golden brown, approximately 8 minutes. Be sure to turn the cookie sheets halfway through baking. Transfer to a rack to cool.
To make icing, stir together confectioners’ sugar, agave, lemon, vanilla and 2 tablespoons of water until smooth. Add a little more water if the icing is not spreadable.
Once the cookies are cooled, spread or gently pour the icing on the flat (bottom) part of the cookie. Decorate to your heart’s content. Once decorated, and allowed to sit for a few minutes, the icing will set and will not remain runny.



Not just for campfires...

I recently made these for my child’s preschool treat when it was her turn to provide the snacks…and apparently the entire room of 4-5 years olds enjoyed them…Score! They are delicate and fun to make…also make excellent s’mores. (Note marshmallow recipe from last month). After lots of testing, I have also created a gluten free version. Remember, if they are reduced to crumbs, use them for a crust!
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup coconut flour (bob’s is a good brand)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 teaspoons ground cinnamon (plus ½ teaspoon more for sprinkling)
¼ cup brown sugar
3 tablespoons cold butter, cubed
3 tablespoons coconut oil
4 tablespoons honey
¼ cup water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon sugar

In a mixing bowl, combine flours, baking soda and baking powder, 1 tsp cinnamon and brown sugar. Mix until well incorporated. Add butter and coconut oil and mix on medium for 30 seconds.

In a bowl, mix honey and vanilla with ¼ cup water. Stir until the honey is dissolved. (Alternatively, warm in a sauce pan over low until well mixed). With the mixer on low, gently pour the honey vanilla mixture into the flour. Mix for about 30 seconds. The mixture will be crumbly.

Push the dough into a ball and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate the dough for at least 3 hours (or it can be frozen at this point).

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut dough into quarters and roll in between two pieces of parchment paper. Roll thinly to about 1/8”. Cut the dough into desired size (rectangles or squares) Using a spatula to lift the dough onto an ungreased baking sheet or silpat.  Re-roll scraps until you finish off the dough. Pierce the dough with a fork a few times in a desired pattern.

In a small bowl, mix ½ teaspoon cinnamon and 1 teaspoon sugar. Sprinkle each cracker with the sugar mixture. Bake them for 10-15 minutes, turning the baking sheet once half way through. Let cool and the will have a nice crispy texture.

*For gluten free version, use the following flour mixture (in place of the 1 cup AP flour and 1 cup coconut flour) and follow the directions above using all of the other ingredients listed: 1 cup AP Gluten free mixture (Bobs brand), ½ cup coconut flour, ½ cup almond flour (not meal), ¼ cup sorghum flour. You can buy all of these flours at PCC.


Salt-Crusted Baked Trout

A succulent one pan dish with a playful presentation....this is one of my favorite ways to cook a whole fish. You can purchase trout that has been gutted and boned, but if you get a fish with bones... once cooked inside a salt crust, the meat separates quite easily off the bones.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Stuff the fish with a few half lemon slices, Thai basil and approximately a 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic ginger paste. Pour enough kosher salt to cover the bottom of a cast iron pan (about 1/2 cup). Place the whole fish on the salt and pour more salt to cover everything except the head and tail. Bake for 15-20 minutes. The salt will turn golden brown and the eyes will no longer be clear. Crack the salt, and carefully peel it away from the fish. The meat will be easy to pull away, juicy and tender!


Baked Chickpeas, an old comforting favorite for any time of the day...

Photos by Kristin Tetuan

Baked Chickpeas with Eggs & Feta in Tomato Sauce

This hearty vegetarian dish can easily be made for omnivores by adding smoked salmon or crumbled hot Italian sausage.
Serves 4

1½ cups diced white onion (approx 1 medium onion)
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground chili powder
1 (7oz) can diced green chiles (fire roasted is fine)
2 (15 oz) cans chickpeas, drained
1 (28oz) can diced San Marzano tomatoes
½ tsp kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
4 eggs
4 green onions, diced, (white and green parts fine to use)
2 Tbsp chopped cilantro

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees. Heat oil in a cast iron pan over high heat on the stovetop and add onion and garlic. Cook until the onion and garlic are soft and translucent, about 5-8 minutes. Add cumin and chili powder and mix well. Next add chiles and chickpeas, and cook for 2 more minutes, mixing well. Next add tomatoes to the pan. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper and mix feta into the chickpeas. Next create four shallow wells in the chickpeas, and crack an egg into each one without breaking the yolk.
Bake chickpeas in the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until you get the yolk the level of firmness that you prefer. Garnish with green onion and cilantro. Serve warm.


Homemade marshmallows

Before we get too deep into the season of celebrating the holidays, let’s try to celebrate the season of “just because”. When are marshmallows not fun to eat? Just today, I served a batch that was sprinkled in blue shimmer sugar for my daughters’ birthday. (To match her requested blueberry themed party) If you have ever experienced the delight of homemade marshmallows, I encourage you to give it a go yourself. Don’t be intimidated by cooking sugar…you do it once and an expert you will be.

 Homemade marshmallows

2/3 cup water
3 (1/4 ounce) envelopes unflavored gelatin
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup confectioners’ sugar, for dusting

Lightly oil or spray an 8x8 or 9x13 glass baking dish. Generously sprinkle with confectioners’ sugar and set aside. In a stand mixer, pour 1/3 cup of cold water and the gelatin, and let sit for 10 minutes.

In a saucepan, pour 1/3 cup water, sugar and corn syrup and salt over medium high heat. Place a candy thermometer in the pan. Cook mixture until it reaches 240 degrees. Take off heat immediately.

Carefully pour mixture into the stand mixer over the soft gelatin. Add vanilla and whip until the mixture is bright white and stiff, about 8-10 minutes. It will be very sticky as well.

Spread mixture into the prepared glass baking dish using a wet or slightly oiled spatula. Press the marshmallow into the corners with wet hands. Allow to set at least 1 hour.

Once cooled, cut around marshmallow mixture with a wet knife. Slice marshmallow into even squares, dipping your knife in wet often to keep it from sticking. Once cut, toss marshmallow cubes in confectioners’ sugar to coat completely.

 *You can substitute confectioners’ sugar with toasted shredded coconut, unsweetened cocoa powder, or colored baker’s sugar


Almond Polenta Cake with Elderflower Honey Glaze

When the urge to bake arises, this simple cake with a moist but slightly crunchy texture can be made and eaten within 2 hours. It is a sweeter cousin of cornbread; incidentally it’s also gluten–free. The glaze contains a bit of liqueur, but the alcohol burns off when heating it…so it’s ok for the kiddos too!
Recipe inspired by Nigel Slater

1 cup butter, room temperature (more to grease the pan)
1 cup sugar
2 2/3 cup almond meal (Trader Joe’s is best bet!)
3 eggs
1 ¼ cup corn meal or polenta
1 ½ tsp baking powder
zest and juice of one lemon
For the Glaze:
juice of two lemons
4 tbsp honey
2/3 cup elderflower liqueur (Thatcher’s or St. Germain brands are good)
To Serve:
½ cup plain Greek yogurt
1 tbsp cream or milk
Fresh berries

Prepare an 8” or 9” spring form pan and rub all sides and bottom with butter, then line the bottom with a round piece of parchment paper.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat the butter and sugar together in a standing mixer for 2 minutes, scraping the sides to incorporate evenly. Next pour in the almond meal and mix evenly. Mix the eggs in one at a time. (A good tip: break eggs into small bowl before pouring into mixer to avoid shells) In another bowl, mix the corn meal or polenta with the baking powder. Fold it into the mixture and then add lemon zest and lemon juice.

Transfer the cake mix into the lined pan and smooth the top. Bake for 30 minutes, then turn the heat down to 325 degrees and turn the cake for even baking. Bake another 25 minutes.

To make the glaze, squeeze the lemon juice into a small saucepan. Add the elderflower liqueur and honey and bring to a boil for about 5-8 minutes. It should have the consistency of a thin syrup.

When the cake is still hot out of the oven, evenly pour the glaze over the cake. Let cake cool. Slice into pieces and serve with yogurt thinned with some cream and some berries.