Mom’s Spicy Savannah Collard Greens

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Mom watching one of the thousands of soccer games
throughout the years.

My mom is an art professor and a wildly creative artist. She moved to the south after I left for college–she resides in a house with a porch in Savannah, Georgia. Savannah has a rich history–one including all the mystery of a southern port–the location that inspired “Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil.”

Savannah is lovely, but it’s not always as sparkly as Paula Dean’s “just add butter” recipes. It also has a long messy history of violence and crime. While we acknowledge that, today we’ll stick to the non-controversial universally-loved aspect of the south, the food.

If you’ve visited the south and been to any traditional southern restaurants, chances are you’ve been exposed to collard greens. Collard greens are eaten on New Year’s day alongside black eyed peas and cornbread to ensure wealth in the coming year. The leaves are supposed to represent folded money.*

If it weren’t enough reason to eat collard greens to participate in this southern tradition and enjoy them for flavor, they have their share of health benefits.

Spinach eating Pop-Eye would approve of my mom’s collard green recipe–not just because mom is sweet like Olive Oyl–but collard greens are known for their cancer fighting agents–at least according to the veggie worshiping researchers at UC Berkeley.

Spicy Savannah Collard Greens Ingredients

  • 1 large Chopped onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • Mushrooms, peppers (optional)
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • I lb chopped Collard greens
  • Veggie broth, 3 cups and chopped fresh tomatoes or 28 oz can chopped tomatoes with juice (organic low sodium the best)
  • Hot pepper sauce to taste (optional)
  • Salt and peper to taste
  • If using fresh tomatoes add in toward the end.

Mom’s spicey collard greens instructions

  1. Lightly saute onion and garlic (and mushrooms green or red pepper if used) in olive oil
  2. Add in crushed red pepper flakes
  3. Add chopped greens,
  4. Cook another minute
  5. Add  broth/ canned chopped tomatoes
  6. Simmer and season for about 45 minutes until greens are soft.


Always better when enjoyed with an innocent glass of red wine

How do you enjoy collard greens? Please feel free to add your own recipe below!

more photos


Mom holding my Cousin Kate’s one year old daughter
beautiful baby Finley

This photo was taken two weeks ago at the Nike Women’s Marathon at 6am
in San Francisco. My mom generously cooked dinner for me that night
when I hobbled around the apartment. Glad to report this was after an
afternoon of spa mani pedis. She’s coming to visit the bay again in early
December and I intend on showing her the foodie side of the East Bay.

My mom is my hero. She has a unique softness about her. She never wants to hurt anyone’s feelings or burden anyone. She would give me or my brother the shirt off her back. It’s rare you meet people that are so strong yet so soft. That’s my mom.


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Upside Down Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cheesecake

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Halloween is one of my favorite holidays. I love fall, I love sweets and I love dressing up. What’s not to love?

I couldn’t miss this pumpkin recipe as it’s got some of the texture and flavor of the original cheesecake. It’s not quite Junior’s New York Cheesecake, but it’s still pretty yummy.

The crispy graham cracker tastes delicious against the cool creamy pumpkin filling that has a custard-like quality.

I adopted this recipe from Hungry Girl, also known as Lisa Lillien who tries to make yummy food low calorie. This recipe was more like a pumpkin mousse rather than a pie, so let’s hope you aren’t feeding pumpkin cheesecake purists. This recipe doesn’t exactly replicate the cheesecake, but it’s a fun and convincing waste-line friendly copy.

Lisa Lillien’s original recipe calls for sweetener and tons of cool whip but I’m not a fan of splenda especially so much of it. So this is my play on upside down pumpkin cheesecake, with a little chocolate for those of you, like me, who have a hard time eating “diet food.”

My grandmother Phyllis gave me this serving spoon. She has an adoration of antiques and she would be glad to know I’m serving with it. I miss her always and this makes me think of her.

Upside Down Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Cheesecake Ingredients:

15 ounce can pumpkin
1/2 cup Fage 0% Yogurt
8 ounce container fat free or low fat cream cheese
7/8 cup fat free or low fat sour cream
3 1/2 sheets graham cracker, low fat honey, crushed
1/2 cup honey or agave (add more if sweeter flavor is desired)
2 tablespoons pumpkin spice
1/2 lemon
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

And if you dare:
chocolate chips, any kind
top with light whip cream

You can get all of these ingredients at Trader Joes!

Directions:

Blend together all ingredients except graham cracker in a bowl with an immersion blender.
Put ingredients in a pie pan and coat the top layer with graham cracker
Add chocolate chips and serve cold
or
Melt chocolate and drizzle over the top

Slow Cooked Smokey Barbecue Chili

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I tell you this every time I post a recipe, but I’ll tell you again. I love to cook because it’s creative. There are generally so few activities that get us away from the computer, and allow us to use our hands. That is precisely why the kitchen is a welcome breath of fresh air.

Yesterday was a quiet day at home. I spent the morning with the ladies from Team In Training going for a Saturday morning jog, brunch and then drifted through my favorite local Farmer’s market at Lakeshore in Oakland.

On a Fall day with three hours to do as I choose there is no greater joy than pulling out the slow cooker and losing myself in some heavy duty chopping.

Dish purchased at Cost Plus World Market

Slow cooked food always tastes better. The dish soaks up all kinds of flavors given that it has more time to marinate. That being said, slow cooked chili is one of my favorite things to make. It opens up your pores just as much as a salsa dancing class would. And if you like spice and flavor, there’s no shortage of variations you can do. I like to kick the heat and spice into high gear. You can control how spicy the dish is with the optional ingredients listed below.

You don’t have to make this in a slow cooker but it adds a lot of flavor.

Smokey Chili Recipe Ingredients:

1 lb heirloom tomatoes (the fresher the better)
1/3 cup of smokey barbecue sauce
1 lb extra lean beef (organic if possible)
1 green bell pepper chopped
3 garlic cloves minced
1 yellow onion chopped
1 can of Cuban black beans
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup low-fat cheddar cheese
2 cups low sodium chicken broth

Optional Chili ingredients:

1 cup Israeli cous cous or another grain to serve with
chili powder or chipotle seasoning [check out the Rancho Gordo Chili Powder found at the SF Ferry Building or Farmer’s Market]
2 Habanero Peppers

Directions:

1. Spray pan with olive oil spray or pam. On medium heat saute the chopped onions in garlic. Chop green pepper and add. Once soft, add ground beef and break up the meat in the pan. You might add some of your chicken broth to avoid having to use olive oil and keeping the meat moist.
2. Heat slow cooker and add in all chopped ingredients stirring every 45 minutes or so. Add water if soup is too thick. Heat on high for about 4 hours on high, or 8 hour on low.
3. Serve with Israeli cous-cous and a spritzel of cheese on top garnished with cilantro or fennel.

I always just use what I have in the fridge or pantry. There’s no sense in starting your car up and driving to the market for one small ingredient.

I garnished my soup with fennel rather than cilantro. Fennel, while probably an uncharacteristic garnish, still tastes wonderful. Frozen cilantro went into the soup but wouldn’t have looked very becoming on top of the meal.

I took one bite of this soup and melted on the kitchen floor. The fresh heirloom tomatoes from the farmer’s market and all the spices made this dish an absolute pleasure to eat.

And…

To dress the table for your meal, depicted below are a feast of Dahlias.


Heirloom tomatoes, golden beets, carrots and cucumbers from Lakeshore Farmer’s Market.  Fresh veggies make all the difference. Once you get your veggies directly from the farmers you won’t ever want to get your veggies from a plastic case at Trader Joe’s again. I promise you this.


Autumnal Jujube Jam

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I was walking through the Lakeshore farmer’s market one day and these circular brown apple impersonators caught my eye. They were hiding in a bin looking forbidden, so of course I went right over, picked up a handful, and asked myself what I could do with this forbidden fruit.

The jujube is a Chinese date that looks like a small brown apple and tastes just as sweet and a little tart.

Speaking of dates, this fruit is quite the charmer.

Apparently throughout Chinese history the fruit was believed to make teenagers fall in love. In the Himalaya and Karakoram regions, in order to impress the ladies, men would skip cologne and put the Jujube flower stem in their hat.

So perhaps all you fellas out there reaching for your Hugo Boss cologne, you might actually find what you are looking for at the farmer’s market.

Lastly I now know in a traditional Chinese wedding ceremony, historically the jujube was used in the newlyweds bedroom as a good luck charm for fertility–an invocation to “have an honored child soon.” In the Jewish religion we just brake a glass. Everyone has their tradish.

Jujubes are a great way to cleanse the palate after a meal. They are are rumored to help with sleep and stress. So with check marks in the love, rest and overall health category, you really can’t go wrong with the Jujube.

Today for you I made a Jujube Jam recipe. Say that three times fast.

Recipe Ingredients:

  • 30 Jujube fruits
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 tablespoon flour or quick-cooking tapioca
  • Grated zest of one lemon (juice of half a lemon)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped crystallized ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • a pinch of salt (if you have lavendar salt use that-not completely necessary)

Jujube Jam Recipe Instructions

1. Chop jujubes so you cut the stems and seeds out.
2. Combine Jujube fruit in a steep pot or slow cooker.
3. Add all ingredients and cook on medium heat stirring every few minutes. Use lid if necessary.
4. Once jujubes are soft and mixture looks ready, take off the heat and let sit to cool
5. When the mixture is cool, put in food processor and mix on chopped. Grind down until smooth.
6. Serve

Here you see the jam served over greek plain yogurt with a small blueberry muffin. Eat on toast or, if you are throwing a party this season, serve with cheese and salty crackers! Enjoy.

Yogurt-Based Chocolate Mint Salad Dressing

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I don’t eat salad because I feel like I have to. I eat salad because I find it to be glorious. Salad becomes glorious when you buy the food straight from the farmers. Everything pops. The tomatoes are sweet and juicy. The greens have a kick to them, especially mustard greens. For about five years now I have made my own salad dressings. It’s healthier and home-made salad dressing just tastes better. It’s very easy to do and usually I mix up an olive oil and black vinegar dressing with herbs and brown grain mustard.

Two weeks ago I discovered chocolate mint at the farmer’s market–it has an earthy flavor and smells like a peppermint patty. This herb is generally used in sweet teas or baked goods.

With the chocolate mint I have created my own version of a Tzatziki inspired dressing. It’s a yogurt based concoction and will dress any simple butter lettuce or mixed green salad very nicely.

Tzatziki is used as a sauce for gyros–it is made of strained yogurt (usually from sheep or goat milk) mixed with cucumbers, garlic, salt, usually olive oil, pepper, sometimes lemon juice and parsley, and sometimes dill or mint.Tzatziki is always served cold–and in Greece and Turkey the dish is usually served as an accompaniment, with bread (loaf or pita).*


A salad with butter lettuce, feta, mixed with some nutty greens from the farmer’s market and topped with my dressing

My tzatziki inspired dressing is quite simple. You will need.

1. 1/2 cup Greek fage yogurt (I use fat free because I’m a weird American)
2. Two-three tablespoons olive oil
3. A generous tablespoon of finely chopped (and washed) chocolate mint (or any mint will do)
4. One lemon
5. Pepper/salt to taste

Mix together in a jar and keep in the fridge. Don’t get the seeds from the lemon in your dressing!

*source

The lady makes “lady fingers” aka “okra”

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I used to have a client that sold Indian food, and one of their products was an okra dip.

I hadn’t heard of okra before, but now I wanted to know what this heavenly ingredient was–because the dip was the most amazing thing I had ever tasted.

Feeling adventurous, last Saturday I ambitiously bought a box of okra at the Embarcadero Farmer’s Market. I was intent on transforming this ugly, hairy, slimy vegetable into the beautiful sumptuous treat I had eaten before. Inspired by my former client, I aimed for an Indian infused okra dish tonight for dinner.

Fun facts about okra:

In Palestine, Syria, Tunisia, Egypt, Greece, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Yemen,and other parts of the eastern Mediterranean, including Cyprus and Israel, okra is widely used in a thick stew made with vegetables and meat.* It is popular in India and Pakistan, where chopped pieces are stir-fried with spices, pickled, salted or added to gravy-based preparations like bhindi ghosht or sambar

Okra is often known as “lady’s fingers” outside of the United States.

In my kitchen, it’s just okra.



The first thing you want to do to prep the okra is to soak it overnight. This helps dissolve the slimy layer that can appear on the okra.


It was quite simple.


Ingredients:

About ten pieces of okra
Grape seed oil (or another oil you can use at high heat like coconut oil)
Garlic
Vidalia onions
Curry powder
Sea salt/pepper

Directions:

As I mentioned soak the okra overnight.
Pat the okra dry and cut the tops off.
Chop the okra into tiny slices.
Chop the onion into bite size pieces.
Heat the grape seed oil in the pan, and put 1/2 tablespoon garlic into the oil.
Carmelize the onions in the oil.
Once the onions are soft, add the okra.
Add a generous helping of curry powder.
Add salt/pepper.
Stir frequently and serve when nice and browned.

You might want to serve this with something cool like chicken with a yogurt sauce.

*Sourced from Wikipedia

Salmon Jalapeno Hand Roll

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Because I’m a girl who enjoys food–good food–I’m on an evolving journey to capture my favorite flavors in my own kitchen.

I’m always trying to make healthier renditions of flavor profiles I love.

That being said, I adore sushi (who doesn’t?) and one of my favorite rolls is a salmon avocado hand roll with a slice of jalapeno for a kick. I love handrolls because they are fun to eat, like a sandwich, and the provide texture because you get more seaweed (and more crunch). Also the salmon adds that bagels-and-lox type feel, but a little farther East.

I have reinvented my own version of the salmon avocado jalapeno handroll. It’s deliciously addicting, super flavorful and might make your pores feel hot! Here are the two sheets of seaweed, sort of like two halves of a small finger sandwich.

This seaweed product is so new, I couldn’t find an image of it online for a screen shot. Love this new find..!

This delightful Japanese inspired snack has only five ingredients:


1. Wasabi Roasted Seaweed (Trader Joe’s)
2. Smoked Salmon
3. Jalapeno
4. Light Cream Cheese
5. Avocado

The directions are very simple. Slice the salmon very thin and add one small layer. Add about 1/2 tablespoon light cream cheese, avocado and a sliver of Jalapeno. Be careful on the jalapeno as a little goes a long way–they are hot! Cover first layer with a second layer of seaweed.

This is my boyfriend Jacob, the taste tester in my kitchen. He will probably laugh when he sees this picture (let’s hope so).

Enjoy!!

The Chocolate VitaMuffin Weapon

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Why is dessert stressed spelled backwards? It’s because eating food with no nutritional value stresses us out. We feel guilty.

But because I don’t want to live in a world without chocolate, if I cheat—which I do—I try and find desserts with some nutritional benefit.

I was in New York this week to speak at a conference. While I was in New York I was reminded of all the things I did when I lived there (five very fast-paced years). The conference hotel was across the street from Rockefeller Center where I used to attend my beloved Weight Watchers meetings.

The girls in my Weight Watchers meetings were not all overweight. Many of them were just trying to lose a few pounds. But I think secretly more than anything we just loved to talk about food–because (shhh), we enjoy it. We loved our Monday lunch meetings where we would laugh the guilt away, trade tips and tricks and offer compassion when life got tough (trading stories not food related).

Every meeting at least one person would volunteer a new top secret product he/she had found and we would all lean in for the scoop. Free money. That’s what we all want. Desserts that don’t include stressed!

One day someone very enthusiastically brought up a little known treat called the VitaMuffin.

The VitaMuffin is low calorie and high fiber–so it keeps you full. It comes in a variety of flavors but the best one is chocolate. Heat up this chocolate delight in the microwave or the oven. A “diet” dessert becomes a satisfying mouthful of chocolatey goodness.  I will warn you you might want to arm yourself with skim milk to wash it down.

Jacob (partner in food crime and boyfriend) and I tend to split one. We heat it and take about a third a cup of low fat coffee frozen yogurt and mix the two together. I will warn you, dessert will never be the same. And why go to Cold Stone and bankrupt your week’s allotted cheat points when you can eat healthier versions of things that are equally satisfying! Here’s to decadent dessert!

Blake’s Food Shopping List

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I essentially cook with the same foods throughout the week changing flavors and textures. I love Trader Joe’s and I usually do a variation/rotation of meals using the following core ingredients:

Protein:

Salmon
Smoked Salmon
Shrimp
Chicken Breasts
Very lean ground turkey
Steak or bison

Carbs/Starches:

Whole wheat spaghetti
Polenta (cooked)
Long Grain Rice
Potatoes (either yam fries or Peruvian potatoes–purple)
Whole Wheat Wraps

Veggies:

Persian Cucumbers
Sweet Vidalia Onions
Green Onions
Bell Peppers
Tomatoes
Avocados
Lettuce (Herb Mix and Butter Lettuce from Trader Joe’s)
Corn
Lentils (already cooked – Trader Joe’s)
Beets (already cooked  – Trader Joe’s)

Herbs:

Basil
Chives
Sage
Rosemary
Italian Parsley

When I’m feeling lazy:

Eggs (perhaps paired with some cheese and veggies for a Fritatta)
Gyoza Chicken Potstickers (Trader Joe’s Frozen Section)

What is your routine for meal-time during the week?

Jamaican Jerk Chicken

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Two weeks ago I was running around Lake Merritt and I smelled something amazing. A young man was eating chicken on the bench–and it wasn’t just chicken, it was Jamaican Jerk Chicken. The smell of that charred grilled chicken struck a chord with me. So much so that last night I made my own “rendition” of Jerk chicken.

There are quite a few recipes for Jerk chicken, and mine was probably a distant cousin of Jerk chicken, something made without dark rum (I didn’t have any in the house) but made with quite a few herbs–nothin too crazy or fancy. But enough to make a broiled chicken with a kick. I found this funny description of the origin of the name of Jerk chicken below.

The island of Jamaica is famous for its beautiful beaches, reggae music, Blue Mountain coffee, exotic fruits, and its cheerful people with their beautiful patois language. But, you haven’t tasted Jamaica until you’ve tried Jamaican Jerk, ya mon!

The term jerk is said to come from the word charqui, a Spanish term for jerked or dried meat, which eventually became jerky in English.

That being said, Jerk chicken is meant to be a little dry.

For my recipe, a variation of this traditional recipe, you will need:

  • 1/2 cup malt vinegar (or any rice vinegar)
  • 4 green onion tops, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp fresh thyme or 2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 4 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  • 4 teaspoons ground ginger
  • chicken for two (amount will vary according to your appetite). I make extra (four breasts so we have enough for lunch the next day).
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 1 Tbsp pepper
  • 1 Tbsp barbecue sauce

Directions:

1. Clean your chickens and set them aside.
2. Put all ingredients in a bowl and place chicken breasts in the bowl.
3. Allow to sit in the fridge for 30 mins-overnight. The longer you allow the chickens to marinate, the softer and juicier the meat will be.
4. Put the oven on broil and when you are ready put your meat on foil in a heat safe pan of some kind.
5. Allow to cook for between 20 and 30 minutes depending on how cooked you like your meat.
6. Enjoy with some rice on the side.

Disclosure. My chicken lived up to its name, and when I opened the oven, it rolled off the rack onto the floor. What a jerk!