Category Archives: Healthy

Flavors from Afar & FM 1410


If you’ve been keeping up with my artizone  posts, the site will launch next month!  Which means, you have only about two more weeks until you’ll be able to have the best artisan products in the city delivered to your front door.  This week I am featuring Flavors from Afar and FM 1410 — two well known names in Dallas.

At Flavors from Afar, the adventuresome duo Nancy and Gary  carries the best  artisan products imported from Italy.  You are able to taste a little part of Italy through the culinary gems that Flavors from Afar has to offer — like the fragrant olive oils of Tuscany or the bold and fruity balsamic vinegars from Modena. Flavors From Afar offers products that makes entertaining elegant and simple — as the Italians would say: Buon Appetito!!

The top chefs of Dallas know Tom well for his fresh herbs and produce.  With a beautiful garden tucked away in the middle of downtown, the treasures from Tom’s garden will redefine anyone’s definition of “fresh”. At FM 1410 it truly is a farm to table experience — full of flavor, life and most importantly, love. 

With the combination of these artisan powers I created these wonderful mini pizzettes — Bacon & Caramelized Onion with Arugula, Basil and Almond Pesto with Red Pepper and Thyme Lobster Mushroom drizzled with Balsamic.  These pizzettes would make a great appetizer or a wonderful afternoon snack.  Not to mention they are also quite healthy (except for the bacon..O_o) and dairy-free!

Ingredients for Mini Pizzettes: (serves 8-10)

  • 12 ounces pizza dough (You can find my pizza dough recipe here or buy storebought dough)

Preheat the oven to 475 F.  Roll out the pizza dough into a 1/4-inch-thick round.  Using a 2 1/4 to 2 1/2 inch diameter cookie cutter, cut out 30 dough circles.  Arrange the circles on 2 large heavy baking sheets (make sure you put semolina on the bottom of the pan to keep the dough from sticking).

Basil Pesto

  • 3 cups Basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 cup toasted almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup high quality Olive Oil (I used Ariston from Flavors from Afar)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt

Process the garlic, basil and almonds in a food processor.  Pulse until all ingredients are thoroughly chopped, scrapping down the sides as neccessary.  While running the processor, slowly pour in the 1/2 cup olive oil until it reaches the right consistency, you can add more olive oil as needed.  Set aside.

 

Thyme Lobster Mushroom

  • 8 oz Lobster Mushroom, thinly sliced (you can find these at FM 1410)
  • 1 Tb butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 oz Madeira or a sweet cooking wine
  • 2 oz fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 oz high quality Balsamic vinegar (you can find these at Flavors from Afar)
  • salt pepper to taste

Heat a large saucepan on medium high heat and melt the butter til it’s bubbling.  Add in the garlic, shallot and sliced mushrooms and sautee until softened, about 3-4 minutes.  Add in the wine and thyme and cook until liquid is soaked up, taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Carmelized Onion & Bacon

  • 6 oz bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 white onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 1 cup fresh arugula
  • salt pepper to taste

Heat a large pan on medium high heat add the bacon and cook for 1 minute.  Add the sliced onions and reduce heat to medium.  Caramelize the onions with the bacon, about 8 minutes.   Add the honey and apple cider vinegar and cook until liquid is reduced, add salt pepper to taste.  Set aside

To assemble pizzas

Using the three toppings you’ve made, place them on the pizza dough rounds (about 1 tsp for each).  Bake until the pizzettes are golden brown, about 10 minutes.  Drizzle the pizzettes with olive oil.  For the Bacon Onion and Arugula, simply add some fresh arugula on top and serve.  For the Thyme Lobster Mushroom, drizzle some balsamic vinegar on top and serve.  For the Basil Almond Pesto, add the sliced red pepper and fresh basil leaves for garnish and serve. 

Yogurt Panna Cotta with Honey


 

My first panna cotta experience was actually with my first job working as an Assistant Pastry Chef at Bailey’s Prime.  I was too embarassed to admit to the Chef that I had no CLUE as to what the heck panna cotta was except that it sounded fancy as hell.

Luckily, it was one of the easiest desserts I’ve ever made and actually turned out to be one of my favorites.  I loved the creamy yet firm texture, the lovely dressings on top and the way it looked so smooth and elegant — plus, who wouldn’t be impressed with a dessert called PANNA COTTA!  I say it exactly like that too when I serve it, with gumption, excitement and my best Italian accent.   

I found this recipe from an old issue of Food & Wine Magazine, I loved the simplicity of flavors with the yogurt and honey — did I also mention this was a healthy dessert?  *GASP* You’re welcome 🙂

Ingredients for Yogurt Panna Cottas with Honey:

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 cup fat-free milk
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 cup fat-free plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • black grapes, for serving

In a small bowl, mix the gelatin with the water and let stand until softened, about 5 minutes.  In a small saucepan, bring the milk to a simmer with the sugar and cook until the sugar is dissolved, about 1 minute.  Remove from the heat and stir in the softened gelatin until dissolved.



In a medium bowl, whisk the buttermilk with the yogurt.  Whisk in the warm milk until smooth.  Pour the panna cotta mixture into six 4-ounce ramekins and refrigerate until set, about 3 hours.



To serve, drizzle the panna cottas with the honey and garnish with the grapes.  Make Ahead: The yogurt panna cottas can be covered and refrigerated for up to 1 day before serving. 

Moroccan Carrot Soup


Back in March, Collin and I purchased our very first home together.  It was ragged, beaten down and was practically obliterated by termites.  The woman who owned the house before us lived here for over 40 years and never did a single update.  I want you to imagine that — original wall paper and carpet, stove tops and ovens from back in the 70s, we even found a hoover vacuum cleaner back from the the 60s, and not to mention that the doors and walls had deeply yellowed with age.  It was just plain awful.

But together we saw something in this house: potential.  We knew with a little lot of hard work, we could make this into something liveable, something beautiful, something we’d be proud to call our very first home.  Finally now after 6 months, we’ve finished: new walls, new kitchen, new paint, new floors…the list goes on forever.  And let me tell you, it’s freaking fantastic.  As a way to celebrate our achievements, I’ve decided to throw a housewarming party this Saturday — complete with a roast pig, a keg, and plenty of food but most importantly sharing our new home with our family and friends. 

In many ways this house has become representative of my personal struggles these past couple of years.  Since graduating college two years ago it has been a challenge to figure out what direction I wanted to take in my life, especially career wise.  At my lowest point, I felt like this house the way we first found it: dark, in shambles, and completely unorganized.  However, with time, ample searching, commitment and hard work I’ve found my niche in cooking, photography and piano and slowly but surely I’m begining to feel myself flourish.  I wouldn’t be here if Collin didn’t notice my potential and continued to push me to strive for my dreams, what once seemed like an impossible feat has now become my gorgeous reality. 

We completed the very last project, the deck earlier this week and we couldn’t contain our excitement and wanted to put it to use right away. I made this hearty, comforting to the soul bowl of Moroccan Carrot Soup to perfectly compliment our cool Fall nights we’ve recently been having (finally Texas!!!!).  We spread out a blanket, lit a few candles and basked in the aromas of cumin and fresh wood as we had our soup in silence.  Collin laid back on the blanket, closed his eyes and let out a huge long sigh — “I can’t believe we live here, we have the best house in the world.” 

Indeed we do my love, indeed we do.

From Epicurious

Ingredients for Moroccan Carrot Soup:(serves 4)

  • 2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
  • 1 cup chopped white onion
  • 1 pound large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2 2/3 cups)
  • 2 1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred to loosen
  • Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion; sauté 2 minutes. Mix in carrots. Add broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes.  Stir cumin seeds in small skillet over medium-high heat until fragrant, 4 to 5 minutes; cool. Finely grind in spice mill.

    Remove soup from heat. Puree in batches in blender until smooth. Return to same pan. Whisk in honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into bowls. Drizzle yogurt over; sprinkle generously with cumin.

    I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter Event: Coppell Farmer’s Market


    This past weekend my friend Eric and I decided to go on an adventure — to Coppell Farmer’s Market! I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter helped me host a farm to table lunch.  The mission was to choose a local farmer’s market, find some wonderful fresh produce then go home and make a meal using ICBINB products and farm fresh produce.  Originally I had a pretty strong group going but then the morning of (we had to leave at 9am) the group quickly dwindled down to one.  YES, one. In amidst of questioning my popularity, Eric arrived at my place and I had to think fast.  So I knocked him out with a frying pan, tied him up and threw him in my car — GOTCHYA, there’s no escaping now!

     Okay so maybe that’s not how it happened exactly but don’t worry, no one got hurt. 

     

    The two of us ventured out to Coppell,TX and found the wonderful farmer’s market.  Though the market was relatively small compared to the Dallas Farmer’s Market, I really enjoyed a lot of the vendors here.  The entire shopping experience was less daunting, with about 25-30 tents compared to the 100s at the DFM.  They had all your neccesities — fruits, vegetables, grass-fed meats, honey and jams, fresh herbs, fresh breads and my favorite…a sorbet stand.  But I’ll get to that later.

    There was a wonderful bread stand from Village Baking Co. — by the time I got there it was slim pickins so I figured the bread must be good.  We chose the last Jalapeno Cheddar Loaf, because the cute guy selling the bread said it was his favorite — what can I say, I’m a sucker for blonde hair and blue eyes AND JALAPENOS AND CHEDDAR! I warmed it up in the oven when I got home — it was quite delicious with melted pockets of cheddar cheese and jalapeno slices scattered in every bite.  It was money for sure.

     OKAY now this was my favorite stand by far.  The folks at Savoy Sorbet are magical — they make these sorbets that are not only all natural but they are freaking DELICIOUS.  They call it “like catnip for humans!” because it’d probably be inapproriate to write “like crack for humans!” because that’s how addicting it was.  I wanted to buy the entire truck of sorbets and bury my face in it — but apparently that’s un-lady like.  I tried the lavender which was bright yet floral but it didn’t taste like soap (which I thought it would) it was truly the most elegant sorbet I’ve ever tasted.  But my favorite by far had to be the Chamomile Orange, which tasted like sunshine rainbows and hugs.  Don’t believe me?  Try it out yourself.  With the sweltering heat that day, there couldn’t have been a better tasting remedy. 

    We picked up the last of the summer squash — zucchini and yellow squash, sweet yellow corn and a couple pounds of tasty grass fed ground beef and lamb sausage for our lunch menu.  We also swiped up some fresh SPICY salsa and corn tortillas and a watermelon (that turned out to be a dud). 

    I kept the corn simple — after Eric cleaned and husked the corn, I just threw them in a pot of boiling water for 3-4 minutes and served them as-is.  That’s the beauty of fresh produce, you don’t have to do much to it to get great flavors.  We used some ICBINB spray and sprinkled some seasoning salt ontop — you can opt for lemon-pepper, cajun seasoning, or just plain salt and pepper.  I gave mine a dash of cayenne, cuz everyone can use a kick every once in awhile 🙂  

    For the veggies I diced the zucchini and yellow squash in to 1″ pieces and blanched them with some french green beans.  In a medium sauce pan I sauteed some minced garlic and shallot along with some salt and pepper with some ICBINB spray and tossed the veggies in the mixture.  Again, very simple to do and the veggies tasted fresh and crunchy — I love blanching my vegetables for that very reason — my heart always hurts a little when I taste overcooked mushy vegetables.  You are not only losing a lot of nutritional value that way but the beautiful natural flavors go away too! 

    Ah, last but not least!  Our 1/2 lb grass fed beef burgers.  I bought Hawaiian hamburger buns (YES THEY MAKE THOSE!!) and the sweetness of the bread really complimented the earthiness and savory flavors of the beef.  I seasoned the patties with some cayenne and some coarse kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper.  When making the patties, if you poke a hole through the center (like a meat donut) it helps it cook faster.  I cooked the patties similar to the way I’d cook a steak –preheat your oven to 400F, heat up your skillet at medium-high heat and add your butter (I used ICBINB spray in this case).  Once the butter is bubbling sear your meat patties, about 3 minutes on each side at medium-high heat and finish the rest of the way in the oven (about 4-5 minutes) you can use a meat thermometer to get the perfect doneness level as follows.

    Rare
    Medium-rare
    Medium
    Medium-well
    Well done
    120° – 125°
    130° – 135°
    140° – 145°
    150° – 155°
    160° and above

      Everyone loved the farm to table lunch — everyone being me, Eric, Collin and the guy who helped us dig a ditch that day (We’re installing a french drain so I can have my deck for my housewarming party, my fiance will claim I am a slave driver but I urge everyone not to listen to his lies.)  I’d like to thank I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter for hosting the event, it was a blast!

    Here is some additional info on I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter —

    • 0 Calories per serving
    • 0g Fat per serving
    • No gydrogenated oils
    • Is made from a blend of vegetable oils like vanola and soy
    • has no cholesterol

    You can find additional recipes at I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter where they also have giveaways and promotions, so check it out!

    Poached Eggs with Smoked Provolone and Pistou


    As I’ve mentioned before, my mother will be moving back to Shanghai this year — September 14th to be exact.  I’m picking her up from Houston this weekend where she will come to stay with me and Collin in Dallas before she goes home.

    A bittersweet feeling for sure, the child in me screams “DON’T LEAVE! WHAT WILL I DO WITHOUT YOU?” but I know it’s for the best.  For years my mother has sacrificed her own personal happiness for mine, I could tell she always missed China.  Her food always evoked her longing — I remember as a child I’d always complain “AW MAN MA, CHINESE AGAIN??” But now I realize it was one of the few connections she had to home.

    Week after week it was always something different — braised pork belly, sauteed peat shoots, tea smoked duck, herbal chicken soup — I lived like a king when it came to food, I knew I had it good.  Now that she’s leaving, I wanted to keep my mother behind with me, through her recipes.

    I really look forward to learning traditional Chinese cuisine and at the same time exposing my mother to the different types of cuisines I make at home.  A month’s worth of cooking adventures with my mother in my new kitchen, can life be any better?  I can’t wait for everyone to meet her, she is truly the sweetest, cutest and the most talented lady I know.  You’ll see 🙂

    I made this healthy breakfast over the weekend — I love poaching eggs because it’s a great alternative to frying and you still get the same delicate texture and of course the best part, the runny yolk.  I got my recipe from Epicurious and made a few minor changes — I used less oil and used Smoked Provolone.  I really enjoyed the addition of the Pistou, very bold in flavors but light in textures — a great breakfast for the summer.

    Ingredients for Poached Eggs with Pistou: (serves 2)

    • 1/3 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
    • 1/2 small garlic clove
    • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    • 4 large eggs
    • 2 1/2-inch-thick slices french bread, toasted
    • Smoked Provolone cheese shavings

    Puree basil, garlic, and oil in mini processor until very smooth. Season pistou to taste with salt and pepper.

    Add enough water to medium skillet to measure 1 1/4 inches. Sprinkle salt generously into water. Bring water to simmer over medium heat. Crack eggs 1 at a time and gently slip into water. Cook until egg whites are just set and egg yolks are still runny, about 3 minutes.

    Place hot toasts on plates. Top each with Parmesan. Using slotted spoon, transfer 2 eggs, well drained, to each piece of brioche. Sprinkle eggs with salt and pepper. Drizzle with some of pistou and serve.