August 31, 2008

Fresh vs. Processed

Before we as a nation and world started eating canned sodas, packaged cereals, boxed cookies and frozen pizza we lived in a world where squeezing orange juice, chopping carrots, kneading dough and baking cookies was the norm. In the past few months I started looking at food with a different perspective, perhaps that's because I am taking food seriously (ha ha). I have been noticing how much I can really do with food and how much I can make myself. Sure, it takes a little extra time, but it just tastes better. And perhaps I have also been paying attention to the abundance and variety.

When I was in Thailand less than two years ago it was very common to have street vendors selling their homemade goods to you everywhere. I don't think they needed licenses or a vendor permit! What I noticed was that even "junk" food was good for you. The ladies were selling coconut fried sweet potato, homemade coconut sweet sticky rice with mango, even Pad Thai and spring rolls. However, all of these items were freshly made with local produce and ingredients.
I have also noticed how much better food tastes when I make an effort to tasting it in its natural state. I thought to myself even the other day, wow, there are so many things you can eat that are natural and can be made into fantastic tasting products. Everything from avocado to dates and cashews and passionfruit juice to corn on the cob and homemade bean spread. It's amazing because when you realize how much variety is out there you can find complete satisfaction with prepared foods that are fresh and natural.
You don't need "junk food" or "processed" foods to satisfy your cravings. The key, eating a variety of foods and discovering the largest range of foods as possible. Don't just eat almonds, try cashews, walnuts, pecans and even macadamia nuts and sunflower seeds. Lettuce by itself is boring, add some shredded beet and fresh corn for a change to a salad. Instead of grabbing that cookie try some dates, chocolate and dried ginger to satisfy your sweet tooth. Texture is important. Crunch vs. soft vs. raw vs. baked or boiled. Variety of foods is extremely important.

Start experimenting and trying foods that you may not necesarily have eaten lately. Start with a different fruit that is in season or add a different type of vegetable to your mix vegetables this week. Just a few weeks ago at the local farmer's market "New Zealand" spinach variety was in season. Wow, what a taste sensation that was. It tasted nothing like the spinach I was used to. And in Oahu I bought four types of honey, wow, is all I can say. Foods in their natural state are varied, tasty, and so good for you when you eat them prepared with other fresh foods. Look around and notice. Activate your senses. Activate your sense of taste and smell and sight. Try adding color to an otherwise bland dish. It's important that you feel satisfied after a meal, even if it's just a salad.

And can you imagine if we as a nation started looking at food as a way of life versus which diet we need to eat. Trust your instincts. Start with a simple shift in perspective. You will start discovering a new world beginning to open before your eyes. What a beautiful, abundant and bright world it is. Open your eyes and mouth and taste the bounty that lies before you. And start putting what tastes good onto your plate and enjoy the taste like never before. Be adventurous. I think you'll surprise yourself and perhaps you will start enjoying what's all around you like never before. Live well, eat well.

August 30, 2008

The Maui Onion

I really enjoy cooking with onions and find them highly versatile. Since I try to maximize taste in each dish I create it's important to use ingredients that add high flavor value. Onion is definitely one of those ingredients. In addition to being versatile and flavorful there are many natural benefits and curative properties in the onion. Even the onion juice is used therapeutically. Raw onion is the most beneficial. In Hawaii the Maui onions is variety of sweet onion that lacks sulfur, which causes the strong odor and sharp taste associated with onions. The State of Hawaii has invested a great of money in marketing their famous onion variety, putting it on par with Vidalia onions from Georgia, another sweet onion variety. This distinct onion variety flourishes best in the rich volcanic soil of Haleakela, which dominates the landscape of Maui.

The Maui onion has a rich golden yellow color and they typically grow in a slightly flattened shape. This onion variety is not only mild and sweet but also very juicy due to its high water content. I love caramelizing these onions, with a little bit of Extra Virgini Olive Oil and Sea Salt, making them melt in your mouth. They can also be grilled and fried tempura style.

Caramelized Onions


2 cups thinly sliced Maui onions
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tsp. Sea Salt

Caramelize onions by heating 2 tbls olive oil in sauté pan on high. Stir in onions and coat with oil. Sprinkle evenly with salt. Allow them to start softening on high heat. Stir constantly so they do not brown too much or burn at first. After onions start becoming opaque you can lower heat to medium high. Stir often in the beginning to prevent uneven cooking and burning. Monitor the heat. After the first process of softening you can stir occasionally. Watch and continue to stir and be sure onions are caramelizing evenly. Once they start cooking and you have adjusted the heat they won't burn if you stir them occasionally. However, it's important to make sure they are evenly browning and caramelizing. They should be a deep golden brown and softened. This process can take 25-30 minutes to create the caramelization. You can add these onions to wraps, fritattas or stir-fries. Enjoy!

August 28, 2008

Exploring Raw Food

Are you ready to try raw? Forget about going raw, just trying it for a meal or a day is what I’m asking? Raw food as a dietary way of life is a fairly new trend in America. Vegan (no dairy, fish, eggs, butter) and Vegetarian (dairy and maybe fish) have been more common dietary routes over the years. Yesterday I went to my third Raw Food Potluck in Kihei. It is sponsored each month by Optimum Living Alliance ( There are usually 60-70 attendees and a fabulous guest speaker with something interesting to share is featured each month (we had someone give us live raw facials at one event). Yesterday the speaker was Dr. Steve Blake, author of Vitamins and Minerals Demystified (McGraw-Hill, 2008) Dr. Blake had a lot interesting information on getting your vitamins and minerals while following a raw vegan diet.

I was excited to go because I could create new recipes to share with the attendees. Since my culinary focus is “gourmet” I came up with a couple of recipes that you can serve at any dinner party and your guests would say, “wow!” I came up with a Broccoli Almond Salad that is nutritious, tasty and looks beautiful. You could take this to any potluck and people would not know that this is considered “raw.” I focus on texture, flavor combination and appearance. People who steer away from vegan or raw are afraid of trying these diets for fear of not having food taste good or not being able to enjoy food the way they are accustomed. If you focus on making your food delicious, whether it be raw or not then that’s what you will eat. Raw food can be delicious and satisfying.

I also wanted to make a dessert so I came up with a coconut raw chocolate ball that is tasty, unique in flavor, and you won’t be embarrassed serving them at any party. This recipe has dates and goji berries along with raw cacao nibs and raw soaked almonds.

So go ahead and experiment. Try something different. If you have any questions please feel free to email or comment. I will be more than happy to assist you in your journey of discovering vegetarian, vegan or raw with a gourmet twist! Now doesn’t that sound SO less intimidating than say, eat SUNFLOWER SEEDS, and ALMONDS and make sure you get that LETTUCE in and SOAK YOUR OATS. Come on now, I am the first one who would say, no way, and no wonder people are still eating what’s familiar and looks and tastes good. I love good food and I know for sure that I’m not going raw until I know that I can still eat well!
I really enjoyed experimenting. And today I even added more basil to the almond dressing and instead of tomatoes and avocado I added fresh corn and grated beets for a change. I thought it was fabulous and satisfying. Eat well, live well and prosper.

August 27, 2008

Made In Hawaii Festival and Oahu

Exploring the world of food as a chef has made me realize that I need to stay as informed as possible to the trends and what is going on in the world of food. What can I say, I'm a lifelong learner no matter what I am doing. I decided to go to Oahu in mid-August for the Made In Hawaii Festival. I didn't know what to expect. I knew there were going to be a variety of food vendors and all kinds of new products. There were hundreds of vendors from all over Hawaii. I was excited to go and see what was going on in the small business world as well as what entrepreneurs were doing on the other islands. I had fun discovering the varieties of honey and jams and coffee. I also found a jasmine rose tea that is created on the island. I found one woman who makes 35 kinds of shortbread cookies! It was also really fun trying the samples. I do know for sure that there is a vibrant community on the Hawaiian Islands where people love their land and are very resourceful in what they produce and sell. There are a lot of creative entrepreneurs and people who really love what they are doing, the passion shows.

The other exciting part of the trip was going to Chinatown and finding little food markets. What can I say, going grocery shopping is FUN for me. A lot more fun than going clothing shopping or to a MALL! That tells you a lot about me. I found goji berries, a lemongrass powder, noni tea and some great rock sugar. I really enjoyed exploring the little shops, almost as much fun as going to Trader Joe's!

And then Saturday the best part of my day was going to the local farmer's market at the parking lot of the local community college in Oahu. The Red Hibiscus ginger syrup drink was phenomenal. I even bought some dried red hibiscus so I can make my own drink! And I found cinnamon honey that I will use for a recipe I plan on creating. And I loved the local Farmer's Market cookbook with a listing of local vegetables and fruits all clearly labeled.
Food and the varieties of food excite me in all of their forms. There are so many exciting new trends and ways of using foods and ingredients to tantalize the tastebuds. I know for sure that living in Hawaii has made me appreciate more and more each day what nature has made. I notice the fruits and vegetables. Before I lived here I hardly paid attention to what nature has given us. I pay attention to the flowers and trees more than I did before. I look at Red Hibiscus and now realize that I can make my own tea from it. I look at an avocado and a lemon so differently now. There are endless possibiltiies what I can do with what the land has to offer. The other day I picked up a box of lilikoi (passionfruit) from a neighbor for $3. I squeezed each and every one of those lilikoi and made a syrup. I then started adding this luscious juice to everything from dressings to marinades for chicken and fish.
Eat well. Live well.

August 7, 2008


This year here in Maui, Hawaii mangoes have been flourishing and I have found myself in mango paradise. I discovered a tree in my neighborhood here in Kihei that was bearing fruit in April. Mangoes usually mature early July and August here in Hawaii. I then discovered over a dozen trees of differing varieties in a 2-block radius. I am so excited because it feels like a gift that keeps dropping from heaven. I so look forward to my morning foraging for mangoes. It’s a piece of paradise that I can touch, feel and taste.
I am like a kid in a candy store. I started eating the mangoes raw, making fruit smoothies, even mango muffins and mango coconut sorbet, frozen mango pie and started sharing the mangoes with friends. Along the way I have discovered lemon, pomelo and breadfruit trees as well around the corner from where I live. It feels as if I have been able to access what comes to us in its purest form without any human intervention. This experience has given me a greater appreciation of the local produce and the beautiful place where I live.

What I have discovered on my journey of learning about the mango is that it is considered a royal fruit. It’s a fruit that comes from a rich descent. It is an enchanting fruit that has caused me to want to write about it. This fruit is exceptional, not only for its nutritious value and amazing intense taste, but it has a history as well. It has been estimated that there are over 1000 commercial varieties in India, where mangos are often called the "king of fruits". India is the world's largest producer of mangoes and has been cultivating this species for more than 4,000 years.
It is said that the Buddha was given the gift of a whole grove of mango trees where he could rest whenever he wished. It was a place for him to go and sit back and enjoy nature and a piece of paradise on earth. From that time on the mango tree was held in awe as capable of granting a person wishes. It is said that in India that the mango tree is so revered that it has become a symbol of love. Offerings of mango leaves are presented at wedding ceremonies, a ritual that guarantees the couple will bear many children. Throughout Indian villages there is a powerful belief that the mango trees grow new leaves each time a son is born. To herald the new birth to their neighbors, doorways are decorated with mango leaves.
Revered not only for their exotic sweetness and juicy quality, mangoes are known for their many health benefits. In addition to offering huge amounts of beta carotene, antioxidants and vitamin C, the mango also contains an enzyme that is a soothing digestive aid. A mango consists of over 80% water and is a great fruit to eat to replenish energy after working out.
Mango trees are evergreens and grow as high as 90 feet with a width of 80 feet. Mangoes are in the same family as pistachios, cashews, poison oak and poison ivy. Perhaps that explains why so many people have allergic reactions when they touch the skin and sap. Weight of the fruit varies and can be up to over 4 pounds. Each tree produces about 100 fruit. Mature fruit has a characteristic fragrance and a smooth, thin, tough skin. Mangoes should be picked before they are fully ripe, at which time they soften and fall.
When selecting a mango make sure it has a tropical fruity aroma as unripe mangoes have no scent. A fresh mango will give slightly to the touch, but soft and bruised fruit will be overripe. It’s best to allow them to ripen at room temperature and then refrigerate. A mango will continue to ripen at room temperature especially if you see sap and enough sugars from the tree still on the fruit itself. Some mangoes ripen to a combination of raspberry, orange and green shades, while other varieties are golden yellow or green when ripe. The size of the mango varies according to variety. The larger the mango the more fruit in relation to the pit.
What I know for sure is that the mango has given me a greater perspective on gifts that come to us from a place that cannot be seen or heard. It’s a place where gifts are given and the receiver must be open to receiving. I had gone by the mango trees so many times and never even noticed their magnificence. I never even noticed that they were there. Now I go by those trees everyday and am so appreciative of what they represent. They represent magic, abundance, well-being, vitality and grandness. It is as if the awareness of the mango has allowed me to tap into the essence of what it represents. Enjoy and let the taste of the mango fill your body and its essence fill your spirit.