September 16, 2008

What is Your Favorite Fruit?

I am sure you have a favorite fruit! I certainly do. Even though I love mangoes I think the raspberry is my ultimate favorite. The raspberry melts in my mouth. This fruit is usually so expensive and it is such a luxurious treat that makes me feel special.

What do you feel when you eat a “favorite” fruit? For me, when I eat a raspberry I love the taste so much that my tongue tingles and I get excited just thinking about eating it. I don’t need to add anything to this amazing fruit. I feel that in its natural state it is perfect. It is perfect in every single way that I can imagine. And that in and of itself makes me feel so great so it’s always a positive experience for me when I eat raspberries. I made a lovely mango raspberry cream yesterday and topped it with some of the freshest raspberries I have had in a very long time. The raspberries melted in my mouth.

A raspberry is actually a cluster of many small individual drupelets or fruits, containing their own seed. Raspberry drupelets are hairy and adhere to each other. Raspberries are really rich in Vitamin C and antioxidants, so they are extremely healthy. It’s been really interesting looking into some of the history and physical components of particular fruits and vegetables on this personal culinary journey I am on. What I do love is that now I am paying much more attention to the trees and plants and the fruits themselves.

I have been practicing yoga for many many years and one of my teachers over the years said something that has stayed with me and plays a role in other areas of my life. We were doing a pose where our hands were outstretched. He said to stretch our arms more. He then asked us to stretch our arms even further. My arms were already stretched what I thought was as far as I could reach. He then asked us to feel our finger tips and stretch them further. We did this stretching process for what felt like several minutes. We had to keep the hands and fingers stretched in the new position to really feel them. Up until that day I don’t think my arms and fingers had ever felt so elongated or had so much feeling in them. It was an awakening experience because I could feel my fingertips and hands in a way I had never previously experienced.

So in your process of enjoy your favorite fruit taste it in a way that you have not previously experienced. Close your eyes and taste it fully. Take each piece or each bite and savor the taste. Taste the taste. Swallow it only when you have felt the full sensation of the fruit. Do this again and again until you have really experienced the taste of the fruit you choose. Allow yourself this pleasure and see what happens in other areas of your life. Perhaps you will awaken senses even more fully.

September 15, 2008

Garden Party on Maui

I do love food, so when there’s an opportunity to savor many different tastes I am there. I go to special events to observe, learn, taste the food and enjoy the experience. Yesterday for the first time I attended the annual Maui Academy of Performing Arts' fundraiser at the Yokouchi family estate in Wailuku. Over a dozen Maui restaurants and sponsors cooked their signature tastes as guests sipped wines from various wineries.

Waterfront Restaurant, Ma’alaea Grill, Café O Lei Restaurants, Jacques, Prince Court, Café Marc Aurel, Bentos & Banquets, Dad’s Doughnuts, Hula Grill, Maui Chocolate Fountain, Roy’s Restaurants Maui, Sir Wilfred’s, Ruth’s Chris Steak House and Ali’I Kula Lavender Garden were represented. Guests tasted grilled lamb chops and tossed caesar salad with lettuce wraps with chicken, water chestnuts and shiitake mushrooms. Guests savored the osso bucco ravioli and sautéed spinach. There was also spicy friend shrimp, goat cheese martini salads and cheese plates with fruit and olives. There were fresh doughnuts and even lime sorbet with lavender cookies and a chocolate fountain for dipping fruit, cake and pretzels. Most of these participants have been involved in this event for over a decade.

The live auction was a main attraction, along with the silent auction. Some items went for over a $1,000.00 in the live auction. And artists painted on site and offered their piece of work for auction. Supporting the arts does make a difference in the lives of many people.

As a chef I know that it is a challenge to maintain quality control when producing food for a large event. I am definitely critical but take everything into consideration. I really enjoyed the variety and fresh mango that was served in a couple of dishes. I thought the food was ok but guests really enjoyed the afternoon. This is what matters. Here on Maui it is really nice to be able to participate in casual events that support the community.

Take time to savor the moment, support your community and appreciate all that you have. Eat well, live well.

September 14, 2008

Soup Kitchen Volunteer

Hale Kau Kau is the soup kitchen run by St. Theresa and a group of dedicated people and volunteers. This soup kitchen has been running for 17 years. It is open 365 days a year 7 days a week. They serve dinner to anyone who comes every evening in Kihei. I was impressed when I went there to volunteer the other day.

Last week I had a bag of groceries that I brought over there and popped my head in to see if I could volunteer and when. Marie, the manager said that they needed a cook on Wednesday evenings. I said I would be there and showed up a little after 2:00 ready to create a meal.

I felt privileged to work in such a positive environment. Everything was so well organized. I had leeway to make what I wanted that first evening since I was the cook. I wasn’t quite as fast as I could have been, considering that I had about 90 minutes to make a meal for 100 people after figuring out what to make. I saw what was in the pantry and walk-in and made some quick evaluations. In addition to the men and women who come for meals every evening the soup kitchen also provides meals for home-bound people across the island. We prepared enough meals for 40 carry-out meals so that people who cannot leave their homes would get fed as well.

I made pasta with fresh basil garlic pesto with carrots, broccoli and cauliflower. There was some spiced turkey that I had cubed and we put that into the pasta for the main course. Since there wasn’t enough pasta I also made another main course with risotto and turkey and served a side of spinach, broccoli, cauliflower and carrots. Gail, a regular volunteer and amazing woman made salad that everyone raved over. Every evening they serve dessert, bread and fruit too, along with milk. It’s a very healthy and fresh meal.

I loved the fact that the people who were coming to eat a meal were getting food that was not only home cooked but was cooked with love. I knew right away that everyone at Hale Kau Kau loves what they do and do it with compassion and caring, it’s obvious.

If you are in Maui visiting or a full time resident come by and volunteer or drop off donations at the kitchen at St. Theresa’s in Kihei. During the week you can come and volunteer at 3:00 Mon- Fri and 2:30 on the weekends. This was a good experience for me, to help me open my eyes wider and see another world beyond the one I exist in.

Live well, eat well and appreciate all that you have.

September 9, 2008

Easy Spreads and Dips - Recipes Included

When I was growing up the dips that we used to make were always made with mayonnaise and sour cream. Since most people are looking for healthy alternatives I have had to come up with some options. I am a huge fan of spreads and dips and have come up with a few that are really healthy as well as really beautiful too!

Today I came up with a recipe that uses carrots and cashews! It’s delicious yet so healthy and you could eat it guilt-free. Remember, that even if you are eating something like nuts that are heavy in calories and natural fat you are not eating these calories in the other fatty ingredients you normally would be using and eating. In addition a cashew is full of vitamins and nutrients. The recipe for carrot cashew paté is a great dip for an afternoon snack with your children, using baby carrots and celery sticks as dippers.

I also am going to share my ultimate garlicky hummus recipe. I made this recipe up for a friend who didn’t want to spend the $5.00 at the health food store for a small container. The ingredients were still expensive, but in the end a much better deal because of the quantity and quality of the end result! If you want to get away from bread and fatty crackers there are fat-free crispy flatbreads available and even tortillas that you can use for these spreads.

The key to eating well is thinking outside the box and discovering alternatives that will satisfy the cravings and yet your taste buds are still enticed. You can make these spreads ahead of time for parties and they last up to a week or so in the refrigerator. You can make them look beautiful and get creative when you decorate them for even your family, I bet your kids will want to participate!

Eat well and make cooking an art, not just something you have to do. Make it fun and try something new and different! Thinking outside the box allows your creativity to flow and your imagination run wild.

Cashew Carrot Paté

3 med. carrots, peeled and chopped
1 celery stalk, chopped
3 cloves garlic peeled
1 c. raw unsalted cashews (soaked for 1 hr. and drained)
1 tbls. soy sauce or tamari
2 tbls. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
sea salt, to taste

In a food processor blend the carrots, celery and garlic to a fine consistency.
Drain the water from the cashews. Add them to the processor with the vegetables and process along with the soy sauce or tamari, olive oil and sea salt. Stop periodically and scrape the sides with a rubber spatula. Continue to blend until creamy. Chill and serve.
For serving you can put the mixture into a medium glass bowl to use as a mold. Place a plate under bowl and carefully allow paté to sit in middle of plate. You can take a peeler and make a few carrot curls for decoration on top. Place a few whole cashews on top if you like or even a few chopped cashews for decoration. Serve with carrot or celery sticks or crackers and flatbreads.
NOTE: you can use soaked raw almonds (skins removed) or sunflower seeds instead of cashews. Cashews give a nice creamy consistency, especially raw ones.
Ultimate Garlicky Hummus

2 15 oz Cans Garbanzo Beans (2 2/3 cup cooked beans drained, reserve 3/4 c. bean liquid)
6 Garlic Cloves Peeled
3/4 c. Tahini (raw sesame paste)
3/4 c. Bean Liquid
1/2 c. Fresh Lemon Juice
3/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tbls. Sea Salt
Optional Herbs (parsley or basil)

Basil Leaves
Pine Nuts
Sundried Tomato Strips

In food processor blend garbanzo beans, garlic cloves and tahini until mixed. Slowly add reserved bean liquid and lemon juice until processed. Add olive oil in a slow drizzle. Keep blending until well blended and smooth. It takes about 10 min. Add 1 tbls. or more sea salt to taste. You can add dried or fresh basil and/or parsley. Blend mixture a little more until just mixed.

To serve you can decorate the top with a sprinkling of pine nuts, basil leaves and a few sundried tomato strips. Use your imagination.

This makes over 4 cups hummus. Refrigerate in covered containers, keeps about a week. Enjoy with flat bread or in wraps.

NOTE: If you need to adjust the lemon juice or garlic to taste with a little more water or bean liquid. If you are using fresh herbs only add a few basil leaves or parsley, you do not want the mixture to turn green.

September 8, 2008

Your Life Now Animated

I just finished watching the movie Miss Potter. It’s the real life story about the children’s author and illustrator Beatrix Potter. She is the best-selling author of children’s stories, including the “Tale of Peter Rabbit.” It was so inspiring because it tells of a tale of a woman’s imagination as a child. She was fearless in her pursuit to express herself through her art and her stories that brought the images alive. She said that when she started a page she had no idea where the journey would take her. For me, this is what life is about, the journey that we begin, but not knowing the destination. How many of us are willing to follow our heart’s journey? I highly recommend watching the movie “Miss Potter” as it will touch your heart and awaken the imagination of a child.

Today, as you go about your business imagine a life that you want to live, tell your story the way you want it to be. Start looking at the people and things all around you and see them, not just notice them. This alone could change your life. Start seeing the very things that show up a little more animated, a little more alive, a little more sensation.

If I relate this topic to nature I can only relate my own experience related to the fruit trees just a block from my home. I never noticed them for a couple of years now. And yet, they are so alive and so awesome. When the trees just have leaves now I notice their awesomeness and their aliveness. And when they produce fruit I now stand there in appreciation for the gifts the tree bears. In my ignorance the tree still existed and in its existence it still was awesome, but I lacked the awareness to even notice.

In fact, just recently I discovered passion fruit trees in my backyard. They are producing fruit. I wondered where the fruit was falling from, as the little yellow fruit just appeared one day. I didn’t even pay attention to its source. It took me a couple weeks to focus on the source and to pay attention to where this beautiful and tasty fruit was falling from. Then weeks later I realize that the huge trees that are full of intertwining vines are in fact passion fruit producing trees. It was only today that I realized that I had a couple of these awesome trees growing where I co-exist.

During this journey of discovering what is surrounding me I also figured out that there were not only several types of mango varieties in the 20 or more trees within 2 blocks of my home but also papaya trees, a lemon tree, a pomelo tree, an orange tree, coconut palms and at least one avocado tree. It’s amazing really. I know it’s Hawaii, but who could possibly imagine this abundance so near but so far away when I closed off my senses? It makes me feel so alive when I realize that this reality is now opening to me.

Just like Miss Potter I am so grateful that my senses have been awakened and my awareness to what is all around me is now visible to my outer eyes. And in that awakening I know that the “reality” of what is can become even more colorful and animated; just like the pigs, ducks and rabbits Miss Potter could see and hear and helped come alive to her many readers.

On your journey towards awareness allow yourself to become awakened within as you explore your inner and outer world that surrounds you.

September 7, 2008

Diet-Free and Intuitive Eating

The word diet sounds so restrictive. And it sounds like something that is so limiting. Here’s the definition on the web for the word “diet”:
  1. a prescribed selection of foods

  2. the usual food and drink consumed by an organism (person or animal)

  3. follow a regimen or a diet, as for health reasons; "He has high blood pressure and must stick to a low-salt diet"
  4. eat sparingly, for health reasons or to lose weight

  5. the act of restricting your food intake (or your intake of particular foods)
Wouldn't it be nice to live "diet-free." And eat whatever you want! But that doesn't mean with random abandon either!
In the United States it is quite apropos that we have so many “diets” and yet we have the highest percentage of obesity and other ailments related to our modern eating habits. In other countries the populations don’t really think about food and when they should eat. Most people eat to satisfy their body’s needs and seem to be doing so much better than their American counterparts. It is important to understand nutrition and eat with balance as well.
However, there is an aspect that must also be addressed, it’s called “intuitive eating.” It is a natural way of eating and allows the body to tell you what to eat and when. How about that for a shift? Maybe your body knows better than all of those “experts.” It’s is more natural to feed the body when it is hungry versus trying to figure out what the body should eat. It’s a given that we are a logical society and it’s important to “know” certain basic facts about nutrition and supplements and what vitamins we need for what function. However, there is a bit of overkill don’t you think?
I have been experimenting with this type of intuitive eating and it definitely takes practice. I will ask myself a question about what I should eat. I am focusing on a “way of eating” versus a “diet” I should follow. Sometimes my mind tells me what I “think” about a certain food or how I “should” feel based on my past eating habits and conditioning. My goal is to be able to ask the question and to really “feel” what I should eat and “if” I should eat. I know that I will feel better when I can follow my instincts on a more regular basis regarding food.

Another topic I would like to explore related to diets is “cravings.” A craving does not necessarily have to be something negative or evil. A craving could mean that you have a desire for something that your body is telling you we actually need, a vitamin we are missing or a certain type of food. The key is feeding the body with the best choice foods to give us the nutrients we need when those cravings show up. Just because you are craving something it is up to you to fill that need with the best choice possible. It’s not necessarily a “bad” thing. It just is. The body is telling you it needs something sweet, sour salty spicy or bitter. It’s up to you what you put in your mouth to satisfy this “craving.”

Just because you want something crunchy and salty doesn’t mean you have to choose the most fat-laden cheese crisps, but perhaps a crunchy nut with extra salt or even a corn tortilla quickly pan-fried with a sprinkling of cheese. Perhaps there is a better choice that would satisfy the same “craving” and yet be a much healthier alternative. Ice cream can be satisfied with the heaviest Ben & Jerry’s or a homemade mango coconut ice cream, yet would satisfy your taste buds and craving. It is important to remember that you choose to put everything into your mouth and it’s up to you each morsel and each bite that goes into your system. It’s an education and a habit at the same time.

Eat well. Live well.

September 6, 2008

Birthday Celebration

A few days ago a friend of mine celebrated her 60th birthday and asked me to help out with the feast. Happy Birthday! The friends she invited were not all into health, but she really wanted an “all healthy” gourmet meal because of her own dietary restrictions. And of course this means different things to different people. However, if I'm involved in an event food is always the main attraction. I of course always approach a celebration with a gourmet twist and to make sure everything tastes good and looks fantastic. I know that having her friends celebrate her big day was very important so wanted to make it extra special.

The meal started out with a couple of appetizers: brown rice sushi with creamy avocado, crunch carrot and crispy cucumber and a garlic hummus with sundried tomatoes served with flatbreads (these were purchased). Soup was carrot avocado that you wouldn’t believe was “raw” and everyone enjoyed it, whether they were into health or not. The meal consisted of a crunchy broccoli salad with a basil almond dressing, and “angel hair pasta” made from zucchini served with sundried tomato pesto and basil pesto. This was a big hit with the guests.

For desserts we had a sampling of double chocolate coconut balls and a chocolate cake no sugar, dairy, butter, flour or eggs). Even I couldn’t believe the amazing results. The refreshing mango triple berry ginger coconut ice cream wowed the crowd.

I will admit that even I was amazed at what I created. I couldn't believe that I could make a cake that was healthy for you! Come on, I'm the chocolate chiffon queen! Secret, the majority of the dishes were raw. However, unless we told people the ingredients and method of preparation they really would not have known. Everybody felt really satisfied. In fact, guests were saying things like, “I feel great, and not stuffed.” We ate a lot of food but there was not that uncomfortable feeling that we ate things we shouldn’t have eaten and a sense of guilt. Everything was so healthy and so delicious.

I am definitely grateful for being exposed to the “au natural” way of cooking. Simple foods in their natural state can really taste delicious I have discovered. I will be honest, there aren’t many places like Maui where you can get creamy avocadoes the size of eggplants! However, I am becoming more aware that just about anything can be made from the ingredients that come from the earth. It’s quite exciting to see the versatility of what can be made from the abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables that are all around us.

Lesson learned:
Think outside the box. Just because you’re celebrating or want to make something special it can be healthy and still be good! No, you don’t have to use a lot of sugar, butter and cream. Yes you can use fresh ingredients and come up with something that tastes delicious and wows the taste buds! Cooking is fun, creative and the result is a delicious gourmet-meal that is good for you. Eat well and enjoy the feast!

September 2, 2008

Salads - My Definition

Salads. Can you believe that I would title this entry “salads”? I decided it would be nice to explain my definition of a salad and what I do to make vegetables and salads something you actually want to eat. Most people think of rabbit food as soon as I say “lettuce” or salad. However, a salad to me can be a meal in a bowl that is tasty, colorful, delicious and very nutritious all at the same time. It is quite a versatile course. In the United States salads are a very common dish to eat that includes some kind of lettuce and certainly other vegetables. In other countries salad usually does not include lettuce or maybe just lettuce (trying to satisfy the American palate but missing the mark)! It may also be just one kind of vegetable, such as tomatoes or cucumbers, and nothing else.
I have learned to make complex salads because I enjoy pushing the limits to traditional “salad” definition. For various salads I roast beets, caramelize walnuts, toast pecans, make goat cheese cakes, even use fresh corn on the cob and love adding dried cherries, and raw broccoli and jicama. The options are limitless and this is what makes salad-making and salad-eating fun!
I would never associate my salads with “rabbit food” or even something that only “healthy” people can eat. Salad can suit your tastes and dietary preferences. It’s your imagination that limits what you can create. And the more creative you are the moreyou will want to eat this healthy meal more of the time.
My salads usually include lettuce (unless it’s orzo or pasta), and I prefer organic mixed baby greens. I also include shredded carrots and then at least another two vegetables (corn, beets, cucumbers, tomatoes, jicama, broccoli) and then I add something with protein (edamame, fish, tofu, even goat cheese or gorgonzola) and then comes something crunchy (pecans, walnuts, croutons or other salad topping) and then a homemade dressing. Salad would not be the same for me with a store bought version of something that I can easily replicate at home.

Here’s a recent creation of mine that tastes good and is a great dish to bring to a potluck or family gathering.

Broccoli Almond Salad

1 c. Almonds
4 cloves garlic
1 slice ginger
1/4 c. Tahini (raw sesame paste)
1/2 c. fresh orange juice
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
2 Tbls. lemon juice
2 Tbls. raw honey
6 basil leaves
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/4 c. olive oil

3 cups broccoli florets (lightly steamed)
1 Tbls. lemon juice
1 Tbls. raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar
Sea salt
1 head romaine chopped
2 large carrots grated
1 package mixed sprouted beans
15 Halved Cherry or Grape tomatoes

1 avocado peeled and chopped in cubes
15 Halved cherry tomatoes for decoration
1/4 c. coarsely chopped toasted almonds


In food processor blend almonds, garlic, and ginger. Add Tahini. Mix well. Start adding liquids; orange juice, water, apple cider vinegar and lemon juice. Process until smooth. Add honey basil leaves and sea salt. Slowly add olive oil Mixture should be slightly thick. You may need additional water to liquify. There will still be a little crunch but mixture will be fairly smooth. Can be prepared ahead and refrigerated.


Mix cooled broccoli florets with lemon juice, apple cider vinegar and sea salt. Mix in almond dressing and blend well. Set aside while you prepare rest of vegetables. Mix together chopped romaine, carrots, sprouted beans and tomatoes. Add broccoli/almond mixture to vegetables and blend well. NOTE: Begin with chilled vegetables.

Sprinkle avocado, cherry tomatoes and almonds for decoration. Serve chilled.

Serves 6