June 29, 2009

Cooking with Children

I am quite efficient in the kitchen and usually work by myself. However, cooking classes and sharing information with people is one of my greatest pleasures. I have had the opportunity to cook with children on a number of occasions and they are some of my favorite moments. When I get back to Michigan I love cooking with my nieces and nephews. The photo on the left is my niece enjoying my mini pumpkin chocolate muffins. The one on the right is my oldest niece helping prepare a homemade pizza for her and her brothers. Kids get bored easily so it's important to make things that they really like and that they can participate in and be a part of. One of my nephews to this day remembers helping make hummus. It was a fun day! That's what I remember.

One of my favorite "how to" meals with children is making pizza. We even make homemade dough and sauce and the kids can put on the toppings of their choice on mini pizzas. Smiling is good. Laughing is even better. And a little seriousness in the kitchen and awillingness to learn is really wonderful. Cooking can be fun, creative and a great thing to do as a family. It's not how many moments you have, it's the moments that take your breath away and that remind you of warm and fuzzy thoughts.

Some of my favorite moments growing up are in the kitchen. I remember dying Easter eggs or making chocolate chip cookies or even making a salad and setting the table. I was involved. Involving children in the every day activities of cooking, eating and preparing food is important.
Teaching healthy eating habits to children is important. However, making chocolate cupcakes and sharing a moment is equally important. Relating fun to food and experiencing something special is as vital as the vitamins and minerals! Here's to your health, now raise that chocolate cupcake!

June 28, 2009

Enhancing Simple Flavors - Creating A Memorable Meal

The Journey of Food

I take it for granted that eating is meant to be fun and an experience to be shared with others. Yesterday, my friend and I went to the farmer's market in Kahului to create a healthy yet tasty meal. Using a variety of fresh ingredients is part of creating a fun meal. I like to take simple items and use them in unique ways. I like dishes to have flavors that are enhanced, i.e. roasting vegetables, seasoning with a special dehydrated sea salt and herbs (Herbamare, available at natural food stores), adding basil and herbs at the end of the cooking process so that flavors come out and using ingredients that are naturally sweet (unsweetened coconut vs. sweetened).

"My day started with a trip to the farmer's market picking out fresh ingredients with Chef Ann-Marie of Maui Fresh Chef. I told her I wanted to learn to cook something that tasted great, but was also healthy. If you ever want a cooking lesson or a catered event, she is your go to person. Best part is sitting down to enjoy the meal she creates with you."
" Today was just a day for the memory book. Thank you. You always know how to make me feel important. You are amazing. I can't wait for more people to have the Ann-Marie experience. Sitting down at the table with you is like going on an exotic journey of flavors, aromas, and visual bliss."
--KS (Maui, Hawaii)

We used ingredients such as roasted tomatoes, fresh anise, unsweetened coconut, silken tofu and fresh basil. These were ingredients that are common to me but not necessarily always easy to use in dishes and you may not always have these items on hand. We started the roasted tomato soup with a homemade broth. I took extra vegetables I had on hand; scallions, parsley, carrots, onion, swiss chard and threw them all in a pot for about an hour. The end result was a tasteless broth, but when I added the sea salt seasoning it tasted like a delicious broth and this was used as the base for the roasted tomato fennel soup. It simply added depth to the soup without using meat products or cream.

Lunch was a roasted tomato fennel soup with, and a creamy chocolate coconut dessert with dark chocolate chips (made with silken tofu!). I made a basil citrus vinaigrette for a simple salad with walnuts and dried cherries.

What I am reminded of is that you don't have to force yourself to eat healthy. Simply use the least processed foods possible, i.e. fresh fruits, vegetables, herbs and natural ingredients. The secret to creating memorable dishes and meals is by enhancing flavors with a variety of ingredient combination and cooking techniques. Experiment. Try something different. Step outside of the box.

Bon Appetit!

June 26, 2009

Maui Summer Lunch Menu


Aloha! I thought that I would share with you a lunch menu with some of the dishes that I create that are unique to my style of cooking. I enjoy taking some of my favorite foods to create dishes that are a little different. The following menu is fairly simple, delicious and still good for you. This menu is festive enough to serve to guests and simple enough to have during the week. And what I like is that no matter where you live and no matter what fresh ingredients you have access to, these are recipes that can have substitutions. I have made these dishes over and over again with rave reviews. Food can be fun!

Enjoy eating well. Enjoy food that tastes good. Enjoy celebrating with food! And remember to roast extra vegetables for snacking any time!

Roasted Carrot Beet Salad with Roasted Beet Dressing over Field Greens
Garlic Shrimp Wrap with Basil Pesto and Feta with Carrots

Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes

Mango Coconut Cream garnished with fresh raspberries and fresh mint
Roasting vegetable is quite simple. When you want to roast beets. The best way is to line a broiler pan with foil and oil it. Cut beets in half, lightly oil and place cut side face down. Cover with foil tightly. Cook on high heat about 45 min. The beet should be pierced with a fork easily. Allow to cool and peel. Julienne the beets or cut in 1 inch chunks.

Carrots can be best roasted by peeling the carrots and slicing on a diagonal. Toss with chopped garlic and sprinkle with salt. Add extra virgin olive oil to coat. Oil a metal baking sheet and spread carrots thinly.

Oven should be about 450 degrees. Carrots take about 15-20 min.

For a light vinaigrette I process up one of the roasted beets and the green part of one scallion and a small piece of peeled fresh ginger in a food processor with a little orange juice and maple syrup, sea salt and apple cider vinegar. I slowly add extra virgin olive oil to taste. Toss with carrots and beets. Serve over a bed of field greens. You can roast beets, portabella mushrooms, zucchini, carrots, squash, onions, and asparagus, get creative.

Roasted Rosemary Sweet Potatoes RECIPE BELOW

Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Rosemary finely chopped
3 Med. Yams or Sweet Potatoes
Sea salt to taste

Preheat oven to 450˚. Prepare cookie sheet. Brush with olive oil
Wash and dry yams or sweet potatoes. Do not peel, except brown and bad spots. Cut vertically into 4 even quarter. Slice into med. thick fries, not too thin. Toss in 2 tbls. olive oil. Sprinkle with Rosemary and Sea Salt. Spread evenly onto cookie sheet. It should be a single layer. Put cookie sheet in oven. After about 10-min you can turn once with a spatula. Periodically watch that the fries are not burning or sticking to pan.
Cook approx. 20 min.

Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce
Dijon Mustard

Mix equal part Dijon mustard and honey. Mix to blend well.


For an amazing easy and delicious and fresh dessert. Take frozen mango, about 2 cups. Puree in food processor with a small amount of organic whole coconut milk (not lite). Slowly add the coconut milk as it blends in. The fruit will create a very creamy icecream like texture in minutes. It's important to not add too much liquid and to be sure the fruit is frozen. I have done this with frozen berries, pineapple and other fruits. It's a fabulous dessert, decorate with fresh fruit and serve with a biscotti or cookie if desired.

Shrimp, Ahi or Veggie Wraps
Shrimp, Ahi or Veggie Wraps

1 large onion sliced thin
2 tbls. Olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

2 small carrots julienne and blanched
1 tsp olive oil
1 clove garlic chopped finely
Salt to taste

20 shrimp deveined
Season shrimp with salt and pepper
3 cloves garlic chopped finely
1 tbls butter
1 tbls olive oil
1 large scallion chopped (green and white parts)
¼ c. white cooking wine
Lemon juice

4 whole grain or whole wheat wraps (small fat free kind or small tortiallas)
4 tbls basil pesto
4 tbls crumbled feta cheese
4 large basil leaves
Oil for pan

Caramelize onion. Heat 2 tbls olive oil in sauté pan on high. Stir in onions and coat with oil. Sprinkle evenly with salt. This process can take 25-30 minutes to create the caramelization. After onion starts becoming opaque you can lower heat to medium high. Stir often in the beginning to prevent uneven cooking and burning. After the first process of softening you can stir occasionally. Watch and continue to stir and be sure onions are caramelizing evenly. When process is complete remove from heat and set aside in bowl.

NOTE: Steam carrots just until al dente (only a couple of minutes) then cool quickly in ice water to stop cooking. Set aside until reheating in pan with oil and garlic.

In a sauté pan heat oil and garlic. Put blanched carrots in to coat. Lightly sprinkle with salt.

In a large sauté pan heat oil, butter and garlic. Make sure pan is very hot and put in shrimp. Be sure to season shrimp with salt and pepper. Cook just until pink on one side and turn. Throw in chopped scallion. Test the shrimp to be sure they are thoroughly cooked, only about 2 minutes per side. Just before removing add ¼ c. white wine and lemon juice, cook for another minute or two on high heat to absorb some of the liquid.

Take each wrap and heat briefly in a pan that has been coated with oil. Heat both sides, do not brown. When all of the wraps or tortillas are warmed put on large surface to fill.

Spread ½ of the wrap’s surface closest to you with the pesto. Place about 2 tbls. caramelized onion on each wrap. Place the basil leaf on the pesto mixture and sprinkle with feta. Place several carrots horizontally across wrap. Place 5 shrimp just in front of carrots.

Roll wrap starting closest side to you. Roll in sides to create a wrap that holds the fillings. With the seam side down cut in half. Put on plate with one half leaning on the other half of the wrap for plating symmetry.

NOTE: You can also add ahi, roasted portabella mushrooms, zucchini or other veggies in place of shrimp.

June 25, 2009

Food Reality Shows - Next Food Network Star - Top Chef - Green Cuisine

Green Cuisine - Is it Viewer Friendly?

I love food. I love competition. I really enjoy watching food reality shows such as the Next Food Network Star and Top Chef.

Sometimes I think I know what the judges are looking for and then I don't. I want a show that is captivating and brings me into the world of food. I love competition but I do enjoy watching how a chef prepares a certain dish.

My style of cooking emphasizes healthy eating. This season Katie Cavuto keeps turning off the judges, particularly Bob Tuschman. He doesn't want health "shoved down his throat." Cavuto talks about antioxidants and enzymes.

What I know for sure is that when you are trying to attract a large mainstream audience it's important to appeal to a large niche and not one that is too small. Most people today know that it's important to eat healthy and want to eat food that is good for you, but; 1) it must taste good, 2) they don't care about the details of why it's healthy, 3) it has to taste great and 4) be a recipe they can prepare at home.

A man here on Maui who has been eating raw foods for 30 years said something that I resonated with, "food still has to be a celebration." Here's a man who shares his wisdom with people that come into his life and who may be eating a standard American diet. Yet, he still is able to relate 30-years of what he has learned in a way in my opinion that doesn't make someone else's eating habits wrong and his right. So when I watch a TV show I need to relate to the information as well as the person who is speaking. I need to feel that they understand "my" reality as well as theirs!

Is it possible to be perfect in our dietary habits? Who the heck knows what perfect is. I do know that I love sharing little creative tidbits on how to celebrate with food. I don't expect you to make everything from scratch or to buy all organic. And I certainly won't be creating a new table setting for each of my meals or growing all of my own vegetables and herbs any time soon. What I do hope is that you learn what "fresh" means to you and how you can experiment with ingredients that you may have been afraid of using before.

I know that when I was cooking for a family back in Washington, DC over 15 years ago and the father of the family didn't like vegetables. I just remember him saying, "I only eat vegetables when you make them." This stuck with me all of these years because I didn't realize that I was doing anything out of the ordinary by eating healthy and fresh. I thank my mother and father for the exposure to good food and the opportunity to cook. And I just share what I know by doing what I do best.
What I know for sure. Don't be afraid of trying something new that's "good for you" but don't go from eating hamburgers and french fries to lettuce and tofu. And it's important that when you try something for the first time that's not something you normally eat that you make sure that it is made really really well. It's either from a restaurant or a reputable take out place that specializes in that type of cuisine. You want to have a great first impression rather than one that will turn you off. So Katie, I think you're great and well intentioned, but be sure to relate who you are with the newcomers to green cuisine.

If I had the ability to take all first time tofu tasters and make them dishes with tofu I know that I would win over the majority. However, I know that it's so much harder to try and get those who have had bad experiences with tofu to even want to try my dishes. So eat healthy. Celebrate food in whatever way you know how. And don't worry about which antioxidants and minerals you get, just enjoy your food and do the very best you can by incorporating as many fresh fruits and vegetables and whole foods as you can! Eat well. Eat fresh. Eat gourmet.


June 23, 2009

Beverages - Juicing - Festive Drinks

Beverages - Juicing - Celebratory Drinks

I have been juicing vegetables and fruits for over 20 years. When I tell people that I drink beet and carrot juice it's at first quite unbelievable. It's amazing what can be juiced. And the combinations are quite interesting. Today I felt like experimenting. I juiced an entire lemon, carrots, swiss chard, ginger a beet and cucumber. It was delicious. It was refreshing and not too bitter. That's the juice on the left.

Tomorrow I'm invited to a raw food potluck so I thought that I would create a festive drink. I took a gallon jug and put in some herbs that I have in the garden (similar to licorice), added some ginger slices, the peel of lemon, and added some herbal tea bags (Tazo Tea Sweet Orange and Celestial Seasonings Mandarin Orange) and put it in the backyard to start the sun tea. The experimentation came when I decided to juice a fresh pineapple, lemon and some ginger, added some organic coconut milk and a little agave sweetener and put the concoction in ice cube trays to freeze. These will be my ice cubes, my version of pineapple creamsicles. Sounded good!
When having a celebration or festive occasion it's wonderful to have a specialty drink for the guests. Sangria and Mojitos are two of my favorite. Sangria is usually made with red wine and usually brandy, you can add champagne or sparkling water for a twist. However, the fruit is what makes this drink so festive; oranges, apples, and pears are a few of the fruits, and even bananas. Just be careful and don't eat too much of the liquor-infused fruit. You may be drinking more than one glass! And of course my other favorite is mojito. The key is to use fresh lime juice, simple syrup made from raw sugar (1 part water, 1 part sugar, boiled to a syrup and cooled), fresh chopped mint and a sparkling water like Pelegrino or Perrier. And of course rum. The quality of a mixed drink is in the quality of the other ingredients, same as when you are cooking.
The photo below is of lilikoi (passionfruit). I had some fall in my backyard when I realized that I had a lilikoi tree! And then a man down the street had a sign "Lilikoi For Sale." What do you do with 100 lilikoi. Cut them in half and squeeze out the juice. What a project that was. But wow! Just add a little of the potent juice and you are in for a delight. I don't like the seeds so for me juicing is the only way to go. You can make desserts such as lilikoi bars or add to cheesecake or icecreams.

So it's kind of exciting. I can even get creative with beverages. A fruit is a fruit. A vegetable is a vegetable. But when you can juice lettuce, it's a whole new experience. My father used to swear by garlic juice and green beans. I haven't been able to swallow that yet. However, my carrot, beet, apple ginger juice is something I look forward to. And now it's fun, I can add a lemon or juice an entire watermelon (yes, skin and all!). So experiment and enjoy, here's to your health, sante! Aloha.

June 22, 2009

Traditions - Celebrations - Rituals

What are your rituals related to eating, food, holidays, celebrations, everyday moments?
I know that I am a product of my upbringing as well as the environment I created in adulthood. My desire to create unique experiences that leave an impact is important to me. My father taught me a Japanese proverb, "always treat your guests as if you are never going to see them again." Always treat each person with such honor and respect and serve them the very best food and drink you have on the very best China you have. And remember, it's YOUR very best, it doesn't have to be the best that Donald Trump or Oprah can offer. It's your best. And it comes from the heart.

When I was growing up my father insisted on us eating together as a family, especially for Sunday breakfast. He never cooked, but every Christmas Eve when I got older it was the two of us who went to a small town outside of Detroit to buy our Polish traditional foods. And on Christmas Day we celebrated with my mother's Italian clan, with their traditions. However, to this day Christmas Eve is one of my most important holidays. My father made it a special day and wanted me to remember the moment and to remind me where he came from and my roots. The traditional foods that we ate are not as important to me as the ritual itself. And in that ritual I remember so many things. It's about the ritual and having a ritual, it doesn't matter what ritual.

In many countries around the world the food around holidays is so important. In China when you go to someone's home during the Chinese New Year's the simple offering of oranges and peanuts is a traditional offering. It's a very important custom. Something as simple as that is significant. When I was in Koh Samui, Thailand I had the opportunity to meet a German man who was an expert at Chinese tea ceremonies. The way he washed the tea leaves. The way he expressed his passion. The cups he used. The way each of us savored the magnificent tea from China in Thailand is a memory that stays with me years later. The way this man shared with us his wisdom and his ceremony was what mattered.
When I was in Italy for Christmas and New Year's over 20 years ago I remember the 12-course Italian feast. The grapes. The rabbit (which I did not eat!). The setting of this grand table. The wine. The significance of the large family coming together and celebrating. I was invited as a member of my extended family.

In every tradition, every family, every culture, we have rituals. Here in Hawaii one of the special gifts we have is Hawaiian chant and offering a flower lei to the hostess or guest of honor. It's a reminder of the special moment that the celebration signifies. In our every day life we have rituals. We have moments that remind us of who we are and where we are going. They may change over time, but the rituals you have as a family stay with you forever.

In my brother's family of 9 children his wife sees the extreme importance of honoring each child's birthday. As a child growing up she did not have this gift given to her and in being a mother to 9 children it is a priority for her. Each child feels special on their day in a very unique way. And I know that each child will remember that their mother did this for each child. They have 11 birthdays to celebrate a year, including the parents. There's always SOMEONE to celebrate.

Last year I went to my cousin's wedding. She is Italian/Polish and her husband is from Indian descent. It was so amazing. They merged both cultures in the celebration. They honored both traditions. She had a white wedding gown and a special Indian saree. It was so beautiful. They served Indian appetizers, American fare, an Indian dinner and an American dinner. Each tradition was honored with respect as the two cultures merged through the hearts of two in love.

Each moment when you do something, see it as a significant ritual, a tradition you are honoring or creating. Everything we do does matter. It does.

"As we see ourselves as the world, as we see the oneness of life, the whole world become available. Then the Zen cook knows that every aspect of life is an ingredient of the supreme meal."

--Instructions to the cook: A Zen Master's Lessons in Living a Life That Matters by Bernard Glassman & Rick Fields

June 18, 2009

Creativity in the Kitchen - Culinary Artistry

This past year has revealed so much to me about food, about being creative and about thinking outside of the box.

I have been going through some of my food photos and events over the past year. I am so grateful that I have taken photos. I remember when I started doing my website and had to create over a dozen dishes at once, that was a lot of work. I didn't know how to take food photos. However, I am very grateful to a friend who helped me create exquisite plates. And now each time I create a new dish I simply snap a few photos.

Creating an attractive dish is more than placing an herb or a flower on the plate. It's the composition. Even the dish itself is important. Not every plate I create is perfect. And maybe I don't do it according to symmetry. For me it's the food, the plate used, the decorations, the overall colors. It's everything.

This shrimp platter consists of spinach, shrimp with tails on and spicy radish sprouts with a purple flower to accent.

For me salads are all about being colorful and deliciously surprising. This salad had tomatoes and basil and avocado and sprouts and even a goat cheese cake. The colors were meant to stand out.

A piece of Ahi to the right and mushroom risotto could look bland and colorless. With the pesto butter and asparagus and basil leave the plate really comes alive. A little red was necessary to make the green on the plate pop a little more, especially since I had to use a white dish.

I think the handmade leaf plate makes a simple piece of bread with some cheese and tomatoes stand out like a piece of art. And the avocado salad is placed artistically atop a leaf of yellow swiss chard. For my orzo salad with sundried tomatoes, pine nuts, carrots, garlic, basil and feta it was formed into a small bowl and decorated with sundried tomatoes and basil leaves to really make the colors pop.

A sweet coconut sticky rice with 3-berry sauce is layered in a see-through bowl and crunchy coconut topping is crumbled on top. Something you want to eat. I certainly want a bite of that now!

The pineapple bowl with tropical fruit in it is my favorite. The pineapple leaves add green, the orchid says "Hawaii" and I really like using the bamboo tray for contrast. And the orange edible flowers add brightness to an otherwise bland chocolate cream shortbread with coconut.

When I began this journey I always knew I loved food but now I appreciate the beauty of food. I really appreciate the delicate balance of colors and textures and consistencies. Experimenting has been fun. The creative aspect has been enjoyable. What I appreciate most is knowing that edible art is meant to be eaten! And where it takes me next is part of the adventure!

June 17, 2009

Food Without Boxes - What Do I Eat Now?


I feel that I was raised in a very health conscious family who considered fresh fruits and vegetables and important part of our diet. However, since I am a product of my bigger environment I have noticed in recent years how much more I can incorporate fresh fruits and vegetables in my cooking.

What I have learned over this past year as part of my culinary journey is the exquisite fruits and vegetables that come from the earth. Sure, I add a little this and that to my dishes. However, when I make an avocado salad it is simply tomatoes, avocadoes, basil, garlic and a little olive oil, salt and maybe a dash of balsamic vinegar. I taste the freshness of the tomatoes. I allow the pungency of the raw garlic to linger. I allow the chiffonade of basil and the avocadoes melt in my mouth.

I have also experienced some of the most amazing potlucks here on Maui. Sometimes people will just bring a bag of fresh kumkwats or a bulb of fennel or a bunch of bananas. Freshness at it's finest.

For my birthday this year a good friend used fresh fruit to decorate the table.

It was awesome. Nature's beauty was good enough. The pineapple stood on its own. It's the essence of the earth that we can savor and enjoy fully when the ingredients are fresh and untouched. The oranges added color and the bananas added texture and an artisitc flair. Why do we need special packaging when nature provides the perfect color and assortment and flavors.

I will admit that living here in Hawaii has opened my eyes to the variety and colors and freshness that is readily available. However, it's possible to eat fresh more easily nowadays wherever you live. Mango season is upon us again and I am reminded at the richness and the sweetness and the abundance that is available.

Mangoes grow freely. The trees loom largely and the fruit falls to the earth to be foraged and enjoyed. My mouth waters just thinking about it. It's exciting to use what we have and appreciate the abundance that keeps on coming. This to me is the gift that keeps on giving and it truly is a gift. Aloha.