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Category Archives: Recipe

My Take On Borsht

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My take on borscht ~ With ages old Russian heritage on my side, my improvisation was pretty tasty if I do say so  myself.  It can be vegan or not, up to you.

Ingredients:

  • Onion – ½ medium yellow onion
  • Garlic – 2-3 cloves chopped
  • Celery – 2-3 stalks chopped
  • Olive oil – 2 tbs
  • Chicken broth (I do part broth and part h2O, or all water if vegan) 5 cups
  • Basil (dried ok) – ¼ tsp
  • Oregano (dried ok) ¼ tsp
  • Sea salt and pepper (a few grinds of each)
  • Beets (peel and chop into med. chunks) (about 3 small beets)
  • Carrots (peel and slice into med. chunks) (2 carrots)
  • Sweet potato (peel and chop into med. chunks) (1 potato)
  • Kale bunch of leaves, washed and sliced thinly
  • Cilantro bunch of leaves, separate from stems and chop
  • Parsley, bunch of leaves, separate from stems and chop
  • Lemon – optional (squeeze juice from half a lemon into soup before serving)

Directions:

Cook down the onion, garlic, and celery in some olive oil, when translucent stir in basil and oregano and heat for a moment before adding liquid.

Add water or chicken broth, salt and pepper, bring to a boil.

Add chopped beets, carrots and sweet potato, and turn down heat to med-low.

Simmer for 30 mins. (check after 30 and if all root veggies are fork tender – add the kale and cilantro.)

Simmer for another 3-5 mins. Can serve with a squeeze of lemon and add parsley and a little more salt and pepper to taste.

Bon appétit! Or the Russian equivalent, Приятного аппетита! (Prijatnovo appetita!)

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Kickin’ Kale Salad

You’ve heard kale is “super food” good for you…right? If you haven’t heard this rumor at a dinner party or on Food TV by now, I’ll tell you straight up, it’s true!  I had never even experienced it in a salad until recent years when the raw foodies started popularizing it.  Mostly I’d eaten it as my mom’s delicious kale and potato soup, which is one fabulous option for another post.  However, in recent years, I’ve discovered that kale has many uses and it is eaten in countries across the globe, even as long ago as Greek and Roman times.  There’s two types, Tuscan kale (or dinosaur kale) which has more long bluish-green leaves, and the borecole variety has more frilly curly green leaves.

Kale’s anti-cancer benefits are totally documented, as is lots of  research on kale’s anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties.  This dark leafy green has got vitamins and minerals that are super high, thus the super food status, (especially A, K, and C), and then calories and cholesterol that are super low.  Basically kale is good for our immune systems, cancer prevention, hearts, eyes, osteoporosis prevention, and more!  Here are a few ways you can eat it:

  • Fresh young crispy kale can be used raw in salads, especially if properly chopped into thin ribbons, then massaged and marinated with sea salt and lemon.
  • Mature leaves and stalks are typically cooked or sautéed.
  • Tuscan kale leaves are popular winter staples in all over Mediterranean, used in soups, stews, salads, pizza, and pasta.
  • The leaves also used in the variety of traditional kale recipes with potatoes, green beans, poultry, and meat.
  • It can be baked with olive oil and sea salt for a yummy kale chip snack.
  • In Japan, fresh kale juice is quite popular.  If you combine it with carrot, beet, apple, lemon and ginger you don’t even know it’s there.  Or, if you’re into juicing it makes for a great ‘green drink’ ingredient.
Kickin’ Kale Salad:
I recently served this at a dinner party, not only was it devoured very quickly, everyone asked for the recipe.  So here it is by yours truly, I hope you enjoy as much as we did, 🙂
Ingredients
  • 1 bunch kale (black kale is especially good), stalks removed and discarded, leaves thinly sliced
  • 1/2 a large cucumber, peeled and chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
  • sea salt (enough to sprinkle liberally for marinating)
  • 2 teaspoons agave nectar (dark)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 mango, diced small (about 1 cup)
  • Small handful sesame seeds (toasting optional, also pumpkin seeds work nicely), about 2 rounded tablespoons
Directions
In large serving bowl, slice your kale into super thin ribbons, add half- three quarters of lemon juice, a drizzle of oil and a little sea salt. Massage until the kale starts to soften and wilt, 2 to 3 minutes. It will start to break down the cellulose, and shrink a bit.  Set aside while you make the dressing.
In a small bowl, whisk remaining lemon juice with the agave nectar and lots of freshly ground black pepper. Stream in the 1/4 cup of oil while whisking until a dressing forms, and you like how it tastes.

Pour the dressing over the kale, and add the chopped cucumber, mango and sesame seeds.

Toss, serve and enjoy!

Satisfies every time smoothie

My love affair with smoothies really started when I had my personal training studio with my ex-husband in Soho, NYC. We eventually made our way into a fabulous 5,000 sq. ft. store front studio. It was elevated a little from the sidewalk, and had floor to ceiling windows that opened sideways, so that the front of the studio was open to the street and passersby. What does this have to do with smoothies you’re wondering? I saw this setting was the ideal space to create an organic juice bar and cafe! I was on a mission from our opening to fulfill my vision… and for what better reason than I wanted to drink ’em myself. There were no smoothie or fresh juicing shops in the Hudson Square/Soho/West Village intersecting quadrant of downtown Manhattan. How this could be I had no clue.

It took some time, both to build out the bar by my handy husband, and then to enroll the best barista around to come over from Lifethyme Grocery. Needless to say when all of these pieces finally came together I was a happy camper and so were our clients, as well as many of the neighbors. We did a lot of fun experimenting, so I was able to have a smoothie and/or juice every day. I’ll share one of my all time fav’s here:

Blueberry smoothie (serves 1)
Place in a blender the following:
1 cup blueberries (I get frozen organic, wild blueberries also good)
1 banana (can be frozen ahead, if you do, remember to peel it first)
1 cup almond milk, or soy milk (I choose unsweetened because the fruit is sweet enough for me, but if you prefer, vanilla is nice too)
1 rounded tb of natural unsweetened peanut butter (or if you prefer, almond butter, but it changes the taste)
USUALLY I ADD SUPERFOODS FOR HEALTH & VARIETY:
1 tb maca powder
1 tb cacao powder
1 tb lucuma powder
(it’s ok to add any combination of superfoods thereof. I’ve even added noni or spirulina to this combo – just be careful not too much of those potent powders). Then blend gradually up to high (10) for a minute until all is smooth. You may need to open it up to stir if it seems not moving, or add a tad bit more milk. I like them thicker and eating my smoothie with a spoon or drinking with a straw.

Blueberries promote digestive health as they are rich in soluble fiber. The tannins in blueberries reduce inflammation in the digestive system, and the polyphenols have been shown to have rich anti-bacterial and anti-oxidant properties. What does this mean? They are great for digestion, brain health and for lowering risk for cardio-vascular disease!

Stay tuned for my Green smoothie, this is great way to better bones, help for your heart and an improved immune system!

Invigorating U,
Valerie

www.InvigorateU.com

Delicious Guacamus (Homemade Guacamole & Hummus)

I never know whether I love guacamole or hummus more, but I do know that when you put either one in front of me I can’t stop eating them!! 

The nice thing is that avocados are good fat, which we need some of in our bodies.  Bad fats increase your cholesterol and your risk of certain diseases, while good fats have the opposite effect, protecting your heart and supporting overall health. In fact, good fats—such as omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fats, polyunsaturated fats, play a huge role in helping your brain function– they manage your moods, keep you on top of your mental game, fight fatigue, and even control your weight.  These fats are absolutely essential not only to your physical health but your emotional well-being.  And hummus, well… chick peas are a very tastey source of protein for vegans, (tahini is excellent nutrient density too, however, it’s not included/needed in this recipe).

Recently, one of my clients has had a financial setback so he’s taken to feeding me after our sessions – not a bad trade off, particularly when your client is a good healthful chef.  I was reminded how easy it is to whip up homemade hummus and so I’ve concocted this variation on some of his specialties.  The name “guacamus,” which is combining ingredients from guacamole and hummus, is coined by a good HS buddy who is very clever and a superb cook himself.

These are estimates on the proportions I used which feed 2 a nice sized portion, (these are also flexible to your taste):

1/3 of a ripe Florida avocado,

1/2 a box of organic chickpeas (rinsed) = 1 cup

1/4-1/3 cup of olive oil,

1/2 a large shallot,

a few pinches sea salt, cayenne, tumeric, black pepper + BLEND. 

Although I didn’t use lemon in this recipe, it would be a great addition – for the above proportions I’d add the juice of 1/2 a lemon.  Finish with a drizzle of olive oil on top, a few shallot slices, and a parsley leaf. 

Enjoy–an invigorating snack on its own with veggies or other healthful pita/cracker combo, condiment for gourmet sandwiches, accompaniment to salads!

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Fabulous Frittata!

Everyone has memories of the distinctions in relaxation of the “weekend” growing up. I sure do. The long awaited luscious “TGIF” with its visions of– Yayyy, I’m allowed to play all day! Now my philosophy has evolved to “TGIT” which stands for “Thank God It’s Today,” a wonderful acronym coined, and book written, by a good friend and mentor of mine. Grateful for every day, I find ways to play daily. Life is too short not to enjoy the Now.

Weekend food was always a bit different, more special somehow. The easy pace of Saturday and Sunday mornings meant there were always eggs in whatever formation my heart desired – sunny side up, scrambled, an omelette, or frittata. Often my mom would lovingly prepare fresh squeezed orange juice or make me a grapefruit soup, essentially the grapefruit sections taken out individually and swimming in a bowl of the grapefruit’s juice. While she was cooking, I’d run out down Bleecker St. to Zitos for a fresh baked loaf of Italian bread. Ahhh, the loaves were always warm – a perfectly crunchy crust on the outside, and soft but with density, airy and with texture on the inside – the most wonderful bread. It always smelled incredible in that store, and Mr. Zito himself was there behind the counter making sure all the customers were happy.

The frittata is one of my favorite foods for sure. It’s simple to make with gently layered tastes sure to please even the most fussy of palates, (that is if they eat eggs of course). You may sub and customize combinations of many options for frittata ingredients – veggies, meats, cheeses. Here I’m going to share the recipe for one of my vegetarian favorites.

Frittata with Organic tomato, vidalia onion, zucchini and baby spinach
Serves 2
eggs (4)
1/4 or 1/8 of a medium size vidalia onion
grape tomatoes (use about 8-10), if you buy a regular tomato use 1/2
1/2 a medium zucchini
2 handfuls of baby spinach
EVOO
tumeric powder (preferable, not required)
oregano (dried or fresh if possible)
cayenne (optional, very little used)
sea salt and black pepper
(Other options: cheese -vegan or dairy, thinly sliced virgina ham or smoked turkey, other veggies.)

Use organic where possible. I choose vidalia onion, but red or yellow will work, as will shallots. (You can also sub scallions, but it will be different.)
1. Take out all of your ingredients, wash where applicable – 1st slice 1/4 of a medium size vidalia onion relatively thinly, so you have 1/2 circle thin slices.
2. Dice your tomatoes, if you buy grape tomatoes (use about 8-10) it saves time – then you just slice them in thirds (Less labor). If you buy a regular tomato use 1/2 and chop.
3. Slice your zucchini in 1/2 length-wise, and then relatively thin slices across-wise. So you’ll have a pile of 1/2 circles. (Use 1/2 a zucchini)
4. IF you do use some ham or turkey, take each piece of meat and roll it up in a tube, then slice it in rounds.
5. IF you do use some cheese, it’s best grated, or if it’s in slices then slice further into thin rectangles.

-Once you have everything sliced and diced, start a non-stick frying pan heating with 1-2 tb. of olive oil (I always use cold pressed extra virgin.) Put in your onions with a medium heat 4ish on electric stove.

-Take out your eggs – (Use 2 per person). I buy organic free range, vegetarian fed eggs. Whisk those in a small bowl while the onion is heating. You can use a whisk or fork to make sure the yolks and whites are nicely combined. When this is done,
-Add the zucchini slices, and sprinkle of sea salt and a sprinkle of tumeric powder, and a VERY small sprinkle of cayenne if you like – stir around with a spatula.
-Leave cooking for 2 minutes, stir occasionally.
– Add your tomatoes. You may add another pinch of sea salt. Possibly a drizzle more of olive oil at this point and some oregano (a sprinkle or two if dried, if fresh 3 stalks worth of just the leaves – Give them a chop to release the flavors), stirring occasionally.
– A few more minutes, you want the onions very soft, the tomatoes cooked down, and the zucchini starting to get wrinkley. These 3 ingredients should look like the flavors have melded. It’s ok and favorable if a little browning starts to happen.
– If using sliced virgina ham or smoked turkey here – add now, stir around a bit, doesn’t need cooking just combine.
– Give the eggs another whisk, and add them to the pan. pick up the pan and move it around so the eggs are evenly coating the bottom. Then use the spatula and quickly stir around the ingredients across the eggs, so that the veggies and flavors are evenly distributed across the eggs.
-You should see the eggs starting to coagulate along the sides of the pan, this is good. Take your spatula and move the eggs away from the edge, and tip the pan so the remaining egg liquid goes into the small area you moved it away from the side. This is gentle. You’re just ensuring a)the eggs don’t stick to the side, and b) that the eggs cook in layers and get some air into them. You may do this a few times, as they are cooking. Keep moving the edges away from the sides of the pan, and moving the liquid around into those edges to cook.
– When the eggs look like they’re glossy on top if you want shredded or slices of cheese, sprinkle across top of eggs. Do the same with your baby spinach leaves, and then gently move the spatula under 1/2 the eggs in the fry pan, and carefully quickly fold over. If it doesn’t fold perfectly that’s ok. Immediately add a few tbs of filtered/bottled water and put a lid on the pan. – Let steam for a few minutes, til water is gone.

-Peek under lid, and check. It’ll puff up a bit with the steam. When you cut the eggs in 1/2 with your spatula so now you have 2 triangles, you should see eggs, not runny, cheese melted, and spinach wilted. It should still be moist while cooked through.
– Take your spatula and lift out onto 2 plates. Sea salt and coarse black pepper to taste. If you have fresh parsley can garnish with a bit.
– Serve with toast of your choice, or on a heated wrap, tortilla, atop quinoa, with a side salad, some potatoes – OR – a frittata is fabulous just on it’s own!

Bon Appetite!
Invigorating U,
Valerie

Variety Is the Spice of Life

I’ve always been a huge fan of variety. So much so, that when I was old enough to walk to school by myself, (which was about 10 years old!), I’d change my route around frequently just for fun. Hard to believe these days I could walk the New York City streets all by myself at that age… and this with my single mom leaning towards the over-protective side! Different times we were in then, that’s for sure. So, my desire for changeability remains the same decades later, and I readily apply it to cuisine too.

There are some people who eat the same meals on a daily basis. It boggles my mind how one could have the same food each day. Interestingly, there are over 20,000 species of edible plants in the world yet fewer than 20 species now provide 90% of our food. You are not alone if you don’t eat a diverse diet, between the government, big agri-business and the media, we’ve all been trained to go for what’s fast and convenient, not always healthiest options. I’m here to teach you how to have a bit more adventure in your eating healthy delicious foods.

The other night my friend, and oh-so-adventurous member of H.E.A.R.T., had me shop with her at Greenwise for support. (Greenwise is the equivalent of Whole Foods, for my out of state readers.) We had fun, maybe a wee bit more so for me, however, she is already diving in to make creative combinations with the ingredients on her own. Pretty inspiring I’d say! I’m super proud.

I’ll give you a run down of some different ways to combine a batch of fabulous ingredients for different meals as examples. I know some of you are antsy for recipes that involve foods that you’ve heard of.

Tuna Chickpea Salad
-Tuna fish (organic, solid, in water or oil, be sure to choose a brand that’s dolphin safe)
-Garbanzo beans (aka chick peas)
-Vidalia onion (you can use another type of onion, but these tend to be sweetest) or sub scallions, or yellow onion (if yellow, then soak)
-Parsley (optional)
Dressing:
-Olive oil
-Red wine vinegar, or apple cider, or rice wine vinegar (balsamic is a bit strong but that can be used, just less of it).
-Sea salt
-Black pepper
-Oregano (dried is ok)
-Grainy mustard (optional)
-Garlic clove (optional)

First drain your can of tuna and place into a medium sized serving bowl. Drain your beans and rinse thoroughly if you’re using canned. If you’re cooking from dried beans, be sure to soak them overnight 12-24 hours before cooking. Add beans to the bowl.

Next, slice 1/4 of your medium sized vidalia onion – put it flat side down on your cutting board once you cut off 1/4 and slice into very paper thin slices. If using yellow onion, soak the slices in cold filtered water for 10-20 mins., it will make it milder.

Add the onion to the bowl. Separate 3-4 stalks of parsley. Remove the parsley leaves from the stems and chop parsley roughly, put aside. Now for the dressing.

In a separate bowl add 2 tbs of olive oil to 2 tbs of vinegar if you like it vinegery, (if you’re Vata constitution), and 1 to 1-1/2 if you’re Pita or Kapha. Add a 1/4 tsp. of grainy mustard, like a dijon if you’d like to the dressing, and a smashed garlic clove (smash with the side of your knife and remove the peel, then a pinch of dried oregano, 1-2 twists of black ground pepper, and a pinch of sea salt – Whisk all of these together with a fork until the mustard, oil and vinegar are combined well.

Pour over your bowl of beans, onions and chick peas, add the chopped parsley and toss. Voila!

*This can be eaten over mixed lettuces, with baby spinach, and arugula. Another possibility is combine with a whole grain pasta and eaten warm, with or without the greens, and the addition of other veggies.)

Invigorating U,
Valerie

Miraculous Miso = Anti-Aging Power (Part 1)

I can remember my mom making me miso soup for breakfast when I was little. I didn’t eat cereal very often due to my allergy to dairy products. I think she was looking for ways to sneak in added calcium any way she could. It’s not as crazy as it sounds, this soup is eaten as breakfast in Japan as well.

WHAT IS IT?
Miso is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting rice, barley and/or soybeans, with salt and the fungus kōjikin, the most typical miso being made with soy. The result is a thick paste high in protein and rich in vitamins and minerals, with incredible immune system boosting, anti-cancer, and anti-aging health benefits.

I find that it is one of those fabulous cooking staple items that can be used in oh so many tasty ways. It can flavor sauces as a seasoning, be its own sauce, the base for a soup, make a nice salad dressing… it’s very versatile.

Miso played an important nutritional role in feudal Japan, and is still very widely used in Japan, both in traditional and modern cooking. The taste is typically salty, but its flavor and aroma depend on various factors in the ingredients and fermentation process. Different varieties of miso have been described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity, and savory.

Miso soup is so easy that it is virtually impossible to mess up. It can be made with whatever seasonal vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, meat or seafood is at hand. Miso soup can be as light, (with just a few blocks of tofu and some green leafy vegetable or seaweed), or heavy which is almost like a stew.

The other good news is it skirts out of the soy controversy because it’s fermented. Just make sure it’s non-GMO soy, (genetically modified organism) is not healthy. Miso is very easy to purchase in little tubs in the refrigerated section at most regular grocery stores.

RECIPE
4 cups filtered water
1 strip of dried kombu* (*You can do with kombu, or without)
3 tbs miso (white is recommended to start, it’s light)
1-2 sprigs of green onion/scallion (chopped)
1/2 block of tofu cut into bite size cubes the size of dice (firm, non-GMO – also in the refrigerator area of most grocery stores)
1/2 cup wakame another seaweed (also optional, purchase from health food store or Japanese food shop)

I’m going to share both the traditional miso soup recipe first, and then a creative version I made (depicted below).
Dashi option – a kombu stock which serves as a basis for so much of Japanese cuisine, is loaded with glutamates, and infuses everything it touches with a savory deliciousness. Kombu (kelp) is low in calories and high in calcium, minerals and iodine. It can be found in most health food stores, or definitely any Japanese food shops.

*WITH KOMBU TO MAKE “DASHI” – The Broth Base for Traditional Miso Soup
Place the kombu (a seaweed) in the 4c water, and place on a burner set to medium. The longer the water takes to get to hot, the better. Watch the pot carefully, as the kombu should be taken out when it floats to the surface and before the water boils. You’ll notice little bubbles forming at the rim of the pot. After removing the kombu and just as the dashi starts boiling, take the pot off the heat.

Tip: As an alternative, you can also use powdered dashi as a shortcut. Many of Japan’s modern home cooks do! Powdered dashi comes in little foil packages, and has quite a strong flavor. Simply add the powder to anything you are cooking.

While you are making the dashi, (or bringing your plain water to a boil) – Soak ½ cup wakame in lukewarm water for 10 minutes. Rinse the reconstituted wakame, roughly chop it, and then add it, along with the tofu, to your 4 cups of hot (dashi, or) water.

Then take a 3 tbs. of your miso of choice and dissolve with just a tablespoon or 2 of the just heated dashi/or water in a bowl. Stir until it’s dissolved completely. You don’t want to boil miso, because it can kill the live beneficial microflora and enzymes.

Then add the tofu, wakame, and rest of the the boiled water (or dashi liquid) to the bowl with your dissolved miso. Garnish with chopped green onions. Serves 4

* * * *
The soup creation depicted below: I didn’t use dashi, nor did I use any of the above ingredients. I made a shitake mushroom broth from boiling some dried shitakes* for a few minutes, added it to the miso broth – no kombu this time – just red miso, which you use less of because it’s stronger tasting and more salty and pungent.

Then I added left overs: chopped broccoli (1/3-c blanched), baby peas (1/3-c blanched), an amazing super grain called quinoa (1/2-c already cooked), and a few cubes of an non-GMO soy cheeze (this is very mild and sweet tasting variety). Voila!

*Shitake mushrooms are packed with flavor but surprisingly low in calories, they also are high in fiber and vitamins B and D. While available fresh, the dried variety has a concentrated, rich mushroom flavor, and a little goes a long way.

You can use miso as the soup broth for many yummy combinations adding great nutrition, especially if you are vegetarian or vegan.