Food Hunter's Guide to Cuisine: February 2012

Monday, February 27, 2012

Stop Trying To Get Skinny & Start Getting Healthy

I've been obsessed with my weight most of my life. I tried diet after diet with little to no success. I was eating low-fat prepackaged foods that tasted horrible. I was always hungry and always craving things I wouldn't "allow" myself to eat.

Finally I said enough is enough...and that's when things started to change. I stopped worrying about how much I weighed and what I could and couldn't eat. I felt free for the first time in my life. I learned to eat when I was hungry and more importantly to stop when I was full. I stopped eating processed foods and I stopped thinking of food as fattening. Don't think for a second that all I eat is fruits and veggies...I eat everything you see me post about...just in moderation.

I've also started working with a trainer which has helped me focus my workouts and get more out of my routine. Every little bit helps. Below is an article, written by fitness trainer Tyler Webb, about how focusing on your body composition vs. your weight is more beneficial for attaining your ideal body.

"Tyler Webb graduated from Nebraska Wesleyan University where he got a degree in Health and Fitness studies. He's currently the General Manager/Exercise Physiologist at Life Start Fitness in Phoenix Arizona. Tyler's philosophy on fitness is: "it's not about working out harder; but rather working out smarter" You can follow Tyler on Twitter or Facebook for more fitness tips"

Your Ideal Body is Measured by Composition Not Weight

There’s a common misconception that needs to end now. We have become slaves to our scales, while we should be slaves to our body’s composition. Day in and day out millions of Americans wake to find themselves mindlessly heading to their scale, only to see a disappointing arbitrary number waiting for them. After the initial let down and discouragement, each and everyone one of us signs a new pact with ourselves that we are going to stop this onslaught of our bodies and do something to fix it TODAY! As you can tell from the obesity numbers (12 states with over 30% of their population being obese) we are failing miserably by utilizing scales and weight alone. It’s time for a change in how we perceive and monitor our bodies.

Body composition, simply put, is the breakdown of our weight into two categories, lean tissue and fat tissue. Body composition is read as a percentage and is most commonly referred to as our body fat percentage. These numbers are vitally important in our quest to good health, well-being and looks. They are much more important than that number on the scale. As we look around we see countless different body types, sizes and shapes. Yet, traditionally we are all held to the same standard of X amount of weight equals healthy and X amount of weight equals obese etc. This type of categorization is unbearably wrong and needs to be stopped.

If I were to walk down the street I could find three individuals that all weigh 200 lbs. yet only one would be healthy, one fat and one obese. How is this possible you ask? The first individual would be 200 lbs. of solid muscle and very little fat. The second individual would be a habitual fitness individual. In and out of fitness centers daily with little or no change to their body in years. They are slaves to the scale and always hover around the 200 lb mark but a body composition test would reveal that while they are “fit” they also have a higher percentage of body fat therefore raising their risk factors for an array of cardiovascular diseases at the same time not giving them the body they want. The third individual is a small heavy set individual. On first glance you might not think they are “obese” because of their stature, but after a body composition we come to realize they have a very high percentage of body fat. Risk factors for disease jump and results never come. These three individuals prove that according to the scale they should all be the same person, but after further more accurate analysis we see the common misconceptions that arise.

How do you fix these misconceptions and start seeing results? For you to finally see results it is important to have a working knowledge of the norms for body composition and to seek a professional to help you understand your personal numbers. A professional would be able to determine weaknesses and strengths of your exercise routine and nutrition patterns. They could then prescribe an exercise plan to help guide you in the path to finally achieving your desired body. Stop mindlessly wandering through your fitness regimen and start seeking professional advice. Our bodies are highly adaptable and ready for the change once we swallow our pride and realize that we might need a little help or jump start from someone else.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Veal Osso Buco with Gnocchi

Pound for pound veal contains less calories and ½ the fat of beef; it’s lean, tender and just plain delicious in my opinion.  So when Mountain States Rosen contacted me to review some of their veal products of course I said yes.   Mountain States Rosen has been producing veal that is free from hormones and artificial tenderizers for over 45 years and prides themselves in having top quality meat. 

One of the cuts of veal I received was the shank....and what better thing to make than osso buco.  osso buco is Italian for "bone with a hole" (osso bone, buco hole), a reference to the marrow hole at the center of the cross-cut veal shank.

Often paired with risotto; osso buco makes a nice slow cooked one-dish meal. It also works well with gnocchi as in the recipe below.

Veal Osso Buco with Gnocchi
serves 2

2 veal shanks
flour for dredging
olive oil
1/2 red onion, diced
2 celery stalks, peeled & thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
4 anchovies, rinsed
1 cup red wine
1/2 cup chicken stock
1/2 lb gnocchi

Preheat oven to 275.  Dredge the shanks with flour, shaking off any excess. Choose a large oven safe pot with a lid and set over moderately high heat.  When hot add some olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.  Add the shanks and brown on both sides.  Remove from the pot and season with salt and pepper.  Set aside.

Add more olive oil to the pan.  Add your celery and onion and cook over medium heat until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and anchovies and stir 1 minute.  Add the red wine and bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom. Finally stir in your stock.

Return the veal to the pot and bring to a gentle simmer.  Cover with parchment paper then the pot lid.  Bake in the over for about 3 hours, or until the meat is fall off the bone tender.  Periodically check to make sure the liquid is simmering gently.

Serve with gnocchi and top with gremolata. (recipe below)


handful of parsley
1 garlic clove, peeled
zest of 2 lemons

Chop all of the ingredients and combine in a small bowl.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fun with SoCal Avocados

Growing up in South Philadelphia we never ate avocados. I don't even remember eating guacamole until I was away at college. I'm not sure if it was a cultural thing or a neighborhood thing.  But looking back and talking with old friends it was something none of us ever ate.

I'm sure this skewed my opinion of these uber healthy pear shaped fruits (yes, they are fruits not veggies) because until recently I saw them as basically just fillers for sandwiches and such; nothing special. This all changed in late January when my Virtual Potluck group teamed up with SoCal Avocados and we were all shipped a box of 20 hand picked avocados to create recipes with.

SoCal is a small family owned avocado ranch in Southern California.  They grow several varieties of avocados (who knew there was more than one kind) including the well known Hass.  My box of avocados included 4 varieties and a description card to help distinguish each by shape, texture and taste.  You can read more about the different types on thier web page....and I suggest you do because it's really quite interesting.  SoCal also offers a avocado of the month program be sure to check it out.  Want to WIN some SoCal avocados.....keep reading for details.

This was probably one of the most enjoyable and enlightening food projects I've worked on.  I was determined to experiment and bring avocados into the forefront of my diet.  And why not the health benefits are amazing.  They have no cholesterol, they provide over 13 grams of fiber, are low in carbs and can help you lose weight when you choose them over other sources of fat.

So what did I make with all these avocados?  I started with a Caesar dressing...experimenting on substituting avocado for the egg in my favorite recipe.  It worked well...maybe even better than the original.  I moved on to ice cream.  I've heard people talk about avocado ice cream in the past and thought why not.  I pureed the avocado, mixed it with cream, sugar and some rum until I got the taste and consistency I desired.  Topped with crushed pistachios the finished product was good...different for sure. (see recipe below)

 My favorite dish by far though was the Avocado Fennel & Beet Salad. Thin slices of fresh fennel, avocado and red beets layered over a bed of peppery arugula and drizzled with olive oil and a pinch of lemon juice. This was heaven in a plate.

Avocado Fennel & Beet Salad
1 SoCal avocado; peeled and sliced
1 package Melissa's Peeled Baby Red Beets; sliced
1 fennel bulb; thinly sliced
1 bunch arugula
lemon juice
olive oil
salt & pepper

Place arugula on a serving platter mix with shaved fennel. Top with alternating layers of avocado and beets. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh squeezed lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Avocado Rum Ice Cream
3 SoCal avocados
4 tablespoon rum
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup heavy cream
crushed pistachios

Peel and pit the avocados. Add the avocados, milk, and sugar to a blender and puree. Transfer the mixture to a medium mixing bowl, add the heavy cream and rum; whisk to combine. Place the mixture into the refrigerator and chill about 4 hours.

Process the mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer's directions. For soft ice cream, serve immediately. If desired, place in freezer for 3 to 4 hours for firmer texture. Top with crushed pistachios.

SoCal has agreed to send one lucky reader a box of avocados to try.  All you have to do is visit their site and choose the avocado you would most like to try.  Come back here and let us know and you'll be entered.

Want a few extra entrees.... Follow me on Facebook or Twitter and let me know here. Already a follower...thanks! How about following one of the other VP bloggers or SoCal

Contest ends 2/26/2012 at midnight EST.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Kashi Honey Sunshine Cereal Bars

With my crazy schedule sitting down to eat breakfast is not always an option. Between my morning workouts and my hour long commute into the office I often don’t think about breakfast until around 10:00am. At that point enjoying a bowl of cereal and skim milk at my desk is not plausible. So when Kashi agreed to work with the Virtual Potluck group and sent us samples of 3 different breakfast cereals (Cinnamon Harvest, Berry Blossoms and Honey Sunshine) I couldn’t help but think to myself…what should I do?

If you’re not familiar with the Kashi brand they’ve been around for 25 years and produce great tasting products that are also nutritious, minimally processed and free of highly refined sugars, and artificial additives. Of the three we were given my favorite was the Cinnamon Harvest, with only 3 ingredients it definitely fits into my Build a Better Me campaign; to eat less processed foods.

Trying to come up with a way to fit cereal into my morning routine I was inspired by a post I saw on Cinnamon Girl’s blog for Breakfast Bars. Using the Kashi Honey Sunshine Cereal as the base I experimented with different add-ins until I found the perfect combination.

Kashi  Honey Sunshine Cereal Bars

butter, for greasing the pan
flour, for dusting pan
2 cups Kashi Honey Sunshine Cereal, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup sliced almonds
2/3 cup dried pears, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon coconut extract
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tablespoons whole wheat flour
1/3 cup honey
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Heat oven to 300°F. Line an 8x8 baking pan with parchment, grease and flour.
In a large bowl mix cereal, almonds, dried fruit, chocolate chips and flour.
In a separate bowl whisk together honey, egg whites, salt,coconut and vanilla. Pour over cereal mixture and combine well.
Add to the baking pan and pat down evenly and well using your hands.
Bake about 45 minutes until bars are dry on top and light golden around the edges. Cool completely, lift out of pan and slice with a serrated knife into bars or squares.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Paglia e Fieno....Is More Than Just The Pasta

Paglia e Fieno means hay and straw in Italian and refers to the combination of egg and spinach pasta dough used in the recipe.  Almost any sauce would be delicious with this pasta combination but I really enjoyed what Domenica Marchetti made in her book Glorious Pasta (I love this book). It's a smooth sauce that mixes porcini mushrooms, sausage, peas and heavy cream.

Since you probably don't have fresh spinach and egg pasta on hand at all times...don't feel like you can't make this sauce .  Any pasta will work...fresh of course is always preferred.

Paglia e Fieno
(recipe courtesy of Domenica Marchetti)

1 cup dried porcini mushrooms 3/4 cup boiling water
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 lb chicken sausages (I used pork)
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 lb mixed fresh mushrooms such as cremini, shiitake, and baby bella, stems removed and caps cut into quarters
1/2 tsp kosher or fine sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tbsp minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tbsp unsalted butter
11/2 cups heavy cream
2 cups fresh peas or thawed frozen peas
1 lb pasta
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving

Put the porcini in a small heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over them. Let stand for 20 to 30 minutes, or until softened. Drain the porcini in a fine-mesh sieve lined with damp paper towels/absorbent paper or cheesecloth/muslin, reserving the liquid. Chop the mushrooms coarsely and set the mushrooms and liquid aside separately.

Warm 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying pan placed over medium heat. Remove the sausages from their casings and pick them apart over the frying pan, allowing the chunks of sausage to drop directly into the pan. Sauté, using a wooden spoon or silicone spatula to break up the large pieces of sausage, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until no trace of pink remains and the meat is cook through and just beginning to brown. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the wine. Cook for about 1 minute, or until most of the liquid is evaporated. Remove from the heat and transfer the sausage to a bowl.

Wipe the frying pan clean with paper towels/absorbent paper. Put the remaining 2 tbsp oil in the frying pan and place over medium heat. Stir in the reserved porcini and the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, or until the liquid that the mushrooms release has evaporated and they are tender. Sprinkle in the salt, a generous grind of pepper, and the parsley and mix well.

Add the butter to the frying pan, and when it has melted, return the sausages to the frying pan, stirring to combine them with the butter and mushrooms. Raise the heat to medium-high and pour in the reserved porcini liquid. Cook for 3 minutes, or until the liquid is nearly evaporated. Reduce the heat to medium and pour in the cream. Bring the sauce to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook until the sauce is nicely thickened. Stir in the peas and cook for just a couple of minutes, or until heated through but still bright green. Turn off the heat and cover to keep warm while you cook the pasta.

Bring a very large pot or a stockpot of water to a rolling boil and salt generously. When the sauce is ready, add the pasta to the boiling water, stir to separate the noodles, and cover the pot. . Drain the pasta in a colander set in the sink, reserving about 1 cup of the cooking water. If the frying pan is large enough, transfer the pasta to the frying pan and gently toss the pasta and sauce to combine thoroughly, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Otherwise, return the pasta to the pot and spoon about two-thirds of the sauce over it. Gently toss the pasta and sauce to coat the noodles evenly, adding a splash or two of the cooking water if necessary to loosen the sauce. Transfer the dressed pasta to a warmed serving bowl and spoon the remaining sauce over it. Sprinkle with the Parmigiano and serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Virtual Potluck Goes Paleo

Actually we’re reviewing and giving away (that’s right a give away) Paleo People Granola; a wheat free, gluten free, awesomely delicious snack food.

Paleo People granola comes in 4 flavors: Apple crisp, Cacao Nut, Banana Nut, and Cappuccino Crunch. Each one is loaded with clusters of nuts, seeds and fruits.  They make a perfect on the go/eat anywhere snack food.  

All of the VP bloggers below will be giving away a variety pack of granola that includes a 5oz package of each flavor. So be sure to stop by all of their blogs for additional chances to win.

Donna from Cookistry 
Heather from Farmgirl Gourmet
Shelby from Diabetic Foodie
Susan from 30AEats
Vanessa from Groovy Foody
Tara from Tara The Foodie
Milisa from Miss in the Kitchen

***Contest runs through midnight EST 2/12/2012. 
All you have to do to enter is leave a comment on this post and tell me why you'd like to try Paleo Granola. Of course if you want to friend me on facebook or follow me on twitter that's always welcome...but not required to win. *****

Sunday, February 5, 2012

He's Cheating! & World Nutella Day

Now  I’m not really sure if I can consider it cheating since we have such an open relationship and heck I’m a married woman after all. But my beloved  has made his way into the hearts of what seems to be lots of different women. Of course I expected this would happen with someone so hot, yummy and readily available as he is. But it's still not easy to handle....I want him all to myself.

So how do I know he's cheating?  Well it’s all over the internet.  The girls are swooning over him everywhere.  I can’t log on without seeing a post about his irresistibleness. Facebook is loaded with photos of him and I’ve even seen a twitter stream or two. 

Does it bother me? I’d be lying if I said it didn’t. How dare they enjoy him when I’m not.  But one thing’s for sure, when I do get to have him, it's always nothing short of amazing!  Maybe I need to figure out how to make more time for him in my life; so he won’t stray.  Or maybe I just need to let the others enjoy him and hope he doesn’t break my heart.

Cinnamon Nutella Cake
6 ounces butter, softened
6 ounces sugar
3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
8 ounces flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons of cinnamon
4 tablespoons milk
6 tablespoons Nutella
2 ounces hazelnuts, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter and line the base of an 9 inch round pan.

Cream together butter and sugar.  Add eggs one at a time. Add vanilla

Sift  flour, baking powder and cinnamon.  Add to butter mixture alternating with milk.

Pour half of the mixture into the pan, spread it level, then swirl in the Nutella. Top with the remaining batter.

Sprinkle with the nuts. Bake for 60 minutes; until risen, nicely browned, and feels firm to the
touch and springs back when lightly pressed (cover it with foil if it start to brown too quickly).

I am submitting this to World Nutella Day being hosted by  Ms Adventures in Italy and Bleeding Espresso be sure to stop by their blogs for tons of yummy Nutella recipes....just don't tell me about your rendezvous.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Chocolate Covered Mascarpone Layer Cake

In less than two weeks lovers everywhere will come together to express their devotion.  Whether it be with flowers, candy or a nice dinner; February 14th is the day people go all out to celebrate their love for each other.

With Valentine's day in mind the Virtual Potluck team have joined forces with Taste from The to create 3 delicious 4 course meals you can cook at home for your special someone.  Everything from soup to nuts; including drinks.  I signed up for the dessert course of meal #2.  (You can view meal #1's yumminess here

Who else is involved in this dinner?

APPETIZER: Tara  from the blog Tara the Foodie is making: Herbed Smoked Salmon Mousse Croûte
INTERMEZZO: Vanessa from Groovy Foody is bringing Pomegranate, beet root and blood orange savory sorbet with goat cheese and hazelnuts
ENTREE: Susan from 30AEats will share her Fondue (using lobster and beef)
DESSERT: The Food Hunter (that's me) Chocolate Covered Mascarpone Layer Cake

What is this Taste from

"Taste is a new mixology show that features cool cocktails from the common guy. From the creative minds at, our resident “booze head” Otis showcases classic and not-so-classic cocktail recipes. Who is Otis???? We found him under a bar in downtown Atlanta nursing a Corona while holding a box of Krispy Kreme doughnuts. No seriously, after tending bars for countless college parties, he honed his bartending skills in local taverns on the nights he wasn’t moonlighting as a bouncer. Taste is a product of, an independent television and radio network founded by brothers Myron and Otis McDaniel."

What's for Dessert?

Chocolate Covered Mascarpone Layer Cake

When I think Valentine's I automatically think chocolate; so I knew my dessert would some how involve chocolate. I started out making a sponge cake and it just evolved from there. Drenched in Ameretto filled with whipped mascarpone cheese and covered in deep dark chocolate; sounds like true love to me.

Chocolate Covered Mascarpone Layer Cake

For the sponge cake
1/2 cup milk
4 Tbs butter
1/2 cup sifted cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
6 whole eggs
6 egg yoks

Heat milk and butter till butter melts, keep warm.
Sift flour with baking powder 2x, set aside.
Whisk sugar and eggs together over water bath until warm. Transfer to a mixer and beat on high speed till cooled, tripled in volume and thick.
Sift in 1/3 of the flour mixture and fold gently...continue this process until all flour has been folded in.
Fold in hot milk mixture scraping the bottom well.
Pour into a greased and floured 1/2 sheet jelly roll pan. Bake about 18 minutes on @350 until cake browns and starts to sink.

For the Whipped Mascarpone
1/2 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup sugar
1 fresh vanilla bean
1 17oz container of mascarpone

Whip together until thick.

For the Chocolate 
7 Tbs butter
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 large egg yolk
3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate
2 Tbs heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla

In a large bowl whisk the butter, confection sugar and egg yolk until very smooth. Set aside
Put the chocolate and cream in a small bowl and melt the chocolate over a saucepan of gently simmering water. Let the chocolate mixture cool to room temperature, then stir it and the vanilla into the butter mixture. set aside.

For the Amaretto soak
5 Tbs warm water
2 Tbs sugar
4 Tbs Amaretto

Combine the warm water and the sugar in a shallow bowl and stir until sugar dissolves. Stir in the Amaretto.

Putting it all together
Cut sponge cake into even size layers.  Brush each layer with the Amaretto soak. Top the sponge cake with 1/2 of the whipped mascarpone.  Repeat with the next layer.  Top entire cake with chocolate and spread.