Thursday, February 28, 2013

My First Time....

They say you never forget your "first time" and I'd have to agree because I know I will never forget my first sushi social. Held at Kona Grill, it was an awesome experience, that will stay with me for years to come.

So what exactly is a sushi social? Well it's some pretty cool media people that come together to eat, tweet and learn how to make sushi.  To most this does not sound fun..but to social media fans and foodies it's awesome.  Think about it...there's delicious food and you get the green light to tweet to your hearts content without seeming rude...sounds like a plus plus to me.

Before we go any further I should mention that I am a complete novice when it comes to sushi. Honestly I can count on two fingers how many times I've had it in my life. So just accepting this invitation was a huge step forward for me.

We started the evening with an array of some classic Kona Grill appetizers; there were pot stickers, fried shrimp and chicken satay glazed in a sweet-hoisin sauce. And drinks....let's not forget about the drinks. Kona Grill offers what they call "skinny" drinks; 6 cocktails all under 115 calories. My favorite: the cucumber mojito.

As the evening went on we were brought out platters of sushi rolls and sashimi to sample...each one better than the next.  But the highlight of the night was listening to chef Fred Yamada explain the technique of rolling sushi. This is a chef that obviously loves his job and loves sharing his skills.

Next up we all got a chance to roll our own sushi; which is not an easy task when you are trying to tweet. But this is where the bonding came in...we took turns helping each other with photo ops and twitter posts working together to get the task job too big when it comes to social media.

When all was said and done...not only were we rewarded with our own sushi roll to enjoy we also were treated to a round of shots by the bartender.  A perfect ending to a perfect night. This is why I will never forget my first time; at the Kona Grill Sushi Social.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Fat Chance: The No-Going-Back Weight Loss Workbook

by Jennifer Giralo

For those who find a balanced diet difficult or for those who are insecure about their eating habits, please join me on a journey that I will be taking to change my mindset on eating for the next 12 weeks.

I will be blogging once a week on lessons and progress through Fat Chance: The No-Going-Back Weight Loss Workbook by Dr. Susan Maiava. Follow me as we discover healthy cognitive and physical habits that have for so long affected our eating styles.

Fat Chance is a lifestyle change; it is not a diet. This is a new way of thinking about food and its consumption. The program is designed as a workbook in order to help with reflection and practice.

Week 1

Week 1 is about learning new mindsets and habits to form a slim lifestyle. New mindsets include eating smaller portions and eating when you need food (instead of emotional eating or just simply wanting food). One of the main steps involves calculating your caloric intake needed to maintain a slim weight. If one eats the calories a slim person needs, he/she will begin meet their weight goals.

One significant change I have noticed is that I have not eaten at a restaurant or fast-food chain since starting this plan. It saves me large amounts of calories and money.

I will be logging my calories for the next 12 weeks and sharing some balanced recipes that satisfy hunger and keep you full longer. I have been using My Fitness Pal, a free app on my iPhone, as a calorie counter, as it can even scan foods I buy from my grocery store. Counting calories brings a much needed awareness to eating.

I have been counting calories this week, and I have already felt a difference in my energy and confidence. Because it is difficult to count calories when you eat at restaurants, this plan has motivated me to eat at home more where I can control portions and ingredients.

My slim weight involves losing 10 lbs. and building more beneficial nutrition habits. I’d like to work on my emotional eating, or eating when I feel stressed, anxious, worried, excited, or bored. So, that leaves only eating when I am hungry, right?

What is your slim weight goal? Is there anything you can improve upon in your eating mindset?

****Fat Chance Weight loss book is available for sale on Amazon.****

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Eating Whole Foods: Artichoke Ravioli & $25 Give Away

It's funny how things change: even a simple thing like how to make pasta can change. I grew up watching the women in my family make homemade pasta; using the "well method" to form the dough.  They would make a well with the flour; cracking one egg per person (plus one for company), into the center.  And then would slowly beat the eggs with a fork; incorporated the flour until it all came together. The dreaded long kneading period was next and eventually you had pasta dough.

This method was all I'd known for years and it worked.  But things change and somewhere along the way I decided there must be an easier more efficient way to make pasta. So I searched the internet (cause that's what I do) and I learned how to make it in a food processor; eliminating the well and letting the pasta machine do all the kneading.

I like doing it this way...manly because it's super easy and because it yields a nice silky smooth dough...which can be made thinner by just running it through the pasta machine a little longer. It's the perfect dough for all shapes of pasta including ravioli.

Speaking of ravioli, that's what this post is supposed to be about, this past weekend a friend and I decided it would be nice to make dinner for our other halfs.  So while the boys were watching a movie us girls were rolling, filling and cutting ravioli.

We decided to do artichoke ravioli in a light butter sage sauce; making it easy by using frozen artichoke hearts instead of fresh. The filling was a nice mix of artichoke hearts and ricotta cheese with a sprinkling of nutmeg and oregano.  Topped with the butter sage sauce they were a huge hit.

Frozen artichoke hearts can be hard to find....I was able to get mine at Whole Foods. Interested in winning a $25 Whole Foods Gift card...see details below.

 Artichoke Ravioli with Butter Sage Sauce

1 1/2 pounds frozen artichoke hearts
1/4 cup finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 large garlic clove, gently smashed and peeled
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 large egg
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh oregano
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Pasta Dough
3 1/2 cups flour
4 eggs
ice cold water as needed

Place all flour in the bowl of a food processor and pulse a few times.  Add eggs and pulse until dough forms around blade. Water may be added at this point to help dough come together. Take out and knead slightly with hands to form a ball.   Wrap with plastic wrap and let rest 30 minutes.

Meanwhile defrost artichoke hearts and place in a bowl of a food processor; pulse until finely chopped. Add Parmigiano-Reggiano, ricotta, egg, oregano, parsley, crushed garlic, salt, nutmeg and generous grinding of pepper; stir to combine.

Divide pasta dough into four pieces. Cover 3 pieces with plastic wrap. Flatten dough so that it will fit through the rollers of the pasta machine. Set rollers of pasta machine at the widest setting, then feed pasta through rollers 6 times, folding and turning pasta until it is smooth and the width of the machine. Decrease the setting one notch and roll through 6 more times. Decrease once again and roll 3 times. Continue rolling until the pasta is at your desired thickness.

Once done rolling lay pasta sheet on a lightly floured work surface with the long side facing you; cut sheet, lengthwise, in half. Starting from the left end of 1 strip of dough, about 2 inches from short edge, put about 1 packed teaspoon filling onto dough. Continue placing filling about 1 inch apart.

Using a pastry brush....lightly brush across bottom and sides of dough with water. Fold top of dough over filling pressing along the wet edges.  Using a ravioli cutter, cut pasta sheet between dots of filling. Gently press edges to seal.

Transfer ravioli to a lightly floured baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough and filling. Keep ravioli covered with a clean dishtowel until ready to cook. (The ravioli can be prepared and frozen for up to 3 months. To freeze freshly made ravioli, freeze them first on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Once frozen, transfer ravioli to well-sealed, airtight plastic freezer bags and keep frozen until ready to cook. Do not defrost before cooking.)

Cook pasta in boiling water until just about done... finish cooking in butter sage sauce.

Butter Sage Sauce
1½ sticks of butter, or more to taste
10 fresh whole sage leaves
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, or to taste
hot water, from the pasta-cooking pot
1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated

 Melt the butter in the pan over medium heat, lay in the sage leaves and heat until the butter is sizzling gently. Toast the leaves for 1 minute or so.

Ladle in 1 cup boiling pasta water; stir the sauce and simmer for about 2 minutes and reduce liquid by half before adding pasta. Grind the black pepper directly into the sauce. Keep the sauce hot over very low heat; return to a simmer just before adding pasta

Finish cooked pasta and sauce in the skillet. Off the heat, toss in the cheese just before serving.

****Whole Foods Gift Card Give Away****
Want to win a gift card?
It's simple: Leave a comment on this post letting me know what you would buy at Whole Foods if you win.

Want additional entries:
1. friend me on Facebook and leave a comment here letting me know you did or that you already are
2. Like Whole Foods on Facebook also leaving a comment here
3. Tweet about the contest on Twitter and link to me
4. Follow me on Pinterest and leave a comment on this post
5. Follow me on Instagram...also leaving a comment here.

Contest ends midnight 2/28/2013

Monday, February 18, 2013

Hummus With Greek Salad: Brown Bag Series #11

By: The Food Hunter

I love a good Hummus and what makes this one extra special is the addition of a lightly dressed Greek salad.  I first had this combination at Olive & Ivy in Scottsdale and soon found out it is a signature dish from the True Food cookbook by Andrew Weil.  The book contains over 100 beautifully photographed recipes that are found on the menu at True Foods restaurant along with lots of interesting tid bits about food and diet.

I love making this and packaging it up for my lunches.  I'll eat this with some fresh pita or even just pita chips. It's portable and lasts for a few days in the fridge; and it's what's in my Brown Bag this week.

Hummus With Greek Salad

2 cans garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 garlic clove, mashed
2 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons tahni
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
Juice of one lime
1 teaspoon agave nectar (I used honey)
1/4 cup coarsely chopped cilantro (I omitted this)
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
pinch of cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Place all ingredients but the olive oil in a food processor and blend until it is a smooth paste.  Add the oil slowly in a stream and blend until well combined.  Transfer to a bowl and store in the fridge until ready to eat.

Yogurt Dressing

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
1 shallot, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons agave nectar (I used honey)
2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
1/4 traspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
1 cup of olive oil
1 1/2 cups Greek style plain yogurt

Combine all ingredients but oil and yogurt in a food processor and mix until combined. Slowly drizzle in the oil and blend until the mixture is emulsified and thick. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the yogurt. Store in the fridge until ready to use.

Greek Salad
1/4 cup thinly sliced cucumber
1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup of Kalamata olives, pitted and quartered
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
6 tablespoons of chopped mixed herbs, such as parsley, oregano and basil

To serve: Put 2 cups of Hummus on a plate.  Mix the salad with 1/4 cup of the Yogurt Dressing. Top the Hummus with the mixture and sprinkle with the feta cheese and fresh herbs.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

It's Valentine's Day: How About We Have Some Whoopie

Let's face it...nothing compares to Whoopie; morning, noon or night it makes you feel good.  Of course I'm talking about Whoopie Pie (what were you thinking??); that sweet delicacy that is the best part of a cupcake (the top) put together as a sandwich.

Here in Phoenix we are lucky to be home to the Whoopie Baking Company; a sweet venture between friends Jennifer Brya and Karen Linkins.  More of a way of life than just a bakery is how the duo like to describe their company.  They are committed to using high quality ingredients and stay away from preservatives and trans fats. They use natural ingredients that can be found in just about any kitchen and are big supporters of the Slow and Locavore movement.

At the Whoopie Baking Company whoopie pies come in a variety of sizes with fun names and flavor combinations. Did I mention that the filling is a combination of all butter buttercream (no shortening used here) and homemade fluff. I recently got to try the 4 listed below and they were all yummy.  My favorite though was the Cherry Cordial.

Red Hot Whoopie: Chocolate cake with a red hot buttercream fluff.
Pucker Up Whoopie: Lemon cake with lemon buttercream fluff.
Lovers Delight Whoopie: Chocolate cake with strawberry buttercream fluff.
Cherry Cordial Whoopie: Chocolate cake with Amarena Cherry buttercream fluff.

What better way to say I love you this Valentine's day than with a little Whoopie!  Enjoy!

Whoopie Baking Company
UNION at Biltmore Fashion Park
2502 E Camelback Rd.
Open Mon-Sat 10 a.m.- 8 p.m.
and Sun 12 p.m. - 6 p.m.
 (888) 608.1229

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It's Over & World Nutella Day

Dear Nutella,
We have been lovers now for nearly 4 years and I'm glad we are close enough that I feel comfortable talking to you about my feelings.

Do you remember how we met and how it felt that first time?  I do and it was amazing. We were on the Amalfi coast and you were everything I wanted and all I needed at the time.  I was so lucky to have found you.

As you know we've been through a lot together over the years; both good and bad. Your nuttiness has cheered me up on many occasions and being wrapped in your arms always felt like the perfect escape from reality. But things have changed  and although I still love you dearly I no longer lust for you ALL the time.  I don't dream about our next encounter anymore or get mad when I hear other women talking about you and your sex appeal.

I think we both agree our relationship has a good way.  I see us more on a friendly level now...there for each other when needed (and I think we will always need each other) but no longer as lovers.  I can live with this; hopefully you can too.

Love & Hugs My Friend,
The Food Hunter

Cinnamon Espresso Nutella Cake

1 1/4 cups + 2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 shot brewed espresso
1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
pinch of salt
3/4 cup milk
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
6 tablespoons Nutella, heated

Preheat oven to 350F. Butter an 8-inch square cake pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Place the pan on a baking sheet and set aside.

In a small bowl or glass, combine 2 tablespoons of sugar, 2 teaspoons of cinnamon, Nutella and the brewed espresso. Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining sugar, baking powder, remaining cinnamon and salt.

In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, eggs, and vanilla. Pour the wet mixture over the flour mixture and gently whisk until you have a well combined homogeneous batter. Using a whisk or a rubber spatula, fold in the melted and cooled butter, just until the butter is absorbed. Your batter should be smooth and shiny.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan, being sure its spread evenly (I find that if I hold onto the sides of the pan very firmly, while pushing against the counter, and make small circles with the pan, but batter will smooth out like magic.)

Top with the cinnamon, espresso and Nutella mixture. Top with the remaining batter, spreading it evenly.

Put the baking sheet and the baking pan into the oven and bake for 35-40 minutes at 350F, just until a toothpick comes out clean. Let the cake cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and remove the parchment. Turn it out again onto another rack so it is right side up.

Nutella Frosting
1/2 cup butter (softened)
1 cup Nutella
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
pinch salt
splash of milk (if needed)

Beat the Nutella and butter together until smooth. Add the sprinkle of salt and the first 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, beat until combined. Continue to add the powdered sugar a 1/2 cup at a time, beating between additions, until creamy and smooth. Add a small splash of milk if necessary.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Healthy Eating Habits for Game Day: Including A Recipe For Spinach Dip

By Jennifer Giralo

Game day is quickly approaching and like most of us you might be just a little concerned about how to keep your "healthy" eating habits in check during the big game. A recent interview with nutrition consultant, Tara Gidus, helped shed some light on this for me. Tara, who is recognized as the Diet Diva, shared with me a few tips about social eating; focusing on portion control, substitution and technique.

Portion Control: How to indulge but not over eat

  • Use smaller plates. By doing this you can actually decrease the amount of food you eat.
  • Try to satisfy your appetite before the actual event by eating nuts, yogurt or fruit. 
  • Eat the food on your plate before taking it to the TV. This eliminates mindless eating.
Substitutions: How to get creative
  • Instead of sour cream try using Greek yogurt to lighten up your dips.
  • Use veggies instead of chips to eat with.
  • Substitute lower calorie mixers in your drinks or drink lighter beers.
Technique: How to make it your own
  • Opt for home cooked food rather than take out.
  • Bake your chicken wings instead of frying them.
  • Grill or Broil food when you can.
Tara also advises keeping a balance between your social activities and your exercising.  Don't let game day, or any occasion, interfere with your normal exercise routine. 

Here's a recipe for spinach dip that replaces full fat sour cream with fat free Greek Yogurt. It's so good you won't even notice the difference.

Game Day Spinach Dip
(courtesy of Knorr)
Makes 4 cups
Preparation Time 10 min
Chill Time 120 min

1 package (10 oz.) frozen chopped spinach, cooked, cooled and squeezed dry
1 container (16 oz.) nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1 cup Light Mayonnaise
1 package Knorr® Vegetable recipe mix

1 can (240 ml) water chestnuts, drained and chopped (optional)
3 green onions. Chopped (optional)

Combine all ingredients in medium bowl. Chill, if desired. Serve with your favorite dippers.
I chose to dip wheat thins and mixed vegetables into the spinach dip for a crunchy appetizer.