Move over, Giada, there’s a new girl in Food Network town and she happens to be my current favorite: Claire Robinson from 5 Ingredient Fix. What’s so great about her? Well, for one thing, she’s great to look at. Just kidding, although I’m sure the guys will appreciate me saying that. Claire’s just got amazing on-screen personality, a wealth of knowledge, and she makes everything seem so easy. Come on, you can’t go wrong with just five simple ingredients, and that’s the premise of the show. We’ve got the series recording every week so I can catch up on what Claire’s been cooking. Here’s something I want to make either this weekend or next: Grilled prawns and caper tzatziki. Check it out.
If I haven’t already mentioned it, one of my favorite books is The Skinny: How to Fit Into Your Little Black Dress Forever by Melissa Clark and Robin Aronson. And I am SO thrilled and honored to announce that I got to interview the beautiful and lovely Robin for my MEET series. In addition to writing the sassy, cute, and witty book on how to shed some pounds while still enjoying your favorite foods, Robin also co-wrote a pregnancy book called The Whole Pregnancy Handbook: A Guide to The Wise Use of Conventional and Alternative Medicine Before, During and After Pregnancy (Gotham 2005) and writes a blog called Local Or Express so check them all out!
Hi Robin. So you co-wrote The Skinny with your good friend, Melissa Clark. What are some of the rules of the book that you still live by? - I still pretty much eat the way we describe/suggest eating in The Skinny. I eat a lot of fruits and vegetables; at holiday meals I hit the veggie sides hard. I balance my meals, so if I have something bready for breakfast I’ll have a salad for lunch. If I know lasagna’s for dinner, I have yogurt for breakfast, etc. I snack on tea in the afternoon (that’s always been very helpful for me) and for a midday sweet I have a little dark chocolate instead of a baked something or another. Lately I’ve been less attentive to portion size and I’ve been finishing every last bit of dessert, even after the flavor sensation has ended and even if I don’t love it. I’m thinking I need to readjust a little on those fronts.
What’s a typical day’s worth of food for you? - I’ll have either a half a bagel or some cereal (hot or cold with soymilk) for breakfast. If I get hungry midmorning I sometimes have a small cup of Ronnybrook Farm drinkable yogurt. Lunch at home might be an avocado or a bowl of soup, along with a piece of fruit, a handful of nuts and a few pieces of dark chocolate. Tea mid-afternoon (it’s often green tea). I really struggle with snacking around 5 when I’m making dinner for my kids. (who doesn’t?) If there are pita chips and hummus in the house, fuggedabout it, so I try not to keep them in the house. Dinner might be eggs and a salad or soup and salad or tofu or chicken or chorizo with peas and roasted peppers. Afterwards I have fruit and then a little later some herb tea and a cookie or something else sweet. I try to stick to one cookie at night, it’s not that hard by now, but if I’m watching TV, I knit—because bored hands nosh!
What do you do for exercise? Was working out an integral part of getting back into pre-baby shape? - Truthfully, exercise had nothing to do with losing the last ten pounds of baby weight but it does have a lot to do with me getting back to pre-bay shape. What I mean is when I started eating “on The Skinny” I lost all the baby weight and then some. So I was thin, but I wasn’t exercising regularly and I wasn’t in great shape. Right before I got pregnant, though, I was in great shape. I was heavier, but my body felt better and stronger. Then, about a year ago, when I turned 40 and my kids were four, I started running because the nurse practitioner I see told me I was at risk for osteoporosis and I needed to do weight bearing exercise. So, it’s not for love of running but fear of falling that I now run for thirty minutes (give or take) three days a week. But, secretly, once I’m out running I sometimes enjoy it, and I’m always glad to have done it and I feel much stronger and better than I did at my thinnest.
What are some of your favorite restaurants and the dishes you order from them? - Let’s see: I love the chile rellenos from the Mexican Taqueria around the corner from us. I think about lunch at The Pearl Oyster Bar in the West Village all the time (Caesar salad and oysters OR no salad but the oyster po boy) but I haven’t been there for two years. At Keft on the Upper West Side they serve a great sheep dumpling and sausage dish. And then there are the tempura green beans at The Red Cat. Yum!
Do you cook much? If so, what are some of your favorite recipes and cookbooks you always turn to? - I cook a lot and often from Fresh Food Fast by Peter Berley and Melissa (Clark). There’s a lentil soup with lemon and spinach in there that’s a real go-to for me. I also like to use The Art of Simple Cooking by Alice Waters, especially for stews, and Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison’s Kitchen. (I’m not a vegetarian but I try to limit how much and how often we eat meat.) I like her spicy chickpea soup and spinach, corn and quinoa chowder. For baking, I’ve got to say, Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook has done right by me. I regularly make the recipes from Melissa’s Good Appetite column in the New York Times: Lentil soup (I like soup); ratatouille pot pie with sausage and cornmeal biscuits (I’ve made it with tofu that’s been gently fried, too and it’s great); olive oil granola; I could go on. I just got the Gourmet Today cookbook, and I expect I’ll use it pretty regularly for a while.
What are three things on your current wish list? - I’m extremely anxious about climate change so I’d have to be a big downer blowhard and say: I wish that plastic bottles and cars would go away to be replaced by bicycles and public transportation. I wish that I had more counter space and room for a composting bin. I wish that farmers and governments would stop clear-cutting rainforests in Brazil and South East Asia. Honorable mention: I wish I could get a ring or two from Heike Grebenstein’s collection. Maybe a pair of earrings, too. She uses recycled gold!
If you could throw your fantasy dream dinner party, where would it be, who would you invite and what would you serve? - This kind of question makes me extremely anxious! Also, at one of the best dinner parties I ever threw I served one of my worst meals ever. (It was overcooked drunken pork loin from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking; I’d never made pork before and didn’t realize I should have gotten the shoulder!) And I also think that big, famous people don’t necessarily make for a great dinner party. That said, let’s see. My husband (does that go without saying?) Mel Brooks and Anne Bancroft; George Eliot and her companion George Lewes (I’m so curious to see how they were together, although we’d be a lot of Jews for them); I would say someone like Edith Wharton or Jane Austen, but I’d be way too anxious about what they thought of me to enjoy myself (With Eliot at least I’d know I’d have some sympathy.); and my friends Natalie and Peter, who first introduced me to the magic of dinner parties when we were all in graduate schools together and really know how to make a table work.
Now you need location and food. Let’s see: If I could host a dinner party anywhere, it might be on the island of Corsica where I went with my family the summer I was seven. It was magic and I’ve never been back. And if we were on Corsica I’d have to serve a big soppy delicious not overcooked fish stew with fresh crusty bread, garlicky mayonnaise, a big bowl of bitter green salad, a stinky cheese course, and fresh fruit and little perfect cookies and chocolates. (I think my parents had a dinner party like that when we were there and I don’t think I’ve quite gotten over not being allowed to attend. The pictures look fantastic. It was the seventies and my mom was even in a Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress.)
I cooked a huge batch of quinoa over the weekend so I could eat it in place of rice alongside some steamed fish and veggies but I had so much left, I had to use the leftovers somehow before it went bad. So I whipped up a super yummy salad with the leftover quinoa and had it for dinner and I urge you to try it if you want something light, tasty, and healthy. I also stole some of Chris’ tomato sauce (from his ravioli dinner) and threw it into the mix as well.
Leftover quinoa (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup of feta cheese
One head of lightly boiled broccoli, chopped
3 tablespoons of greek salad dressing
Toss everything together and eat up!
Ha! I made up my own recipe while baking cookies and it’s easy as pie. Just remember it as The Rule of Thirds and you can’t go wrong. They were originally going to be chocolate chip cookies but then I wanted to bust out my One Lucky Duck pure cocoa powder so I made a recipe up and they came out tasting light, healthy, delicious and perfectly sweet. Dig this:
1/3 cup of butter, softened
1/3 cup of flour (I used wheat)
1/3 cup of white sugar (brown if you want it more chewy)
1/3 cup of sliced almonds
1/3 cup of oatmeal
1/3 cup of cocoa powder
1/3 cup of chocolate chips
A sprinkle of salt
Bake for 10 to 13 minutes
The weekend was all about football (yay Colts and New Orleans! I called this a loooong time ago) and pizzas. We invited a couple friends over, including Chris’ buddy, Rich, who is known for making bomb pizzas from scratch. He was gracious enough to bring all his pizza tools and resources over so we could prep the dough during the first game. Actually, Chris and Rich prepped the dough since I spent the first half of the Jets/Colts game at the gym – yes, the gym. Are you proud? You should be. I spent an hour there doing interval training on the elliptical, treadmill, stairmaster, then finished my session with weights and abs on a BOSU ball. Hells yes! On to the FOOD…
That’s it, kids. I am stuffed just blogging about this.
One of my favorite books ever is The Skinny: How to Fit Into Your Little Black Dress Forever by Robin Aronson and Melissa Clark. Full of wit and humor, this book is anything but a diet book. Part Sex and The City, part health magazine, it’s an easy read filled with eating and exercise tips that just make sense. In fact, after reading the book, I was able to drop a few pounds while still enjoying lobster mac n cheese for lunch and chocolate souffle for dessert. Awesome, right? Melissa Clark is also a talented food writer and I am so happy to see that she’s got a video for our viewing pleasure: Tips For Cooking In A Tiny Kitchen. I plan on making this dish myself, it’s way too easy to pass up. Enjoy!
I work in Santa Monica, California which is simply beautiful and gorgeous. One of the best parts about working in the neighborhood that I do is the close proximity to Bergamot Station, a huge art gallery complex and cultural center located on eight acres in the heart of Santa Monica. And tucked inside Bergamot Station is Bergamot Cafe, a busy and bustling eatery that has a super dedicated following including my co-workers and myself. We eat there at least twice a week, if not more. Jeffrey Stuppler, the owner, is responsible for churning out yummy specials like the Shrimp Louis Salad or Wednesday’s Mac N Cheese. But most of all, I’m wowed by Jeffrey’s amazing customer service and warm friendliness, something that I find many eateries lack. So without further ado, let me introduce you to Jeffrey, who was so sweet to do this interview.
Hi Jeffrey! Bergamot Cafe is one of my most favorite places to have lunch…how did you get into the food/restaurant business? I worked in the food service biz throughout high school and college. I Had fun learning everything from busing tables to frying chimichangas to flipping pizzas. One year out of college a family friend, who was an amazing self-taught chef and had a loyal following in Santa Monica, asked me to help him open and run Bergamot Cafe. I bought him out five years later. A lot of his recipes are still a big part of our menu.
What’s a typical day of work for you? I get in around 7:30am, make my Gaucho (House espresso drink) and start organizing the days catering schedule and finalize the days specials before the staff arrives. The early morning hours are also spent setting up and monitoring the promotions and marketing campaigns for the day/week and checking with my back of house and off-site kitchens to make sure they have everything they need for the days activity. I’ll usually run a couple of errands if needed. My office is conveniently at Bergamot, so I always plan to be there during the pre-lunch and lunch rushes to lend a hand if needed. You’ll often see me wiping down tables during those busier times. After 2pm I generally plan meetings with vendors, managers or my partners over at Nook Bistro. I usually try to wrap things up by 4pm and head home by 5pm.
Where did you grow up? What were some of your favorite childhood dishes? Your least favorite? I grew up in L.A., not in a very food-centric family, but we traveled a lot, so I was exposed to a lot of different cuisines early in life. Favorite dishes growing up included My mom’s Chicken Divan (Very 70′s, but still delicious), Anything Piccata, Carney’s Chili Burgers, My dad’s banana pancakes. Least favorites were spinach and chopped liver.
If you could go on a culinary tour through any one country, which country would it be and why? Wow, that’s tough! All things considered, I’d have to pick France. I really love French food for it richness and complexity. Additionally, I am always trying to broaden my knowledge of wine. Couple that with France’s amazing landscapes and Inn’s doting the countrysides, and I’d be very agreeable to such a tour. Mexico takes a very close second, by the way.
Let’s pretend you have the luxury of hiring ANY one chef from any restaurant or any food show to be your private chef…who would that be and why? My first choice would be Mario Batali, but on second thought, he’d probably keep me up to the wee hours every night handily drinking me under the table. My second pick would be Rick Bayless, winner of Top Chef Masters this year. I marvel at traditional Mexican cuisine and eat quite a bit of it. He is the hands-down master of regional Mexican cuisine, in America, and proved himself to have true depth in other areas during the course of the Top Chef competitions. Additionally, he seems to be a nice, unpretentious, down to earth guy as well, unlike that Chiarello guy.
Do you cook much at home? If so, what cookbooks and recipes do you consider your favorites? If you don’t cook much at home, and dine out, then what are some of your favorite restaurants in LA and their dishes? I cook once or twice a week at home. My quick reference cookbooks are How to Cook Everything by Mark Bittman, The Gourmet Cookbook, and The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters. From time to time I’ll refer to James McNair, Jamie Oliver, Ina Garten. Currently, I am perfecting a Turkey Meatball recipe for my 1 1/2 year old daughter. The secret is milk-soaked bread rather than bread crumbs. Favorite restaurants in L.A. include: Houston’s for French Dip, Sunin Lebanese Cafe for Kebab & Falafel, Shima on Abbot Kinney for Sashimi and Tofu, Mr. Cecils for BBQ, Jar for Ribeye, Nook Bistro for Mac N Cheese & Caesar (Yes, shameless plug, but seriously, one of the best), Osteria Mozza for their grilled octopus anipasti.
There is something about the salads at Bergamot that I can never replicate nor find anywhere else. What’s the secret to an awesome salad? Bold Dressings made with simple ingredients. Freshest cut vegetables. An awesome, dedicated, salad cook that has been making the same salads and dressings 305 days a year for 11 years.
When you have a HUGE basil plant, you want to make the most of this yummy herb. We’ve used basil for almost everything: caprese salads, roasted vegetables, roasted meats, stews, soups, salads…and of course, basil pesto! The recipe is super simple and I always make it up as I go. It’s usually 2 cups of fresh basil, 1/4 cup of olive oil, a handful of almonds or walnuts or pine nuts (toasted if possible), some lemon juice, salt and pepper. Nothing super fancy and you can always add more oil if you want. I tend to use less oil, though, and substitute water to make the mixture a little more runny and less thick so it comes out like a dressing. The best part about pesto is that you can freeze it in little ice cube trays, and defrost whenever you want to use it! I had made some basil pesto a long time ago and decided to bust it out to use for a real easy pesto chicken salad. I picked up something called “Lemonaise” from Whole Foods, which is an all natural mayo mixed with spices and herbs and sooooo good, and decided to use it in the salad as well. If you’re a fan of mayo, or rich and heavy tasting flavors (like me!) then try out this recipe:
3-oz chicken breast
1 tablespoon of pesto (you can use more or a teeny bit less if you want)
1 tablespoon of Lemonaise (or mayo if you can’t find Lemonaise at your local health foods store)
Salt and pepper
Spike seasoning (optional)
1 stalk of celery, chopped finely
*Mix everything together and top on a bed of fresh greens like romaine or spinach.
It’s official. Chris and I belong to a gym. Together. And not just any gym, but the gym at Loyola Marymount University (his good ole alma mater.) I’ve been wanting to join a gym for some time now and am keen on getting in shape by summer. I’m slim but soft and I really need to tone up, firm up, and get some muscle into my 5 foot 7 frame! Chris decided to join with me since A) the alumni rate is awesome and B) when I am working out, he can shoot hoops. So here is the deal: since I am not LMU alumni nor married to Chris, I only apply for what is called the “AM Membership”, which means I can only use the gym from 6am to 10am during the week and anytime during the weekends. FINE BY ME. This will force my butt to wake up early and get a good cardio workout in before work and be done with it. In addition to a super clean facility, it’s got badass basketball courts, a stellar swimming pool and tennis courts (you’ll find me playing tennis on the weekends for sure.) The AM Membership for me only costs $34 which is super cheap and there is no initiation fee, no towel fee, and no bullsh*t cancellation fee should I decide to un-join. The best part? The campus is seriously right down the street from Chris’ house (otherwise known as my second home) and I can just walk or ride my bike there. I’m all about convenience and this is it! Check out some of the pics from the campus.
Well, well, what a switch. This time, I was not the one behind the kitchen counter with the eggs, flour, sugar and mixing bowls. Chris was! He baked us a beautiful, delicious banana chocolate chip clafoutis (pronounced klah-foo-tee) after being inspired by an Alton Brown “Good Eats” episode. Chris modified the recipe to suit our liking but used the following: chocolate chips (my request, of course), sliced banana, heavy cream, eggs, sugar, flour, and butter (to butter the sides and bottom of the baking dish so it prevents any sticking.)
Here is my beau in action
The texture came out very soft and sponge-like with a crisp crust.
My slice. Don’t worry, I had like two more after this LOL.
And here is the recipe per a viewer’s request:
1.5 sliced banana
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup heavy whipping cream
pinch of nutmeg, paprika and ground cumin (I know! Crazy, huh?)
a sprinkle of semi-sweet chocolate chips
Just beat the eggs, mix in the sugar (you can do this with a whisk or beater), add the flour and the cream and the spices. Line a buttered baking dish with the sliced bananas, pour the mixture on top and sprinkle the chocolate chips on top of that. Bake it for 30 to 45 minutes or until the center is set (check with a fork or toothpick) at 375 degrees. Enjoy!
The west coast is getting slammed with rainstorms this week (which we need) but thank god the weekend remained dry and somewhat sunny. I don’t mind rain during the Monday to Friday work week because I’m stuck inside the office all day anyway, but my weekends are spent taking bike rides and jogs around the neighborhood and I did not want that agenda getting spoiled.
Here is some of the food we had over the weekend. I tried to eat light and healthy as evidenced by this salad. I got a chicken caesar from Bristol Farms but dressed it up my own way. I took the romaine and the chicken, added corns and peas and olives and a light sprinkle of parmesan and omitted the caesar dressing that it came with (too fat and heavy) and used a Whole Foods balsamic dressing instead.
On Sunday morning, I made Chris eggs benedict. He’s convinced I am trying to fatten him up, which is somewhat true hehe. Chris is so naturally lean that he’s lucky he can eat whatever he wants, and not really gain any weight. But the boy does watch his portion sizes and always tries to balance a heavy meal with a light one so good for him.
Later that afternoon, Chris made another sandwich snack for him during the football game: english muffin toasted with cheese, salami, and turkey. I would have had some but I was already snacking on bananas with almond butter (I have been craving peanut and almond butter this entire week! So good.)
The weekend was pretty awesome because we stayed home and chilled. But on Saturday night, we got free tickets to go see the Clippers play the Cavaliers at Staples Center and it was SO much fun. What a great game, except the Clippers had the lead pretty much the entire time only to lose by one point. THAT is going to be another rant of mine soon. Oh, check out #23 The King (also known as LeBron James lol) and one of my top 10 Sexiest Men
Hold up, hold up I’m going back to my raw vegan phase just for today. For those of you who don’t know Ani Phyo, she is like the west coast goddess of raw foods. And how crazy is this? I just found out that one of my dear buddies is a super close friend of hers – now if only I can get the intro Just kidding! Anyway, I have made her raw pad thai salad countless of times and it’s always been yummy. So check out this video and try making it if you feel like eating light, raw, and healthy! Cheers and happy Friday, y’all!
Annabella Asvik is a sweet friend and one of the most beautiful people I know – she has an amazing, bubbly personality and is always thinking positive positive positive. I love that about her! In addition to being model-gorgeous, Annabella is also a healthy vegan and keen on bringing awareness to animal rights – read on.
Hi Annabella! Can you tell our readers a little bit about what you do? I’m a host, producer and director, focusing on fashion and lifestyle content on TV and video. I do anything from creating and producing shows for the likes of MarieClaire.com and directing online commercials for luxury lifestyle brands, to hosting fashion segments for various channels.
What’s a typical day’s worth of food for you. I went vegan a year ago, after being a vegetarian for 20 years. I wanted to eat in the most healthy, environmentally friendly and ethical way possible, so I gave it a try. To my surprise, I have felt better than ever.
In the morning, I have coffee with soy creamer and oatmeal with blueberries, bananas, flax seeds, cinnamon and almond milk. For lunch, I always have a salad with tons of different fresh vegetables with balsamic vinegar, which I often pair with a slice of olive bread (which I dip in virgin olive oil!).
For dinner, If I’m doing takeout, my favorites are lentil soup from my local gourmet grocery store or veggie meatballs or vegan green curry paired with black rice with edamame from Rice. if I’m eating out and not at one of my favorite vegan restaurants (more about them below!), I might have pizza without cheese, with some truffle oil at a great Italian place.
How do you stay in such amazing shape? Do you workout? If so, what’s your exercise regime? Thank you! But I have to say, my diet has a lot to do with my shape. When I went vegan, the first change I noticed was how much easier it was to stay fit. I take regular Pilates and circuit training classes 5 times a week, but being vegan on top of that gives you the defined body you always wanted almost over night. Everything I eat is very easily digestible (if you want to try this, make sure to take it very easy with any soy products and seitan, which is wheat glutein), so I’m always very energetic and my body feels great.
What are some of your favorite restaurants (in NY and LA) and what do you usually order there? There are so many! New York is vegan’s paradise. For more casual dining, I love Sacred Chow. I always order the vegan melted cheese and grilled western tofu sandwhich or the 3-dish tapas plate (Orange Blackstrap BBQ Seitan, Baby Root Vegetable Latkes, and Sautéed Shiitake Mushroom are my favorite combo). Caravan of Dreams has vegan nachos and seitan quesadilla (yum!). And I always have the scallion pancakes at Wild Ginger.
For something a bit more upscale, I go to Café 79, my absolute favorite. It has so many incredible options, I try something new every time I go there. Kajitsu has a set menu, where every bite is pure bliss. The raw lasagna at Pure Food and Wine cannot be beat. Gobo has great Asian-Western fusion dishes with organic saketinis, and Franchia that’s vegan Korean, Blossom, and Counter are also amazing.
For quick lunch or bite around town, I like Jivamukti Café, East-West Café, or S’Nice (I never leave without one of their vegan cupcakes). To satisfy my sweet tooth, I go to the vegan bakery Babycakes.
Do you cook much? If so, what are some of your favorite recipes and cookbooks? I’m just learning to cook! I can make vegan enchiladas, chocolate cupcakes with vanilla frosting and waffles. I get my recipes and cooking guidance from my dear friend Joshua Katcher of TheDiscerningBrute.com, a blog for the ethically handsome man. His recipes are easy to make and out of this world (thediscerningbrute.com/recipes/).
What are three things you cannot live without? Love, fresh veggies and a positive attiude!
What’s one thing that would shock the world about you? I was a competitive figure skater on a national level in Finland. But I had to quit at 13 when I just couldn’t get my axel right. But that’s before I went vegan, I bet I could jump now!
Lately, my favorite thing to have for lunch is chicken salad (healthy California style) with lots of fresh veggies and a balsamic dressing. I’ve noticed that when I eat this around noon, I have a ton more energy throughout the day and I feel lighter with a pep in my step I’ve been buying big packs of organic chicken from Whole Foods (I only do organic meats), marinating them over the weekend, and either grilling them or baking them for the rest of the week. We had some leftover cajun spiced chicken breast from dinner this past weekend, so of course I had to use it in a salad. I picked lettuce from our little vegetable garden and threw in sliced carrots and avocado – delicious.
A few weeks ago, I posted a video featuring Mark Bittman of the New York Times and his recipe for No-Knead Bread. We decided to give this recipe a try because it is just too insanely easy. Like risotto, baking bread is simple but requires time and patience. We used a tad more wheat flour than Mark Bittman calls for and let the dough sit for 18+ hours. After letting it bake in our Le Creuset dutch oven for about 40 minutes, out came a hearty delicious loaf! Very rad.
It’s amazing how many uses the Le Creuset dutch oven has.
It’s also amazing how many Le Creuset items we have at home (this picture doesn’t include another French oven, little ramekins, and baking dishes the Chris + Melissa household contains.) You can’t go wrong with this brand. Pricey, but SO worth it if you’re always in the kitchen.
As we patiently wait for the next season of Top Chef to appear on Bravo, Chris and I have become obsessed with the next best thing: Chef Academy featuring Chef Jean Christophe Novelli and his cooking school in Venice, CA. It was only a matter of time before we wanted to make one of his many simple yet fabulous recipes. The thing I love about Novelli’s style is that he favors fresh and organic ingredients, tons of herbs, and a passion for cooking up a storm in the kitchen. Because of him, I’ve been experimenting far more with fresh herbs and spices and it really packs so much more flavor in everything that I make.
Over the weekend, we attempted to make the recipe for his Grandma Louise’s tomato sauce. It was nothing like I have ever tasted before – sweet with a hint of licorice and delightfully thick. Here is the recipe if you’d like to try it!
6 lb (2.7 kg) Beef or Heirloom tomatoes
4 Star anise
1 Vanilla pod
Sea salt & cracked black pepper to season
2 Sprig fresh thyme
1-2 Bay leaves
28gm bunch fresh basil
Extra virgin olive oil
- Place a heavy cast pan to heat up.
- Wash the tomatoes and halve roughly.
- Place into the hot pan and season with salt, pepper and a touch of sugar.
- Add the anise and vanilla.
- Allow the tomatoes to start to cook then press them gently with a masher to help them to release their juice.
- Reduce the heat down to just simmering and continue for about 1_ -2 hours until a thickened paste. This slow evaporation of the moisture from the tomatoes will produce a deep colour concentrated flavour without any bitterness.
- Crack the garlic and add along with the basil which is just halved and throw in.
- Combine with the warm paste and finish with a good amount of olive oil to finish the infusion. Allow to cool before storing ready for use.
In the beginning…
The recipe calls for basil so we tossed in a couple leaves and let the sauce reduce to a thick texture…
Voila! We served the sauce atop fresh fettuccine alongside simply seasoned and roasted carrots and garlic infused chicken breast. What I do is marinate chicken breast with a rub, then make small incisions and insert a clove of garlic into the breast. When it bakes, the garlic’s flavor and juices spreads throughout the chicken, making it oh-s0-flavorful and yummy.
This video was a little clip from the cannoli making at our Christmas dinner. I think I found the random conversation in the background more amusing than anything. If you have three minutes to spare, check it out!
A few months ago, I had the pleasure of getting a one-on-one personal training session with the fabulous Whitney Cole. Not only is she super motivating and caring, but Whitney has an IMMENSE knowledge of everything that has to do with health and fitness. Um, can’t you tell from her abs??!! Anyway, I am sure I’m not the only one who is vowing that 2010 will be the year of exercising consistently and eating healthier (this is seriously my never ending New Years resolution) and I hope this interview inspires not only myself but also any of you guys who want to whip your booty into shape.
Hey Whitney! Thanks so much for doing this. Can you tell our readers a little bit about how you got into fitness and personal training? - Sports were a big part of my childhood – swimming, soccer, cross-country, track, but I was pretty burnt out on competing when I started at the University of Virginia. However, knowing daily exercise was essential to my sanity and avoiding the “Freshman 15,” I walked my butt into the gym and started developing my own workouts. As I became stronger and more sculpted, training strategically to my needs, others began asking me for diet and exercise tips. A passion for fitness and recognizing an opportunity to inspire and improve lives through fitness and health education prompted me to earn my certifications and start training clients and teaching various group exercise classes. Flashing forward…finding it far more gratifying to help training clients achieve personal goals than advertising clients make sales quotas, I left the corporate world to pursue fitness full-time in 2006.
Describe your diet. What kind of foods do you stick with and what foods do you avoid? - My diet is called “The Arsenal,” in that my clients are armed with the necessary weapons to continue winning the battle of the bulge. They learn what to eat in ideal situations and in typically derailing ones. It’s a pretty natural diet –steer clear of processed foods, eat lots of veggies, fruits, lean meat and fish. While it sounds low-carb, it’s really not. The majority of calories from the almost limitless amount of fruits and veggies you may eat come from carbs, but they’re quality carbs, including fiber with helps us digest the lean meats and fish and vitamins and minerals to keep all the other body processes in full swing. My rule of thumb is that with few exceptions (like please DO cook meat and eggs to kill bacteria), the closer you aim to consume what was originally growing/grazing in the field/sea, the more nutrients will remain in your food and the fewer number of preservatives and byproducts will be added. While our brains and lifestyle have evolved greatly since caveman days, our bodies haven’t. So your body will best tolerate and absorb what it needs from the same foods Cro-Magnon could easily grab or hunt and cook. Unfortunately, CM didn’t find bags of bread, protein bars and boxes of cereal on any trees. I’m thinking about having “WWCMD” (What Would Cro-Magnon Do?) bracelets made. Thoughts? Haha…
What keeps you in such great shape? Pilates, yoga, running? - Pilates? Certainly – even if I don’t have a chance to do specific Pilates exercises on the apparatus or mat, I fuse many Pilates principles into every one of my workouts and that of my clients. I can make any traditional personal training exercise harder by making it be performed in a less stable environment. This gets people so much more coordinated from head to foot, and engaging muscles they never typically use, thus increasing their daily caloric burn and diminishing strain on overused muscles. Running? Absolutely – the long runs are my thinking time, and I love doing hill and speed intervals to “hit my 10s,” meaning on a scale of 1 (I think I’m awake) to 10 (I cannot take another step or I will pass out). I detest machine monotony but do frequently run on the treadmill to save my joints. I’ll occasionally an elliptical machine for part of my workout, but you won’t ever find me on one for an hour – huge time suck and I’m all about efficiency. I use few weight machines instead preferring to do strength training and quick plyo circuits for cardio with dumbbells, stability balls, Bosus, cables…it’s creative and fun. Would you rather do chores the old-fashioned way or have Mary Poppins wave her magic umbrella and make “the job a game?” Regarding Yoga, I do certain moves for stretch and recovery in between strength sets, but no, I’m not a big Yogi. I’ve found a few teachers that can keep me focused, but I’m really turned off by overly-repetitive regimens, preachy teachers, chanting, and the slow pace of many classes, hence the mean nickname, “slowga.” I’m so mean. I’m sorry.
OK here is the never ending question: cardio or weights, which is more important and why? - They’re both necessary parts of the perfect body puzzle, but the ideal combo of each varies with each person and his or her goals. I definitely believe in muscle confusion for weight loss and having fun so you stick with the program.
Can you describe a typical day’s worth of meals - Since I’m always on the run, and healthy food may not be easily accessible or available at the price I’m willing to pay, I do prepare about 90% of my own food and premake anything I can to be ready when I wanna eat it.
Breakfast a smoothie – usually a cup berries, very ripe banana, ½ cup soymilk, handful walnuts
Lunch is a salad typically with spinach, broccoli slaw, red peppers, avocado, and grilled fish or chicken. (I make five every Sunday – see my blog: “Brown’s the New Black: All the Cool, I Mean Skinny Kids Are Brown-Bagging” http://www.whitneycole.com/blog/?p=39 ) I’ll usually have an apple or a grapefruit and some unsalted almonds or a soy latte for a snack. Dinner might be a veggie omelet or salad again – what can I say I’m single and lazy and one bowl equals less cleanup. Besides my salads are affectionately known as “Bowls of Chaos.” If I’m out, I seek sushi – ah, another blog topic… http://www.whitneycole.com/blog/?p=40 Do I eat dessert? Sure…look at my blog, I have a penchant for baked goods and chocolate.
Where do you see your business headed in 2010? - Well, still a newbie to LA so of course I must continue to build my training clientele here. I’m adding some classes in Santa Monica & Beverly. Coming from DC, I’m used to charities dictating the social calendar. Had to search a little harder for the viable LA ones. I want to get involved with a charity providing healthy eating and fitness programs and education for obese adults, and children and teens. I’m also desperately seeking one that provides exercise therapy for Parkinson’s patients, as my father benefits so greatly from the training I can provided whenever I visit. I shall do more blogging and start doing fitness videos as I’ve gotten such warm, positive feedback from people from all over the US, who may never be able to afford a trainer. Learning that my words do inspire readers to make constructive changes in their daily lives confirms that I’m fulfilling a greater purpose. California, this holy Mecca of the health and fitness industry, is a better environment for me to get my initiatives off the ground. I’m so thankful that I found the courage to move earlier this year.
I know you love to cook. What are some of your favorite recipes and cookbooks? - I don’t own a cookbook. My mom is awesome but a little OCD regarding the fastidiously clean kitchen she maintains. Kids are messy so, we weren’t allowed to do much cooking and we grew up on convenience foods – microwave meals, cereal, granola bars… I started preparing my own food in college to save money and because I finally had the freedom to experiment. I’ll get inspired by something on a menu or a hideous dish I see Paula Dean on the Food Network make entirely out of lard and brown sugar. I’ll think how much I’d like to eat said dish but how much I’d love to make a healthier version first then chow down. Who doesn’t like a challenge?
For some of my favorite recipes like Pancakes with Ginger-Blueberry Syrup, Thai Fried Chicken, Rainbow Salsa, homemade hummus, and Gingerbread Soufflé, please visit my blog: www.whitneymcole.com/blog