Roasted Cauliflower with Crispy Cavolo Nero

We’re all looking for new and interesting ways to eat vegetables, right? Well, we should be, even if we currently aren’t. Being on a quest for healthy living, we sometimes come across a dish that just appears so often on the table that it’s second nature. One of these dishes in my family is roasted cauliflower.

If you haven’t had roasted cauliflower, you really are missing out on something very simple, yet quite delicious. You can make it with a variety of accompaniments, but you can also just make it with a little salt, pepper and a bit of water in a hot oven and you’ve got something delectable to pair with your favorite foods. This recipe is for roasted cauliflower, but I used the addition of roasted Tuscan black kale also known as cavolo nero, to make a textural and flavorful difference, that’s sure to get anyone’s lack of green veggies replenished. Tuscan kale is highly nutritious and like most kale, has a bit of a bitter earthy flavor. The use of lemon and garlic, along with a very hot oven, changes the texture and flavor to a wonderful new experience. I hope you enjoy this lovely side dish.


Roasted Cauliflower with Crispy Cavolo Nero


1/2 head cauliflower, cut from the stem and made into small florets and washed, but not dried

1 bunch cavolo nero or Tuscan black kale, cleaned and chopped into bite-size pieces

4 cloves garlic, minced

½ lemon, juiced and zest of ½ lemon



3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Pinch cayenne pepper


Preheat oven to 400 degrees

On a large cookie sheet, place small cauliflower florets on sheet pan, just after they are washed and toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, minced garlic, salt and pepper. Cook for about 20 minutes or until the edges are brown and crispy.


In a small oven-proof sauté pan or on a large cookie sheet, mix together cavolo nero with 2 tablespoons olive oil, salt, pepper and lemon juice spread evenly over the surface. Then place in the oven for about 10 minutes. Check the cavolo nero about half way through and turn them in the pan so they don’t burn.

Pour the two together and let roast for another 3-5 minutes, till flavors incorporate together. Check seasoning to taste and add fresh lemon zest.

Place in a serving dish and serve.





Polenta Pie with Ground Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach and Red Beans

Something about the versatility of polenta makes for crossing cultures and pops up in my dishes all the time. I love polenta. Its creamy nature of substantial delicious flavor always speaks to me, plus it’s very simple. This polenta was just hanging out in my pantry and one afternoon, I found it and decided that savory polenta pie sounded like a good idea for dinner with the family. You can do this with any base: vegetarian chile recipes, tamale pies, meaty cheesy Tex-Mex ideas, etc. It all works. Put it in a simple casserole dish, then cover it with polenta, and broil; it makes for a delicious substitute for pasta or rice. In this polenta pie, I used a combination of flavors that would satisfy for a meal that could be made ahead of time and then just heated up when needed. I hope you think about using polenta in one of your next meals.

Polenta Pie with Ground Beef, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach and Red beans
1 lb ground beef (or omit for vegetarian option and add extra vegetables)
2 large sweet potatoes, diced small
2 stalks celery, minced
½ large onion, minced
1 cup frozen spinach or 2 cups fresh spinach, cleaned
1 can unsalted red beans, drained and rinsed
1 ½ cups vegetables broth or beef broth
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon garlic powder
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ large can diced tomatoes
1 tube polenta, cut into slices
½ cup parmesan cheese
Optional garnish (arugula on top for freshness)

In a large skillet, place 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and heat over medium-high. Add onion, sweet potatoes and celery and sauté for about 5-8 minutes.
Add the ground beef to the pot and cook till meat has become completely browned, about 7-10 minutes. If there is excess grease in the pot, drain it over the sink carefully.
Add tomatoes and spinach, then cook 5 minutes.
Add salt, pepper, garlic, smoked paprika, red pepper flakes and broth and simmer for 20-25 minutes over low heat. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. At the last 10 minutes, add rinsed and drained red beans.
Once the sweet potatoes are soft and you’ve tasted for seasoning adjustments, place mixture in a 9×9 baking pan and cover the top of the mixture with the slices of polenta. Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and broil in the broiler for about 5-7 minutes till warmed and cheese is melted. This may be longer or shorter depending on your broiler power. If you don’t have a broiler, then use the oven at 400 degrees for about 10-15 minutes.

Scoop and enjoy

YBR February

Nancy from has been doing this amazing event each month called Your Best Recipe. She has a wonderful heart to host this very special food event for all of us foodies to come together with our best recipes for the month. I thought that it was a little ironic that the best recipe I choose for the month, Romaine Hearts and Arugula Salad with Minced Beet, Pears, Pistachios, Avocado, Cucumber and Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette, is in an entry called Why write recipes when you can just cook? It’s something I’d like to share with everyone, because it shows how I cook for the majority of the time; writing a couple of recipes, but cooking mostly on intuition. I hope you check out and join in on the fun in March. Thanks again Nancy!



Why Write Recipes When You Can Just Cook?

I cook often. If I could blog as easily as it seems for me to whip something up to eat in the kitchen, I’m sure I could fill another four blogs with my recipes. But as most of you know, I cook with more intuition than I do with recipes. Recipe writing is an art, a skill, a talent and I’m trying my hardest to be able to do more of it, but sometimes it’s very difficult for me to do so because I was never taught to cook from recipes; I was taught by watching the people I love, make the food they love.  I hope even if there aren’t recipes per se on my blog about everything I cook, if you’re curious about how to make something or how I’ve made something, you do a little research – say hello, drop me a tweet, facebook comment, e-mail, or whichever way we chat, let me know and I’ll come up with a way for you to make it happen. Here are some of the dishes I’ve photographed in the last week of ideas and meals we’ve enjoyed at home. I want to come back and write recipes for them all, hopefully one day I will. But here are the descriptions and a couple of quick recipes. I hope you enjoy these tasty ideas.


Romaine Hearts and Arugula Salad with Minced Beet, Pears, Pistachios, Avocado, Cucumber and Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

1 romaine heart, cored and sliced into small pieces

8 oz arugula

1 large beet, boiled or roasted, peeled and minced into small pieces

1 avocado, diced

1/4 cup of shelled pistachios

1 pear, peeled and thinly sliced

½ hot house cucumber, sliced

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Black pepper


To make dressing

Add balsamic, honey and Dijon together and add a pinch of black pepper and salt. Mix together well and then slowly pour in extra virgin olive oil till incorporated. Use less or more oil for your desired consistency.

Combine all vegetables in large bowl, except for beets, and toss with vinaigrette.

Before serving, sprinkle on minced beets and consume.

 Black Pepper and Herb Roasted Turkey Breast with White Wine Cherry Tomato Basil Sauce and Lemon Zest served aside Roasted Red Potatoes

Roasted Red Potatoes

Approx. 3 lbs of medium to small-sized red potatoes, quartered and washed, but not peeled

½ cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons minced sage

1 tablespoon minced rosemary

4 cloves garlic, minced



In a large pot, add red potatoes, cover with cold water and add salt to taste.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Cook potatoes in water until almost done, about 15-20 minutes, but still having firmness when poked with a fork.

Drain water from the potatoes.

Place the potatoes in large bowl and add a couple pinches of salt, pepper, garlic, herbs, and ½ of the oil, incorporate well and place on a large baking sheet. Then pour the rest of the oil over the top of the potatoes.

Put the potatoes in preheated oven and cook for about 15 minutes. Take potatoes out and shake and stir them loose to roast other sides another 10-12 minutes, till crunchy on the outside, but soft on the inside.

Serve with your favorite meat or vegetables.

Carrot California Chile Colorado with Braised Beef served over Black Rice with Roasted Beet Greens and Garlic and Romaine topped with Avocado

Sliced Turkey, Roasted Zucchini, Mushrooms, Almond Butter, Spicy Carrots and Rice Noodles topped with Almond Cilantro “gremolata”

New York Strip Milanese (New York Steak seasoned with cumin, coriander, black pepper and lemon, then breaded in panko and deep fried) served with Slow-Cooked Black and Pinto Beans with Roasted Garlic and Tomato Spanish Rice

Potato, Sausage and Kale soup with Red Pepper Flakes and Parmesan




Snowy Trip to the Eastern Sierras; Mammoth Mountain and Hawaiian Bread French Toast

I recently took a four day trip to the beautiful Eastern Sierras, wherein lies Mammoth Mountain.  Normally my family and I have a traditional summer vacation to this area around my birthday; we enjoy eachother’s company in the breathtaking surroundings of fresh clean air, high altitude, and fishing in the sunshine. This trip was exceptionally different. I’m not much of a snow person–growing up my whole life in the sunshine makes the snow a very unusual experience for me. As we found ourselves in the biggest storm of the season so far, I found myself taken aback with interesting  incidents such as digging the car out of a couple feet of snow, putting chains on tires, layering clothes until the point of suffocation and also, just being too warm and comfy inside to even want to venture outside.  I enjoyed the beautiful snow escape wonderland for the time that we were there: cooking, laughing, and enjoying company with my brother and sister-in-law.
Hawaiian Bread French Toast
4 large eggs, beaten
½ cup milk
2 teaspoons water
1 tablespoon brown sugar
10-15 Hawaiian Sweet Rolls cut in half
Butter for cooking
Crack eggs in one bowl and beat together well.
Combine water and milk together in separate bowl. Then dissolve brown sugar in mixture until there are no large clumps.
Combine water/milk mixture to eggs and incorporate well.
In a medium-sized non-stick pan, heat 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat, making sure not to scorch the butter.
Dip bread into mixture, coating on both sides. Do not let the bread sit in the egg wash, otherwise they will be too soggy.
Place bread in one by one and into warmed pan and cook about 3-4 minutes per side until golden.
Repeat with the rest of the rolls.
Keep French toast in the oven at 350 degrees to keep warm until all are ready to serve.
Sprinkle powdered sugar over the top and serve.
Sometimes the simplest things are the ones we remember best. Stay tuned for more Mammoth snow adventures.

Tuna Salad Sandwich with Fuji Apple, Cucumber, Red Onion and Hummus Greek Yogurt Sauce

Sometimes we just need something to eat on the go, but with our crazy lives it gets a little tough. I understand–it happens to me too–the days when I can’t get four hours in the kitchen for all the insane ideas I’d love to commit to, but just can’t. So this is something we can all enjoy, make ahead of time and devour in a moment’s notice. I love tuna; the kind that is humanely fished is best and tastes best. To me, knowing that these animals are being treated with respect as they live and die for consumption is very important. This is something that I’ve delved into more often. Being conscious about our food and the lives of the animals we consume is up to us. This is a subject I’ve learned a great deal about and try to practice in my own cooking. I know how animals go to slaughter and I respect each one as I consume them; this also goes for sea creatures. Check your west coast seafood charts here.  Food has so many politics wrapped up in it. We have to consciously consume, otherwise we won’t have these luxuries for very long. 

I love to use Nonfat Greek yogurt as a substitute for mayonnaise. It takes out the unwanted calories and gives a level of creaminess that we desire from our sandwiches, salads and dressings. 
Tuna Salad Sandwich with Fuji Apple, Cucumber, Red Onion and Hummus Greek Yogurt Sauce 
1 can tuna in water, drained 
1/2 medium Fuji apple, diced 
1/4 medium cucumber, diced 
1/2 red onion, minced 
Pinch of black pepper
1 tablespoon hummus 
1 tablespoon nonfat Greek yogurt (optional additional teaspoon for bread)
2 cups wild arugula 
4 slices whole grain bread
Mix together tuna, apple, cucumber and red onion until well incorporated. 
Add black pepper, hummus and Greek yogurt, then mix well. 
Toast bread to your liking. 
Spread tuna salad over toasted bread. 
Top with arugula and, if desired, add teaspoon yogurt to top side of bread. 
Slice and serve with the other half of the apple. 
This is simple and easy. You can make the salad ahead of time to enjoy later. You can have it as a sandwich or with sprouts and lettuce as a healthy salad. Also a little olive oil and lemon on extra arugula with this tuna salad takes out the calories from the bread, if you’re really watching your weight but healthy grains are important for everyone. You don’t have to add the hummus if your calorie cutting but I think it give it a depth of flavor that’s new and exciting instead of your run of the mill tuna.

Homemade Sauce and Wheat pita Balsamic BBQ Chicken Pizza

For holiday presents this year, I decided to take on some jarring adventures. I made homemade tapenade with rosemary, tomatoes and black olives; marinara with mirepoix, fresh basil and parsley; spicy marinara with roasted garlic and red pepper flakes (Arrabbiata sauce); and balsamic barbecue sauce with brown sugar, molasses and aged balsamic vinegar. With everything that I’ve tried and translated into other things, jarring is one of the techniques that I haven’t implemented that often, so this was a great new experience. These sauces are some of my favorite things to have on hand and to make, but they are intended to be slow-simmered and aren’t suitable to make on a whim, which is why I decided to take the work out of it for my family and friends and jar them up and give them as gifts. Nothing is like giving a gift from the heart, especially at Christmas, and as a chef, there is no more personal gift I can give than something I have made.

The flavors meld well together after they have been jarred and served with your favorite things such as toasted foccacia and goat cheese with tapenade or simply crackers and tapenade, spaghetti with marinara, penne with arrabiata, or lasagna made with homemade sauce. The sauces give these dishes the slow-cooked feel, but can be made in half the time since the sauce is pre-made. Balsamic BBQ pizzas made with roasted chicken on a wheat pita topped with cilantro, red onions and mozzarella cheese, BBQ glazed chicken breast, or balsamic BBQ ribs are other great ways to enjoy the homemade BBQ sauce. I love the many uses of such versatile sauces for the holidays, when we’re so busy doing too much that we could use a little home cooking ready in the fridge.
Quick Recipe
Wheat pita Balsamic BBQ Chicken Pizza
1 wheat pita
2 sprigs cilantro, off the stem
1/4 cup roasted chicken, shredded
1 tablespoon red onion, minced
3 tablespoons Balsamic BBQ or 2 tablespoons regular BBQ sauce with 1 teaspoon Balsamic vinegar mixed in.
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded
Heat oven to 400 degrees.
Place pita in the center of a large baking sheet and spread 2 tablespoons of BBQ sauce or more if desired.
Then add shredded chicken and cilantro, sprinkling over pizza evenly.
Add mozzarella and place cilantro and red onions on top.
Drizzle with last tablespoon of BBQ sauce.
Bake in preheated oven about 8-10 minutes until pita is crispy and cheese has melted.
Cut and serve warm.
I jarred the sauces and my sister made baskets with the bells and whistles, some dry spaghetti, bottle of wine and a box of crackers. Sometimes giving is as simple as a sauce.
Here are a couple of links I found useful about jarring if you’re interested:
Lots of Love

Cyrus’s 2nd Birthday… The Candyshop and Red Velvet Cupcakes

Today is one of my favorite little boys very special day. I remember the day my friend Katie called me to tell me she was expecting and thereafter, all the midnight to 2 a.m. phone calls and text messages with horrible stories of pregnancy woes, the countless boxes of Little Debbies, and the joyous call and messages on the day he was born. I was over the top involved with work at that time, but I knew, as soon as I saw this little man, I was in love. His name is Cyrus and he is one of the most precious boys I’ve ever met. He stole my heart and made his mom and I retire our dancing shoes and exchange them for baby clothes. We wouldn’t change it for anything. I love this family and I’m so glad I can be a part of their lives.
Best friends! :)
Happy 2nd birthday my sweet little (or, rather, not so little anymore) Cyrus! I love you so much.
We had a sugar coma inducing party, with all things rich and delicious. A full range of soda pops, lollipops, candy and Elmo cupcakes adorned the table, along with other fun foods for all the kids to enjoy. Our theme was a candy shop with tons of fun balloons and little lollipop crazy straws for the sodas.  I have no idea how these kids slept that night, but a little extreme spoiling is what Katie always wanted for her son.
Here are some of the pictures of the festivities.

The cupcakes I made were a red velvet recipe that is a mixture of vegan red velvet and a southern style red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting. I love vegan cupcakes because they stay moist for a long time and travel well.
I made red and blue velvet cupcakes and topped these with lollipops and little Elmo faces because he’s one of Cy’s favorite characters.


Red Velvet Cupcakes

4 teaspoons cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ¼ cups all purpose flour
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup vegetable oil
1 cup soy milk
1 tablespoon lemon juice
½ tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Makes 16 cupcakes
Pour soy milk in large bowl with lemon juice and apple cider vinegar and stir until incorporated.  Let stand for at least 8 minutes.
In a separate bowl sift together cocoa, AP flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda. Mix together till incorporated with whisk.
After the mixture of soy milk has incorporated, add sugar and oil to mixture and beat on high with hand mixer for 5 minutes until sugar is dissolved.
Slowly add dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and beat on medium until incorporated, about 4-6 minutes.
Fill cupcake cups 2/3 of the way full and cook for 16-18 minutes on the middle oven rack. The cupcakes are done cooking when a toothpick comes out clean.
Cool and then frost with cream cheese frosting or vegan frosting for full vegan cupcakes or any other desired frosting.
Be a kid at heart.