Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Cook's Warehouse Revisited By Healthy "Sous" Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of assisting Chef Nancy at two different cooking classes at The Cook's Warehouse. It seems like only yesterday, that I attended my first cooking class, at the then, new Cook's Warehouse on Amsterdam Ave. I was a single twenty-something on a girl's night out. I remember being in awe of the store and giddy with excitement about seeing my first live cooking demonstration. The Chef's for the class were April Moon and Lynne Sawicki. I know this, not because of my brilliant memory, but because I still have the recipe handout from that evening's class. We learned how to make Linguini Puttanesca, Tomato Basil Salad, Tuna Carpaccio and Tiramisu. All those years ago, I could not have imagined that one day I would return to The Cook's Warehouse, not as a student, but as, dare I say it, a professional. Okay, so I am still dreaming of one day being the featured chef at a Cook's Warehouse class, however, being there as a Sous Chef to Chef Nancy was enough to make me as giddy as I had been the first time I set foot in the store all those years ago. The Cook's Warehouse has expanded to a total of three stores over the years and has moved from it's original location on Amsterdam Avenue. The kitchens that I worked in at Brookhaven and Midtown were beautiful and the volunteer staff was exceptional. I had a great time helping out with the Gluten-Free Class and the South African Food and Wine Paring last Saturday and look forward to more chances to work with Chef Nancy at these stores. Mostly, I have enjoyed the little walk down memory lane that this experience has brought me and proud of how far I have come as a cook over the past few years. I think I will dust off the recipe sheet from my first class and serve up some Linguini Puttanesca for dinner this evening. As always, I am Tasting and Savoring Life and enjoying every minute of it!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Stealth Health, In Action: By Healthy "Sous" Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

Last weekend I traveled to Orlando, Fl with my daughter for a cheerleading competition. I was looking forward to some bright sunshine and breaking out the spring wardrobe. Typically when I put on a pair of shorts at the first sign of warm weather, I am temporarily blinded by my ghostly white legs as they emerge from a long winter spent hidden from view under a pair of jeans. This spring, however, more shcoking than the sight of my white legs, was the sight of my buttoned and zipped shorts as they slipped down my body and landed around my ankles. Could it be that my favorite pair of shorts from last summer was too big to even be worn with a belt? Indeed it was. It was at that moment, that I laughed to myself, and knew for sure that Chef Nancy's "stealth health" was not just a cute expression to describe her food philosophy, but an honest to goodness reality. Although I did not set out to lose any weight, it is certainly an added bonus to the already wonderful experience I am having working with Chef Nancy.

As always, don't forget to take the time to Taste and Savor, because a stealthier, healthier you might be just around the corner.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Wanderlust – Bringing the Flavors of Travel Home

Peoria? Yes. Rioja? Of course! Milwaukee? I’m Ready. I have a serious case of wanderlust and am always game to travel anywhere, any time. That’s probably why long-time Buckhead resident Connie Allman and I have such a great connection. Hands down, Connie is my “most traveled” friend. I live vicariously through her journeys, and I love catching up with her so I can hear about her latest experiences.

Talking to Connie is entertaining – from the tales of her first adventures in Barbados to her recent trip to China – where she bought wine bottle holders for gifts. We laughed hard when she shared them, they were much too small, and there is no opening for the bottle. Souvenirs from exotic locales sometimes don’t turn out to be exactly as described!

One of my favorite stories is about her first trip to Alsace many years ago with her husband. During one of Connie’s business trips to Germany, she purchased a bottle of Alsatian wine and brought it back to Atlanta. She and her husband loved it so much that she removed the label and saved it. On their first visit to Alsace together, they asked the proprietor of the small inn at which we were staying if she knew how to get to the vintner. Luckily, the winemaker was her cousin, and he treated the pair to an extensive tasting of his wonderful Rieslings, Muscadet and Gew├╝rztraminers. What’s the fun part of the story? The tasting took place at 10 am. That’s what I call wine tasting for brunch.

Connie’s description of the kaleidoscope of beautiful silk colors worn by the women and the men in Rajasthan make me want to book the next flight to India. Her journeys to Australia and drives from Brisbane to Canberra with helicopter rides of stunning scenery from Black Heath to Yerranderie, create a strong longing for down under for everyone who hears about them. Her trips to Italy with her son make me nostalgic for Milan, Bologna, Florence, and the rest of beautiful Italy.

Here are some of Connie’s best travel tips. Some make me smile, some make me nod in agreement, and all make me ready for a new adventure:

Comfort and Fun Tips:

  1. Always use the available restroom!
  2. Keep moving - in other words, if there is a delay, try to find another way to 'get out'
  3. If you think you like it, buy it and if you know you like it, buy TWO.

And, most importantly,

  1. Do some reading on the place you plan to visit - a little history (or read a novel about the place), obtain information about the food and try the food – remember the drink that goes with the food, too.
  2. Try to learn 'hello', 'please', 'thank you' and the word for "Ladies Room."
  3. Be polite and respect the customs.

Until you can take off, try this delicious and easy recipe with ingredients from a beautiful and healthy destination.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad

The Dressing

2 Peeled Garlic Cloves

¾ Cup Crumbled Feta Cheese

½ Cup Nonfat Plain Greek Yogurt

2 TB Lemon Juice

1 TB Honey

2 TB Chopped Basil

Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to Taste

The Orzo

16 OZ (Whole Wheat) Orzo, Cooked According to Package Directions

1 Head Fennel, Finely Chopped

3 Green Onions, Thinly Sliced

1 Pint Grape Tomatoes, Quartered

½ Cup Pitted Chopped Kalamata Olives

¼ Cup Chopped Parsley, plus more for Garnish

Step One Make the dressing by placing the garlic in a food processor or blender and pulsing until finely minced. Add the cheese, yogurt, lemon juice, honey and basil. Blend until emulsified. Season the dressing with salt and pepper to taste.

Step Two Add the orzo ingredients to a large bowl. Fold the dressing (starting with ½ and adding more as desired) into the orzo mixture. Garnish with parsley and serve.

This article originally appeared in the Buckhead Patch on March 8, 2011

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Learning to Taste and Savor: By Healthy "Sous" Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

Exactly one month ago today, I had the pleasure of meeting Chef Nancy Waldeck for the first time. The interview was arranged by a friend I had met in culinary school, named Sue Snape. I will be forever grateful to her for setting up my meeting with Nancy and helping me to realize a long held dream of working in the food industry.

I survived my first day in the beautiful kitchen at the Piedmont West, Cancer Wellness Center and was thrilled to be asked back later in the week. Immediately, I knew that I was in a special place. The friendly smiles and kind nature of the staff and patients there made me feel comfortable from the get go. What an amazing feeling to have the opportunity to make delicious and healthy food for a group of people who truly appreciate your efforts. Not to be melodramatic, but that first week of work was truly life changing. Everything is put into perspective when you are surrounded by people who's day to day struggles are so much greater than your own. Being stuck in traffic or setting the shrimp on fire (Yes, I'm guilty of setting the shrimp aflame, in front of the Director of the Cancer Wellness Center, no less) seem like petty grievances to me now.

Whether it be karma, or fate or an unusual stroke of good luck, that landed me in the kitchen of Cancer Wellness and under the patient, creative and nurturing being that is Chef Nancy, I am truly grateful. I have learned a life time of lessons in the past month and look forward to what the future holds.

Always remember to take the time to Taste and Savor!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Trip to Italy in May - Sounds Great to Me!

My fellow chef and wonderful friend Hans Rueffert has a trip planned to Italy in May. And here's the good news: You can go too! Take a look at the trip at

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Not Just Your Average Cup of Joe at Nordstrom’s Ebar - Coffee is for Cooking Too! Chipotle-Coffee Rubbed Grilled Chicken

I was tired of standing in line at Starbucks when a friend suggested we head over to the Espresso Bar at Nordstrom for our coffee. That was 4 years ago at Perimeter Mall, and my favorite coffee spot is still the same. Now that Nordstrom, one of my favorite shopping destinations has landed at Phipps I can indulge my craving for a nonfat latte without the drive. I love the "E bar."

It’s a great little place for a quick break during a day of shopping, or a super rendezvous spot. Easy parking at Phipps makes meeting a friend easy. Instead of a trying to find a place to perch in a packed tiny store, you can grab your coffee and enjoy a delicious quiet moment alone or a real conversation on a cushy sofa with your friend.

Not only will the Ebar handle your hankering for an Americano, since it is part of the Nordstrom family of restaurants, it has a clean, healthy approach to the menu items, most of which are delivered from the bistro upstairs. Try a salad with the dark cherry balsamic vinaigrette or one of my favorite lunches: the veggies with hummus. Both are great light choices that are better for you and lower in price than most options in the mall.

Enough about the light options. There are times in life when an indulgence is required – for instance when you have to recover after your breathtaking bill for shoes at Jeffrey. The Ebar comes to the rescue here, too. The Mexican Mocha (semi-dark chocolate with cinnamon) is a treat that immediately springs to mind. The largest size is called the Enormo. Need I say more?

Similar to most of my passions, my love for coffee has eventually led to the kitchen. Like me, maybe you’ve discovered that coffee can be used for cooking as well as drinking. I always add a tablespoon or two of instant espresso to my brownies and deep dark chocolate cake. The intensity and smokiness enhances the richness and flavor of the luxurious chocolate. If you haven’t experimented with coffee in a savory way, here’s a recipe that will make your grilled chicken the envy of the neighborhood!

Chipotle-Coffee Rubbed Chicken

1 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Turmeric

2 Tsp Instant Coffee

1 Tsp Chipotle Chile Powder

2 TB Smoked Paprika

3 TB Dark Brown Sugar

1 Tsp Sea Salt

½ Tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

12 Large Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs

2 TB of Canola Oil

1 Large Red Onion Cut in Half

Lemon Wedges

Stir the first 8 ingredients together to create the rub. Place the thighs in a plastic bag or bowl and massage the mixture into the meat. Set aside while you preheat the grill. Once the grill is hot, pour the oil into a bowl, and using a fork to stab the onion, dip it into the bowl and wipe the grill well with the oiled onion. Remove the chicken from the bag and place on the oiled grill. Turn once and grill until desired doneness. Serve with the lemon wedges.