Monday, February 27, 2012

Going Bananas! A Guest Post: By Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

Whether I'm talking about the tropical fruit or it's alternate definition of "craziness", my house is always chock full of bananas!

In my never ending quest to get my children to eat healthier, I try to introduce them to new foods on a weekly basis. Not surprisingly, the 9 and 13 year old have not jumped on the quinoa and kale bandwagon I have been driving. So, I must revert back to the few tried and true foods that they will both eat. Bananas are one fruit that everyone in the household can agree on. Of course, one likes them green, the other likes them nice and ripe. Inevitably, a couple of bananas in the bunch miss meeting some one's optimal eating conditions and they end up going to the dark side.

This week, I found myself with free afternoon and several well spotted bananas. I decided to step out of my comfort zone and see if I could put a little Taste and Savor spin on a banana bread recipe. I used two different banana bread recipes as my guide. I cut down the butter from 1 1/2 sticks to just 1/2 a stick. Substituted two of the eggs for egg whites, and incorporated some whole wheat flour. I also decided to add a little spice to my recipe with ground cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger.

I mixed up the batter and put it in a standard sized muffin tin. The banana spice muffins turned out great in my opinion, but the true test was yet to be realized. Would the kids actually eat a healthier version of banana bread? For a little extra insurance, I frosted a few with with a mixture of two parts peanut butter to one part honey, then garnished with a banana slice. Of course, I did not mention to the kids that these muffins were better for them, I just set them out on the counter and waited to see what would happen.

The 9 year old loved them and even volunteered to be in my photo shoot as you can see above. The teenager liked them with the peanut butter topping as well as plain. Even more amazing, she took one to school in her lunch box and shared one with a friend. All in all, a successful experiment!

Banana Spice Muffins:

1 cup Sugar in the Raw
1/4 cup Butter, softened
1/2 cup Plain, Non-Fat Greek Yogurt
3 Ripe Bananas, mashed
1 Large Egg
2 Large Egg Whites
1 cup All-Purpose Flour
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 tsp Baking Soda
1 tsp Sea Salt
1/2 tsp ground Cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground Ginger
1/2 tsp ground Nutmeg

Cream together sugar, butter and yogurt on low speed. Next add bananas, eggs and egg whites and mix until combined. In a separate bowl, whisk together dry ingredients, then add to wet mixture and beat on medium speed until incorporated.

Scoop batter into muffin pans, sprayed with non-stick cooking spray. Makes 16 muffins. Bake for 20-25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

These muffins are great as is, or for a special treat, soften 4 TB natural peanut butter in microwave for approximately 40 seconds and stir in 2 TB honey. Spread peanut butter mixture on top of muffins and garnish with a banana slice.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Cream of Mushroom Soup and Wine

Luscious Unctuous, Rich and Creamy. Four words that describe this easy, healthy and delicious Wild Mushroom Soup! Make it tonight and enjoy it all week - it freezes well, too!

Rich Wild Mushroom Soup

2 TB Unsalted Butter, Divided

1 TB Olive Oil

1 Yellow Onion, finely chopped

16 Oz White Mushrooms, chopped

1 Oz *Dried Wild Mushrooms

3 Cups Vegetable Stock

½ LB Wild Mushrooms, sliced

2 TB Thyme

1 TB Fresh Lemon Juice

2 TB Heavy Cream

½ Cup Nonfat Greek Yogurt

Salt and Black Pepper to taste

Step One

Melt one TB butter with the oil in a large stockpot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened – about 7 minutes. Add the white mushrooms, dried mushrooms, stock and water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the dried mushrooms are tender, about 30 minutes. Let cool slightly.

Step Two

While the soup is cooking, sauté the wild mushrooms in the remaining TB of butter until any liquid has evaporated. Add the herbs.

Step Three

Puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Place back into the stockpot, and add the sautéed wild mushrooms, lemon juice and cream. Simmer until warm, remove from the heat, stir in the yogurt and add salt and pepper to taste.


Because wild mushrooms are composed of mostly water, when they are dried the natural flavors are intensified - making them even more delicious. Even better, they have long storage life, up to a year, so you can enjoy their rich taste easily.

Most recipes call for you to soak dried mushrooms first. Since we are cooking them in with our chicken stock, no presoaking is required.

WINE? Pinot Noir will make this soup sing with flavor!

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Angels Trump Cupid This Valentine's Day: A Guest Post, by Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

This week, I had the great pleasure of attending the Angels on Earth Valentine Luncheon, benefiting Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. It is not often that I have the opportunity to dress up on a Tuesday afternoon for a leisurely luncheon at a country club. I must clean up pretty well, as one of the women who I see on a weekly basis at Cancer Wellness, came up and introduced herself to me. We had a good laugh, once she realized who I was. She had not recognized me without my ubiquitous ponytail, apron and turmeric stained hands.

Angels on Earth is an organization founded by Jillian and John Cooke. The Cookes, like so many others in the room that day, had been profoundly affected by cancer. They thanked the "angels" who helped them through their difficult times, and are now themselves, dedicated to ensuring that there are angels for all those in need. From my observation, angels are the people who knowingly or unknowingly offer support, guidance, nourishment and love. There is no place that I have seen, that is more conducive to cultivating angels than, Cancer Wellness at Piedmont. It is a welcoming and warm place where people in need can receive nourishment for their bodies, minds and souls. This is done through art therapy, journaling, mindfulness, nutrition counseling, yoga, massage and my favorite, healthy cooking classes.

This luncheon not only raised funds for Cancer Wellness at Piedmont, but it was also a celebration. A celebration, of life, recovery, kindness and above all, wellness. I can't think of a better way to spend Valentine's day, than with a room full of angels.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Year of Tasting and Savoring: A Guest Post, by Healthy Sous-Chef Partyologist, Lea Bowen

As I sit here and write this afternoon, I am reflecting on the past year, for this is my one year anniversary of working at Taste and Savor. I vividly remember walking into the kitchen at Cancer Wellness on Feb. 08, 2011, not having any idea what to expect. I was nervous, and praying that I would not completely make a fool of myself. Not only was this my first job interview in ten years, it was my first ever practical cooking interview.

My tensions eased a bit when I saw my friend Sue (Pictured with me above at our graduation), busily chopping a mountain of kale. I relaxed a bit more when I met Chef Nancy who greeted me with a bright smile and a warm welcome. She put me to work immediately, making dark chocolate truffles. I spent that whole day in the kitchen cooking and have been cooking non-stop ever since.

I have learned so much and met so many interesting people over the past year. Not only have I grown as a cook, but as a person. I thank Chef Nancy and all of the wonderful people at Cancer Wellness and beyond who have touched my life over the last twelve months.

I am truly grateful that my life's journey has led me to Taste and Savor, and that I have had the opportunity to create and share beautiful, delicious and healthy food with so many people. I am excited for what this next year holds for me in the Taste and Savor kitchen. A wise woman named Lydia said that 2012 would bring great things. I am going to do my best to prove her right.

Looking forward to another year of Tasting and Savoring life. Cheers!

Friday, February 3, 2012

REALLY??? Jerk Chicken in the Crockpot?

Check out this picture of the versatile Jerk Chicken served Picnic Style with blue and yellow corn chips!

Lea and I have had several opportunities to share this yummy and EASY! slow-cooker chicken with friends recently. I love it - its one of the easiest ways to put the cooker on in the morning and come home to dinner. Serve with a fresh fruit salad accompanied by a crisp, cold bottle of German Riesling and enjoy the evening with family or friends.

Jerk Chicken

6 Skinless Chicken Thighs about 4 - 5 pounds

10 Cloves Garlic, Peeled and Smashed (YES -10!)

2 Red Onions, Chopped

3 TBs Smoked Paprika

1 TB Olive Oil

2 - 4 TB Chipotle Tabasco

2 Tsp Dried Thyme

2 Tsp Cinnamon

1 Tsp Turmeric

1 Tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

½ Tsp Sea Salt

½ Tsp Nutmeg

3 TB Honey

1 TB Allspice

Place the chicken on the bottom of the Crockpot. Cook on high for about six hours. Remove from from the pot and shred the chicken. Serve in a toasted whole-wheat bun or top a green salad with it!