Pico De Gallo, my favorite way to celebrate the flavors of Spring

dinner at ashleys

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I was staring at my kitchen bowl of fresh vegetables on Saturday and knew that I needed to use what I had left over from the week, or I’d get busy with stuff and then it would be ready for the compost bin.

But alas, what did I see, a few tomatoes, an onion, a lime and lemon. It’s Spring, why not make some Pico de Gallo for a fresh appetizer…so much better than that stuff they sell in any jar.

We’ve tried dozen’s of jarred salsa’s from the most expensive to the moderate, and they are all “meh.”

So here goes my homemade version.

Ingredients:

6 long green chiles

2 large ripe tomatoes (cored, seeded and tiny diced by hand, you can chop coarsely, I prefer smaller)

1 cup tiny diced white onion 

1/3 cup minced cilantro

2 to 3 fresh yellow chiles of large jalapeno chiles, stemmed and…

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Holiday menu……….yummy

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THE MENU

BABY SPINACH AND FRISEE

Crispy Bacon, Roasted Pear, Gorgonzola Dolce

OR

BABY ARUGULA

Soya Lemon Vinaigrette, Parmiggiano

SECOND COURSE

FEAST OF THE SEVEN FISHES CRUDO

Fluke, Mackerel and Bay Scallop Crudo with Marjoram and Lemon, Chilled Steamed Clams and Mussels, Cold Poached Shrimp and Salmon Roe

OR

SMOKED TROUT SALAD

Apple, Fennel and Chive Slaw, Pumpernickel Toast

THIRD COURSE

CELERY ROOT VELOUTE

Vanilla, Lime Peel, Sprinkled with Persian Lime

OR

WILD MUSHROOM SOUP

Hazelnut Gremolata

FOURTH COURSE

CEDAR PLANKED SALMON

Super Slow Baked, Sheep’s Yogurt, Pickled Cherries, Pea Tendrils

SPIRAL HAM; SPICY CRANBERRY SAUCE AND REGULAR CRANBERRY SAUCE (ALL FRESHLY MADE)

SWEET

Spiced Whipped Cream Pear and Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding

Chocolate Mousse with Blackberries

 Shaved Chocolate Red Wine and Winter Spice Stewed Prunes with Mascarpone Cheese

Make time………for YOU

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Making time to care for yourself.

Two years ago I started doing a food diary, eating organically healthy food, cut down on sugar and dairy, joined a gym and began keeping a journal.
Not only did I incorporate those things, but I also set aside a time of quiet into my life. No tv, no phone or Internet and most of all, no distractions.

This was one huge feat for me, let me tell you – – mostly because it all took some extra time.  The first few times I began the “quiet time” I was so frazzled from just being away from my working kitchen – hoping that no one was looking for me.

Maybe this is a owning your own business thing, but you’re basically expected to be available at all times.  So I had to get really, really brave to “step out” once a week.  I practically felt like everything would fall apart every time I stepped out.

But just the act of doing that  – doing something to honor my body against all opposition – caused something pretty amazing to happen.  It’s like my body knew that I was trying to be kind to it and make it a priority…and it responded.

Our poor bodies put up with so much.  We ignore our health, we feed ourselves junk, we don’t move enough, we make ourselves so busy physically and mentally that we “don’t have time” to care for our bodies.  But just like any living being, the minute we nurture ourselves with healthy soil and sunshine or the minute we show kindness, gratitude, and love to ourselves – – our body will respond with extra vitality.  I learned this firsthand. Just the act of making time for myself had so many positive results that I can’t even begin to count.

As I meditated and read, or stretched, week after week:

-I started to feel worth (showing honor and respect to my body did wonders for my worth. It’s a whole lot different than abusing my body.)
-I started to feel like less of a victim to my busy life.  I realized that the world didn’t end and wasn’t going to end by being out for 1 hour a week.
-The fears associated with being away from the kitchen started to diminish.
-I started to feel alive again, instead of barely surviving.
-I began to have a shift and realized that my health mattered more than being a perfectionist.

My health continued to become such a priority that I actually decided to stop working so late into the night. I made it a goal to start heading home about 6 pm or soon after.  Again, I felt the initial guilt for doing so as the many tasks in my day were so great.  I could write a whole post about how hard it was to sacrifice my identity of being the super star, the hardest worker. I had to let that go.  But I decided it was worth doing (and it was).

It turns out that life did start to improve so, so much.  That year was one of the best ever.  I was healing deeply in so many ways.  I was eating so well (thanks to the jumpstart of the food diary.)  And this is when my life started to completely transform.  I learned how to achieve the most content feeling of peace and happiness.  It was incredible.

Have you unplugged in some way? Have you decided to put you first in order to bring some quality back into your life?
I’d love to hear your stories…..it’s all about sharing.

I believe that sharing makes us accountable and helps us to stay focused on our goals.

Why don’t we make our own chicken stock?

Last week, I  was making a chilled pea soup and one of my friends asked me about the best organic chicken stock I use. I told her that stock is really so cheap and easy to make, I would suggest she start to make her own.

Everyone is always complaining about having no time to do anything these days. But I think that’s just a load of baloney. We make time for what we want to incorporate into our lives. ( Okay, I understand when work overloads us, but WE control our home life.)

So let me show you a step by step process that you’ll have down in no time flat, that will blow you away with its superior taste to the store bought stuff.

What you need:

3 to 4 large carrots

3 large celery stalks

Large yellow onion

2 heads of garlic

1/3 cup sliced shitaki mushrooms

7 large basil leaves

3 small bay leaves

Small bunch of flat leaf parsley

2 sprigs of fresh time

Whole pepper corns

3 tablespoons of butter

1/2 cup white wine

1 large heavy pot

*the carcass of a whole chicken that was left over ( usually freeze mine in ziplock bags)

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Throughly wash and rough chop your celery, carrots and onion.

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Slice your mushrooms and cut the top layer of your garlic bulbs, leaving the skin intact.

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Heat a large pot adding the butter to just melt.

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Add all your chopped veggies, garlic heads and mushrooms

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Heat over medium high heat, stirring seldom to allow for the vegetables to caramelize.

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It should look like this…

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Meanwhile, gather your herbs and tie them into an “herb garni” or small bundle. Add them to the pot, along with the bay leaves and 2 teaspoons of whole pepper corns.

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Gently fold in the herbs.

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Now, bringing the heat up just to high, pour in the wine and stir, scrapping up all the brown bits (fond) at the bottom of the pan.

Add the whole chicken carcasses.

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Now add the water. My 5qt pot holds almost 16 cups. Fill it so that it’s an inch below the rim.

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Bring to a boil, then turn down to medium-high and simmer. Reduce the heat, and continue to simmer for at least 3 hours.
Stirring occasionally, and adjusting the heat so as not to boil over.
After 3 hours, the stock will be reduced. Remove from heat, covered and let the stock rest for 30 minutes.

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Now,once the stock is considerably cooler, using a strainer, and a large container, carefully strain, separating the herbs and veggies from the stock.

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Cover the container with plastic wrap and refrigerate over night.

The next day, remove the fat that’s hardened on the top with a small spoon and discard.

You’ve just made the best homemade stock.

You’re ready to make soups or sauces. Or pour into freezer ready containers, freezer bags or such, label with the date and freeze. *good for 3 months

Small cocktail parties

I did an event this past week for a small group of business women at an old warehouse in Midtown Atlanta. I absolutely love going into places that bring out a feeling of wonder and creativity where the food really takes “center stage.”

My food is innovative, yet simple and warming and always…always tells a story.

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Ammazza

Two brothers decided to take a chance and bring a truly special wood fired pizza and share with the rest of us pizza aficionados. Traveling to San Francisco, Chicago and Italy, they developed something that’s simply divine. Located in the Old 4th Ward district of Atlanta…..

Welcome to Ammazza!
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This bike was given to the restaurant by a neighborhood patron who wanted to aid them in delivering pizza’s. It holds four 12″ pizzas….how cool is that!

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The dining area is very spacious with a huge community table that runs down the middle. There are also serveral tables and booths that run along the edge. The building itself was built in the late 1800’s and the owners kept as much of it as possible. There is even a space for “live” local bands that play on weekends.

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We started with the Insalata Di Basil- Field greens, artichokes, kalmata olives, bell peppers, goat cheese and roma tomatoes in a basil dressing.  There was more than enough for two, and it was delicious.

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We decided upon the Inferno Pizza- Spicy sopressata, mozzarella, calabria peppers and torn fresh basil.  The crust!!! OMG, perfection….the sauce, the right amount of heat, all ingredients equally distributed, and….just satisfying.

Just a side note: They carry Clown Shoes IPA (Tramp Stamp, Chocolate Sombrero & Muffin Top) and Hangar 1 Vodka…excellent!