Monday, December 26, 2011

RA TA Toooo Eeee


Ra Ta Toooo EEEe! Flexibile and versatility, this dish ups the cooking ante with a way to learn and use knife skills as you test your flavor buds on a colorful recipe wrapped as a burrito filling, roll in crepes or omelettes, made as a side, a snack, an entree, lunch or dinner . Just don't forget it on the midnight run to the fridg!

The last decade plus has seen Americans and many parts of the world exchange cooking for other ways to occupy that time. Realize though that today with terrific information, cooking can offer an awareness of how the correct food can make you and your body a living ball of great health. When you do not cook you lose that connection. Turn it over to manufacturers, marketers and restaurants without personal knowledge of how to make choices that keep you in great shape and you might as well set aside a whole lot more of your harder earned money to piss away soon on paid calls to 'Consult your practioner' when you order!
Think of knowledge earned as savings invested, your annuity to healthy living.
Part of that is Ratatoutille, a playful, plate of great tasty health. While this is one example of many versions on the web, if you're not into cooking, why do it? Call a spot where get a quart size of this wonder dish and enjoy eating in or for portable fun!

1/4 cup olive oil, plus more as needed
1 1/2 cups small diced yellow onion
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 cups medium diced eggplant, skin on
1/2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 cup diced green bell peppers
1 cup diced red bell peppers
1 cup diced zucchini squash
1 cup diced yellow squash
1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Set a large 12-inch saute pan over medium heat and add a tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, toss the onions and garlic in the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally, until they are wilted and lightly caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to a large bowl. Repeat warming the pan and adding a little oil for each of the vegetables in the ingredient list, cooking each individually and adding to the bowl. When you have finished with the squash, repeat with a litte olive oil, add the tomatoes, then basil, parsley, and salt and pepper, to taste. Cook for a final 5 minutes. Return all the vegetables from the bowl to warm together with the tomato mix and serve either hot or at room temperature. Cooking the vegetables individually helps retain the freshness which will be evident in your first to last mouthful!

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Low Impact Living

Today is Christmas and with only a week away to the New Year, it's a perfect time to step back and think about how to make Vegetable Alchemy, Oscar and my interest in plant based living a business in 2012. In 2011 I aligned my interest with Oscar, a parrot image I love who to me represents ecologically and body smart food. The last month I took this image to the marketplace, asking people around me if they understood why I loved the graphic icon. Many said, they did, but there was a disconnect with a parrot as their mascot. While they thought him fun and he drew their attention, I needed to give him a tag until the image conjured by his presence is clear in the minds of those who follow the brand, just as other icons make a statement. Wise thoughts and very well appreciated.

Yesterday, one man in particular, a successful businessman with global ties, loved Oscar in his hat, but was forth coming suggesting that I morph my interests into a movement called, 'low impact living.' He understood my focus for a better quality of life with plant based food. He had already experienced many of the terrific tasting dishes that were designed for today's eating which I have been showcasing on the blog and in demonstrations as well as in restaurants. He loved the idea of a less costly home kitchen and eating with quick, smartly organized redesigned casual recipes for a modern age regardless of less demand for home cooking at present. His point was to reach out with Oscar and the idea of 'low impact living' for the body and the planet as a daily way of life. Point well taken. Low impact living becomes part of our mantra for a quality of life in earth sustainable ways. Until we meet again......Merry Christmas to all!

Friday, December 23, 2011

Focusing on my Marketplace

Setting out to turn Vegetable Alchemy into a commercial venture the first most obvious path seems to be a restaurant. But then, sometimes when I see the amount of new spots on the streets I wonder, does the world really need another restaurant, even if it is plant base, but not plant only. For the time spent, could I not find some other way of reaching a much broader group of people? Facts, I needed facts on the market in order to define a space I could succeed. I confirmed with my planet smart mascot, Oscar who immediately checked for current details from great sources like The Hartman Group:

1) there is a changing food culture with mass scale meal fragmentation;

2) almost 44% of adults eat alone;

3) we have become a 'snack' culture;

4) whimsy and immediate delivery is critical: turn the retail experience on its head;

5) the Modern family is here: intertergenerational, non-traditional, single parent, unmarried, multi-ethnic, in spite of what marketers say;

6) healthier means having a better quality of life, and fun with it;

7) food culture: way beyond personal preference: value, ideas, practices, ingredients,
preparations, tools and techniques, players;

8) nutrition education move over: show help in daily life inspiring food and cooking;

9) traditional daypart meals are surpassed by 150 additionally cateloged eating occasions;

10) regardless of claim by innovator's it is today the victim of today's marketing mix for money.

Information is only as good as one reads it. I see Time Magazine in front of me: ;What to Eat Now' on a November cover. I skim an article in Town and Country on The Quantum Kitchen which I know. I love both but to me what is important is to address the food chain, the outdate production and product and to the guy on the street, the one who is in for a surprise if we do not adapt. And while I admire a recent spot on TED:

I think the idea that someone in an apartment with kids or solo will have the space and the inclination to have a vegetable garden may be a bit out of synche with the reality of the design, although admirable. Glossy press is fun and informative, but what we need is a new system. Disruptive keeps coming to mind but before I say more, Vegetable Alchemy has to dig deeper for a way to significantly alter daily eating to the betterment of people and planet. It is clear the body needs fresh food, mostly plants. Like Holmes did to Watson, I sent Oscar in his best duds back back to find insights and numbers while I work on the new biology of the kitchen. Until then......

Nothing Says Vegetable Alchemy More than a GREAT Burger

I am looking for a way to bring my views on plant based eating to market as a commercial venture. In addition to background in restaurants and hotels, I am very familiar with food production, manufacturing, teaching, and media. I consult for small to enormous companies. I found myself in a dream last night doing an ideation on Vegetable Alchemy! How about that! I kept asking a circle of people, what do they think about a plant based diet, looking at them for comments. Almost ALL said they did not get it; that they liked how they ate now; that other people will take care of the planet; that even if we are going to 8 billion people there are those paid to figure it out; that they do not want to cook. Most said it was not worth adding more vegetables or a plant based lifestyle to their day when other foods were cheaper. Clearly to me this is very short sided, especially not taking into account the health care costs later in life from a damage eating model.

In the dream I kept asking more questions but slowly one by one, half of them left! Half, not bad. All I can keep thinking now is how to turn this love for plant based eating into an economic opportunity and a platform to attract others to follow. The platform means educating people on eating, and helping them to rethink for many reasons. When in doubt, ask true friends for opinion. One returned my thoughts with and email saying, "Too many people in the present system benefit from the way food and cooking are now addressed. They have no motivation to change. But it doesn't mean it won't happen. If you start reframing our thinking under a new basic premise, that a plant based diet is best, we have so much to gain just as other industries have reframe consumer thinking from communications and clothing to architecture and social media."

Present ways are causing many health challenges. Present ways have a food chain and production seeded with environmental issues that many are shading. We live under a false pattern. We have to change that pattern. In a world of 1 or 2 billion people missing evidence was not as apparent as it is now becoming at 7 billion and growing. Economic Opportunity is there and I know I can find it. For now, back to putting on the thinking cap while I make a little dinner for friends. I give you one of my favorite's burgers from Vegetable Alchemy, in honor of a great place to start!

Farm Styled Wild Rice Burgers
1 medium onion, cut into fine dice
4 tablespoon olive oil, divided
3 tablespoons parsley, freshly chopped
2 tablespoons rosemary, freshly chopped
2 tablespoons sage, freshly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped fine
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup wild rice, cooked
1 cup brown rice, cooked
2 acorn squash, peeled, diced into 1/2 inch cubes, steamed
2 medium eggs
2 tablespoons yogurt
1 teaspoon sea salt
fresh ground white pepper to taste
1/4 cup fine bread crumbs, or as needed

6 pieces of boston or iceburg lettuce
6 slices of ripe or oven dried tomato
1 jalapeno, sliced into thin pieces
6 (2 oz.) slices of pepper jack cheese
6 sesame or other favorite burger bun

Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a 10 inch saute pan. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add the parsley, rosemary, sage and garlic. Cook on medium-low heat for about 5 minutes. Turn off heat and cool. Mash half the acorn squash in a 2 quart bowl with the back of a spoon. Add the rice, the cubed squash and the chili powder. Stir. Whisk the eggs with the yogurt and add to the bowl. Add just enough bread crumbs to make the mixture workable. Wet your hands with water and form the mixture into patties. If the mixture is still too sticky, you can add a little more breadcrumb..

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet. Cook the patties for 3 to 5 minutes on each side, or until they start to brown. Serve on toasted buns garnishing with any or all on the list.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Vegetable Alchemist

There are three simple reasons that the world needs The Vegetable Alchemist.

1) Because The Vegetable Alchemist and Vegetable Alchemy represent more than just recipes that are plant based but not plant only. They are organized as a lifestyle in today's smart living that has a much lighter burden on the planet as a whole. Modern science and super wonderful easy flavors are the center of Vegetable Alchemy, ecologically minded for the effect ingredients have on the planet with a clear eye on cost from start to finish, farm to table refined and expanded. The purpose of The Vegetable Alchemist is to teach a new way of modern eating from home kitchens to retail, fast food to fine dining. It takes into account ALL the fantastic information we can integrate now in a world growing past 7 billion;

2) Far increasing numbers are showing that Sports, Fashion, and Everyday Consumers are finally paying attention to smart honest research. We have known for decades that the effects of eating a plant based diet clearly are supported in healthy looks, terrific body, wellness, longevity, and for sure, the pocket book! The Vegetable Alchemist responds by bringing this uber appeal style and lifestyle to a broad based audience;

3) The Modern Kitchen is way behind the times. For centuries, across the globe historic recipes have dictated equipment, kitchenwares, high overhead, lengthy cooking and classical preparations now outdated. History defines them by the country of origin in cuisine. Those consumption driven kitchen's might be great for those recipes but hundreds of years later, today, they result in unnecessary overhead and ecological CHAOS, a true kitchen CONUNDRUM with nothing confidential about it! Most often recipes have NOTHING to do with modern research demonstrating the body's need for more proactive foods rooted in a whole new world of cooking, facts. The last 50 years a routine American kitchen has grown in too many complicated ways. It has been novel but now cluttered rom the effects of trying to sell hundreds of ingredients and thousands of pots and pans. It is time for a change. Everyday meals are not rooted in good health but in marketing. Time to fill your thoughts, your kitchen, your purpose with the VOGUE of The Vegetable Alchemist, practical, fun, real and in the spirit and of a new ecologically minded culture.

Next: the emerging kitchen design for The Vegetable Alchemist.

Friday, December 9, 2011

7 Billion Footprints and Counting

After 35 years of working in the trillion dollar food and beverage industry, I turned my layers of experience into helping companies of all sizes, the tiniest locally to some of the very largest globally. It is a great use of my experience having connections in an industry of such magnitude with multi-talented exceptionals to help. In the last four years I have worked with a fantastic brain trust team in a range of challenges that have had great practical success: product research and development; strategic marketing directives; packaging teams; consumer testing; ingredient sourcing; operational issues; equipment design; start-ups; creative ideation for new ventures; menu and recipe development; manufacturing and distribution, at home and abroad.

A few days ago, early in the evening clients had left and my friend Oscar shook up a couple of tasty chilly cold ones. A bunch of us gathered to discuss a plan to consider business in 2012. The Cocktails...Pure Blue Parrot Perfection! Moments later we had to start to address work in 2012 and our role effecting a planet about to hit 8 billion people. How will that impact clients? At a now crispy compounding birth rate of one per 7 seconds against a death rate of one every 11 seconds, numbers are showing a net gain of 1 person every 14 seconds! In 1950 we had just hit about 2.5 billion people. Almost unbelievably by the 1990's we humans grew to 6 billion! Records show it took humans 150,000 years to get to the first billion by 1850. That means in my lifetime we will hit 2 billion more. And......that last billion took only 12 years!

All during 2011 client issues centered around sales, ' what consumers want ' were the most popular topics. ' You can't stay in business unless you do business.' But NOW how much and how it is done is certainly THE factor we have to help companies add as a factor. We can keep that information under our pillow, hide it fearfully in vaults, or use it with wisdom and integrity. Without exception there is NO WAY we can possibly do business the same way we did when the planet was even 5 billion in this rapidly changing population and ecology. Oscar and I see that companies have to start working at opening their to ideations to foster opportunities that help change the consumption effect by designing products around a future of 8 to 9 billion consuming people. This is not the call for drama but honest proaction! Planet numbers are evident at...

Oscar and I are adding a plan, a vision, a team to drive the next global economy in more ecologically sensible ways. We know that while we work in the medium of food and beverage, it will take a lot more than integrating a plant based but not plant only diet into the United States, even at a yearly slow growth rate of 1% of the 321 million population to make big impact. OUR PLANET PLAN will take looking at what other big businesses do too. Energy, housing, clothing, water, 'security'....BASIC needs for humans.

Oscar suggests we engage big business: Wall Street, Pharmaceutical Companies, Energy, Social Media to produce sustainable plans. One of us suggests Oscar get some organizational, interactive power point help and share his point of view. Present the ideas of The Green Planet Project on TED bringing the vision to the marketplace. We know that a new collectively positive attitude, no matter how hard it is economically for many at present, could turn the focus to from woes to more positive solutions and jobs that fit a new sustainable lifestyle. Starting on TED with insights into food would be a great way others industries can add their thoughts and get more proactive.

As a food blog we leave you recipes. This time Oscar and I give you food in a different more important way. Taste: FOOD for thought! We can give you 7 Billion reasons to get involved while you count, and that includes, one very important planet. Ours!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Farm Animals Globally are Talking: ' Ingest More Cauliflower! '

Not long ago I found myself being interviewed on a live television broadcast after winning a national chefs’ challenge. About 300 people participated in the process of elimination over a number of months. The final cook off with 12 of us was rough but worth it. When the media asked what was one of the biggest factors to help make the dish succeed? I said, ‘Vegetables, Herbs and Spices. I got to combine them in a way that rocked the dish.’

Next day the stories centered around me as winning, but as a vegetarian, vegan, flexitarian and more. Nothing wrong with any of that, but nothing to do with the win.

That morning at this studio I sat there in front of the camera. The show host suddenly asked……’So..... I heard you won this contest. Certainly you have a great reputation around the United States, but what made you so into vegetables?’ Not thinking there could be a developing plot in his line of interview I said….’Well, I like vegetables and with herbs and spice a great cook can do something with them that many cannot. I think vegetables need a much higher place in the food world.’ Well that seemed to be all it took to get him a sly smile, next asking me, unbelievably, if I thought people might think I was ‘soft, a tree hugger, light in the loafers, or against meat and poultry, fish and game?’ I was stunned….’a tree hugger, light in the loafers?’ What the hell. Did he actually just say that?

A sense of humor is paramount. But I realized that maybe I had said something or suggested something DISRUPTIVE! It might be almost as disruptive as the corporate challenge in the 'Eat More Kale' issue!

Maybe he thinks of a burly image of a chef, male or female, as slaughtering and eating meats, butchering chickens, fishing or hunting game as center of plate. Maybe vegetables shattered it! lol! Maybe my thoughts on celery, onions and carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, tomatoes, cabbage, grains, herbs, and spices were dismantling the rough and tough image of America! I had no reason to respond aggressively. His comments surprised me on live camera. I sat there looking at this guy in his snake tall cowboy boots and thought.... I think he is offended by the image of what someone who eats vegetables might suggest. Not vegetables only mind you, but just vegetables in general. After all, I am on his show and maybe he wants me to be some way as a chef he sees as acceptable. There could be a perception problem about people who like vegetables. Maybe part of that was the J. Edgar Hoover mentality that anything that challenged the status quo was done by subversives or freaks. What he probably was remembering were who he saw as hippies, animal rights activists, religious zealots and others, part of a changing culture and a good part.

Reality is, eating a balanced diet with smart food is just plain common sense that most people continue to reject. No matter who we are: omnivore, carnivore, herbivore or whatavore… taste and preparations kill good basic ingredients at home or in restaurants. It is not brain surgery to see the time has come to make vegetables and lots of other fantastic enriching foods part of mainstream menus. What you take in for your fuel makes a difference in how you look, how you feel and in your health. And it makes a difference for the planet. Research and common sense, no matter how uncommon it often seems to be, align veggies with better health for the smarter who get it.

Vegetables are truly maligned by just plain bad cooking. Americans are not exactly known for their reverence on the vegetable trail history. However, things are changing and you don't have to hug a tree to say thanks. Thank the Chinese, the Italians, Japanese and others who show some R-E-S-P-E-C-T for dishes that sing of mainstream wonderfulness. So let the throwdown begin.....

Viva la Vegetable! Viva los herbs and spice! I share with you a recent pasta dish that rocks veggies big time. Enjoy it for four as a snack or generous two of your for lunch or dinner.

Pan Roasted Cauliflower with Orecchiette

1 head cauliflower, broken into florets and cut in half lengthwise
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
3 cloves of garlic chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped fine
12 ounces cooked whole wheat orecchitte, 1 cup of pasta water reserved
¼ cup Italian parsley, chopped coarsely
1 lemon, seeded and juiced
½ cup Pecorino Romano, grated or parmesan, grated
½ teaspoon sea salt
¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

1. Head a 10 inch skillet or wok to medium and add olive oil and butter. When melted add the cauliflower, smooth sides down. Brown 4-5 minutes slowly on both sides. Add the garlic and onion. Continue to cook slowly about 3 minutes.
2. Toss in the pasta and stir. Add the pasta water, the lemon juice, parsley and seasonings. Mix.
3. Serve in deep bowls, sprinkling the grated cheese evenly on top.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Eco Minded, Body Smart

My life as a chef keeps taking me more and more to flavorful ways to eat with light ingredients. I want to not only taste combinations that are exciting, I want to cook them. If the world wants to head out for fast fake food or terrible eating, let them. Cooking is one of the best rewards you can find in the day. What is the sense of having great ingredients and a body that needs mental and physical nutrition if you don't take a minute to experience and appreciate how to make quick easy dishes.
It's definitely Winter. Fall passed a few days ago. The half hour run outdoors gets replaced by an early skate on Chicago's ice rinks just opened. Early morning stretching with floor mat pilates and an occasional swim at a club keeps my weight, skin and insides energized. No dry skin for this guy. Gotta keep that body motor purrring. This sexy hot pot recipe is part of what does it for me. Eco-minded with low cost to market for the simple fresh ingredients. Rewarding, body smart, Why? Well, if you want to'll just have to make it! The answer is in each taste and the beauty of digestible lusciousness. A little extra jalapeno never hurt your senses. Grinding the black pepper at the last moment keeps the aroma. And, as you see it has a world of healthy notes.

Winter Vegetable Hot Pot
10 ounces (firm) tofu
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup broccoli, stems and fleurettes
½ cup red bell pepper, cut into 1 inch strips
¼ cup celery, stalks and leaves, cut into 1 inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped fine
4 garlic cloves, chopped fine
½ cup of peas (frozen are fine)
2 medium tomatoes, cored, quartered
4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
¼ cup fresh cilantro
¼ cup fresh basil leaves
½ teas sea salt
½ teas fresh ground black pepper

1) Cut tofu into one inch cubes. Place the cubes on a paper towel. Top with another sheet of paper towel, then a sheet pan or baking dish on top. This weight will work to remove some of the excess water from the tofu. Set aside.

2) Cut the broccoli stems in half lengthwise so they cook evenly. Heat a non-stick skillet or wok over medium heat. Add the olive oil. While shaking the pan, gently toss in the broccoli, red pepper, celery and garlic. Stir and cook 3-4 minutes. Add the peas and tomato quarters. Cook 2 minutes. Add the stock.

3) Bring vegetable liquid to slow simmer. Add the tofu, cilantro and basil leaves. Season with
salt and pepper. Continue cooking at a slow simmer 3-4 minutes occasionally shaking the pan so the tofu picks up the aromatic flavors of the vegetables, herbs and spice.

4) Ladel vegetable mixture into soup plates . Enjoy the YUM!

Monday, December 5, 2011

May We Suggest.......

Monday, 4:30 am. and the week starts as usual, updating myself on the last of weekend news while looking at upcoming events in finance, politics, health and wellness, food, beverage and sports. Having gotten through an hour of global posts my eye turns attention to 'sports' and the Tiger Woods win at the Chevron Tournament. Bravo, bravo, bravo and happiness to him all! In an interview Woods makes a clean statement that people do not see how hard it is to win, let alone stay in shape mentally and physically winning back to back tournaments. I play the video and watch that nine iron careen over the bunker and with the right spin drop six feet from the hole. Gutsy and great, that shot and the final putt makes him the Winner. Fitness comes to mind in that shot, fitness and fit food.

I keep watching that shot. I start to remember the feeling of the countless hours to learn to keep at it when you want to be competitive. As an amateur player, I use to work at it just like most athletes, until you cramp or just can't hit even another ball. Desire to be good, no, desire to be great was the only way. I was a lot younger, I had no coach. No one told me how to cross train, what to eat, how to improve my game. But I aspired to be a sportsman, particularly in golf. Early in the goal, by a freak accident I injured my right hand and spent three and a half years in casts with operations, pins and bone graphs. With aggrivating reluctance, and over a course of five years trying to reclaim what I had lost, golf became a different sport to me. I sideline my passion, making a self contract agreement to turn my already heady knowledge of restaurants into a full time career. After a time, you just have to say, 'Don't hang on, don't look back. Forward, forward, forward.' Can't head back to play that way now, but the love for fitness, and fitness through food remains.

Chefs are not known to be the fittest of people. We might think fit and want fit and try to respond to fit but long hours, consumer demands, classical recipes, tradition, an often weak discipline more prone to reward, and the ever demanding workday set a different course. One would think that food knowledgable chefs would be Top Fit@, not just Top Chefs. But another look says, Selling Food is the business, not fitness. Fitness seems to be the controlled business of sports. I differ! This is the time to change and blend both. If we leave it that way we deny in daily life what we really need to be healthy, smart food and a little fitness. There is a whole new world of food out there in combining the two at the everyday level. It is not about foam and smoking glass and mirrors or sensational networks from media. It is not about short term trends. It is about how you can interact with YOU, you and that body you live in every day. A recent look at TED's spells it all on health message. The information is out there.

Ahead of me is a huge fit future. When you feel the difference in eating what makes the body flexible and the mind alert, you see the notion of what I see as fit food. Take a look at global cuisines and you will easily understand that when many recipes were created no one knew of what could be the impact of diet and disease or think the world would move to longevity issues let alone have a computer to assist with modern insights. Centuries of work can now be applied to food and I am not talking about GMO's but cell driven nutrition.

Not long ago I introduced Oscar, my way of representing a new world of eco minded, body smart foods. With his help, and a clean slate on Fit Food from Foley, a whole new look at how to eat and cook with applications of Vegetable Alchemy are defining a fresh road to what is truly 'Healthy' and why. Keep joining in and take a peak. Oscar's Kitchen is not far away. May We Suggest.......