Food Alchemy

Skinny Sexy Snacks- Homemade Hummus

Skinny Sexy Snacks- homemade Hummus

One of the benefits of having a husband who's taking the year long Integrative Nutrition Certification course is that suddenly I have the best prep cook in the kitchen ALL of the time! He's always wanting to try new recipes and although at first it felt a little bit like having my space invaded , now I absolutely love it! I did say that he's the best prep cook I know right? (And, he's rearranged my kitchen as only an engineer can!

Jim's a "snacker"  and always hungry so I'm really enjoying teaching him how to make the foods that he's normally buy for himself. He loves hummus so I woke up yesterday and decided to teach him how to make it.  Off I went to Whole Foods to get some canned garbanzo beans.  You should know that my husband and Alton Brown are twin brothers from a different mother. He took one look at the canned garbanzo beans and pretty much made my life hell until this morning I went back to the store for a bag of dried garbanzo beans! The things we do for love!

Preparing the chick peas isn't nearly as tough as you'd think because I learned a wonderful secret to share with you! Two cups of dried garbanzos to 6 cups of water and one teaspoon of salt in the slow cooker on low for 6 hours and that's it! I came home to find perfectly cooked nutty flavored and not soggy textured garbanzo beans ready for the cuisinart. Before I started to add the ingredients though I did a taste test. There is now question that the extra step of cooking the dried garbanzos versus using the canned ones produces a superior product. I'll never use the canned ones again unless I'm really in a pinch! The flavor is completely different!

What you see before you are two different types, Hummus being essentially the easiest  and one of the healthiest snacks on the planet to make! All you need for the base is 2 cups of garbanzo beans, 3/4's of a cup of sesame tahini and lots of extra virgin olive oil.  Place the beans, tahini and some olive oil in the bowl of a cuisinart and pulse for a few seconds. Then  you'll begin to add the flavorings. Tonight we made caramelized onion with turkish seasoning, fresh lemon juice, fresh parsley and truffled olive oil AND sundried tomato with sweet olives (these have mustard seeds and chopped dried fruits), lemon juice, garlic, mint and pistachios. Add the flavoring ingredients and then add more olive oil in a stream as the cuisinart pulses. When it's ready to eat is a matter of taste. I love my hummus to have a smooth texture and that requires a bit more olive oil. Next week I'm going to use fresh ramps and dillweed!

Serve with fresh pita bread or if you're gluten free like me, fresh vegetables and corn chips!


Skinny Sexy Slow Food: A jug of wine , a loaf of bread and WOW!


Photograph source unknown


I'm of the opinion that everyone should try to bake their own bread once! If you've never smelled the wondrous aroma of fresh yeasty rising dough, you're really missing out on slow food at it's best. The fact that 4 simple ingredients can turn into something so wonderful is why I consider bread making one of the highest forms of food alchemy and I encourage you to try this recipe, I really do. Forgive the shameless plug for Le Creuset because it's his job! I have to say though that Le Creuset really is the best of the cast iron cookware, and baking bread  this way is alot more romantic than using a bread maker. The bread is fabulous and all it needs is some fresh sweet butter , a bit of sea salt and a glass of wine.

 I've used Le Creuset for decades and I have pieces that my mother used way before me...they still look absolutely brand new. I encourage you to try a piece or two if you never have but be careful, it's a totally addictive collectible although one that you can never have too much of!  It's pricey for sure but I've found great used pieces (sometimes in the discontinued colors!) on ebay so have a look there too!



Skinny Sexy Books: The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions!


Every now and then a book comes along that I wish I'd written! This guide to fabulous food substitutions for vegans or those who want to try to be vegan is one of them! Written by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman, this is one of the most helpful guides to creating great vegan food that I've ever read. If you slave endlessly, wondering how to create "Cheese" or "Cheese Flavor" this will help you. There are even substitutions for you if you can't tolerate gluten or sugar! Perfect substitutions for dairy, eggs, beef, fish and anything else you might be craving! I wish that this had been written while my mother was still alive and cooking for us. It might have even prompted her to try a vegan diet...that's how good these recipes and substitutions are.  I found my copy at Whole Foods but you can find it easily on Amazon! Bon Appetit!


Every now and then you've just got to have an Extraordinary Dessert!


Every now and then you've got to have a real treat (after all what's the sense of dieting if you can't!)…Last weekend in San Diego was such an event and found my husband, sister and darling brother in law enjoying a wonderful dinner in San Diego's abundantly blossoming Little Italy. After much deliberation we landed in a wonderful new Italian restaurant named Devanti Enoteca, where we were assaulted by the decadent aroma of truffles as soon as we walked through the door. The meal that followed was fabulous, perfect plates of luscious antipasti, fresh asparagus and egg, a chicken liver terrine to die for, roasted beets and fresh caponata, a truffled leek and mushroom pizza that was delightful and a truffled pasta that was every bit as exceptional as the one that we'd enjoyed at Nello only months before (san's the 250.00 dollars ostentatious price tag!) All was farm fresh, all was organic and trust me , it was all delicious !
After enjoying some pretty wonderful wine and food and the always good company of my hilarious foodie family we were just about to drive home when my brother in law Peter decided that it might be time for a wee bit of dessert and for that impulse there was absolutely no other choice but to walk to the absolutely astonishing Extraordinary Desserts, the restaurant owned by the talented Karen Krasne who I'm convinced is the incarnation of my long departed grandmother on my mothers side, a woman who I am told could drive men to pledge undying devotion after just one bite of her Oeufs a la Neige , a treat more commonly known as Floating Island Pudding. If you're sadly not familiar with Floating Island Pudding , it's a very old fashioned dessert, a soft and silky vanilla custard topped with clouds of perfect meringue. I'd only been to Extraordinary Desserts once before but remembered all too fondly a delicious Pavlova that I'd encountered there covered with fresh berries and just a bit of perfect chocolate layered between the meringue and drizzled with caramel laced with fresh passion fruit and guava sauce. Jim had never been , but my husband has blood plasma made of spun sugar so I knew he'd be game.

We walked the 12 long blocks to get there and were greeted by a crowd of laughing people who'd obviously had the same idea. We walked in and I though that Jim was going to pass out. I knew that I was. Extraordianry Desserts is always a beautiful restaurant, but this evening it was dressed for spring , Easter in particular. Trust me when I say that you've probably never seen desserts this gorgeous. Karen Krasne's recipes are indulgent, gorgeous and delicious; perusal through the cookbook of hers that I bought that evening shows mostly no less than 5 fairly complex parts that go into creating each of her amazing confections. But I think that you talented bakers out there might love the challenge so I've included here the link to the restaurant where you can buy the book.
We circled the display cases for a few minutes and settled on several pieces that we purchased , took home and ate with absolute abandon. Truthfully, if you ever wanted to see the literal definition of joy, you'd have to look no further than my brother- in- laws face when he is eating something like this.Watching him eat a bite of each of these was hilarious and incredibly satisfying! A textbook vegetarian and  TM Practitioner , Peters life is usually filled with my sisters absolutely delicious yet completely healthy cooking , however when the woman makes desserts watch out, because her's are absolutely as good as these, so much so that I bought her the cookbook in the hopes that she would make me the Yule Log next year at Christmas time. Truthfully, she's the only person I know of with the patience to do so! These desserts tasted every bit as good as they looked, a real rarity when it comes to the world of fancy desserts. I truly enjoyed my few bites and the next day I jumped happily back into my SSF lifestyle, knowing that I'd had a REAL splurge and feeling quite good about myself ! 

No words that I write could ever do these justice so without further adieu please let me present to you this years showcase of incredible springtime desserts. No more elegant parade of confectionary bonnets will be found anywhere! If you decide to buy the cookbook and get inspired please let me know. I can easily be on the next plane for a tasting!

Happy Easter/Passover to all of you who celebrate it and for those of you that don't Happy Spring! It's sprung here with abandon on the North Coast , so much so that I'm going out today to lay out my gardens. My asparagus bed is providing me me all of the fresh asparagus that I could ever want to eat, so todays meal is simple, hard boiled eggs and pickled beets, fresh asparagus, some steamed baby potatoes dressed with parmesan and truffle oil and a sweet pea soup laced with mint. Dessert? Of course but it will be my favorite….spiced jelly beans , marshmallow peeps and one dark chocolate Cadbury egg!

So share with me some of your favorite Easter or springtime foods and please wherever you are and whatever you celebrate, have a blessed day!
This was originally posted on my favorite perfume blog: Perfume Smellin Things!
All Images and words belong to Beth Schreibman Gehring and are copywritten and protected. 


Food Alchemy: Skinny Sexy Mexican!



Craving Mexican!
Butternut Squash, Peppers, Onions and Chili scented Seitan


I miss the Mexico City of my youth...I was fortunate to be able to spend a good bit of time there. It's a beautiful and majestic city , proud and full of vibrance, art and history and the most fabulous food. I pray for the time when I can go back safely.....I love Mexican food so much and lately I've been craving it. It's so completely delicious but it's definitely not in the Weight Watchers low fat zone so last night I gave in to the desires and decided to make it myself!

It was very simple actually.. I just removed most of the fat! I grilled Ezekiel Sprouted corn tortillas and topped them with some rice "cheese" , greek yogurt (vegan it up by using tofutti sour cream!), salsa and guacamole and served them with a blend of wok sautéed peppers ,onions , butternut squash and seitan which I flavored with Penzeys chili powder , maple syrup and salsa. With tonight's leftovers I'll add some sweet corn for a bit of texture! Come summer when the peaches are ripe I'll be using those in place of the squash!  
This is a very complete meal, so all that it needs is a wonderful beverage! How about a lovely hard cider or gluten free beer to go with it? That new Tweason'Ale by Dogfish Head Brewery sounds delightful!  



Craving Mexican!
Sprouted Grain Tortilla stuffed with Guacamole, Salsa, Rice Cheese and Greek Yogurt

                                           How about a bit of Carlos......   


Parmesan "Grits" with Sweet Peas and Pecans


I love grits but I don't always have the patience to make them, nor do I want the calories! All that cheese, cream and butter is delicious but it's a artery clogging nightmare. Now when I'm down South there's no way that I'm avoiding the real thing, but here in Ohio there's not (at least to my knowledge!) a grit worth eating between the state lines. 

So, tonight I wasn't really in the mood to cook anything, but I was hungry and of course my darling husband wanted dinner. I thought how about some oatmeal or cream of rice....that's simple enough. So I grabbed the cream of rice box and of course my imagination took over. What resulted was really delicious and I would make it again. It was cheesy, creamy and absolutely satisfying.

This is pretty darn simple and this recipe is for two servings. Take a half a cup of cream of rice cereal and 1 and a half cups of unflavored coconut milk and put in a pan. Bring to a simmer, stirring consistently. Add a cup of frozen peas, a pinch of salt and pepper, a tablespoon and a half of Earth Balance "butter" and a healthy handful of shredded parmesan cheese and keep stirring. Add at least a tablespoon of my favorite season which is Penzeys delightful "Sunny Paris!"  a delightful and "handmixed blend of shallots, chives, green peppercorns, dill weed, basil, tarragon, chervil and bay leaf". When it's thickened, pour into 2 bowls, top with a bit more cheese and some untoasted pecans.If I was eating meat I'd probably chiffonade a bit of prosciutto and stir it in.  

That's it. Simple, delicious and way skinnier than the real thing. If I was going to have a glass of wine with it I'd undoubtably choose a Viognier which would be perfect with the peas!


Fashion and Food Alchemy!

The first and best news is that since we were last together is that I’ve lost four pounds and Jim’s lost 6 ! We’re so excited and are still really enjoying the diet ! Next stop? Ralph Lauren Blue Label ! Well, maybe not quite the next stop but I’m about 20 pounds away and I’ve promised myself that I’m not accepting any substitutes!


Wandering around the  5th floor of Bergdorf’s last week I realized just how long it’s been since I really had fun shopping for clothes! My style has changed and it’s not that I mind the way I look, in fact I don’t think that I do too badly for a 52 year whose clothing staples used to be mini skirts and really tight Tshirts! However I want the opportunity to turn down clothes because I just don’t like them, not because I’m afraid to even try them on. I’ve hidden behind expensive perfume and Chanel lipstick  for a very long time and obviously this hasn’t been a poor trade! However eating this well is helping me to see that maybe there’s still a bit of life in me yet and I still want to play dress up, the way I used to when I was just a girl!


Like I wrote in my last note, I’m not using any particular cleanse. For years I’ve tried everything, but not with any lasting results. I’ve decided to create my own, using a combination of the French techniques that I love , Asian foodie wisdom and a bit of alchemy and last week I bought what I now consider to be the 2nd most important piece of equipment that I own, my Le Creuset Wok ! Talk about a brilliant blending of cultures…and only Le Creuset could do it! It heats perfectly, nothing sticks (and it’s not Teflon!) and it’s not just for stir frying anymore.  I’m using it for quick braising, stir frying and stewing and all of these things I can do using a fraction of the fat. Mostly I’m just using a good nonstick olive oil spray that I buy at Whole Foods. What’s happened is that the flavor just explodes and as someone that’s passionately driven  by her sense of taste and smell this is the most important thing! If it doesn’t taste or smell good, I’m definitely not going to eat it and will immediately reach for the fatty andfilling substitute; 3 cheese, prosciutto and pesto pizza anyone?


Herbs and spices play a huge role here, and this particular way of cooking serves them well. I use herbs and spices not just for flavor, but for their properties, one little known part of my life is that I trained for over 10 years with one of the most amazing herbalists I’ve ever known, your classic “good witch in the woods” , LaWanna Rine.  


She taught me that food IS medicine, long before most 20th century physicians ever thought about it that way.  Everything brewing in her kitchen had a purpose and she wildcrafted most of it as do I to this day; the  exception being  when  the snow is flying. In the winter, that’s what Penzeys herbs and spices are for and if you’ve never tried them, they’re  absolutely wonderful. Their spice and herb blends can make a decent cook out of anyone who thinks that they can’t cook.  I do use supplements but my tastes prefer them as close to the origins as possible when I can get them that way. Real food is live food and that’s what I believe that you need to create real wellness.


 These days I’m drinking a simple tea in the evenings evening that I make from fresh ginger root, cinnamon, valerian and honey which settles my stomach, relaxes me and balances my blood sugar so that I’m not ravenous come morning, which means that I’m getting a much better nights sleep. It also smells and tastes incredible which is all part of the process. Fairly soon I’ll begin drinking my favorite morning cleansing drink which is pineapple juice, fresh chard, lemon juice, a 1/4teaspoonful of good olive oil, Chinese five spice powder, honey and cinnamon, which a healthy dash of homemade bitters and believe it or not a teaspoonful of French green clay! I take all of it and throw it into my Vitamix with a handful of ice and blend quickly.  It’s delicious and the French clay is one of the best detoxifiers that I use, having literally brought animals (and friends) back from brink of death and real illness with the stuff. There’s nothing better in an emergency situation where an animals been poisoned, the stuff draws out impurities like no other. I tend to avoid commercial smoothie and mixed drink powders, because every time I try them I hate the taste, but occasionally I will add some nutritional yeast and lecithin.  


Come March I’ll be talking about wild ramps ;  a delightful forest garlic  which is one of the best blood purifiers that I know and I love to stew with chicken for a really healthy broth. This year I can’t wait to put them to the test in my new wok. The flavors and aromas that I get with wok cooking surpass my expectations and bring a new depth to my experience of cooking. For me cooking is alchemical, much like some of the natural perfumers that we love. A bit of sage, a pinch of fresh rosemary and a few lavender buds stewed with a bit of white potato and leek turn a simple chicken breast into a fragrant and soothing dish that settles my stomach easily.


That same chicken breast, piece of tofu or fish when it’s quickly stir fried with a bit of bok choy, sweet potato, onion, garlic , chopped peanuts , cayenne, cinnamon, ginger and allspice turns into a very warming dish that doesn’t need anything extra in the way of carbs and is completely satisfying on a really cold evening without any of the bloating side effects. For anyone allergic to peanuts I’ve discovered spicy tamari pumpkin seeds; these are so satisfying for anyone with a ground nut allergy. 


The final piece of the puzzle is presentation. Make sure you sit down to eat, put everything on a pretty plate, use a cloth napkin (better for the environment) and treat yourself well because you deserve it! Put on a yummy perfume! ( Today's scent is Opium!)  Turn on some music.  Chew and breathe. Relax and make everyday into a day for candles and wine (or a steaming cup of herbal tea!)! This is about having a real relationship with your food and allowing it to love you back. If you’re joining me on this journey, leave me a comment and let me know how you’re doing! It’s great to have playmates and I’m thankful for you all!


Eat Well, Be Well, Live and Love well!




Skinny Sexy Chocolate: "Spicy Maya" Cocoa and other things to do with raw Cocoa beans!


I love hot cocoa in the cold winter months but sadly, it does not love me. Too much milk, too much sugar, it's a recipe that can set my IBS ablazing and add more than a pound or two to my hips.  I've been without it for awhile which is pretty sad given the depths of my passionate relationship with chocolate. But, no longer...I've finally figured out a way to have my chocolate and my health too! Many years ago, my sister discovered Chuao Chocolatier in Encinitas , an exquisite little chocolate factory that makes the loveliest fresh candies. Perfect dark chocolate shells surrounding delectable fillings of banana and burnt caramel , goat cheese and lavender honey and a toffee that could break your heart. Chuao also makes wonderful hot chocolate mixes, but  they are filled with powdered milk and sugar. My favorite is their Spicy Maya, a nectar of dark chocolate, cayenne, cinnamon and loads of sugar. I really love it, for it IS the perfect winter sip. 

Last week, I went to my local Whole Foods in search of Goldenberries (yes I admit it..I love Dr. Oz and he'd recommended them!) and found that they were completely out of them! Instead I looked down one shelf and saw an intriguing bag labeled Navitas Natural Raw Cocoa Beans. They were touted as a superfood which I don't doubt for a second but I must admit that raw they tasted pretty awful. At 10.00 for the bag I was determined to not let them go to waste, so I began to play!

I discovered immediately that I could make a wonderful mole sauce that was delicious baked on chicken and pork by simply putting about a cup of them into my vitamix with cinnamon , cayenne ,1/4 cup of agave nectar, the same of tequila,onion, garlic, lime juice, salt and a can of tomato paste. Blend until smooth and use as you would any rub or marinade. Add a can of garbanzo beans and a cup of frozen diced butternut squash of you have a wonderful dip to serve with guacomole and chips!

1 cup of the raw beans blended with a couple of bananas , some solid coconut oil, about 1 cup of coconut milk , vanilla extract  and agave makes a raw chocolate pudding that is delicious and really good for you. 

But....Here's the grand prize! Take one cup of the beans and put them into your vitamix with a several cups of almond milk, cinnamon, cayenne and chipotle chili to taste, a bit of Penzeys vanilla extract , agave to taste, 1/4 cup of raisins and 1/4 cup of slivered almonds. Blend it all on the high setting until hot and smooth. Pour into your favorite mug and enjoy.This was true food alchemy and I was ecstatic with the own version of "Spicy Maya" made twice as healthy and so fresh! I now love cocoa beans and have discovered that aside from the obvious antioxidents they possess, that they also have a quality that simply makes you happy, not jittery! I hope that you'll try this recipe, for it's real hot chocolate made close to the way the ancients drank it and it has a strengthening and nourishing quality that I really enjoy. They're a wonderful Aphrodisiac as well...but that's a whole other story........

 Here's a little bit of Chocolat to warm up your day !