Archive for July, 2011

How to beat the Heat and still Eat well.

July 10, 2011

Summer in Los Angeles provides us with lots of sunshine and cool nights but the daytime temps can make cooking a challenge. How do you cook w/o heating up the house? Grilling is a great option since you can prep inside and cook outside. Cold dishes are a nice idea too. Luckily fruit is at its sweetest during the hot summer days and I use lots of fruit in my menu. Not only is it delicious, it can help keep you hydrated.

My son and I love Agua de Sandia, (Watermelon juice).

Watermelon Juice

Hardware- Blender, knife, cutting board, wooden spoon, paper towels, pitcher

Software- whole watermelon

  • Wash the outside of the watermelon with soapy water.
  • Place a damp kitchen towel under a cutting board to prevent it from slipping and also so soak up the juice so it doesn’t spread all over the counter.
  • You can also place a paper towel on top of the cutting board to keep the melon from slipping around while you try to cut it in half.
  • Remember to never have your hand or fingers in front of the knife blade. Your knife could easily slip on the watermelon’s smooth rind.
  • Carefully, using a smooth bladed knife cut the melon in half. Put one of the halves aside.
  • Remove the paper towel.
  • lay the melon on the cut side so it doesn’t wobble around.
  • Cut it in half again and continue to cut parallel lines. then lay the semi circles on their sides and cut off the rinds. Throw these in your compost pile. (yes, I do compost)
  • Cut the watermelon flesh into chunks and put them in your blender.
  • Put the lid on and blend away.
  • If your blade gets stuck, simply stop the motor and move the watermelon pieces around with your wooden spoon.
  • Put the lid back on tight and blend again.
  • Transfer your frothy drink to a pitcher.
  • Pour it in a tall glass over ice cubes and enjoy. It is best if enjoyed immediately. If you put it in a pitcher for later, the juice will separate like oil and vinegar. (watermelon pulp floats) So just get out a wooden spoon and give it a good stir.

Guilt Free Ice Cream

Ice cream happens to be a huge weakness of mine. While trying to make a quick smoothie, I accidentally created this pleasant surprise. I hope you like it as much as I do. It has sweetness, creaminess, and the chill of ice cream w/0 the fat. You get protein and creaminess from the yogurt and antioxidants and vitamin C from the berries and potassium from the banana.

Bananas are a great fruit to have on hand. When I notice that they are getting very spotty and over ripe, I peel them and stick 2 in a sandwich ziplock bag and freeze them. Label it 2 bananas before you stick it in the freezer. Then you can use it for smoothies, guilt free ice cream, or to make banana bread (just let them defrost first for banana bread).

Hardware- mini blender (I use something like the Magic Bullet), spoon, bowl or ice cream cone

Software- 4 frozen strawberries and or blueberries, 1/2 a frozen banana, nonfat plain greek yogurt (I like fago brand), squeeze of honey


  • Put the berries, banana, and 2 tablespoons of yogurt in the blender. Add the squeeze of honey.
  • Make sure the lid is on tight
  • Blend till smooth.
  • Scoop it out into a cup or cone and enjoy

Gazpaccio, Chilled Tomato Soup

I love to eat a chilled Gaspachio soup on a hot day. With the tasty vine ripened tomatoes available during summer from farmers markets or your own backyard, it is delicious. You can even make it super fancy by adding a crouton and a grilled shrimp on top or hanging on the rim. Your guest will think you are gourmet. You don’t even need to tell them how simple it was to whip up.


  • Fill your blender 2/3 of the way with fresh tomatoes, you can use red, yellow, orange,  heirloom or a combo of them.
  • Add in 1/4 of a small red onion cut into large pieces.
  • Add 1/2 a hot house English cucumber/6 persian cucumbers, wash, ends cut off, and leaving the skin on
  • 1/8-1/4 Cup of your favorite red wine vinegarette.
  • Splash red wine vinegar, only if you like it more acidic so add it after the first blend and taste.
  • Sprinkle of Garlic Salt
  • 1/8 Cup of Wheat Germ (instead of white bread)

Hit Blend on your blender and then pour it into pretty glass bowls. Serve it as is or add the pazzazz point of toast triangles the grilled shrimp. Another idea is to pour it into small glasses to use for a tasting party.

Salads are light and refreshing on hot days but I often find that a mixed green lettuce salad doesn’t get eaten at a summer BBQ. Here are a few alternative ideas for you to try at your next BBQ or Picnic.

Artichoke, Green Beans, and Edaname in Tomatoes.

Software- 2 fresh artichokes, fresh green beans, Frozen Edaname beans, 2 cans of S & W Italian style sliced stewed tomatoes, 2 fresh lemon, big bowl of water,

Hardware- large pot with lid, wooden spoon, chef knife, paring knife, cutting board, kitchen scissors, large serving bowl, rubber shelf liner, can opener, serving bowl

If you have never worked with a fresh artichoke, it can be a bit intimidating. Don’t worry, It really isn’t that bad. Let’s talk about how to pick a good one. Artichoke is a member of the thistle family. The part we are buying at the market is the head. You want to look for a pretty green all over coloring. The leaves can have a sharp little thorn at the tip so be careful. Look for heads that have a tight closed up grouping of leaves. Give the head a squeeze around the “equator” of the head. It should feel tight. Not loose with air in it.

The key to prepping artichokes is to have a stable cutting surface and acidulated water. Artichokes will turn brown as soon as you cut them. To stop this we trick them by having 2 lemons cut and squeezed into a big bowl of water. The acid in the water slows down the oxidation process. This is a great science point.

To stabilize the cutting board put a piece of rubber shelf liner or a wet paper towel under it. Hold the rinsed off artichoke with a bridge hold. Cut off the top 1/3 of the head. This leaves you with the stem and the lower 2/3. Use your kitchen scissors and cut off the tips of each leaf. That gets rid of the thorn at the tips. Cut off the stem. If there are stray little leaves, cut them off. I cook the stem in the pot too and just eat the center part of it. Depending on the diameter of your stem, the outer parts might be too tough. Cut the head of the artichoke lengthwise, then each half again lengthwise so you have quarters. Then put them in the acidulated water. Using a parring knife cut out the thistle part of the artichoke. It is the fuzzy part that is above the delicious heart and under the leaves. Once cleaned of all the fuzz, place the artichoke quarter back into the acidulated water. Set aside for later. Wash and trim the green beans. Set aside.

In a large pot, pour in the Italian style stewed tomatoes,  push the artichokes down into the tomatoes. Cover and let it simmer on medium heat. I have a burner on my outdoor grill so I use it so as not to heat up the kitchen since I’m grilling anyway. After 5 mins add the green beans on top of the artichokes, cover and keep cooking til a chopstick or butter knife goes through the artichoke heart easily. Add the frozen edaname beans and stir. Cover and cook for 1 more min. Pour out into a deep serving bowl. Serve it with small side dishes for the discarded leaves. Artichokes are a great food to enjoy at a leisurely pace while chatting with others so they are great for parties. Cheers.

Wakame with Cucumbers in Rice Wine Vinegarette

This easy salad is the sweet and sour cucumber salad that they bring you in Japanese Sushi restaurants. Aka sunimono salad. The wakame is the seaweed part. Lemon juice is an unusual but nice addition to this dressing. It adds a fresh brightness to the salad. If you don’t have access to seaweed, you can substitute shredded carrots. This salad can me made ahead but not a day ahead since the cucumbers will loose their crunch and the dressing will get watery. I like to serve this with California rolls (recipe under Halloween meal), Salmon, Miso Soup (recipe is under cooking with an 11 yr old)

Software- 4 Cups of freshly thinly sliced English Hot House cucumbers, 1 C of rinsed off salt packed seaweed (wakame), 1/8 C fresh squeezed lemon juice, 3/8 C sugar, 1 tsp crushed toasted sesame seeds, 1 pinch of Salt, 1/2 C of Rice wine Vinegar

Hardware- Cutting board, knife, big mixing bowl, medium mixing bowl, measuring cups, mixing spoon, colander, Optional- Japanese mandolin (be very careful w/this. It is sharp)


  • The seaweed comes packed in lots of salt. You will need to soak it in warm water for 20 min. in the medium mixing bowl while you are slicing the cucumbers.
  • Wash the cucumbers, split them in half lengthwise, slice them as thin as you can into semi-circle slices, set them aside in the large mixing bowl.
  • Add all the other ingredients, except the seaweed, to the cucumbers.
  • Swish the seaweed around in the water to wash away the salt. Change the water and swish again. Remove the seaweed and place it in the colander to drain.
  • After the water has drained, place the seaweed on the cutting board and give it a couple chops of your knife. It doesn’t have to be a fine chop. Just enough to cut any large pieces.
  • Add it to the cucumber mixture and mix.

Keep it refrigerated til ready to serve. Cheers.

Fruit Smoothie Recipe

By Sonia Chung at Hastings Ranch


¼ cup frozen, unsweetened blueberries

1/2 cup frozen, unsweetened raspberries, strawberries, pineapple or fruit of your choice (I use strawberries)

½ banana/frozen banana is best

¾ cup plain yogurt

1 cup fresh spinach

1 tsp agave or honey, or to taste

1 TB of Wheat germ

1 TB of frozen Acai berry puree

Blend together and enjoy!

This recipe freezes well. So you can pour it into an ice cube tray and freeze them for lunch box use. In the morning put a few frozen cubes into a thermos and by lunchtime they will be ready to drink. I use a wide mouth thermos so it is easier to clean.

Dessert on the Grill 

Grilled Pineapple with vanilla ice cream toasted nuts, and chocolate sauce.

I love grilled pineapples. sure cutting a pineapple can seem daunting. but there is an easier way to do it.