The Seasonal Chef


According to statistics, most people gain and lose the same 10 to 20 pounds every year. Why? Because we want instant results from a “diet.” Nutritionists, experts, and even Dr. Phil agree that we need to change our lifestyle in order to live a healthy long life.

This kind of change involves implementing good habits: eating whole grain, natural and organic—preferably local or home-grown—vegetables and fruits; modifying the amount of food consumed; and getting 30 to 60 minutes of moderate to difficult exercise at least six days a week.

Here are two easy healthy habits to start with: drinking at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water every day, either before meals or whenever you feel hungry, and then waiting 10 minutes before eating.

Be sure to enjoy your meal sitting with your family or friends for at least 20 minutes. No more eating on the road or while working at your computer (full disclosure: I am guilty of this!)

And, most important, start the day with breakfast. Make your own “homemade fast food” by whipping up a double protein boosted smoothie while you wash the dinner dishes the night before and store it in the refrigerator to save time on a busy morning.

I like to cook four servings of whole grain cereals (cracked wheat, steel cut oatmeal or brown rice congee) to reheat in the microwave for breakfast and finally, hard-boil seven organic eggs, peel and wrap each one in plastic wrap and store them in the refrigerator.

In Singapore, most people sit down at communal tables for breakfast from one of the hawker market stalls. The two most common morning dishes are rice porridge “congee” that’s made with white rice or a bowl of noodles with lots of broth. Both are totally delicious and comforting.

Singapore natives garnish congee with hot chili oil and a dry salted fish and peanuts mixture scattered on top. Here I’ve modified the recipe to suit American palates.

Weekend guests often pose a dilemma of what to serve; this vegetable omelet with toasted bagels is perfect for brunch.

If cholesterol is a concern, stuff hard cooked egg whites with store-bought salsa, or serve a grilled red pepper and eggplant salad: it’s a great breakfast! Bon appétit!

Brown Rice Congee

(4 servings)1/2 cup long grain brown rice, rinsed and drained6 cups cold water1 teaspoon sea saltOrganic soy milk or rice milk as needed6 to 8 dry roasted salted almonds or peanutsChinese option: drizzle a few drops of chili oil on top with no soy or rice milkTo prepare:

Add the rinsed rice, water, and salt to a large four-quart saucepan over high heat.

Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, partially covered and stirring occasionally, until the rice has the consistency of porridge, about 90 minutes.

Ladle the porridge into heated bowls, drizzle soy or rice milk over the congee and scatter nuts on top. Store remainder in the refrigerator and reheat to serve.

Weekend Vegetable Omelette

(Serves 4)1 tablespoon unsalted butter or olive oil1 bunch scallions, chopped1 large red or orange bell pepper, diced4 to 6 mushrooms, slicedFew pinches of dried herbs, to tasteSea salt to taste8 cherry tomatoes, halved1 tablespoon unsalted butter6 organic eggs2 egg whites1 to 2 tablespoons cold waterFreshly ground black pepper to tasteOptional: 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack with jalapeno cheese

To prepare:

Coat with olive oil the bottom of a large, heavy skillet over medium high heat.

Add the scallions and sauté until aromatic, about 2 minutes.

Stir in bell pepper and mushrooms and sauté with herbs and salt until tender and aromatic.

Remove from the heat, add tomatoes and set aside. Set skillet back on the stove top.

Meanwhile whisk together the eggs, egg whites, water, and pepper until blended. Add butter to the skillet over medium high heat and, when the foam subsides, add the eggs all at once.

Let eggs cook until set on the bottom of skillet, shaking the pan a bit to distribute the eggs. After about 2 to 3 minutes, spoon the vegetables on half of the eggs.

Gently shake the skillet to loosen a bit, then use a spatula and fold the rest of the eggs over the vegetables, forming a half moon shape.

Flip the whole affair over and cook until the eggs are set, or according to personal preferences, about 2 more minutes. Slip the eggs onto a platter, cut into four wedges and garnish with a few cherry tomatoes on each plate. Serve at once.

Vegetable Stuffed

Hard Cooked Eggs

(Serves 6)For the stuffing:1 large red bell pepper1 large eggplant3 tablespoons olive oil1 whole red onion, chopped2 cloves garlic chopped3 tablespoons lemon juice1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakesSea salt to taste6 organic eggsAbout 1 tablespoon sea saltChopped fresh parsleyWhole-wheat toastTo prepare:

Over an open flame, char the eggplant and red pepper. Place them in a brown paper bag for about 5 to 10 minutes, then peel off their skins, remove the seeds and chop into small cubes.

Coat with olive oil the bottom of a skillet over medium high heat.

Sauté onion and garlic until they are soft and translucent. Stir in eggplant and red pepper.

Add lemon juice, parsley, and red pepper flakes. Add salt to taste. Can be done ahead and refrigerated up to three weeks.

To cook the eggs, place eggs and salt in a large pan of cold water. Cover the pan and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat to barely simmering and cook 11 minutes. Remove from the heat, plunge the eggs into cold water, cracking the shells on the side of the pan.

Let eggs stand in cold water until cool enough to handle. Remove the shells and rinse well. Wrap each egg in plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to serve.

To serve, cut the egg in half, scoop out the yolks and discard or reserve for another use. Fill both egg halves with vegetable salad, top with chopped fresh parsley, and serve with whole wheat toast.

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