Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Take on Indian- Stuffed Okra

Things are moving along, I have been interviewing with families in my area, because my other mommy's helper job will begin to tapper off, I'll still help her and my Indian family client from time to time, but I want a few more hours a week to keep me busy. It's important for the weight loss maintenance, for my bariatric surgery. See an interview I just did on a local VA television station,

But moving on. I've begun playing with food again, healthier options. I cooked for some friends who so graciously let me stay when I'm on book tours with my publishing company. And we share a love for Indian cuisine, but she doesn't have access to the seasonings in her area, a rural farm, so I bring them to her.

Stuffed Okra with squash and onions
Haddock and shrimp with mangos
Boiled potatoes (in veggie stock) and heirloom tomatoes

Okra stuffed with a finely minced ingredients of onion, fresh tomatoes (remove skin and seeds), avocado oil, and a box Indian spice called Tava Fry, something I use for making Bhindi, a chopped Indian Okra dish, sometimes pan sauteed dry with added onion and tomato bits. But this time I wanted to go elaborate. I sliced a portion of the okra, cleaned out half of the seed (slimy part), saved the pieces to cook with bigger sections, and stuffed them by hand, messy but worth it! Your level of spice will depend on how much of the Tava Fry you use. Granite you don't need that box stuff you find in Indian grocers, you can simply use mustard seeds, corriander seeds, or powders, with paprika or chili powder. Make a paste and stuff them, I encourage you to play with the flavors!

Saute in a pan with a bit more avocado oil, or oil of choice, remove onto a plate (drain oil if desired with paper towel), and then saute squash in pan; eventually adding okra back in and adding a bit of stock to steam after you place a lid onto the pan. I used a cast iron skillet.

Fresh Wild Caught Haddock and shrimp:

Season one side of fish and shrimp (after cleaning and drying on plate in fridge for a few hours, maybe afternoon, then seasoning; it helps the fish and shrimp, scallops work well, absorb the seasoning). Lightly add avocado oil and pan saute, once you flip them, add mango, turn off heat, because moisture will collect and continue cooking. Don't over cook this fish or shrimp, fish falls apart, shrimp becomes tough, there is a balance, and if you feel more secure cooking them separately do so. Cilantro for garnish.

Seasoning used was called 'Kitchen King,' Same as Tava Fry, a box seasoning I bring Brenda. No brainer way of making curry flavors.

I won't go into the potatoes too much, just boil till soft, add chopped (seeded and no skin) tomatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic. Something my daughter-in-law makes, and I love a bite or two. It calms the heat from the spices.

All I heard through dinner were these noises, "Ummm, ahhh, wow." I guess it equals to a burp in Asia, which in some of the countries is a compliment! Ha!

Till next time, cook up a storm. Go healthy, organic, local, and homegrown if you can. Practice portion control as I do, if you feel your eating has gotten out of control. I no longer have diabetes or high blood pressure. But follow your doctors orders, I do. I also work with a nutritionist and counselor.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mahi-Mahi Update

If you like quick, easy, crockpot style cooking, then this is for you. In the previous post I list the ingredients. It's a moist meal. Not so pretty on the plate, since it's kind of hard to remove it from the pot in perfect positioning.'s tasty!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mahi-Mahi, Jamin' With Trader Joe's I

Over the past five decades, popular niche grocer Trader Joe's has grown into a $2.6-billion chain boasting 234 stores in 19 states. How it got there—from a small chain of California convenience stores bought by Joe Coulombe in 1958—has the makings of corporate legend. Lewis, former editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, has an authoritative voice, but he simply cannot overcome an unfortunate dearth of raw material. Apparently, executives at Trader Joe's, 80% of whose goods are sold under the chain's private label, have never seen any point in providing an inside look at the company; Lewis is forced to stretch, and too often, repeat the little information that is publicly available. The result features a lot of filler: a plethora of secondhand opinions from industry experts, generic how-to advice and a chapter on the chain's corporate owner, German grocery giant Aldi, which turns out to be just as publicity shy as Trader Joe's. On the positive side, the major components of the company's success are made crystal clear: carve out a niche that the rest of the industry has ignored, serve it in a way that is difficult for competitors to copy and squeeze every dime to maintain the low-cost position*.

Okay, I admit it, I went on a weight loss journey almost two years ago, now 184 pounds lighter (two people smaller), I've had to lesson the high fat and high end ingredients that go into my recipes. I'm also a publisher now, still miss putting my foot up into the pan, so time is of the essence. That there is a key to why this store is so successful--easy to reach for, not so quick shopping, prices are right, and they often change out seasonal items, which help keep my appetite wet. When the mood strikes me lately, I've been playing with some of their items, looking for one-pot meals that are quick for me and my schedule, but yet making my family feel I slaved for hours. I found one worthy of revisiting my food blog (I still work part-time for a local family, and her fav meals are made in the crock-pot, so I've developed some ideas for the family, since girls can be picky eaters).

Trader Joe ingredients:

 Creamy Polenta with spinach and carrots (frozen package)
1 cup copped fresh spinach
2-4 Mahi-mahi fillets (frozen cryovac packages)
1/4 to 1 cup Lemonade, regular (not sugar free) or orange juice
Salted butter (quarter squares, refrigerator)
teaspoon of orange marmalade
1 T blackening seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Mise en place: 

Thaw fillets; remove from packaging, rinse, and place on paper towels to dry out a few hours before cooking. I've found the same as I do with shrimp and scallops, it helps the meat absorb the ingredients you infuse with juice/lemonade. If you place them on paper towels, press out moisture, but leave them wrapped so they don't totally dry (in case you get stuck on a project, which has happened!) Place a pat of butter (up to you how much), juice/lemonade, and a teaspoon of orange marmalade in a prep bowl. Let them sit on counter until you're ready to begin cooking. Large pot with fitted lid (to fit 2-4 fillets with room around them) Stove, gas or electric, and I've done this one on the grill, to infuse smoke into the dish, no lid, only loosely fitted foil. Let package of creamy polenta sit out to warm/thaw along side butter/juice, and marmalade. 

Anyone asking "Why Mahi mahi?" or "Polenta?" "Why not vegetarian?" (read below)

Well, I'm from the south, I miss grits, so this project dish reminds me of Nawlins, where my Mother grew up. I could easily see shrimp, crayfish, or other seafood used. But remember this fish is a sturdy meat, it won't fall apart if you over cook the dish, like shrimp or crayfish. Talapia would have to be a quickly infused fish--atop, and gently pushed in at the last 10 minutes or so. Okay, I just got my creative juices out on the table, now I have to go cook this; it's been a staple in my house the past four months. I've become my Mom, Thursday is my Mahi-mahi Jam night, and I don't have to cook Friday, they eat the leftovers (I put it away with polenta on top; in my mind it's still fresh!) 

INSTRUCTIONS: Place pot on stove, or your cooking outlet; place fish in bottom of pot; pour juice/lemonade, butter, and marmalade on top of each fillet. Do a little spread on each. Pour package of creamy polenta over the fillets, covering them, use two packages if you feel the need, I add 1 cup chopped spinach for extra fiber and greens, but we don't eat as much as we once did, small portion sizes for us double-nickle adults. Heat on medium with lid, but watch carefully...lower heat if needed.
Now and then you'll stir the polenta around the fish, layering will actually begin to steam the fish, like an extra blanket in a Texas July. It's done when you lift a fillet up and check; fish goes from pink to opaque, and into center. Remove from heat, and serve once the starving family gather round. 

The juice/lemonade infuse a sweetness with the jam, which melds with the polenta and veggie mix. The blackening seasoning I use it extra hot, and no one has said a word, that it's too hot, because of the sweetness and acidity just mix well. But don't go crazy with it, you can always add your own extra hot sauce at the table!

Vegetarian: Yes, why not? Treat the tofu or other ingredients like the fish and you've got yourself a tasty vegetarian dish. Thanks for you Theresa, my sister-in-law, and Caitlin!

*Reprinted from, Editorial Review for the book, The Trader Joe's Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon, written by Len Lewis (it didn't get great reviews; I was simply searching for articles on why our cultural taste buds have turned back to organic and local, but yet places TJs are packed almost everyday of the week), and yet not really competition for other grocer chains, like Whole Foods.

Plated photo to come...

I was not paid nor solicited by Trader Joes. My son however worked their, so the discount I got when he lived with me helped out, especially since he eats at my house! Photos are crummy, but mine. Lighting sucks, always has in my galley kitchen (rental).

Friday, February 6, 2015

Orange Blossom Hummus

I'm the traveling chef again since surgery, well, really the traveling poet now, but believe me when they find out I work as a chef (still as a personal chef), I get hooked into things, but love it! One of the Greensboro, NC ladies I hung out with for a few days, stayed in her beautiful home built in the 1920's, she invited another poet over for breakfast and tea, and Tracey brought me this lovely jar of hummus made with orange blossom water.

It is the traditional recipe for hummus, not too lemony, but had a flower sort of flavor, not overwhelming. Her husband is from Egypt, and it is a common ingredient in things. I loved it, and at first thought it was cauliflower addition, then lavender, but not perfume like at all. It made sense when Tracey told me what it was.

My tastes buds are off right now due to WLS, but things are coming back. With our world becoming smaller, ingredients like orange blossom water are more readily available, so give it a try! I want to thank Tracey Parker Nafekh (she's going to kill me for this photo hijack!) thank you for my gift!

I can imagine what a hoot it would be to really cook with these gals! They already hooked me into helping with an event in March, a real southern luncheon to boot!

I headed this way a few weeks ago to attend the North Carolina Poet Laureate, 2015 induction ceremony for one of our book authors, Shelby Stephenson, and to visit with him on his historic farm outside of Raleigh. That was another wonderful post on my personal poet website, Elizabeth Akin

Monday, January 26, 2015

The New And Improved Chef E (Poet & Writer)

I'm doing it, losing weight.

No sugar, no carbs (outside of complex vegetables, only green leafy and protein, heavy on protein).

Some do not believe bariatric surgery, RNY, or by pass as some call it, is a real way to lose, because of the doctor's making your stomach into a pouch the size of an egg. It is though. Why? Because we, the patients have to maintain it and add exercise into our daily routine.

How did I get so fat, 338 lbs? It is a long story, but years ago I lost my precious daughter, then moved, twice, and tried to restart my catering business and chef career over, and over, and again. Eventually (little violins playing right about here) I honored my husbands wishes and promised not to start any other business up when my cafe closed, teaching jobs ran dry, not to mention other food related and poor economy sadness hit our area. It happened in Dallas ten years before we moved, and the reason why we moved to being with, hubs lost his job (technical IT work left the Dallas area).

I found myself home, bothered by some things, so I stuffed my face and locked myself in for about three years. I even slowed down on blogging (some may have noticed).

Well, I'm back, my new business (with the help of hubs) and career in publishing and writing has been only getting better. I still have straggler chef clients I work for here and there. I also do consulting work for the state of NJ. I'm happy.

Not my lowest weight, but 250 isn't so bad, since my goal is another 100 lbs, with a better BMI. I'll get there by the end of the year, maybe sooner. I'm still cooking for hubs, son, and clients once or twice a week. It doesn't bother me to be around food and to have had the surgery, not at all. And I joined the gym again, and told by my nutritionist and dietitian to get out of the house more, I do. My traveling stuff began again, so that has me on the road, a lot for this year.

My heaviest weight was 338 October 2013, and when I was told I had diabetes, officially. I saw a bariatric doctor in February, he set me up with the hoops you go through, but then I discovered there was an issue with Barrett's Esophagus, surgery was halted. Talk about "here we go again!" and depression. I rescheduled the endoscopy for six months, it had gotten better. My only option due to reflux and the chance of cancer in the stomach or throat, to do the bypass over the sleeve. So I gave in and went with it over no surgery and only more weight gain.

I woke up from surgery November 19th and said, "No regrets." The biggest battle is the eating. Right now I am limited, but I get what I need, a heavy protein diet. I'm consistently losing and in the gym. I am tired right now, but have heard it gets better. I feel young again. (photo above is me at 23, I didn't grow up over weight, was always fit).

The say the honeymoon period is over after two months with this surgery, but not for me! I had to fight and still am. I only wish this bragging came earlier. A reason I won't share, but it feels good to come back in full force.

Never give up! I really hadn't...

No more diabetes, no more high blood pressure, and my asthma is more manageable, like when I was in my normal weight range of 130-150. Occasionally I was 170 if I didn't exercise and eat right.

Me last week in VA at a writers conference. I read as well as my pub company sold books. I will show a full view of my body in a few months. I still  have middle body fat that needs to go. Hubs says I am still sexy, no matter, and he should know!

Peace everyone...

Elizabeth Akin Stelling
Managing Editor, Red Dashboard LLC Press
author of My South By Southwest

Friday, January 23, 2015

Cauliflower Pizza Crust

A serving of cauliflower pizza crust with Jersey tomatoes and cheese of your choice and Yum!

A friend and I made this for lunch one day. A small portion with a salad or greens of some sort would make it a lunch! Yes, cauliflower crust is higher in regular pizza crust (depending on how big your slice) by 4 grams - 14 " slice of regular flour crust is 24 grams of carbs.

One site (Low Carb Pizza crust-cauliflower) claims with a nutrition label it has 14.4 carbs per serving, but gives no size. Most recipes involve adding cheese, which has carbs, Cauliflower, one head has 28-9 carbs depending on what site you read, but it takes a lot to make one small to medium size pizza crust.

Of course it doesn't taste like regular crust, but after you eat a low carb diet like I have for a year, flavor matters more in the seasoning and toppings. Tomatoes, 1 cup, have 16 grams of carbs, so you have to add that factor in. I don't mean to burst the carb bubble on cauliflower and this recipe. It is good, tastes great, and as long as you only eat one piece per meal, you're good.

I found one food site that was honest, 1 serving is 24 grams of carbs, My whole message was after my friends said cauliflower was at the level of broccoli, but it's not. Broccoli, depending on what site you find, is only 4-7 grams of carbs, that is a big difference.

This was a delicious treat for me, and I would make it again!

Educate yourself, eat smaller portions, and pass this on to the children. Obesity is growing into an even bigger (no pun intended) than you realize. Exercise (I joined a gym last night!) on a regular basis.

Good eats!

Update: I had my RnY bariatric surgery on Nov 19, 2014. I was heaviest at 338 lbs, and now am down to 250 lbs. I still have more to go, but am happy and healthy all around. No more diabetes, high blood pressure, and asthma is under better control.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A(muse) Restaurant Review and News

A(muse) * Inspired Food and Drink* in Rohobeth Beach, MD

The whole story...

My beloved and I decided to take one last trip before my bariatric surgery scheduled for mid-November. A few friends who've had it had talked about a last hoorah before my eating is even more restricted than last December when I embarked on what I now know is called 'Liver Shrinking Diet'- low carbs, sugar free (not foods, just no sugar), and low fat eating. I lost 32 pounds, only gained back 8.

Hubs and I have been together 17 years, and are still going strong. This man is very supportive through my daughters illness, death, and now my gaining more weight, to the point of being diagnosed with diabetes last year. It was time to make a change. I am for the good, but it's not for everyone. Eating healthy on a constant basis is what we should do, eating small portions, healthy choices, and exercise on a regular basis. Also I recommend counseling, something I do.

After back and forth talks with my doctors, the health issues have gone against me, so I opted for surgery. I will miss the great foods from establishments like A(muse) and Chef Hari Cameron- A(muse) restaurant in Rohobeth. Hubs loves our foodie adventures over the years, but he knows the high calorie foods have gone against my health. There might be chances of tasting the Chef's food again one day, but not tasting menus like we did last week. It was fabulous, his restaurant is fantastic, something others should try. We give it 5 stars out of 5, and includes the wine pairing.

Normally they do a 4 or 7 tasting menu, and an 11 (we were told) in the fall. Once being seated we saw 4 and 7 offered on menu, so we asked and were told it was allowed, 11 course tasting menu. I will simply show photos of our plates, and apologize a few are missing because we began eating and realized no photo was taken (only pieces of food were left).

Amuse Bouche- smoked anchovie

1) Liver and Onion Sorbet

there's more...


2) Foraged Soup (maitake and hen of the woods mushrooms, Japanese Maple leaf with a hot tea soup poured over ingredients)- this was my favorite, the flavors just were perfect!

3) Seared New Jersey Scallop, lentils, beets, and radish,

4) Roasted brussel sprouts, sliced beets, goat cheese, spaghetti squash, pumpkin puree, and elderberry sauce with sumac powder.

5) Lobster with rapinni and chili oil- my second favorite (I loved them all!)

6) Crispy Sweet Breads  celery - blue cheese - chili garlic (surprisingly I do not go for this, but it was good)

7) It was...NY Duck Breast and grilled vegetables with cauliflower puree

8) 48 hour braised beef (orange sauce), reminded me of a Chinese dish, but mild.

9) It was...Dunbarton Blue cheese with roelli (fruit and granola type mixture)

10) Rice pudding with apple cobbler, streisal, and orange thyme jam

11) Bone Marrow Oreos with Parsnip Milk- it was yummy and you could detect the flavors of both. 
Sweet and Savory

Chef Hari and the staff, 
Thank you so much for making our anniversary great!
Also, your wine, beer, and dessert wine pairings were fantastic!
It was nice to have such a knowledgeable crew answering our questions.

You can see by the look on my face, I was a happy wife!

Thanks readers for following my blog since 08, I am and always will be a foodie, but will be eating smaller portions and exercising my way back to health! 

See you in 2015...

Elizabeth Akin Stelling
a Texas poet, author My South By Southwest
Managing editor, Red Dashboard LLC Publishing

(1st photo taken from A(muse)'s website, Chef Hari Cameron preparing dinner)

PS- If you have a weight problem, are obese, or overly obese, then we recommend you see your doctor and consult about eating habits and how they have affected your over all health. My circumstances dealing with my daughters death years ago did affect my sleeping and eating habits, as well as an increased drinking habit that resulted in my situations. Everyone's situation is different and a change in diet should be consulted with your family doctor, we are not recommending you try any kind of diet or eating at high end restaurants. My diet was under supervision of a dietitian and nutritionist during 2014. Nor did A(muse) provide any compensation for this post.