The Green Secret

Green Juice ArrayHave you ever had one of those mornings where you wake up and just feel thinner? That sensation that your body is shrinking from the inside out and you know when you get on that scale the numbers are going to be down. This has happened to me two days in a row… and it feels beyond fantastic. After battling with my body for weeks I feel that I finally have it under control and I am finally reaping the benefits of all my hard work. Alleluia!

Now is the perfect time to talk about one of my “secrets” (though it really isn’t a secret) and that is juicing. Green juice to be exact. I know many people cringe at the thought of drinking juiced kale or spinach. And rightfully so – by itself that sh*t is nasty. But when you combine greens with the right blend of fruits and other veggies, it becomes a refreshing, healing elixir that you’ll never want to live without. I have juice for my breakfast pretty much every day – I find I get the most out of it in the morning on an empty stomach. When I’m really feeling ambitious I will also juice for either lunch or dinner. The philosophy behind juicing this is that you’re getting all the vitamins and nutrients of an entire bushel of fruits and vegetables – an amount you could never eat in one sitting – condensed into a beverage that you can drink down in no time and will be easily absorbed into your body.

If you’re a long time follower of my blog, you may recall a post from many months ago where I spoke of my recipe for the magic green elixir. I have since changed my recipe and I think it’s a winner:

  • 1/2 bunch of kale
  • 2 or 3 leaves of beet greens (see below)
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 beet
  • 2-3 small apples
  • a 1-inch chunk of ginger
  • 1 lemon

When I buy beets they come with huge beautiful greens attached to them. Instead of throwing them away, I juice a few stalks along with the kale. It’s delicious. Also when blueberries are in season I will juice them in here as well for an antioxidant boost – it’s phenomenal. I also have been adding an aloe solution to my juice for an extra cleansing kick. I use Herbalife’s aloe, but I am sure you can find a good one at Whole Foods. It may seem crazy, but I promise this will not only help you lose weight, but it will do wondrous things for your overall health.

If you’re in need of a juicer, I highly recommend this Breville on amazon for $150. Its feed tube is extra wide so you can put in whole apples and cucumbers and carrots without having to cut anything up in advance. Considering it’s a product I use every single day, the price is a super deal.

If you’re still in need of convincing, you can read about some of the benefits here. I also highly recommend checking out a documentary called Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead. This film is what turned me on to juicing in the first place and presents a very compelling real-life case for making juicing a part of your life.

Famous Apple Crisp

I’m not one to get homesick. Just ask my mother. After school and boy scout trips when I was younger (yes, I was a boy scout, Eagle in fact), kids would run to their parents in dramatic reunions after having been apart for a week. I would get off the bus, walk unfazed past all the absurdly dramatic homecomings, find my parents, and say  “hey”. Thereafter I would launch into tales of my time away and lament that it had to end so quickly. Heh. They were good sports. In my adulthood I am much the same, making a home for myself wherever I live. But, after residing in SoCal for three years I’ve realized that there is in fact one thing that makes me nostalgic: fall. As my fellow New Englanders begin to feel the first bites of cold as they pick apples, sip warm cider, and roast pumpkin seeds, I continue to sweat my ass off in relentless 100-degree desert. Now that makes me homesick.

Last week Los Angeles finally got a break. We got a good four days of temperatures in the 60s. We even had rain — no, not just rain, but a THUNDERSTORM that streaked cragged bolts of lightning across the darkened sky. I was so excited I tweeted and facebooked about it. Most of my friends and family from the east coast were confused as to why I would post about such a thing. Believe me when I tell you that rain is a rarity here. And thunderstorms? Forget it.

In the midst of this brief taste of fall weather, I jumped at the opportunity to bring the New England to Cali via a delicious dessert. What else would you expect from the Starving Artist? In my opinion there is nothing that evokes fall more perfectly than an Apple Crisp. And friends, let me tell you, I make the best effin apple crisp – and I don’t say that lightly. Friends wait for this one all year long. If you can attest, please leave some comment love below. On Friday I made the first one of the season for a group of composer friends at my friend Joe’s house in Venice. This is the same Joe who smokes his own ribs. Yummy. I’m happy to report that after the crisp was served to the 10 people at the party, 10 completely empty bowls came back into the kitchen. As a cook, there is nothing more rewarding than empty plates.

If you’d like to bring some warm fall goodness to your family and friends, give this recipe a shot. You will not be disappointed. What’s my secret? There’s two: maple syrup and pecans. Oh yeah. My favorite apples to use for this are Macintosh, but they don’t really have them (at least not affordably) on the west coast, so instead I use Granny Smith. So. Good. Also, if you’re a big apple dessert person, I highly recommend the device pictured to the right. What is it, you ask? Why, it’s an apple peeler corer slicer! Peels, cores, and slices all in one motion. When I first saw this at my friend Susan’s house in Vermont I all but lost my sh*t. And, perhaps even more mind-blowing, it can be yours for less than $20 on Amazon, just click here. So worth it.

But the best part about making this dessert is the smell. It fills my apartment and drifts down the hallways of my building. As I walk my friends to my apartment door they get a whif and say “oh my god is that YOU?” Oh yes. It’s me.

Just make me one promise – you will ALWAYS serve this warm with vanilla ice cream. Promise? Good.

More fall favorites coming your way soon!

Recipe —> Famous Apple Crisp

Berry Salsa and Chips

A bonus recipe for Friday! Yay! Here’s the last creation I want to share from Labor Day. This time of year berries are wildly cheap and abundant. If you recall my trip to the farmer’s market, I bought a whole lot of strawberries for $5. The problem is that they don’t keep very long, so I wanted to come up with a recipe that would use a bunch of them all at once. The idea of a salsa came to me. I had some blueberries in the fridge, so I decided to dice two pints of the strawberries very fine along with about the same amount of blueberries. I tossed them with a bit of agave syrup, about two teaspoons of chopped fresh mint (careful, it’s potent stuff), a pinch of salt, and a dash of vanilla. I served it in a bowl topped with some sweetened ricotta cheese (just mix it with some powdered sugar). The combination of fruit and the soft cheese is really incredible. I actually wanted to use marscapone cheese, but Trader Joe’s was apparently out that day. It’s an ingredient that is available at pretty much every market nowadays, but it can be a bit expensive. Trader Joe’s has by far the best prices for all dairy products and since I’m the starving artist and didn’t feel like going on a crusade for some friggin cheese, I decided to go with Trader Joe’s fresh ricotta. It actually worked quite well.

Now this recipe is quite simple as I was sticking to what I had on hand, but you could easily modify this with any fruit, citrus, zest, and even spices you like. But whatever you do, you’re going to need chips. The chips I made for this was phenomenal, in fact I ate many without the dip. Here’s what you do. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Melt a half stick of butter in a bowl in the microwave. Cut 6 taco-sized flour tortillas into 8 triangles each (just like a pizza). In a separate bowl combine 2 tablespoons of sugar with 2 teaspoons of cinnamon. Take one of the tortilla slices, brush each side with a bit of butter, then toss into the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place your chips in a single layer on a half-sheet pan that’s been greased with a bit of non-stick spray. You’ll likely need two pans for this many tortillas. Bake in the oven until deeply brown and crispy, about 20 minutes. Allow to cool for a bit before eating to allow them to crisp fully. These chips are delicious with all kinds of dessert applications. We were spreading them with nutella and then topping them with the ricotta and fruit. Ridiculous.

Happy Friday!

Summer Picnics in LA

I gotta tell you, I love LA in the summer. This weekend was a showcase of my favorite summer activities, both of which happen to involve picnics – no surprise there, I’m sure. As you might imagine, the Starving Artist is a good friend to have at a picnic.

The festivities began on Saturday with Cinespia, which is an organization that screens movies every weekend in the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. You pay $10, gather a group of friends, show up at the cemetery with food and wine, and picnic out on the cemetery lawn with a movie. This weekend was Sunset Blvd, which I had never seen. Such a fun evening and such a great movie. Then on Sunday I went to the Hollywood Bowl to see Pixar in concert. I absolutely adore going to the hollywood bowl. Tickets come in a large range of prices, so you can cheap it up or splurge. Everything is outdoors and they let you bring your own food and drink. I’m lucky that I live close enough to walk, so we all meet at my place and walk over. No parking nightmare and of course the weather is usually perfectly gorgeous for an evening stroll. It’s weekends like this that I’m reminded how great LA is and how lucky I am to have such great friends.

But, more important than camaraderie is food. Remember last week when I posted that recipe for apple-cherry-peach sauce? Well I still had quite a bit leftover. It occurred to me that such fruity sweetness would go well with a nice strong cheese. I went for my default, which is Cabot extra sharp white cheddar from Vermont. Only $10 for a giant block at Costco. I mean come on, I’m a New Englander. I used half the block for Saturday and half for Sunday. Picked up a large box of Triscuits on sale for $2.99 at Gelson’s and voila, a lovely snack. You’ll notice in the picture I made them on French bread that one of our friends had bought. Also nice, but I prefer the crisp of the Triscuit myself. Slice up some fruit, grab some pretzels and a bag of M&Ms and you have yourself a picnic. Some people go all out and bring baked goods or entire meals. I keep it more on the finger food side – then we have a good excuse to hit up a diner afterward. Glorious.

Apple-Cherry-Peach Sauce

So here’s my conundrum. I love the idea of making pies and cobblers and crisps out of fresh summer fruit. I mean come on, I would bathe myself in blueberry pie if I could. But the problem with such treats is that it requires you to turn on your oven and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s having to sit in an already sweltering apartment with the effin oven on.

I had this big box of fresh cherries I picked up at Trader Joe’s last week and I was wondering what I could do with them aside from making a cherry sauce to dump over ice cream. I noticed I had some white peaches on the shelf as well as a bag of apples I keep around for my morning green juice. Then it hit me – apple sauce. No oven required and one can eat it cold for a perfect treat on a warm summer night. But what about the crumble topping that makes a crisp so desirable? Easy. Just top with some granola or, even better, some crushed up ginger snaps – ooooo!!! Hell you can even top it with whipped cream or a dollop of yogurt if you like. And look at the color – how can you beat that?

No PDF needed for this recipe:

3 apples, cored and diced
4 peaches, cored and diced
1 lb fresh red cherries, pitted
1 cinnamon stick
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
1 tbsp maple sugar
1/4 cup granulated white sugar
1 tbsp honey
pinch of kosher salt
Throw everything in a pot/dutch oven/whatever over medium high heat, cover, and let cook down for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once fruit is soft and syrupy, kill heat and puree with a stick blender, or use a potato masher for a chunkier more rustic concoction. Serve chilled with granola for dessert or as a side for pork chops. Yum.