February 2012

Soy And Cilantro Baked Salmon~ The Virtues Of Fatty Fish

Herb Panko Salmon 1

I love fat. Before you raise your eyebrows, hear me out.

I love healthy fats because they are good for the body; and make for a damn fine meal, if I do say so myself. For years, I subsisted on diet foods in an effort to lose weight; I stayed very far away from anything that had any fat in it. Nuts, fatty fish, Coconut oil and the like were a huge no-no in my kitchen; and would you believe that I struggled to control my weight? It’s crazy how diet foods are the worst thing for dieters; but I digress.

Cut to today and I cannot extol the virtues of healthy fat enough. Contrary to what low calorie food pushers would have you believe, we NEED fat in our lives in order to achieve effortless health and vitality. Our brains are over 90% fat and when we eliminate it from our diets we suffer from brain fogginess; and scientists believe that by depriving our brains of fat long term, we may increase our risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.

As a chef I love fat; it gives a dish that satiety factor that nothing else can provide. And one of the best foods to eat for health omega-3 fatty acids is Salmon!

When I was in culinary school fish was my nemesis; I would either burn the living hell out of it or under cook to avoid the former. But time has been good to my fish cooking skills and I have become rather enamored with cooking these lovely sea dwellers.

Salmon is an excellent source of the aforementioned omega-3 fatty acids; it also contains cancer fighting selenium and vitamin B12 which helps protect against heart disease and anemia- which is a huge concern for women of menstrual age.

Salmon and many fish have come under fire in the Factory Farmed vs. Wild debate; and although there can be a marked difference in price; the two are broadly comparable nutritionally. Factory farmed fish tends to contain more fat and slightly less nutrients than their wild caught counterparts; and the debate rages on. But I believe that health should be attainable for all, and every household budget is different; as long as people are eating fish and reaping their health benefits, factory vs. farmed means nothing to me- I’m a no judgments kind of gal!

To retain the omega-3 content in most fish, the best option is to poach, rather than pan fry; overcooking oxidizes the fats and makes them less beneficial. With that said, I pan fry, poach, steam and grill without prejudice, confident that my daily fish oil supplement makes up for my cooking preference; again, the choice is yours- no judgments here.


Soy and Cilantro Baked Salmon Fillet

2 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed

2 tbsp rice vinegar

1 red chili, seeded and finely chopped

1 tsp cilantro leaves

7 oz. salmon fillet, pin bones and skin removed

Preheat oven to 315oF.

In a bowl whisk together soy sauce, lemon juice, rice vinegar and chili in a small bowl. Line a small baking dish with parchment paper and add the salmon fillets and sprinkle with cilantro leaves. Pour the dressing over the fish and bake for 20 minutes.

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Cauliflower Soup~ Delicious Redemption

Cauliflower and Potato Soup 2

Cauliflower, it’s another one of those vegetables that sends people running in the other direction, with their noses turned up. Likely due to years of over boiling to the point of flavorless mush- I feel ya, I used to hate these ivory hued cruciferous vegetables myself. However, after learning to prepare them the right way, I quickly became a convert; and I am confident that I can convert even the most notorious cauliflower hater among us.

I believe it to be essential that healthy food taste delicious, in order to entice people to eat it; and therefore reap the benefits associated with consuming whole food. Cauliflower contains phytonutrients that activate and regulate detoxification enzymes within our bodies. By having these enzyme engaged and working properly, we help prevent toxin related damage that increases cellular risk of developing cancer.

Oxidative stress associated with aging is valiantly battled by Vitamin C and Manganese abundant in cauliflower; because they are two of the core antioxidants that we need to reduce unwanted oxidation. The bounty of Vitamin K, a hallmark of anti-inflammation, in this milky dynamo, gives cauliflower many cardio protective qualities essential for a healthy heart.

And cauliflower, not to be outdone, is an excellent choice for dieters; because for a 100 calorie serving, it boasts over 12 g of fiber. Fiber is essential to ensure smooth digestive sailing; and the fiber present in cauliflower serves to strengthen our stomach lining as well- it’s a double duty food.

But enough about the facts; let’s talk flavor!

For years cauliflower has been boiled to its grave; burying its reputation along with it. But cauliflower IS delicious. When it’s boiled, the fibers absorb the water and create a mushy, sponge like dining experience; but when lightly blanched and sautéed, cauliflower is dynamic. In this case, I wanted soup; so I made soup. The addition of baby potatoes serves to add a robust mouth feel that only potatoes can provide; and for those fussy cauliflower haters, this eponymous creation can then be easily passed off as potato soup.


Ahh delicious trickery!


Cauliflower Soup

Makes 4 servings

1 small Vidalia onion, sliced

10 oz. cauliflower, chopped

7 baby red potato, halved

1 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

4 cups vegetable stock

2 cups water

1/3 cup chives, chopped

Heat the oil in a large pot on medium high heat; add the onions and cook until fragrant, about 4 minutes. Add the chopped cauliflower and halved potatoes. Cook for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add salt, pepper, stock and water. Bring to a boil, and reduce to simmer; cook uncovered for 20 minutes, or until vegetable are tender. Remove from heat and add ¼ cup chives; reserving the remainder for garnish. In a food processor or with a hand blender, blend until completely smooth. Garnish with the remaining chives and serve hot.

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Video~ The Ins And Outs Of Getting Your Cholestrol Tested

So I went and had my Cholesterol checked- did you?

The process was as easy as could be. I made an appointment, for what I was told would be an 8 minute procedure, and it would have been less than that; but I got carried away chatting with the pharmacist.

The process involved having to fill out a questionnaire. The questions were along the lines of:

  • Age?
  • How many times I exercised in a week?
  • Weight (over, under etc)?
  • How many drinks I consume in one week?
  • Sleep habits?
  • Family history of diabetes, high blood pressure, stroke, heart attack, high cholesterol?
  • Stress Level?

After the questionnaire was completed, it was time to take blood. This involved pricking my finger and drawing the blood into a dropper of sorts; I will admit, the prick hurt, they have to get deep in order to extract enough blood for an accurate reading. Once extracted the blood is placed into a fat reading machine. Two minutes pass, in my case it was more than two minutes, because this is when I was chit-chatting with the lovely pharmacist about Dr.Oz and how much of babe he is!

The machine beeps and displays the lipid reading; and although, I consider myself healthy and I make a point of eating for heart health, I was a little nervous- you just never know; however, I am happy to report that my cholesterol number is…




A healthy range is anything less than 5.2mmol/L, which puts me in a very good position! Moderate risk numbers range from 5.2-6.2mmol/L; and high risk is anything above 6.2mmol/L. If you have any of the symptoms of heart disease and high cholesterol you are at SERIOUS risk.

Now, the reading I received measured the overall lipid content in my blood; it didn’t break it down into LDL and HDL. However, if you go to a lab, on the recommendation of your doctor, their tests offer a complete assessment.

Because Becel is offering these tests free of charge for the month of February and in honor of Heart and Stroke Awareness month, my test was free; but I asked the pharmacist and she said the price would hover around $15- $20. But it isn’t too late to find a participating testing station near you!

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The Beginner’s Guide To Cooking Grains

A Beginner's Guide To Cooking Grains

It has been a dog’s year since people have realized that eating a vast array of whole grains is not only beneficial for our health, but also a very flavorful proposition. With more grain varieties readily available than ever before, any meal can be supercharged with the addition of grains.

Heralded as super foods for health and some of the most nutritious foods on the planet, grains contain key antioxidants and fiber which help support proper immune function; and reduce our risk of developing heart disease, certain types of cancers and diabetes.

Although one can’t flip through a magazine without the mention of some type of grain, many still find themselves afraid of these little pebble-like sundries. But fear not, with a little help you too will become a grain cooking specialist!


The Beginner’s Guide to Cooking Grains


I always cook grains in chicken or vegetable broth; this serves to infuse flavor from the outset. And when using this guide in your kitchen, be sure to bring the water or stock to boil and then add the grain; cover and reduce heat to simmer and cook for the specified amount of time.


A long time favorite of mine; and currently the darling of the cooking world, this ancient grain has become commonplace on menus everywhere. To cook, simmer 1 cup well rinsed quinoa in 1 ½ cups water or stock for 15 minutes. Allow to rest, covered, off the heat for 5 minutes then fluff with a fork.


I’ve used Millet in muffins; and although I was skeptical, the muffins were amazing! For sweet applications toast millet in a dry skillet and simmer in 2 cups of water for 25 minutes. For savory applications, swap out water for stock.

Barley, Hulled

Barley is tailor made for soups; this grain adds body to any soup, while offering a lovely nutritional boost. To cook, simmer 1 cup in 3 cups water or stock for 45-50 minutes; drain of any excess water.

Barley, Pearl

The cousin of the aforementioned hulled variety, cooks in half the time; and, as the name would suggest looks like little pearls. Like their relative, they lend themselves very well to soups and stews. To cook, simmer 1 cup pearled barley in 2 cups water for 20 minutes; drain any excess water.

Wild Rice

Now this is scary one for most; and, although the name would suggest otherwise, wild rice is in fact a grain- yes there is a difference. I encourage everyone to jump right in with this grain of the long variety! To cook, simmer 1 cup wild rice in 2 ½ cups stock or water for 45 to 50 minute; I highly suggest cooking wild rice in stock, to ensure the flavor profile is nothing short of delicious; because of its scary appearance the flavor MUST deliver in order to keep people eating.

Wheat Berries

The very first time I made wheat berries, it was an EPIC failure. I didn’t cook them long enough, I didn’t season the water; and when I served them I could tell that my family was only being kind by finishing the meal. I would like to spare you and your guest of this fate. To cook, simmer 1 cup wheat berries in 3 cups well seasoned stock and cook for 50 minutes.

Farro, Semi Pearled

I’ll be honest, I haven’t cooked much with farro, with the exception of a few soups; but I do enjoy the robust bite that this grain has to offer. To cook, simmer 1 cup farro in 3 cups water for 45 minutes, drain of any excess water.

This quinoa recipe is a mainstay in my home; I cook a double batch on either Sunday or Monday and I carry it through the week, in soups, stir fry’s and many other ways. It is exceptionally simple to make and with the addition of chives, basil and feta cheese, this dish becomes an excellent side dish or a lovely stand alone meal.

Herbed Quinoa

2 cups quinoa, rinsed

3 cups water

2 tbsp chopped basil

2 tbsp chopped chives

1 ½ tbsp feta cheese, crumbled

Cook the quinoa according to the aforementioned cooking instructions. Add basil, chives and feta; and toss to combine.


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The Big News~ Vitality Guide Partners With Organika Health Products Inc.

I am so excited to FINALLY share my amazing news- which I have been sitting on for a while; and if you know me and my big mouth, you’ll understand how challenging this was for me. But I am blowing the lid off of it!

I am so pleased to announce that I have partnered with Organika Health Products as their new Chef Ambassador!

The decision to work with this amazing company was an easy one for me; because they represent a level of quality that I think we can all get behind. I have been commissioned to create unique and flavorful recipes using their new range of functional foods. Most specifically Coconut Palm Sugar.

By now you should know that I am a lover of all things coconut; and coconut sugar has most certainly stolen my heart. This unprocessed and unrefined product has a Glycemic Index of 35, which is half that of cane sugar (65) and honey (58); and Coconut Palm Sugar is far less processed than agave nectar. Although, one would think that Coconut Palm Sugar would have a bossy coconut flavor, like that of coconut oil and coconut milk, it doesn’t; the flavor is characterized by mild notes of butterscotch and caramel, making it perfect for baking and syrup making- without the undesired spike in blood sugar. I will be featuring Coconut Palm Sugar recipes throughout the next few months; to give you an idea of its versatility.

Back to Organika Health. When it comes to working with brands, I do not take this role lightly. I pride myself on providing you, my lovely readers, with honest nutritional information from a chef’s perspective; and I believe very strongly that Organika Health stands for truth in labeling and quality organic products. Their vast array of health centric offerings are all created in a certified organic facility; they are a proud member of the Truth Label Program; and they are cGMP certified- in short, they are the real deal and I am honored to be a part of their team.

I have been hard at work creating delectable recipes with their wide range of functional food products; and if you follow me on Instagram (sashabianca) you’ve likely been bombarded with photo documentation! I am excited to share many of these creations with you in the near future.

I will be representing Organika at the CHFA West Expo in Vancouver April 20-22; and at the Grocery Showcase West April 22-23; if you are in Vancouver, please stop by and say hello- I would love to meet you!

So there you have it, the cat is officially out of the bag!

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