Search This Blog

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Sana sana

Today my girls and I are sick we have a stomach flu virus or something going on and also my girls have a cough and fever. Many of us rely so much on the medicines over-the-counter drugs and other thing, we forget that her body is able to heal itself most of the time It can heal itself most of the time. I am not against medicine and all its forms as matter of fact I am a biology major. But I do feel sometimes that we rely too much on all the over-the-counter products and not dealing with the issues of our body but rather just hiding them or masking them through these products that we think is actually feeling us but on the contrary it simply doesn't allow her body to react the way it naturally would react during its fight against a sickness or u malady that it is trying to heal. We must give our body the best chances of healing itself by giving it the weapons that it needs, we need to give it the building blocks to be able to be strong to fight off sickness and rebuild itself. The building blocks it needs is food, good food, healthy food, food that can feed our bodies in war against illness. The healthier our bodies are, the better it is able to fend off sickness, not just heal it.
We are learning more and more diet matters in the health of our body and also our immune system. We are also learning that certain components are more helpful in combating sickness than ever before. Doctors the eastern societies have known this for thousands of years, but we in western medicine are just hopping on board. After having a pill for every ill, it seems that sometimes it does more harm than good.
In today's world we are finding out through science that some of the things that have always been an old timey cure such as chicken noodle soup have incredible healing properties. We are also learning that the quality of the food that we eat matters in those healing properties. So today I would like to go over chicken noodle soup and it's simple recipe. When are the best things that we can do while cooking is keep food in its most natural form, in it's most unprocessed form. The less we mess with food the better it is for us. Keep recipe simple, let the quality of the products you were using speak for themselves.
When making my chicken noodle soup I use very little products and the end result ends up tasting great all because of the quality of products that I'm using.
When buying chicken which is an expensive meat, buy the best you can find. Try and buy free range organic chicken on the bone and whole. Learn how to quarter a chicken, so that it is more suitable to eat. Chicken in this form is usually less processed,and less expensive to purchase. Natural components of chicken such as skin and bones provide enormous amounts of flavor to the food that you are making. Keep them and take them out once the soup is cooked, if you prefer eating without them.
When making my soup I only use onion, garlic, carrots, and celery. Remember to buy fresh, organic and locally grown vegetables. The flavor profile of smaller batch grown vegetables usually organic and locally grown are more intense in comparison to the larger farms. Locally grown produce will always be fresher.
Add good water to cover and add salt and pepper to taste. You may also add spices such as, poultry seasoning, cumin, and dried parsley or oregano, depending on your taste.
Boil low and slow, simmering until chicken is fork tender and pull chicken from broth. This is the time to debone and skin the chicken. Pull chicken into bite size pieces and return to pot. I like to add ribbon egg noodles in the last ten minutes or until pasta is tender. You may also try rice as an option. For those who prefer a veggie option, eliminate the chicken and add more vegetables.
As we heal ourselves in our home we hope that you may be able to find health in your home through quality foods.
Sorry if the writing is disjointed and unabashedly unedited, as I write from a fever induced semi-coma on my phone from bed. As the old spanish rhyme says "sana sana, cola de rana. No sanas hoy, sanas maƱana"
Keep it real, Keep it fresh, Keep it sustainable!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Small Victories

Small victories have been gained in the war against fake food and over processed unhealthy food in that the USDA will now give schools the choice to have meat without pink slime. Pink slime is a meat byproduct of part of the animal that are less desirable, and usually more at risk to harbor bacteria and other nasties. They are ground into an ultra fine paste and treated with ammonia and other sorts of toxic chemicals and dyed into pink slime and frozen into blocks and shipped and used as a meat filler to stretch and lower the cost of meat. These products have most notably been used in chicken nuggets and beef,pork, and chicken patties, also bulk ground beef.
The Internet has been the bane of large companies who hide what our "food" actually contain, and how it is made. Last year an infamous picture circulated around cyberspace of a large fast food chain's manufacturing process of pink slime, and caused such an uproar that people could not believe that they themselves had been eating the snake like pink sludge coming out of a machine for years and that to keep it safe from food nasties it was cleansed with the same materials they use to clean their windows with.
That company, due to the overwhelming outcry, decided to not use pink slime anymore. We as consumers changed how a multinational billion dollar company makes its products armed only with our voices and the decisions we decide to make every time we purchase products.
This month the USDA responded with a choice for public schools to have product with the slime or not, I am assuming without will cost less or schools will have to contribute more of their own funds to stipend the better choice of the two. Also 3 major food chains have decided not to purchase products that contain the pink slime, and I really do applaud these stores, like Albertson's, and Safeway. My dollars will be headed their way, in thanks. I hope you will voice your choice for better more real foods by speaking out to your child's school, by writing your representatives regarding new legislature and bills regarding our farm regulations, organics, NON-GMO food labeling, FDA stringency and research, USDA regulatory stringency, and most of all because it speaks volumes more to deaf ears, in where your hard earned dollars are going. Make your voice be heard and flex your power of choice. Buy foods that are healthy and safe, support causes that make the purchasing of the food more available and more affordable. Support transparency in food labeling, and read the labels when they are presented. Cook for family, grow a garden, support local farmers, buy seasonal organic food, support companies trying to make a difference, and know how and what you can do to make a difference. Our generation is the first generation not expected to outlive our parents due to the status of our health. We eat worse, take more medicine, and suffer from more maladies from lack of caring for ourselves and our children. We are what we eat, and we can change, we can heal, we can thrive.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Let the good times roll

I am an advocate of buying locally, except when you live in the dessert and you want to make the fruits of the sea. It is very difficult to find good seafood here in Arizona for those who don't have restaurant food purchasers and accounts.  Never the less, we can make some choices here and elsewhere in the world by supporting traditional markets and ports that are in danger of collapse.
We all remember the debacle of Hurricane Katrina, caused not only by Mother Nature, but also from that F-word or acronym, that starts with federal and ends with agency. But that is a whole other rant, for another day.
One of the richest deltas and seafood, and rice production areas and markets was almost completely destroyed almost overnight, the two hubs of Mobile, Alabama and New Orleans, Louisiana. Hundreds maybe thousands of fishermen put out of business, with the destruction of not only their boats and their equipment, but also their catch. The natural environments and ecosystems changed and destroyed, by land shift and erosion, but also by the oil spill to come a little later. But just as we expected Mother Nature begins to rebuild, and so do the fishermen who pull her bounty from the sea, swamps and rivers. These resilient men and woman are rebuilding these wonderful areas of market with a fire in their heart and soul indicative of the magical places they live in. The land of creole, Mardi Gras, birthplace of Jazz. A land worth fighting for, brick by wind and water swept brick The food from these areas strums my heartstrings and plays a chorus in my mouth dripping with the spice of life. We, as eaters, and consumers, and purchasers, and cooks, and lovers of real, fresh, and wholesome foods and life can help with the rebuild, by making the choice to source your seafood from these areas. We can help by making simple choices like buying, cooking, and eating more of their products.
when I think of etouffe and gumbo I think of shrimp, when I think of grits I think of shrimp, some of my favorite tacos  are made with shrimp. What would a low country boil be without crabs and crayfish, and shrimp and andouille sausage. The oysters that come in a fried Po Boy sandwich are some of the most luscious you can eat!
The seafood, fin fish, rice and foodstuffs from this area have a richer, more earthy flavor than most you have tried due to being slowly matured in nutrient rich waters of the delta and gulf. This provides for flavorful finished product, and that is before you dive into some of the best creole, southern comfort recipes originated in these areas. Try some gator meat or choose redfish instead of bass or make a shrimp salad instead of tuna, when going out to dinner, you can help rebuild  this once glorious seafood honeypot.
Even if you choose not to eat meat, choose one of the many varieties of rice from this area or even buying simple things like Tabasco, or Louisiana Red Dot hot sauces. We can help, by the choices that we make and for more info go to or

Monday, March 12, 2012

table of elements of life

The title is a little indicator that I am a little bit of a science nerd, but the subject is one close to my heart. The table I speak of is not one of atomic weights and elements but the one we eat our meals at, or forget to eat at.
The Dinner table is one of the most unifying objects in your home. It is a place to be one with your family or those you care about, to share not only a meal but substance. There are many things taught at this table that have lasting effects. It is where we learn how and what to eat, it is where we find home and comfort. It is a place of reunion, after the wearing effect of the outside world. It is a refuge.
In today's fast paced world we forget how unifying food can be. It is the meal that draws us together, that warms are hearts and our bellies, and in this we find common ground worldwide.
As I look at my children, with one begging for dessert, and the other smashing food into her face and hair, I have to smile at the innocence of them. I have to be honest, I like many parents sometime do not always feel this way, when I think about the food on the floor, tray, table, clothes and hair. Or that, it will be me having to clean up this mess. I don't always wax poetic or idealistic when I toil over ways to get my 3 year old to eat her veggies or finish a meal. Not to mention the mess and all the dishes and pot and pans that have to be cleaned, after making said meal. But I need to keep the perspective of how i am influencing the way my children eat, and what they eat, right here at this wooden table. The food culture and the future of good cooking and taste traditions begins here, and will continue to influence not only my children but theirs. Am I living up to, not only my standards, but those who have gone before me in my family? It is a heavy thought.
i admit I come from a broken family, but one rich in food culture. I am Latin. I have many memories, sitting next to my mother as she made fresh handmade tortillas, waiting anxiously for one hot off the comal as she spread butter and jam and rolled it up and sent me on my way. Or when I was sick with flu or cold nothing healed me as much as hot arroz con leche.
On the other hand, I was an only child, with a single working mother. I ate many meals alone or rushed out the door, or boxed, frozen, nuked, or in a bag with a side of fries too. The stark polarity of the contrast   between the two experiences, not only mold my ideas of the effect of food, but garner an appreciation of the power it holds. It made me understand that food holds and conveys a piece of who we are.
As you go about your week, cook a meal with heart, and share it with your family or friends and convey your care for them through food, unity and conversation around your table. Create memories, Continue your culture, Renew your bonds, and heal the effects of todays world. You can change the way we live, eat, and love, one bite at a time.
Keep it real, Keep it fresh, Keep it sustainable

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Well Planned Wednesday

A lot of times, I run out of ingredients or feel like some other meal that I had ready to cook, and it seems to always fall right in the middle of the week. I am not a creature of habit, I actually thrive on variety, so even best laid plans for the week's menu fall a little flat for my taste du jour.
Sometimes as we head we think I only need a few things at the store and leave without a list, and you find yourself acting a little like a kid in a candy store, wandering aimlessly, wondering what you came to the store for. There are two outcomes of this, you either have a cart full of junk you never intended on buying or you make very little purchases, and when you forget you what you needed to begin with, you end up kicking yourself when you get home and try and prepare something, both outcomes usually ending in disappointment.
Here are some things you can do, to save yourself some time, money and frustrations;
1) KNOW YOUR PANTRY. We will never what we need, if you do not know what we have.
2) KNOW WHAT YOUR NEED FOR EACH MEAL YOU ARE PURCHASING FOR. Check your recipe and compare what you have and what you need and write it down.
3) MAKE A SHOPPING LIST AND BRING IT WITH YOU TO THE STORE.  This will prevent multiple trips to the store or incomplete meals. It also prevents you from making impulse purchases, which are usually not good for you or are not real food.

Once you have made your list add a little check next to thing you could buy organic or would like to try and buy at a local farmers market next time. Think also about some of the things that you could substitute with a new ingredient like lamb instead of beef or broccoli rabe instead of green beans.

Don't let the mid-week madness leave wondering lost in impulsiveness, your wallet waistline and world will thank you.
Don't for get to ask those questions about food prep, real food, food culture, and what you can do to help the slow food movement!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Sizzling Salsa

What is America's favorite condiment?
Many would immediately assume it is ketchup, with all the hamburgers and fries and hot dogs that we eat.  The surprising answer is actually Salsa. 
For many years ketchup was king, fighting tooth and nail with mayonnaise, but we as a nation have fallen in love with salsa and her best friend the tortilla chip, and now she reins supreme!
The name salsa implies a vast world of raw and cooked salsas, containing an innumerable amount of ingredients. Thousands of types of chiles, vegetables, herbs, and seeds can be cut, blended, mashed roasted, mortared, and milled into these glorious sauces we call salsa.
Salsas can be used as a dip, condiment, salad, relish, garnish, ingredient, marinade, stew, broth and even used to "cook" proteins as in their use of the citrus in ceviche.
Salsa means more than red or green, it is used for more than a chip dip. So venture into the world of salsa that will open you mouths and your menu to endless possibilities.
Here are a couple of my favorites with the recipes;

Garza Family Salsa Mexicana

3-4 ripe tomatoes, diced small
1 white onion, diced small
3-4 roasted, peeled and seeded New Mexican chiles (hatch). You may also use Guero, serrano, or jalapeno
1 small bunch of cilantro (coriander leaf), chopped
1 tsp of cumin
2 tsp of garlic of garlic powder
3 tsp of salt (to taste)
1-2  key limes (juice only)
1  7.75oz can of EL PATO BRAND tomato sauce (yellow can-mexican hot style)
Mix all ingredients well-chill for 2 hours prior to serving

Salsa De Aguacate (tomatillo avocado salsa)

8-10 tomatillos husked and rinsed, quartered
1 small bunch of cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 white onion, finely diced (reserve half of diced onion)
2-3 serrano chiles, stemmed and chopped
2 ripe avacados, pitted and flesh scooped out and quartered
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp salt (to taste)
1/2 cup of water
Blend in food processor until course puree, add reserved finely diced onion.
Chill for 1 hour covered, and serve

Enjoy these recipes, and if you would like to lean more about how to incorporate new and different salsas into your cooking and entertaining, feel free to ask me anything.
Give your life and palate a little kick, and serve it with salsa.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Mangiare Monday

When it is time for pasta or Italian food, the first thing that pops into our head is spaghetti. Did you know there are more than 600 types of past in Italy alone and regional variations of each?
Pasta is a fast way to heartily feed people, bur we can expand our pasta horizons past spaghetti and marinara.
Most Italian pastas contain the same ingredients and are more than a pretty way to prepare the same thing. The varieties in the shape and size of Italian pasta have much function in their form. The form of the pasta serves as a base, a way to deliver the sauce they are served with. Ask any pasta connoisseur, they will adamantly disagree with you and tell you it is the pasta that is the star of the dish. I say consider both to create a beautiful marriage of the two.
Here are the things we should consider when making an incredible dish of pasta.
Start with your liquid/sauce element. There are many types of sauce elements from the standard marinara to pestos (yes there are more than one kind) and creams sauces or a mixture of two. There are pan sauces flavored with wines or broths. the possibilities are endless. Also many protein selections (meat), and veggies top top your mountain of deliciousness. Don't forget the cheese!
Next, ask yourself, what the best pasta could be used to highlight the flavor, texture and palatability of your ingredients.  Think of the pasta as a tool to maximize the conveyance of these factors in the same way you wouldn't use a fork to try and eat tomato soup.
The last and to me the most important aspect of the whole dish is the quality of the ingredients and pasta.
Both sides of the pasta/sauce argument would agree whole hearted with me when I say the better quality of the ingredients, the better the dish.
Pastas that are large shell type or tube like are great for stuffing with cheeses and charcuterie. (i.e; Manicotti, Conchiglioni, Cannelloni, and Fagottini.)
Pastas that have many ridges and swirls hold onto thinner or cream sauces better. (i.e; Fusilli, Cavatappi, Gemelli, Radiatori, and Rotini)
Pastas can even replace rice or placed in soups (i.e; Orzo, Acini, Fregula, Stelle, and Grattini)
Wider ribboned pasta, thickens sauce, and stands well to heaver bold flavors.
Try and find fresh pasta or make your own, you may never want dry past again, although some pasta designs are better suited dry, like radiatore.
Fresh homemade sauces made from fresh tomatoes is something that can take awhile to master but is definitely attainable, you can cheat a bit by buying whole can tomatoes. They come in many varieties like organic and fire roasted. If you ever encounter cans of whole tomatoes from Italian region of San Marzano, they are the absolute best caned tomatoes for Marinara in the world! Blend in your food processor, and simmer with olive oil and finely diced garlic and dried oregano, and fresh basil leaves salt and pepper to make a simple marinara. Add some red pepper flakes to add some kick. Simmer until all flavors have melded, and toss with your favorite cooked pasta.  
So try a new pasta, a new sauce, think about how to pair the two well and how it will be served. Remember it would be foolish to try and build a house without plans, why would you do the same for your meal. A well thought out meal will be rewarded in your mouth.
Adventure awaits you in your home or at your locally privately owned Italian restaurant if only you take a chance to break out of your norm.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's A Green Thing

I am a chest beating manly man who loves meat in all its forms and I get a little weak kneed for smoked pork products. But I must admit...with reluctance....I love salads.
This green rabbit food, we have all made to disdain and place in the category of diet food, or reserved for those veggies hanging out by the health food store, playing drums and guitars in a circle that wreaks of patchouli. Contrary to what we think, those veggies are right and this stuff is good for us in its raw form and can heal our gassy, bloated, constipated, irregular, fat laden, jiggly bellies. Now don't go thinking that Chef Dave is gonna stop eating meat and will join a drum circle, but I do condone eating a well balanced meal that is relatively healthy and sometimes we forget that, and our diet becomes a little unbalanced in today's over processed, fat, and sugar laden fast food world.
A salad is a quick and easy way to make a meal and get some raw veggies in you.
I was making a wood fired salmon dinner for my mothers birthday one year, and decided to make a salad I had made before in my profession. It became both my mother and my wife's favorite. It combined a few things I never that I thought they would try, and try to expand their flavor profiles.
My wife can be picky with what, and how she puts food her mouth. She has developed a set of rules like no sweet and savory, prefers it cooked and not raw, etc. When these foods were mixed in a salad  and in her mouth, she didn't seem to mind and actually liked combinations that would have broken her food rules.
As a chef, I am always looking for flavor combinations that pair well together and create that symphony in my mouth. One of the easiest ways to find that symphony and indulge your desire for experimentation of foods is a salad.  The combinations of salads are endless, and allows you to make the choice to take in and taste one ingredient of the salad or create a medley of flavors with each bite.
Tasting foods in their raw form lets you taste the unadulterated flavor that nature intended. In turn you will  gain a new appreciation of the different components of the foods you were already cooking, you will also realize the true quality (or lack of) of the food we are purchasing.  It may change what and how you purchase your food the next time you need to go grocery shopping.
Make a meal out of a salad. A fun and easy way to make dinner a little more enjoyable for kids is to present a make your own meal at the table. Each person creates an individual expression of what they like or an outlet to be a little adventurous. Place different greens,  chopped veggies, dressings, cheeses, meats, fruits, etc. Most of these chopped veggies can be introduced into your next meal and will be ready to cook, being already chopped.
Those who are already saying that adding meats and cheese and tons of dressing, make a salad more fattening, here are a few tips to make these mean green meals a little lighter on the calorie counter;
Use less dressing by tossing your salad with your dressing of choice. By tossing you spread the dressing out and enhance the flavor by getting it on every component of your salad not just the top, tempting you to want more dressing when you get to the bottom.
Get the dressing on the side and dip your fork in the dressing them pick up a bite of salad and bite.
Refrain from using cream based dressings, vinaigretteS are a better choice.
Make your own dressing, most of the ones in the bottle are full of chemicals, flavor enhancers, and the worst of all high fructose corn syrup-READ YOUR LABELS, it might frighten you...
Go organic, less risk of pesticides and chemicals, Radiated food, GMO foods, and out of season foods.

The indulgent salad I mentioned was my mothers favorite contains as follows;
A mix of organic spinach, rocket, frisee, and romaine lettuce
Topped with sliced red onion, yellow bell pepper, and pears and raspberries
Goat cheese crumbles and bacon crumbles, croutons
a red wine vinaigrette , dash of lemon juice and fresh cracked black pepper.

Green is the thing. Mix it up and enjoy.