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Alexa Joan

Enjoying life with Food

Looking Back Monday…

 

Happy Monday and Thank God for it!

My Monday begins with cleaning up paperwork from the previous week and working on my production schedule along with other schedules for the week.  At least this is my intention, it does not always happen that way. I really need to work on my morning and weekly rituals….

As I was preparing to write a few blog entries I happened upon a draft of one from a few years ago, It was a snippet of art, marriage and collaboration.

Most of you know me as a “Chef”, I love food, cooking and showing love to people through the dishes I prepare.  Many of you may not know that just recently (maybe 5 or so years) I discovered another great gift or talent.  I am an Artist.  It still sounds funny saying it, however, yes I AM an artist. I create art, and for me it is my form of mindful meditation.  It is my get away and allows me to “Just be”.

I often hit stumbling blocks as I redefine, rediscover and learn more about myself – but I always come back to a few things, Cooking, Art and Creating! It is in my being, it is part of me, it is how I express myself.

So Enjoy the blast from the past blog post below and learn a few things about me:

www.WajedCrafters.com – The Wajed household is very creative so this is a hub where you can find all of what we do, jewelry, art, apparel and more to come.

http://www.wajedcrafters.com/product/eyes-as-windows – A Coloring Booklet by Edreys Wajed and I (IG: @edreysThis was an amazing collaboration, that opened my eyes to may possibilities.  My Husband is a phenomenal creative, he is so talented and so awesome when it comes to expressing his creativity, whether through pen& Ink, Metal or simply words.  Follow him on instagram if you are not already @edreys.

IG: @byalexajoan – I am beginning my “Art by Alexa” Instagram portfolio.  Be patient, I am just building it. Follow me and see what happens!

FB: @ChefAlexaJoan – This is my facebook page for where you will find great info about food, cooking classes and can contact me for personal chef services.  (also IG: @chefalexajoan). Like my page to ensure you get all of my updates.

(Circa 2012 maybe??)

MARRIAGE is COLLABORATION! I am so thankful my Husband and I are working toward our success each and every day, and enjoying it! In my last post I mentioned that I had my first artshow back in February for Image and Identity IV. Actually Edreys and I were featured together.  We decided to do something a little different and we collaborated on 4 pieces for the show and they really turned out well! I posted them here so you could take a look at them! Enjoy.

* Thanks again to everyone that came out and supported us and thanks again to Aminata Mitchell and her program Image & Identity!

Peace & Love

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Cantaloupe: What is it?

IMG_4067Cantaloupe is a melon that is very fruity and delicious! It is usually an overlooked fruit, used in fruit salads to bulk it up, or added to a fruit tray for color. It is something that is reminiscent of what your grandmother would eat or serve you. In fact that is one of my fond memories of my maternal grandparents, my grandmother slicing cantaloupe for my grandfather in the kitchen on a warm sunny day.  For a long time I would not eat cantaloupe, maybe because of this memory, maybe I was subconsciously blocking myself from this miracle fruit for some strange reason….. My grandparents have both gone on and there are several things that remind me of them.

One day after doing some research on foods, I starting seeing articles on melons and something told me to go out and get some. I purchased a cantaloupe on day and let it sit on my counter for a few days.  I just didn’t want to deal with it (who knows why). I think the first time I bought one I actually ended up throwing it out!!!

Finally I purchased a cantaloupe again, I took my time, smelled it before selecting the one I wanted, made sure it was tender to the touch, ensuring it was ripe. It was a summer day, I took my cantaloupe home placed it on my counter and started slicing it. I was instantly transported to my grandmothers yellow kitchen; Her at the counter slicing the melon in wedges,  sun shining through the window, my grandfather sitting at the kitchen table with his newspaper and some boxing match on the small black and white TV. The cantaloupe smell is so nostalgic, musky, floral and sweet. Each and every bite had me sitting in my grandparents kitchen, my favorite past time during the summers. I would ride my bike over to their house every other day;  to help my grandfather in the backyard or the garage, sometimes sitting with him in the basement listening to his stories.  Or I would help my grandmother in the kitchen, roll pennies for her, sit with her while she watched her soap operas! These were amazing times for me, I am thankful I remember them now, however, I do wish I would have appreciated those moments more at the time they were happening. Enjoy every moment you have with those that you love, admire or cherish. These times are more important than facebook updates, instagram likes or the latest ‘challenge’.

Back to the regularly scheduled program! Cantaloupe what is it and its benefits:

The Cantaloupe fruit we find in stores is native to United States, Mexico and Canada, and it is one of the few fruits that continues to ripen after it has been picked. So when you pick that cantaloupe with the webbed skin from the grocery store and get it home, leave it on the counter for a day or more until you begin to smell the sweet, musky odor. That is telling you it is ready to be enjoyed. That is why this fruits other name is appropriately “musk-melon”! Buy them whole and keep them this way until you are ready to enjoy it to preserve the nutrients at their best.

Cantaloupe is an alkaline food (You will read more about Alkaline foods from me in the future) and it digested quickly and easily in your digestive system. The best time to eat melon is by itself on an empty stomach. It typically digests in 15-20 minutes.  If you find yourself having a difficult time digesting melon it is because there is other food in your stomach.  I find it best to eat it first thing in the morning, after I have had a warm glass of water with lemon or lime. Then I follow it up with more warm water or tea.

  1. Overall, the nutritional content of cantaloupes is a powerful tool in the prevention of cancer and the eradication of free radicals, the harmful byproducts of cell metabolism that can lead to a number of dangerous conditions, including heart disease and cancer. It contains Beta-Carotene an essential carotenoid that the body requires and is shown to be a powerful antioxidant.
  2. As Immune System Booster, it has a healthy dose of Vitamin C, Vitamin C similarly scavenges disease-causing free radicals and act as an important line of defense for a healthy immune system. Also, vitamin-C stimulates the production of white blood cells, which seek out and destroy dangerous bacteria, viruses, and other toxic substances of foreign bodies that may have found their way into our bloodstream.
  3. For Healthy Skin, Cantaloupes are wonderful places to find beta-carotene, which is the precursor to vitamin-A. The best part about dietary beta-carotene, instead of supplements, is that there is no chance for overdose or vitamin-A toxicity, because the body only converts as much as it needs; the rest remains as beta-carotene to fight diseases as antioxidants. But the amount that turns into vitamin-A enters the skin and stimulates the membrane of skin cells and increasing regrowth and repair. This protects that membrane into the body against harmful toxins that prematurely age the skin. Vitamin-A cream is also used as a salve for irritation and redness on the skin, due to its naturally soothing qualities.
  4. Maintaining healthy eyes, Carotenoids are also beneficial for maintaining healthy eyes. It is associated with a reduced risk of cataracts and macular degeneration, as is the vitamin-C content of cantaloupes.
  5. Stress and Anxiety, Potassium is found in cantaloupes and it has been connected to being a vasodilator, which means that it relaxes the blood vessels and reduces blood pressure. Excited levels of blood pressure can act as a stressor on the body, and can even induce the release of stress hormones like cortisol. Potassium also increases the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain, which induces a calming sensation and a more relaxed attitude. Plus, reducing the presence of stress hormones in the body can seriously reduce symptoms of anxiety.
  6. Diabetes: Although human testing is not as widespread as it should be, early studies show cantaloupe to be connected with improved insulin metabolism, which means a more stable fluctuation of blood sugar, preventing the dangerous spikes and plunges of blood sugar all that diabetics fear. It has also been shown to reduce oxidative stress on the kidneys, which can prevent a number of kidney-related diseases.
  7. Arthritis: The phytochemicals that we spoke about earlier also have anti-inflammatory qualities. This means that having a proper amount of cantaloupe in your diet can help prevent oxidative stress on your joints and bones, thereby reducing inflammation. Chronic inflammation of these vital areas can lead to conditions like arthritis, so make sure to add plenty of cantaloupe to your diet if you’re feeling creaky around the joints!
  8. Digestion: Cantaloupes have a high amount of dietary fiber, which is an essential component of health bowel movements and digestive health. Eating a proper amount of dietary fiber can bulk up your stool and reduce your chances of becoming constipated, and can make your bowel movements more regular and consistent. By insuring a smooth flow through your digestive tract and colon, you reduce your risk of colorectal cancer and other dangerous gastrointestinal conditions.

Information excerpted from:

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/fruit/health-benefits-of-cantaloupe.html

http://naturalsociety.com/what-is-cantaloupe-good-for-health/

Walnut-Lentil Taco “Meat”

Walnut Lentil Taco Meat
by Chef Alexa Joan Walnut-Taco Meat in a Burrito Bowl

Equipment:

  • Baking Sheet
  • Food Processor
  • Pot
  • Saute Pan
  • Spatula or Wooden Spoon

Ingredients:

  • 1 Cup Lentils
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1 Cup Lentils (Brown/Green)
  • 1 T Oil
  • Onions (Optional)
  • Chili Powder
  • Cumin
  • Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
  • Black Pepper
  • Other Spices to your liking

Procedure:

  1. Cook your Lentils about 40-45 minutes until cooked all the way through.
    • In a Pot
    • 2 Cups Water
    • 1 Cup Lentils
    • Bay Leaf
    • 1/2 teaspoon Salt
    • Bring to a boil then simmer on Low.
    • Once cooked – Let Cool.
  2. Toast your Walnuts
    • Preheat Oven to 350
    • Place walnuts on a Baking Sheet
    • Toast your Walnuts about 5-7 minutes
    • Let them Cool.
  3. Take your cooled Walnuts and Lentils and add to your Food Processor. Pulse until broken up, not too much then you will have mush.
  4. In a Saute pan, if using Onions, add your oil, Heat your Pan and oil on Medium heat, once warm add your onions and a pinch of sea salt.
    • Saute your onions until translucent, then add your spices. If you want to incorporate heat then add a pinch of Cayenne.
  5. If not using Onion, Heat the oil in your saute pan, then add your Walnut-Lentil mixture. Using your spatula or wooden spoon move your mixture around.
    • The objective is to “dry” out the mixture and incorporate your spices.
    • Clumps will form, if they are too big go ahead and break them up.
  6. Once warm and the spices are incorporated you can serve immediately.

This mixture will last about 4-5 days in the fridge. To reheat place the mixture in a pan or pot add about a tablespoon of water and warm until heated through.  You may need to add additional water so keep an eye on it.

Get Comfortable in the kitchen and Be Creative!

GF – Vegetable – Flatbread

VEggie bread

Veggie bread – Gluten Free (Adapted from Green Kitchen Stories)

Equipment:

  • Food Processor
  • Baking Sheet
  • Parchment Paper
  • Preheat Oven to 400 degrees.

Ingredients:

  • 1 head of Broccoli, ‘riced’ into Flour, in food processor (about 4 cups)
  • 1 cup Chickpea Flour (Garbanzo Bean or Besan Flour)
  •  4 Eggs
  • Salt, Pepper and Seasoning to taste (Garlic Powder, Onion Powder, Etc)

Procedure:

1.       Prepare your baking sheet, line it with parchment.

2.       Add all 4 ingredients to a large mixing bowl.

3.       Mix well with your hands until everything binds well together into a ball

4.       Put your mixture onto the prepare baking sheet and form it into a square, by pressing down the ‘dough’ and patting it into a square or some type of form.

5.       Bake in oven for 15-20 minutes until gold brown. Let cool.

Great for Sandwiches, or Pizzas

Refrigerate up to 3 days.

Freezer – Wrap in plastic wrap and place in Freezer for up to 3 months.

I enjoyed my bread warmed in the toaster oven then topped with hummus and avocado. You can make some great vegetable sandwiches with this flatbread. Especially if you haven’t been able to eat “bread” in a long time, imagine how creative you can get!

Cabbage, Kale & Apple Salad

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Cabbage, Kale and Apple Salad

  • 1/2 Head Cabbage (more if desired)
  • 1 head of Kale
  • 2 Apples
  • 4-6 Tablespoons Olive Oil (Oil of your choice)
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 2-4 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar to taste
  1. De-stem your Kale and cut or tear into bit size pieces. Place in a bowl. Drizzle 2 T of  oil and salt onto your kale, and massage until each leaf is coated. Let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Slice your Cabbage very thinly. Throw into your bowl. Lightly Salt and Pepper your cabbage.
  3. Cut your apples into cubes or matchsticks and throw into the bowl.
  4. Add your Vinegar and 2 Tablespoons of the oil into your bowl.
  5. Toss until well coated. Taste to see if you need more seasoning, oil or vinegar.

 

Curried Potatoes & Vegetables

Curried Potatoes and Vegetables

This is a versatile dish, you can change it anyway you like by adding different vegetables or loading up on the vegetables. You can make this a fast weeknight meal by using frozen mixed vegetables if you like.

  • 1 medium Onion, Diced
  • 1 Garlic clove, minced
  • 2 Carrots, peeled, cleaned cut into bit-sized slices or cubed.
  • 1 head of Broccoli, cleaned and cut into florets.
  • 5 Potatoes, cleaned and diced (You can peel the potatoes or leave the skin on)
  • Curry Powder
  • Ginger
  • Cumin
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oil
  • Apple Cider Vinegar to taste
  • Sugar to taste (optional)

As you may have figured, I dont measure my ingredients. I taste my food throughout the cooking process to see what seasoning may be needed.

  1. Place your potatoes in a large pot. Cover with cold water, add a bay leaf and about 1-2 Tablespoons of Salt.Bring to a boil, then cook on Low for 10 minutes. Until fork or sharp knife can be easily inserted and removed from potato. Strain the potatoes in a colander and set aside.
  2. In a Large saute pan or large pot, heat your oil on medium high heat.
  3. Add your onion and cook about 7-10 minutes, you want them to brown but not burn. This will heighten the flavor of your dish.
  4. Add the minced garlic, 2 teas of Curry, 1 teas of ginger, 1 teaspooon of cumin to your pan. Stir well and cook for 1-2 minutes.
  5. Add your sliced carrots and a little bit of water, stir then cover to steam (about 5 minutes)
  6. Add your cut broccoli and a little more water, stir then cover to steam (about 5 minutes)
  7. Turn your heat down to Medium Low. Add your potatoes and additional spices. (I like to add a good amount of curry maybe an additional 1 -2 teaspoons – not too much because the curry flavor will intensify the longer it sits)
  8. Stir everything in your pot, add a splash of vinegar. Cook and additional 3 minutes before tasting.
    • If the flavor seems bitter, add a little sugar just about 1 teaspoon to see if that improves the flavor.

To use Frozen Vegetables follow steps 1-4,  Add your frozen vegetables to the pot, cover until thawed and cooked, then continue with steps 7-8.

Collard Greens with Peppers & Mushrooms

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Collard Greens with Peppers & Mushrooms

  • 1 Bunch of Collard Greens; Cleaned, De-stemmed, and Cut into bit size pieces.
  • 1 Bell Pepper cleaned and diced
  • 1 lb of cremini mushrooms, cut in quarters.
  • 1 Tbs Oil
  • 1 Tbs butter
  • 2 Tbs cup water
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  1. In saute pan on high heat, add 1 Tablespoon Oil and 1 Tablespoon Butter.
  2. Add mushrooms and saute until browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  3. Add a bit more oil then peppers. Saute until softened. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Add your greens with about a 2 Tbs of water, then cover to wilt for about 3-5 minutes * You can add a bouillon cube for additional flavoring.
  5. Place your cooked mushrooms and peppers back into your pan with about 2 Tbs of Apple Cider Vinegar cook a bit longer then serve warm.

You can serve this dish over a grain, like rice or quinoa. This is a great side dish and can be bulked up by adding some beans.

Fruit Crisp (Crumble)

This is great for fall weather and even better with ice-cream.

Use Apples, Pears, Plums, Stone Fruits or berries.

For the Crisp Topping:

  • 1 cup Flour
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 teas baking powder
  • 1/2 teas cinnamon
  • 1/4 teas salt
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces and chilled.

For the Fruit Filling:

  • 2 pounds firm fruit (4-5 apples, 5-6 pears)
  • 1-3 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon spice (any one your like – experiment!)
  • 1-3 Tablespoons Cornstarch, depending on juiciness of fruit.

To make the topping:

  1. In a medium bowl – Whisk  together flour, brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.
  2. Add the chilled butter and use your fingers, a fork, or pastry knife to combine the mixture together until the butter is incorporated and it resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Cover and place in fridge so you can make the filling.
    • Granola Crisp topping: 1 cup rolled oats. 1/2 cup all-purpose flour. 1/2 cup brown sugar. 1/2 cup sugar. Pinch of salt. 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces.

To make the filling:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees
  2. Cut the fruit into slices or cubes, your choice (be sure not to use the core!).  Slices are nice. You should have about 5-6 cups.
  3. Place the fruit in an ungreased 8-inch square dish, and spread it out evenly. Drizzle the 1/4 cup water over the fruit, use less water if the fruit is very juicy.
  4. Scatter the topping over the fruit without pressing down on it.
  5. Bake until the topping is browned and the fruit is tender and the juice is bubbling, about 45-50 minutes.
  • Use a glass, ceramic or non-reactive dish.

Serve warm with Ice Cream.

Butternut Squash Tabbouleh

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Butternut Squash Tabbouleh

  • 1 Butternut Squash, peeled, de-seeded, cubed
  • 1 Tablespooon Oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 cups cooked Bulghur (see Below)
  • 1/2 cup parsley, Cleaned and minced.
  • img_29301/4 cup cilantro (optional)
  • 1-2 Lemons, Zested & juiced
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Place cubed Butternut Squash on sheet pan
  3. Pour oil and salt and pepper over Squash and toss to coat.
  4. Place in the oven. Roast for 15 minutes, Turn and roast an additional 15 minutes. (30 minutes total)
    • You want the squash to be soft, and to turn a little brown.  This is called caramelization. It may take longer than 30 minutes, intervals of 5 additional minutes.
  5.  Remove from Oven and Cool.
  6. Add your cooled Bulghur to a bowl.
  7. Add your Butternut Squash.
  8. Add your Parsley and Cilantro if using.
  9. Clean your Lemon, Zest the Skin (using a zester/microplane), and add to your bowl.
  10. Add the juice of 1 lemon to your bowl.
  11. Toss to combine.
  12. Taste for seasoning. If it needs more acid add additional lemon juice or zest.

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How to make Bulghur:

  • 1 cup of Bulghur
  • 1 teaspoon of Oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 2 1/2 cup of water
  • Bay Leaf
  • Strainer
  • Pot
  1. Place your dried Bulghur into a bowl
  2. Add your oil, salt and pepper and stir to coat the bulghur.
  3. Boil your water in a pot with a bay leaf
    • Feel free to add aromatics to your pot, for example, garlic, peppercorns, lemon peel, dried or fresh herbs)
  4. Pour boiled water into the bowl over your bulgur.
  5. Stir well, then cover with plastic wrap.
  6. Let sit for 15 minutes.
  7. Remove plastic wrap and pour the bulghur into the strainer to strain off water.

 

 

How to peel & cut a Butternut Squash:

http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-peel-and-cut-butternut-squash-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-65196

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