Love to cook? Read on for professional tips on building flavor without all the calories!

Archive for October, 2014

Cooking in a Tagine: Inexpensive, Easy and Delicious!

TagineSpelled both tajine and tagine, this earthenware pot originating in North Africa is a delightful way to cook a meal for two to four people. The best part about it is that you can cook and serve your main course in one dish. It’s both attractive and interesting to bring the tagine right to the table for serving. The dishes made in these pots are also called “tagines”.

Original tagines were made of natural clay and you can still find those. Mine, however, (from Le Creuset) has a cast iron base and a ceramic top – making it both attractive and practical. You can use it to cook your dish either on the stop top, in the oven and even inside a closed outside grill.

Basically, with a tagine, you are braising your food – cooking it slowly in a little liquid. The special shape of the top captures the steam and keeps your dish very moist and delicious.

Here’s a recipe that makes an easy, hot dish for a cold winter evening! It definitely qualifies as healthy comfort food.


2-1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into large bite-sized pieces

3 Tablespoons olive oil, 1 Tablespoon butter, 1 clove garlic (or 1 teaspoon ground garlic)

1 small onion, chopped – 1 cup sliced mushrooms (I like to use button or shitake)

1/3 cup cooking sherry or white wine, 1/3 cup chicken stock

1 Tablespoon ground ginger, ½ teaspoon turmeric, 1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup black olives, pitted and cut in half

¼ cup flat leafed parsley, chopped tiny

¼ cup cilantro leaves, chopped tiny


  1. Place the oil and butter in the tagine base on a burner. Heat until the butter is melted. Add the onion and cook just until it’s soft. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are soft. Then push this mixture to the side, add the chicken pieces and brown them on all sides. Then mix it all up together.
  2. Add the sherry or wine, chicken stock and spices. Cover and cook on low heat for about 20 minutes.
  3. Mix in the olives, parsley and cilantro and serve over couscous.

Finished Tagine

Couscous are little pearls of semolina (durum wheat – which is also used to make pasta). It’s simply mixed with water and sieved in order to form the little pieces. Israeli Couscous is a much larger form. I prefer it because it can look like white caviar on your plate. To me, it’s a more interesting preparation. Israeli Couscous was invented during a rice shortage in Israel when the Prime Minister (David Ben Gurion) asked a large food company to come up with an alternative that looked like rice but was actually a wheat product.

Making the Couscous is easy. Simply use one and ¼ cups of liquid (water or stock) to 1 cup of couscous. Bring the liquid to a boil. Add the couscous. Cover the saucepan, remove it from the heat and let it stand for about 4-5 minutes for regular couscous or 8-10 minutes for Israeli couscous. If you like, you can also add a little butter and salt for taste. You can do this while your tagine is cooking. Serve in a large bowl with a vegetable. Enjoy!

Finished Dish

Sprouts: Nutritious and Easy to make at Home

Fresh Sprouts

Fresh Sprouts

Sprouts – the tender, young shoots of vegetables – are appearing more and more in grocery stores. Why? People are starting to realize that they are incredibly good for you – especially for vegetarians looking for ways to add protein to their meals.

Sprouts are estimated to contain about 35% high quality proteins. They are crunchy and delicious when fresh and can be easily added to salads or as garnishes to just about anything. Because we eat with our eyes first, they can help immensely to make your plate look appealing. These tender, little delights are also packed with vitamins, fiber and fatty acids – all essential for health.

Besides, add in low in calories. Have I convinced you yet? According to, “minerals bind to protein in the seed, grain, nut or bean, making them more useable in the body.” As well, “they actually contain oxygen and regular consumption of raw bio-genic foods … is valuable to health”.

So where do you find them? There are actually a number of places. At Eastern Market, check out the Rising Pheasant Farms booth in Shed 2. These kids grow pea and other sprouts within the city limits of Detroit, pick and bag them, and transport them to the Market on bicycles. Their sprouts are so fresh sometimes I eat them on the way home!

At other local markets like Plum, Papa Joe’s, Westborn you can usually at least fine “cress” You can always find it at Japanese grocery stores like One World Market in Novi. These are the living sprouts of watercress. They come in a square, plastic container where the moist sprouts are still growing inside. (BTW, sprouts will last about a week in your fridge. Just clip off what you need if they are growing or if they are cut, keep them covered with a damp paper towel.)

Best yet, you can grow your own, right in your kitchen! I use sprouting trays. (Check out Sprout People online or the one I use which is – Cost: about $50 for tons of sprout making.) Obviously, find a system that is the size and configuration that works for you.

Micro Greens System

Micro Greens System

If I’m having a dinner on Saturday night, I’ll start the seeds one week to ten days before (depending on the type of seeds) and they are always ready in time. You simply check the PH of your water (instructions provided) then pour water in the bottom of a plastic tray. To that, you add a fibrous “pad” on which you sprinkle the seeds. You then mist the seeds with a sprayer bottle every 12 hours and keep them covered for 4 or 5 days. Then you uncover them and watch the miracle of growth.  My kit came with all different kinds of seeds which harvest between 7 and 10 days. Just be careful that they don’t get too much sun or they will shrivel up. Don’t ask me how I know that. J

I highly encourage you to get some sprouts into your diet! The health benefits are immeasurable.

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