Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Freezer Friday: One Simple Marinade Base to Make 5 Unique Marinades

I've been on a real chicken kick the last few days experimenting with a ton of flavor ideas to add some real jazz to my family's table with very little extra effort on my part. Why? Because school started this week.  I've got a ton to do.  I don't need to worry about dinner on top of everything else in my zany but perfect nut-fest of a life. Right? 

 We all  need recipes like that! Today I'm saving you the effort of having to test a bazillion ideas. These are keepers...all of them! I'm really partial to making the base and putting it a gallon bag a few times, then just adding the flavor additions to the separate bags.  Then add chicken and throw it in the freezer! It's marinated and ready to bake or grill when you defrost it later. Boom yes!  Yes, I do use Ahuacatlan Avocado Oil in this recipe. They sent me several cases of it to play with and I've been super impressed with the high smoke point and buttery flavors that it adds to my cooking. A high smoking point, by the way, is the best way to ensure that you won't be adding free radicals to your diet. 

Marinade Base
1/3 cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper

One batch of marinade base will season 1 1/2 lbs of chicken. It's the perfect amount for a fast meal.  Simply combine the ingredients in a gallon sized bag and transfer chicken to the bag.  Allow to marinate at least an hour in the fridge, but I prefer overnight.  Then, drain marinade and bake or grill as desired. 

Here's the flavor options:

Lime Poppyseed
Add 3 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp. poppy seeds 
2 Tbsp. lime zest 

Greek Festival

To base add: 
3 Tbsp. fresh minced dill
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp rosemary
1 tsp.  ground fennel seeds
 Garnish with kalamata olives and diced red pepper after cooking.

Orange and Onion Balsamic
To base add: 
3 Tbsp. orange zest
1/4 cup garlic
1/4 cup minced white onion

Raspberry and Rosemary

To base add:
1/4 cup raspberry juice concentrate 
1 Tbsp. minced rosemary
1 tsp fennel, ground

Hawaiian Pineapple Orange Guava

To base add:
1/2 cup Pineapple Orange Guava Juice concentrate
1 Tbsp. minced ginger
1/4 cup teriyaki sauce
1 Tsp. garlic
1/2 tsp ground cardamom

There you go! Easy and delicious marinades to make your life simple!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Friday, August 4, 2017

How to Make Your Own Raw Chocolate- Guest Post

This is the second time I've had a wonderful guest post from Gemma Hodgson, and what's not to love about this one?! Her previous post was Why Grow Your Own Sprouts and it was so full of great information and healthy benefits, that I couldn't resist when she offered to also do this one on how to make your own chocolate.  Take it away amazing Gemma!

Make Your Own Raw Chocolate! It’s Easy!

Lucky for the billions of chocolate lovers around the world, numerous studies have established that yes, chocolate can actually be good for you. One study published in May, 2017 in the journal Heart by researchers at Harvard, found that the consumption of moderate amounts of dark chocolate was linked to a significantly lower risk of atrial fibrillation (a type of irregular heartbeat that can be deadly). The researchers concluded, “Our study adds to the accumulating evidence on the health benefits of moderate chocolate intake and highlights the importance of behavioral factors for potentially lowering the risk of arrhythmias.” 

Other research has pointed to many more benefits of dark chocolate – including its incredibly high magnesium content. Raw cacao is actually rich in iron, PEA (a compound thought to enhance mood and energy levels), and flavonoids –known for their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. Fascinating studies have pointed out that chocolate can improve cognitive performance, reduce the likelihood of stroke, play an important role in preventing memory decline, reduce levels of bad cholesterol (and raise levels of good cholesterol) and even promote beautiful skin (because of its flavonoid content). The sky is the limit when it comes to the benefits of chocolate, yet often, the type we consume, is far from healthy.

What is the Problem with Chocolate?
Most commercially accessible chocolate (especially milk chocolate) contains inordinate amounts of refined sugar, which promotes insulin resistance, is bad for heart health, and causes tooth decay. So bad is sugar for the teeth that dentists are currently recommending that children avoid bottled juice, since the high sugar content tends to stick to teeth and cause decay, often leading to painful, expensive procedures which would be so easy to avoid by consuming a more nutritious diet. Milk chocolate, which melts easily, also poses a high risk for tooth health.

The average milk chocolate actually contains very little cacao – it tends to comprise 50 per cent white sugar and 35 per cent milk solids – how much room does this actually leave for the cacao itself? The high sugar content means that the bad actually outweighs the good. The best way to reap all the benefits of the potent cacao bean, is to make your very own raw chocolate. Raw chocolate actually contains three times more antioxidants than green tea. By avoiding dairy (which blocks antioxidant absorption), we can make our favorite treat even healthier. In addition to containing a wealth of flavonoids, raw chocolate is also high in fiber (which makes us feel full and which therefore can be of aid in a weight loss diet), in anandamides (which boost mood and promote a sense of well being), and sulphur (a mineral that can aid in making our skin, hair and nails strong and beautiful).

Best of all, raw chocolate is so easy to make! Follow our basic recipe below:

Raw Chocolate
Ingredients (serves 6)
8 tablespoons cocoa butter
4 tablespoons cocoa liquor
2/3 cup raw cocoa powder
8 tablespoons raw honey
pinch of Himalayan salt
* any additional ingredients you would like such as raw nuts, goji berries or other dried fruit

Sift the raw cocoa powder and set aside. Melt the cocoa butter in one pan and the cocoa liquor in another pan; use the boiler method for both to ensure the chocolate is not cooked but just melted. Mix the cocoa butter and liquor in a bowl, adding the honey until the mixture is smooth. Add the raw cocoa power and salt and mix again. If you like citrusy flavours, add an edible, therapeutic grade essential oil like bergamot or mandarin – use just one drop, as essential oils are very potent and you wouldn’t want them to overtake the chocolatey taste.
You can add any additional ingredients at this stage; some people love to chunk up their chocolate with anything from raw cashews to dried blueberries. Pour your chocolate mix into a mold – you can use any silicone mold you like, to make rectangular shaped bars, or mini bonbons.

The good news is that you won’t have to wait to long to sample your little big of heaven, since the chocolate will harden in as little as 10 or 15 minutes! If you like to blend fruit with chocolate, take large, ripe strawberries and dip them into the chocolate then place in the fridge until the chocolate hardens – the result will be so decadent, you’ll find it hard to believe it’s actually good for you!

Thank you so much for sharing this Gemma! Now everyone can make more chocolate! What's not to love about that?!

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Thursday, August 3, 2017

The Best Gourmet Frozen Lasagna!

Happy Freezer Friday!  We love Freezer meals and this is the ultimate freeze lasagna of all time in the history of forever. Well. If I had a dollar for every blog post that ever claimed it was the "best ever"------ whatever it is...I'd have a bazillion dollars. However, in the case of this lasagna, it's a recipe that I've used in catering large weddings as well as bottomless pit feeding-frenzied teenage boys.  Okay, I say boys, but Little Man just turned 18 and is just about finished with his college he's man--ish. As for the Lasagna recipes, this one is pretty legit. It's loaded with vegetables and flavor.  

If you notice, there's not a Cooking with Chef Tess video with this one, I've taken a step back from the network TV show for a while. My producer said that I'm welcome back anytime, so don't think this is forever y'all.  It's a long/short story mainly having to do with choosing between something "earthly important" and something "family eternal"...and I picked the eternal. I'd hope everyone would respect my privacy on this one and just know that I love you all dearly and will still be posting frequently here as well as keeping my family on track, together, and focused on keeping the main goal the main goal.  So, dinner together with this righteous lasagna is probably a fantastic idea! 

Homemade Gourmet Freezer Lasagna

This recipe makes 16 very large servings, so feel free to make 2-4 casseroles, depending on the size of your family. Today, we’re making 4

This recipe I have tweaked quite a few times to find just what I liked, nice tender pasta that is still a little firm with just a great amount of sauce and meat (or veggies) to hold the layers apart and keep its shape. I hope you enjoy it.

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 stocks celery, sliced thin
  • 2 cup shredded carrot
  • 1/4 cup minced garlic
  • 2 lb lean turkey Italian Sausage
  • ½ cup teff seed (optional)
  • 4 quarts (16 cups) tomato puree 
  • 3 Tbsp. Chef Tess Italian
  • 1 Tbsp. Red Pepper Flakes

Directions: put the oil in a large dutch oven on the stove. Saute the vegetables and the meat until the meat is cooked and the vegetables are tender.  Add tomato puree. I used 4 quarts of my home canned tomatoes, but you can totally use the store cans. It take 4-28 0z cans of tomato puree, or if you like a chunky sauce, use two 28 oz can of tomato puree and 2-28 oz cans of diced tomatoes.
Simmer on low for 10-15 minutes.

 Okay. Let’s talk about that sauce. If the sauce seems a little thin, keep in mind that I don't cook my noodles first, so there needs to be a little extra liquid for the noodles to cook properly. So, let’s get the cheese filling put together and build this awesome lasagna.

Cheese filling:
  • 2 lbs ricotta cheese 
  • 2 cups Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped basil, or 2 Tbsp dry basil
  • 2 Tbsp. Chef Tess Romantic Italian Seasoning 
  • 2 eggs
  • salt and pepper (about 1 teaspoon each)

Combine well in a large bowl. 


24 oven ready lasagna noodles (dry)
2 lbs mozzarella cheese, part skim is okay
1 cup Parmesan cheese

Decide the size casserole you will make:
  • 8 inch by 8 inch yields 4 casseroles
  • 9 by 13 inch yields 2 casseroles
  • 16 by 11 inch yields 1 casserole

Be sure to use NON aluminum pans, as they will have a reaction to the tomato products. Just as a general rule, tomato products should not be stored in aluminum.

To assemble:
8 inch use: 1/2 cup tomato sauce, 3 dry noodles, 1/3 cup cheese filling per noodle.
9 by 13 use: 1 cup sauce, 4 dry noodles and 1/2 cup cheese filling per noodle.
16 by 11 use: 2 cups sauce, 8 dry noodles, and 3/4 cup cheese filling per noodle.

Spread the tomato sauce on the bottom of your pan, avoiding large chunks of meat, lay noodles down across the bottom of the pan on top of the tomato sauce.
Spread the cheese filling over the noodle.
Top the cheese layer with some tomato sauce
8-inch pan: 3/4 cup tomato sauce

For the third layer, top with noodles and then the remaining sauce. Top with mozzarella and Parmesan cheese. You know, I say three layers, but it just depends on how big the pan is. I always end up with more layers on the smaller pans than the large ones. Especially if I use a loaf pan instead of an 8 by 8-inch casserole. So... you know. 5 layers or so for the small pans. 

      Freezer Precautions: Okay, we’ve made our casseroles, so now we’re ready to freeze them. Cover with plastic wrap and then foil, as we don't want any tomato to meet foil.

    Label clearly with cooking directions:  Defrost in fridge 24 hours, or microwave defrost. This is the best way to cook frozen lasagna. By far. I've tried straight from the freezer to the oven and I don't like how uneven it cooks, even with the store purchased lasagna. I'm weird that way. I'm okay with that. 

      Slow Cooker Lasagna?  One more thing. If you measure the inside of your crock pot and can find a plastic container that fits it and goes about 4 inches up the sides, you can put all these layers of cheese, sauce and noodles in the container and freeze it. When you want lasagna, you simply invert the container under hot running water until the lasagna cube comes out. Place it in your crock pot on low 6-8 hours OR on high 4-5 hours.

To Serve: Adjust oven rack to middle of the oven. Remove foil, remove plastic. Spray side of foil that meets cheese with a non-stick coating of your choice. Replace foil tightly sealing edges. Place on oven rack (Usually put it on a sheet pan on the oven rack).

Bake times 400 degrees:
8 inch: 25-30 minutes, remove foil and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until hot throughout and the cheese is browned in spots. Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.
9 inch by 11: 30-40 minutes, remove foil and bake additional 25-30 minutes until hot throughout and the cheese is browned in spots. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.
11 by 16 inch: 40-45 minutes, remove foil and bake additional 30-35 minutes until hot throughout and cheese is browned in spots. Let cool 10 minutes before serving.

There you go. Make frozen lasagna.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Bold Mediterranean Quinoa Salad

We've been addicted to this quinoa salad for the last several weeks. Every time I get myself a serving, my husband comes in and "borrows" the bowl.  It's totally amazing, and absolutely packed with bold flavor. Seriously. Just when I think there's not something else that I could adore more about quinoa, I find another great recipe. 

 Let's talk Quinoa. Quinoa has been around long enough now in the front lines of the natural food universe that it isn't new anymore. When I first started writing this blog, it was pretty new.

Organic Grains.Com Sprouted Quinoa Tabbouleh recipe inspired me to really crank up the herbs and use some bolder flavors in my quinoa salad. This recipe is what resulted from that inspiration. I used Organic Sprouted Quinoa along with Organic Black Quinoa in this one too. Sprouting the quinoa seeds removes the naturally occurring saponines (the bitter enzyme that causes a strong flavor if quinoa is not rinsed). Using the sprouted the seeds also removes the phytic acids and take the grain through the early stages of sprouting, rendering the grain more digestible and the vitamins more accessible.

Bold Mediterranean Quinoa Salad
1 cup sprouted quinoa
2 cups boiling water
¼  cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/3  cup Ahuacatlan Avocado Oil
1 ½  tsp kosher salt
1 bunch scallions, minced, white and green parts
1 ½  cup Atheno Low-fat feta cheese*
½  cup minced fresh herbs (dill, mint, parsley, oregano, flat-leaf parsley)
1 cup chopped bell peppers
1 cup Peppadew Peppers, chopped
1/2 cup roasted garlic, chopped
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

In a rice cooker, combine the sprouted quinoa and boiling water. Cook 20 minutes until tender.  Cool for at least 20 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients.  Chill. Serve. Yield 8 servings

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Natural Whoopie Pies and Updated Natural Homemade Chocolate Cake Mix

Oh I love exploding myths and making convenience foods from scratch. Why is it? Why do I love it? Well...perhaps it's the sweet stream of email flowing to my heart thanking me for saving family budgets around the world. Literally. It's so highly motivating to get a thank you note. It warms the coggles of my heart.

How many recipes call for a box of cake mix? Well, in America anyway, I've seen whole books written on the subject. They're books that doctor a cake mix into a lot of other stuff. However...what if the person making the cake or doctored mix had some crazy stipulations? I do. I want the mix being made with all natural ingredients, from scratch and things most people have access to. I want it made to taste wonderful without adding a lot of chemicals to my diet. Yikes...did I just say "diet" in blog entry about chocolate cake? Oh the irony of my existence is sometimes scary.

You will need some very high quality vanilla. It will still make a very impressive cake. If this recipe looks familiar, It is in fact an adaptation of the Chocolate Toffee Buttermilk Cake Mix. A simple form of that cake with some subtle changes. The texture is still perfect.

Chef Tess' Natural Chocolate Cake Mix

yield 16 cups mix (4 mixes total)

1 cup (8 oz) Avocado oil
6 cups (1 lb 11 oz)  Organic grains sprouted  white wheat flour here
3 cups (11.5 oz) baking cocoa
1 cup ( 4.5 oz) non-fat milk powder or soy milk powder
2 1/2 cups coconut sugar or  Pyure Organic Stevia Sweetener
4 tsp salt
1/3 cup baking powder (2 oz)
1T double strength vanilla bean paste
1 tsp ground cardamom
1 tsp cayenne pepper

To prepare mix: In a large 3 gallon or larger bowl, combine the flour, cocoa, dry milk
sugar, baking powder and salt very well. You may use an electric mixer if you have one with a large enough bowl. With a wire whisk, ease the avocado oil into the dry ingredients in a steady stream until the mixture resembles sand. Take the mix and a couple of cup fulls at a time, run through a flour sifter. I use a hand flour sifter that works very well to help the mix become smooth and homogeneous. ( Need a picture tutorial on the mix making process? See: My Yellow Homemade Cake Mix) Divide into quart size bags. 20 oz of mix equals one  conventional cake mix. This is almost exactly 4 cups of measured mix.

To bake:
Combine with 3 eggs
1/3 cup Avocado oil
1 cup water
200 strokes by hand or 3 minutes medium speed.

Bake time 350 degrees:
Pan size: 2 8 inch 33-35 minutes
2 9 inch 28-31 minutes
13 by 9 inch 32-35 minutes
bunt 38-43 minutes
24 cupcakes 18-21 minutes
High altitude: stir 1/4 cup all purpose flour into mix. Mix as directed.

Whoopie Pies from Cake Mix

4 cups cake mix
3 eggs
1/3 cup Avocado oil
Mix to combine. Scoop by rounded Tablespoon onto parchment lined baking sheet, allowing 1 inch between cookies for spreading. Bake at 350 degrees for 12-14 minutes until cake springs back. Remove from oven and cool completely. Sandwich with cream cheese white chocolate frosting (below).  

Cream Cheese and White Chocolate Orange Frosting
3 ½ c powdered sugar
 ½ c butter, softened 
8 oz cream cheese, softened 
6 oz white chocolate*, melted and cooled 
½ t orange extract 
1 T orange zest

Chop the white chocolate and melt in the microwave. Start with 30 seconds then stir and microwave in 10 second increments until nearly melted. Stir until remaining small chunks melt entirely. Set aside to cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter until it is completely smooth, with no visible lumps. Add the cream cheese and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar and orange extract and beat until smooth. Gently fold in the white chocolate and the orange zest. Do not over beat the filling, or it will lose structure. (The filling can be made 1 day ahead. Cover the bowl tightly and put it in the refrigerator. Let the filling soften at room temperature before using.) *Please use real white chocolate. White“confection,” “dipping chocolate,” “bark,” or “morsels” will not work. You know it’s white chocolate if in the ingredient list you see cocoa butter. If you can’t find white chocolate, it’s better to leave it out than to use the fake stuff.

There you go darlings! Something wickedly delicious and somewhat healthy for a crazy day.

Always My Very Best,
Your Friend Chef Tess

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

A Long Needed Camping Trip Intermingled with Fishing Recipes

After nearly 4 years without more than one or two days in a row off work mingled between sometimes ninety hour weeks, I got hired by a company that actually believes that employees deserve to be human. I'm so blessed.  So, the first part of July, I spent ten days in the mountains away from society...with this guy. The Pansy Man. Sweetest dad on earth, and it was heaven.

Still trying to be glamorous, of course...
My family has been fishing at this dam in Logan, Utah for my entire life.  I haven't been here to fish since...forever. It was so peaceful and so perfect that I didn't want to ever leave.  Plus, my mom and all my siblings got to be there. It was precious. 
Between fishing and lounging around a camp fire, I found the peace to continue with a usually hectic life back home.
Plus, I got to spend those days with my sister, Auntie Em. Let's admit it...Em is really awesome!
The Professor showed up to the festivities and I got to meet my baby niece, who was already two years old and I hadn't been able to visit until now! She's perfect. She's named Em too. I call her Emmie Part 2.
During that visit, we had some pretty daggum awesome any foodie family would.  One of my favorite was this quinoa Tabbouleh made by my rock-star sister in law, Queen Char. I love this lady. She definitely rocked this salad!

Quinoa and Feta Tabbouleh
  • ¾ cup organic sprouted quinoa
  • 1 1/2 cups boiling water
  • 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp.  kosher salt
  • 1 cup minced scallions, white and green parts (1 bunch)
  • 1 cup feta cheese
  • 1 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (1 bunch)
  • 1 hothouse cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and medium-diced
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
In a rice cooker, combine the sprouted quinoa and boiling water. Cook 20 minutes until tender.  Cool for at least 20 minutes. Add all remaining ingredients.  Chill. Serve.

We'd fish for a full day, return to camp and have them for dinner, and then return and repeat the following day. I know that wouldn't be appealing to a lot of people, but it was time by the river with clear water, fresh air, and the quiet patience of a very good man. It was my favorite vacation the history of ever. 

On my last night there, we had a big family barbecue. We had 15 trout and a few catfish...ready to feast.  
The easiest way to cook the trout and catfish on the grill, was to wrap them in  well oiled aluminum foil after highly seasoning the outsides of the fish with dill, garlic, and some onion. Inside the cavity we added some fresh lemon, salt and pepper. 
The catfish got Cajun seasoning...and smoked paprika.  
Dad got the grill going in his garden. I love that they don't have a regular lawn and yard, it's 97% garden. 
Zucchini is totally killer delicious during the summer, so we glazed them with a white balsamic citrus and pepper glaze. It was just the perfect combination of tart citrus, heat and buttery avocado oil. 

Summer Squash White Balsamic Citrus and Pepper Glaze

1 cup avocado oil
1/4 cup white balsamic
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup Worcestershire  sauce
2 Tbsp black pepper
2 Tbsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp lime zest
3 Tbsp minced garlic

Combine well, and glaze 2-3 lbs fresh zucchini and allow to marinate for 1-2 hours. Retain remaining glaze after marinating the zucchini.  Grill as desired. 

Grill the fish packets for 3-4 minutes on each side. 
Grill the zucchini 4-5 minutes. 

Remove from the grill and toss in the retained glaze. Add minced parsley or cilantro if desired. 

For dessert, mom made grilled pound cake. The recipe is Here
The fresh blueberries with a light lime syrup were perfect over the grille pound cake. 

Fresh Blueberries with Lime Syrup

2 lb fresh blueberries
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup lime juice
1 Tbsp lime zest
2 Tbsp. corn starch
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients in a half gallon pot and bring to a boil. Cook 3-5 minutes until slightly thickened. Remove from the heat.  Scoop over grilled pound cake and top with ice cream if desired. 

There you go darlings. Delicious summer vacation food made simple for more time with those you love most.

Always My Very Best, 
Your Friend Chef Tess