Saturday, December 14, 2013

How to brew a perfect cup of coffee

What you need to know about coffee
By: Chef Cristian Feher

To many people, coffee is the essence of life. Whether you drink it to start your day, to beat that afternoon bout of narcolepsy, or to finish a great meal, coffee is a part of our lives. But what is coffee, and what do you need to know about coffee? What makes good and bad coffee? Here's what you need to know.

Coffee is a stimulant - actually, the caffeine inside coffee is a stimulant. "Yeah? Tell me something I don't know!" You might say.

Well, I mention it because of this fact: Most drugs work the same way (caffeine is a drug). A little bit of drug X has a stimulating effect, but a little more of that same drug X has the effect of a tranquilizer, and an even larger doze of drug X can even kill you. But we're talking about caffeine, so let's just focus on it as an upper and a downer - you're not going to die from drinking coffee.

A little coffee [caffeine] will act as an "upper". It will add itself to your endocrine system and speed you up! But, if you drink too much of it, you will get to a point where that caffeine will actually start acting as a "downer". It will make you even more tired than you were before you started drinking coffee. The amount will vary by your body size and tolerance for caffeine, but it will act this way.

So, that's the first thing you should know. Too much coffee will tranquilize you.

Equipment is important. What you brew your coffee with can be the deciding factor between a good cup, and a bad cup of coffee. You also need to know about time, temperature, and water.

You have to use a CLEAN COFFEE POT. You see, every batch of coffee you make, leaves a layer of oil in the coffee pot. If you don't properly clean out this oil with a degreaser (dish soap), your next batch of coffee will suck. The rancid oil left behind will ruin your next batch. Even a little spot of oily coffee residue can ruin your entire next batch. This is why an instant coffee machine, like a Keurig, is better than a traditional coffee pot. (I am not paid by Keurig and have no promotional relationship with them).

Use fresh coffee. Ground coffee has a limited shelf-life as soon as it's introduced to oxygen. It will only last 2 to 3 weeks before the oils start to go rancid - and that's when it's kept in a cold, dry place with a tight lid. So, either, buy small batches, or grind your own coffee. Again, K-cups (as in Keurig cups) are vacuum sealed to keep the ground coffee fresh right up until you brew it. Your local coffee shop also (probably) grinds their coffee daily.

Use filtered, bottled water. Tap water contains a cocktail of chemicals, resins, bacteria, and even metals that will affect the taste of the coffee. Only a neutral water from a bottle or filter will let your coffee shine through.

Temperature makes the difference. Coffee should be brewed between 195 and 203 degrees F. Above that, and you burn the coffee, making it bitter. Below that, you don't extract the essentials of the bean, and it turns out watery and bland. Again, a Keurig machine, and other high-end coffee makers keep this constant temperature for you while brewing. Or, you can do this yourself with a thermometer and a French-press.

Brewing time should not exceed 8 minutes - after this, you burn your coffee. Letting your coffee sit on a warming plate (as in most office coffee machines) burns the coffee and gives it a nasty taste. You should throw coffee out that is older than an hour - or make iced coffee drinks with it (as McDonalds and other fast food places do).

In keeping all these things in mind, you can now brew a perfect cup of coffee! What you put in it at this point is up to you. Milk, sugar, cream, flavoring agents - these are all good and will vary person-to-person. But the main point is that you know what makes good and bad coffee, and how much of it serves your purpose.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

How to cook for guests during the holidays

Coping and Cooking for the Holidays

By: Chef Cristian Feher

Yes, it's true that the holidays are, indeed, the most wonderful time of the year. Yes, it's the hap-happiest season, with those holiday greeting and gay happy meetings. There'll be parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow (or guitar by a palm tree if you live in Florida). But if you're the one in charge of feeding everyone... it can be just plain stressful.

Having fed thousands of spirited, hungry people in my life, here are some tips which will bring a little joy and sanity into your hectic routine of feeding your holiday army! And maybe this year, not only will they sing songs about you, but you won't have to cry into a bottle of wine when it's all over.

1. Hire a personal chef to do it all for you! But, if you'd still rather do it yourself, please proceed to number 2 on the list.

2. How much is too much? Quantities are very important. It can seem like a guessing game when you're trying to figure out how much food you should make. And God forbid, you run out of food! Your mother-in-law will never let you forget it. But don't panic. Just follow these guidelines:
  • Plan to serve 7 pieces of hors d'oeuvres per person if you're going to serve dinner right after. But if it's during the day, and your guests won't be eating a main meal any time soon, plan 10 to 12 hors d'oeuvres per person. If you're not feeding them a main meal at all, make 12 to 14 pieces of hors d'oeuvres per person.
  • Older people tend to eat less than younger people. Teenagers eat like monsters.
  • Prepare 6oz (raw weight) of meat per person.
  • Prepare 1Lb (raw weight) of turkey per person.
  • Prepare 1 chicken breast per person.
  • Prepare 5 to 6oz of seafood (like shrimp, squid, scallop) per person.
  • Each lobster should be about 1.5 to 2 Lbs each.
  • Prepare 8 to 12oz fish fillets per person.
  • Prepare 4oz of potatoes, salad, vegetables, rice, or pasta per person.
3. Timing is everything! So, you've got all your groceries sitting there, and it's time to cook it all. This is the point where most people, not knowing what to cook first, want to run away to China and never look back. After all, dad can re-mary, and the kids can find a new mom, right?

The way to tackle this in a calm and collected fashion is to make a list of all of your food items, and put the estimated cooking time next to each item. For example, it might take you 30 minutes to cook mashed potatoes, 3 hours to roast a turkey, and 1 hour to peel, cut, and cook veggies. So, you just start with the longest time first and work your way down this way:
  • Start with the turkey, because that takes the longest (3 hours)
  • Then, prepare the veggies (1 hour)
  • Then, make the mashed potatoes (30 minutes)
  • Start cooking X plus 1 hour before you serve the meal. X=the time it takes for the longest dish to cook - in this case, it's 3 hours for the turkey. So if dinner is at 6pm, start cooking at 2pm.
  • It helps greatly to prepare all of your ingredients the day before. This means, chopping, dicing, slicing, defrosting, etc.
Once an item is cooked, you can keep it warm by putting a lid on the pot, putting it into a sealed plastic container (which you can microwave when it comes to time to serve), or putting the food into a tin foil pan with lid, which can be thrown in the oven at 400 degrees, 10 minutes before serving to heat it back up.

4. Clean as you go! There is nothing worse than finishing a big cooking session, only to realize that your kitchen is an absolute mess. Every single pot, cutting board, and cooking utensil in your kitchen is now perched on top of each other forming a perilous tower of terror above your sink!  Again, to keep from running away to China, clean as you go. When you're finished using something, clean it, put it on the drying rack, then back where it goes. Trust me, you will be very happy when you're cooking is all done, and your kitchen is actually clean!

5. Don't ask - tell. And while this philosophy can be applied to many aspects of life, I am talking about menu planning. Instead of taking requests from your family and/or guests, YOU decide what the menu is, and you tell THEM. This way you are in control, and you don't volunteer to prepare a menu that, a. you don't know how to make, or b. would take you 15 hours to prepare if you had seven hands! Make your own menu with dishes that YOU know YOU can cook, and dinner will be a success!  The holidays are not a time for experimenting with new dishes or taking requests - especially when you are cooking for a large group of people.

Next time you have a rainy weekend in August, is the perfect time to try out new experimental recipes for the holidays.

I hope these tips will help you to actually enjoy entertaining this holiday season! Merry Christmas, Happy Chanukah, Happy Kwanza, and if you celebrate Festivus, may your feats of strength smite your opponents by the pole!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Walking for health and fitness

Walking, the universal solver of problems
By: Chef Cristian Feher

I thought about this article while going for a nice walk today.

I was really tired. I had been up since 6am doing maintenance on all my websites, not to mention menu planning for all my customers this week. Needless to say, by 4pm I was feeling pretty tired. So I decided to get some fresh air and go for a nice walk. 30 minutes into the walk, I started to feel pretty good - life started to come back into me. I didn't feel tired anymore. I realized that I hadn't gone for a nice walk in quite a while. And up until recently, walking had been one of my favorite activities.

I started thinking about walking while I was walking. And I could see how walking is the solver of all problems.

If you need to get some place, you can walk there. If you need to get some fresh air, you can go for a walk. If your job sucks, you can walk out. Wrongfully imprisoned? Getting to walk free would feel pretty good. Tired? Don't take a nap. Go for a walk. It will re-energize you. Are you sick? Do you have a headache? Cold or flu? (I've actually done this before with a 50% success rate [I probably didn't walk far enough the other 50% of the time]) walk until you feel better, even if it's a 5 hour walk. Having a fight with your spouse? Go for a walk to cool off. First snow of the year? Perfect time to bundle up and go for a walk. Depressed? Forget pills. Walk - keep walking until you feel better. Turn off your cell phone and just walk.

Walk through a new city. Walk by the house you grew up in. Walk to the store or the bank. Walk on the beach. Walk on a dewy field early in the morning.  Walk in a shopping mall. Walk to a restaurant and work up a hunger. Walk with your kids. Walk your dog. Feeling spicy? Walk through a dangerous part of town - but remember, keep one hand in your pocket, talk to yourself, and look like you own the place.

In 1941 Slawomir Rawicz, a Polish army lieutenant imprisoned in a Siberian POW camp, claims to have walked out. He said, "F this." And simply started walking South through the snowy forests. Since the guards never imagined that anyone could survive in the freezing conditions, they didn't bother to put up walls or fences. He was joined by six inmates, and together, they walked over 4000 miles through the Gobi dessert, Tibet, the Himalayas, and eventually made it to British India in the winter of 1942.

Forest Gump had enough with life and walked for 3 years, 2 months, 14 days and 16 hours.Then he said, "My mama always said you've got to put the past behind you before you can move on." (that's kind of how I remember it, anyways).  Anyone feel like shrimp?

I was once the chef on a wooden tall ship. It was a horrible gig. I hated every second of being on that ship, and to make a long story short, I walked off the ship when it docked in northern Poland in a city called Gdynia. I too, simply walked. I walked along the beach, over bridges, by factories and along train tracks until finding a security check post where the guys were nice enough to call me a taxi to get me to the closest airport. That was one of the nicest walks I've ever taken. It was just me against the world, in a foreign country, with $200 in my pocket, a sweaty chef uniform and my video camera. But I recall how alive I felt. And if I could do it all over again, I would.

When I was in my 20's I went to live in Margarita Island. I smoked cigarettes, ate like a beast, and lost 25 pounds in 10 weeks. I attribute it to the fact that every day I would walk. I would walk to the supermarket, the bank, the beach, and I would hike. I would hike for hours in no particular direction. Mostly just following the coast line. Or I would walk by the banana plantations to the next town. I once walked up along a jagged, rocky shoreline with low-lying cliffs. And as I was shimmying across a rock wall to get to the next path on top of the other rock wall, I looked at the crashing surf and the rocks about 50 feet below me and thought to myself, 'If I fall down there and break my leg, no one knows I'm here, and by the time someone finds me, I'll be long dead. And if I try to swim to the nearest beach with a bloody leg, I'll be a shark's dinner." Also, I was wearing flip-flops. So I turned around and walked back home.

I belive the human body was made for walking. And this world, whether it consists of exotic places, or just your own neighborhood, is meant to be walked. The next time you're feeling tired, bored, sick, or just not-quite as healthy as you'd like to be, go for a walk. And if you can't find motivation, just think of all the money you'll save on doctor bills, therapy, weight loss product, gas, and vacations.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

vegetarian recipes for carnivores

The Vegetarian's Dilemma
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Yesterday I wrote a really preachy article about the classification of the way we eat foods... And when I read it again this morning, it put me back to sleep! So I decided to re-write it to keep it light and informative.

The Vegetarian’s Dilemma is basically this – how do I have my food and eat it too – how can I eat tasty, energizing, nourishing food that actually tastes good and is good for me?

In this article I'd like to mention that there’s more wrong with processed carbohydrates like pasta, bread, flour, and sugar, than there is with meat. Your body is made of meat (not celery sticks), so unless your religion dictates otherwise, you should include animal protein in your diet – with veggies on the side!

Here are some ways in which I help customers swap out the bad stuff for the good stuff.

Sugar – the best way to avoid the effects of processed sugar is to avoid it altogether. Duh! Obviously, right? A lot of sugar sneaks in through our condiments. Ketchup is a big one, so is BBQ sauce. Try making your own ketchup using some natural honey by mixing 2 cans of tomato paste, ½ cup of white vinegar, 5 tbsp of honey, 1 tbsp each of garlic powder, onion powder, ¼ tsp of all-spice, 2 tsp of sea salt, 2 cups of water.

To make it into BBQ sauce, you can add a few squirts of your favorite hot sauce, and 2 tbsp of molasses (which adds vitamins and minerals)

Mashed Potato and White Rice are great side dishes, but they turn into blood sugar very quickly and are high in calories. For healthy dieters, I always substitute these things with garlic mashed cauliflower. Some people actually like it better than mashed potato  - it actually tastes pretty good, and is very low-carb, and low-calorie. It goes great on the side of a steak!
Simply wash and cut up a head of cauliflower, boil it in salted water for about 20 minutes until it’s soft. Drain, mix with butter, salt, pepper and 3 minced garlic cloves, and mash like regular mashed potato.

Pasta is probably America’s favorite starch, next only to bread. Again, this is a high sugar food that you may want to avoid or eat less often.

I recommend Dreamfields low-carb pasta. It’s found in the pasta section of your grocery store. It looks, tastes and feels like regular pasta, but it’s made in such a way that your body cannot really absorb many of the carbs. 

If you’re really trying to avoid pasta altogether, spaghetti squash (although it tastes nothing like pasta) does shred into spaghetti-like strands, and when mixed with sautéed onion, garlic, tomato, herbs and sea-salt, makes a really enjoyable dish!  Just stick a whole spaghetti squash in the oven at 450 in a baking dish until it browns on both, top and bottom. Take out of oven. Cut in half, remove seeds, and shred the strands with a fork. Sautee with the veggies I mentioned above, or with your own tomato sauce. You can even twirl it like spaghetti with your fork!

I hope you enjoy these little substitutions. And remember that a healthy diet should provide you with energy and furnish your body with the materials needed to build and repair your tissues and organs - animal protein, vegetables, and a very small amount of carbohydrates are ideal.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Paleo diet pizza recipe

Paleo Pizza Recipe
By: Chef Cristian Feher

If you've never heard the term "Paleo", you may be wondering what this recipe is all about. The "Paleo", or Paleolithic Diet, is is a modern eating plan based on an ancient diet of wild plants and animals that various people habitually consumed during the Paleolithic era—a period of about 2.5 million years which ended around 10,000 years ago with the development of  and grain-based diets. It's basically a diet free of processed foods.

With this recipe I'll show you how to make a gluten-free, low-carb, Paleo pizza using a meat crust, fresh vegetables and whole milk mozzarella. You can find the recipe below. You can also watch this recipe on the latest episode of The Hot Skillet on Food Chain TV.

How to make Paleo Pizza

Yields: 8 servings


- 1 Lb of Ground Beef (grass-fed, organic)
  • - 1 Lb of Ground Pork
    - 1/2 Cup chopped parsley, fresh
    - 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
    - 5 cloves of garlic, minced
    - 1 egg
    - 1/3 cup of Almond Flour
    - Salt and pepper to taste
    - 15oz can of organic tomato puree
    - 1 lb of whole milk mozzarella cheese
    - Assorted vegetables for topping
  1. Prepare all of your ingredients and put them in plates and/or containers ready to use. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. To mix the "crust", mix the ground pork, ground beef, minced garlic, minced thyme, minced parsley, almond flour, one egg, and salt to taste.
     Mix well by hand.
  3. Transfer the meat "crust" to a non-stick baking sheet and spread out thin (1/2 inch thick layer).
  4. Season the tomato puree with sea salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Spred a layer of tomato puree on top of the meat "crust".
  6. Top the "crust" with chopped vegetables of choice, such as: mushrooms, peppers, squash, etc.
  7. Sprinkle a pound of shredded mozzarella cheese over the pizza.
  8. Roast in oven at 450 for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through. Enjoy!

Monday, September 16, 2013

How to make pot roast in one hour!

How to Make Pot Roast in One Hour
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Beef pot roast in one hour!
Pot roast is one of my favorite home-style comfort foods. Fork tender beef that falls apart as you pick it up, nestled in a bowl with creamy red potatoes, aromatic carrots and a thin, flavorful stock. The only bad thing about pot roast is how long it takes to make. The usual method involves either cooking it for several hours in a Dutch oven, or waiting 6 or more hours for your crock pot to break down the beef. Well, the wait is over! With my method, you can have fork-tender pot roast in one hour, with the help of a pressure cooker.

Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker
 Conventional pressure cookers require a little know-how and supervision so that the pressure valve doesn't pop and spray hot food all over your kitchen. I believe that this is what turns a lot of people off from owning or using one. What I recommend is to start out with an electric pressure cooker that has a timer, seven-way safety functions, and regulates its own heat. I use a Cuisinart electric pressure cooker for recipes like this.

Beef Chuck Roast

 Notice the nice fat marbling on a beef chuck roast!
For pot roasts, I like to use shoulder chuck roasts because they're tough enough to keep together, and fatty enough to be moist and tender at the end of the cooking process. And fortunately, it's a cheap cut of meat. A basic rule of meat cookery, fortunately, is that the harder it is to cook, the cheaper it costs.

Yields: 4 servings

- 2 lb beef chuck roast
- 1 large onion
- 3 celery ribs
- 8 carrots, peeled
- 6-8 red potatoes, whole
- 3 cloves of garlic
- Flavorful beef stock made from bullion
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Olive oil


1. Dice the onion, cut the carrots and celery into large chunks and mince the garlic.

Sauteeing the carrots, garlic and onions.
2.  With a little olive oil and the lid off, use the pressure cooker in "sautee" mode and cook the onions until they are translucent. Then add the carrots,celery, and garlic.

Cut roast into smaller pieces.
3. If your piece of beef is large, cut it into three large chunks and put on top of the vegetables in the pressure cooker.

4. Put the potatoes on top of the beef.

Beef stock made from bullion
Put beef on top of vegeteables.
Put potatoes on top of beef.

5. Add enough beef stock to just barely cover the beef.

6. Put the lid on and set the pressure cooker to cook the dish for 1 hour on high pressure.

7. Once the cooking is done, and the pressure has settled for a few minutes, let the steam out through the pressure valve (by following the pressure cooker instruction manual). Remove the vegetables and beef into a bowl or holding pot.  Season the remaining liquid in the pressure cooker with salt and pepper to taste.

8. Serve the beef, potatoes, and carrots in soup bowls with some of the beef liquid and enjoy!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

How to make deep dish pizza

How to Make Deep-Dish Pizza
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Deep dish pizza is an American favorite. If you have ever waited 45 minutes at Pizza Uno on a windy Chicago day, you know it was worth every minute!

Some say deep-dish is the best kind of pizza there is. Others claim it's not pizza at all. I've even heard it described as a "casserole", which I suppose, is technically correct. But everyone can agree, that a deep-dish Chicago-style pizza is something you have to experience.

A traditional deep-dish pizza has two endearing qualities: it's thick as heck, and it's partly fried. You see, in order to get that dough really nice and crispy, you have to bake it in a well-oiled cast iron skillet. The cheese and fillings are baked into the fried dough shell. You can also sprinkle the crust with cornmeal to give it another dimension of crispiness, but it's not always necessary. 

Below is my recipe for deep dish pizza.

- A cash iron skillet or shallow casserole.
- An oven capable of baking at 400 degrees.

- 1 ball of store-bought pizza dough (or you can make your own)
- 1 Lb Italian shredded cheese blend (with mozzarella)
- Your favorite tomato sauce
- Cashew basil pesto (recipe here)
- Chopped cooked sausage, or diced ham
- 1 diced red pepper
- Sliced black olives
- Chopped white mushrooms
- Olive oil


 1. Heat your oven to 400 bake (I used 400 convection bake)

2. Roll out your pizza dough, or shape it by hand, or toss it in the air! As long as you can get a flat disc of pizza dough, 2 to 3 inches wider than the skillet, you're good.

3. Swirl some olive oil on the bottom of the pan and rub it into the sides with your hands or a brush. How much olive oil? Three swirls around the skillet should do it! 

4. place the dough on the skillet. I like to make sure that I carefully tuck the pizza dough into it, and then I let an inch or two hang over the sides.

5. Spread some cashew basil pesto on the bottom and sides of the pizza.

6. Spread a generous amount of sauce on the bottom and sides of the pizza.

7. In a bowl, combine half the cheese, the sausage/ham, olives, peppers, and mushrooms. Mix them up, mix in some tomato sauce 1/2 to 1 cup. Pour into the pizza. Sprinkle remaining cheese over top.  Pinch the remaining dough to make a ring around the inside of the skillet.

8. Bake at 400 for 45 minutes - In my oven, since it's a pretty nice Kenmore convection oven, it only took 30 minutes. 

9. Enjoy with an ice-cold beer or Coke! Also, you will need some hungry friends. I can eat like a champion, but have never been able to finish off a deep dish pizza by myself.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

best way to cook vegetables

How to Eat Your Vegetables
By: Chef Cristian Feher

© Cristian Feher 2012 - Coconut Oil Roasted Vegetables
The title of this article may seem a bit childish, but what I want to do here is break down why we need vegetables in the first place, and explain how the different forms of vegetables compare. This may change the way you eat vegetables, and for some of you, it may actually tempt you to eat more!

Why do you need vegetables?

According to your mom, you have to eat your vegetables. But did she ever tell you why? Is it simply because starving children in Africa don't have any? Or, is there more to it? 

Put simply, vegetables provide you with four things: vitamins, enzymes, minerals and fiber. These are things your body needs in order to be healthy. 

Vitamins and enzymes are the molecular tools and raw materials that your body (which is a big chemical laboratory) uses to make, burn, build, and destroy other chemicals and compounds. Look at your body as a big factory. In one end goes in the raw materials, and at the other end you get a finished product. If a car factory is missing their weekly shipment of metal, for example, the factory shuts down. If they don't get their weekly shipment of screw drivers and wrenches (enzymes), they can't put the metal pieces together. I hope you get the analogy here. 

Minerals help to build and replenish bones. They also help to carry nerve impulses (electrolytes), and do a host of other things.

Fiber is also very important, and a lot of people do not get enough of it. Besides keeping you regular by helping to push soft foods through your digestive system, fiber also has another very important function. Fiber absorbs liquid - a lot of liquid! And in the case of the human body, some of the liquids that fiber absorbs are toxins. You can get rid of excess water and toxins by eating a lot of vegetable fiber. 

Is there a proper way to eat vegetables?

Well yes, and there are also different ways you can get them. I'll give you some examples below. But the first thing that you should know is that over-cooking can destroy those vitamins and enzymes. So, slightly cooked, or raw vegetables, will give you vitamins, enzymes, fiber and minerals. Whereas, veggies cooked all the way through will only provide you with minerals and fiber. 

Canned Vegetables 
They are overly cooked at the factory inside of the can at high heat.
Vitamins? Vit C, Vit A, Thiamine, Riboflavin destroyed. B-12 may be destroyed if it came in contact with iron or copper at the factory.
Enzymes? I don't think any are left.
Fiber? Yes.
Minerals? Yes.

Frozen Vegetables
Frozen vegetables, when thawed, have relatively the same vitamins, minerals, enzymes and fiber as fresh raw vegetables. The trick is not to over-cook them.
Vitamins? Yes, except for vitamin C which goes first when heated.
Enzymes? Some.
Fiber? Yes.
Minerals? Yes.

Raw Vegetables
Washed in cold water and served without heating. Can be cut, diced, sliced, etc.
Vitamins? Yes.
Enzymes? Yes.
Fiber? Yes.
Minerals? Yes.

Fresh, Cooked Vegetables
I generally blanch (quickly boil in salted water) my vegetables for no more than about 1 to 2 minutes. Green vegetables, like broccoli, will turn bright green after a few seconds in boiling water. This is a chemical reaction inside the vegetable that tells you to stop cooking them at this point. They are best eaten at this bright green point with most vitamins and enzymes intact, or cooled under cold water to stop the cooking process and stored. 
Vitamins? Most are retained.
Ezymes? Some are retained.
Fiber? Yes.
Minerals? Yes.

You can blanch, fry, sear, broil, roast and grill many different types of vegetables. Just remember to do it for a short period of time so that the internal temperature of the vegetable doesn't get too hot. As a general rule of thumb, if the vegetables are still crunchy they will have much more nutritional value than if they have been cooked soft. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Gluten free how to avoid wheat

So you're allergic to wheat...
By: Chef Cristian Feher

So you're allergic to wheat... Sucks to you. But if it makes you feel any better, there are thousands of people who share your pain. Me included (I still eat it, though). 

Have you ever felt really tired, gained weight, suffered skin problems, or had digestive issues after eating foods with wheat in them? If your answer is yes, then you may be allergic to wheat - to be more exact, you're probably allergic to a protein found in wheat which is called "gluten". Gluten is that thing in wheat which makes foods gummy, elastic, and gives pastas and breads that unique springy texture. Not to mention that it's a binder - without it, your foods would crumble instead of stick together.

My Theory on Wheat/Gluten Allergies

I'm not a scientist in the scholarly sense, but I do practice science. Which is to say, that I make observations, and then align what was observed to explain or solve problems - science. So here is my theory and observations on my own wheat/gluten allergy. 


1. When I eat products containing wheat in North America (Canada and the US), I feel certain allergic reactions.

2. When I eat products containing wheat in South American countries like Venezuela, and Argentina I do not feel any allergic reactions.

3. Venezuela gets 95% of their wheat from Canada and the US. 


My initial theory was that there was something wrong with North American grown wheat. However, since finding out that I've been eating that same North American wheat in South America, that theory had to be false. But, there still remains the observation that when i eat that same wheat in South America, I am not feeling the effects of a "gluten allergy", which brings about the following theory.

There must be something that is added to the wheat here in the US or Canada, or it undergoes some sort of process (which is not done or added to that wheat in South America). 

So it may not necessarily be that the wheat or gluten grown here causes allergies, but that something is done to that wheat while it's becoming flour that makes us allergic to it. 

Chemical additives? Molecular change? Stripping of nutrients? I'm not sure. But the fact remains that there is a factor present which makes me have a reaction after eating it if it has been processed here in the good ol' US of A. 


A theory is as good as it solves a problem, and it doesn't have to be better than that. So my solution is simply to avoid wheat, make my own pastas from scratch using wheat flours not processed in North America, or eat wheat only when I'm traveling.

How to avoid wheat and have your cake too

I understand that many of you are not chefs, and have better things to do in life than to experiment with foreign flours. So here is a simple guide that will help you make wheat-free substitutions that will permit you to still enjoy eating. 

Although nothing truly replaces the exact taste, consistency and texture of wheat, here are some things which come close enough. 


This is probably the wheat product that you will miss the most. And although nothing comes close to a nice plate of al dente pasta, you can still enjoy your favorite pasta sauces with brown rice pasta. Tinkyada is a good brand, and is pretty satisfying. Unlike the delicate rice noodles you might make for Asian dishes, Tinkyada pasta is made with pasta lovers in mind - it's coarser, thicker and more closely resembles wheat pasta.

There are also pastas made of corn and quinoa out there. But I think they suck. Stick to brown rice pastas, especially Tinkyada brand.

Gravies and Sauces

In the culinary world there are many things which you can use to thicken sauces. But not many of them come close to the creamy consistency that wheat flour (with gluten) gives you. I could write a whole article on all the different thickeners used in cooking - but I'd rather you book me for a private lesson ;)

I will give you a couple, though. You can thicken sauces, gravies and soups by whisking in a quickly-made slurry of white rice flour and water (to the consistency of toothpaste). The key is to make the slurry right before you add it. If you make it ahead of time, the rice will absorb all the water in the slurry and will not thicken your soup or sauces as well. Do this in small batches, and bring to a simmer each time, and you will achieve the perfect thickness. Remember that rice slurry will thicken more and more over the first few minutes, so don't over-do it and end up with an overly thick paste!

Another great thickener is egg yolks (the yellow part of the egg), and you if you mix egg yolks with heavy whipping cream (good for sauces) it's called a "liaison".Whisk these in very quickly so that you can get thickening, and not scrambled eggs! It's an art, but it's a great way to enjouy quality gluten-free dishes once you master it.


Nowadays, with the growing awareness of gluten allergies, there are companies out there that have worked very hard to come up with gluten-free breads that are actually satisfying and come close to the consistency of the real deal. Udi's is one of them. They sell sandwich bread, muffins, bagels, burger buns, hot dog buns, and other gluten-free baked goods which are actually pretty enjoyable. I find mine in the freezer section of my grocery store. Your store may carry them fresh.

Sweet Breads

Not willing to give up carrot loafs or banana bread? I don't blame you. However, I recently worked with Dr. Kellyann Petrucci, a leader in the Paleo Diet movement, and we came up with a really good recipe for banana nut bread made with almond flour, eggs, and coconut oil. Although it was high in calories, it was gluten-free, rich, moist, thick and delicious! Email me for the recipe at


I hear that Udi's also makes good gluten-free pizza crusts. So those are probably worth checking out.


There are many gluten free cereals, like Rice Crispies and Rice Chex. Pamela's gluten free pancakes are also quite good. And a hearty three-egg omelet stuffed with sausage, peppers, tomato, mushrooms, onions and cheese has always been gluten-free! I also enjoy sliced turkey, cheese and a nice fruit bowl with chopped mint. Breakfast is probably the easiest of all meals to rid of gluten. 

Do you have your own gluten-free alternatives? Email them to me! I'm always happy to hear from my readers. Or post a comment below.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Avocado Dessert Recipes

Healthy It Up with Avocados!
By: Chef Cristian Feher

Click here to watch the video.

It seems that when I need ripe avocados, they're nowhere to be found. And when I don't, they're everywhere. Are you bored of making guacamole? Don't know what else to make with avocados? Keep reading, because these recipes might surprise you! 

What is an avocado? Is it a fruit, or a vegetable? That doesn't really matter. What matters is that it's a little bundle of vegetable fat - but it's healthy fat! Which means that you can add it to other fatty dishes to lower the calories. They will also add a layer of taste and color which will delight your palate. 

Avocado Tiramisu Recipe:

If I have ever provided you with my private dining services, it's likely that you've had my cream cheese tiramisu. My customers love it! So, in thinking, "What dessert can I improve with avocado?" This one came to mind. 

I was able to add color and depth of flavor, and shave 400 calories off this recipe by using avocados. 

- 6oz Whipped cream cheese
- 3/4 cup of sugar
- 2 avocados, diced
- 3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 tbsp of vanilla extract
- 2 lady finger cookies
- Cocoa powder for garnish


1. In a large mixing bowl, combine the cream cheese, sugar, avocados, vanilla extract and whipping cream. 

2. With an electric mixer, mix all the ingredients until you have a smooth, thick mousse (it may take anywhere from 3 to 7 minutes of mixing to do this)

3. Place two lady finger cookies in a bowl or martini glass, add a couple of dollops of the mousse mixture on top of the lady fingers, and sprinkle some cocoa powder for garnish. Enjoy!

Avocado Milkshake Recipe:

This is a very popular recipe in Vietnamese and Phillipino restaurants - but since the Tampa bay area is seriously lacking in good Asian cuisine, it has probably come as a shock to you! 

I would also like to mention that I was able to shave off 270 calories off the regular milkshake recipe. 

- 2 avocados, diced
- 2 cups of French vanilla ice cream
- 1/2 cup of sugar
- 1 cup of whole milk (or milk substitute)
- Whipped cream


1.  Put all ingredients in a blender or food processor, and make a shake! Pour into a glass and top with whipped cream. Enjoy!

Avocado Soup Recipe:

Not all of these recipes are dessert recipes. You can also make a really smooth, velvety soup with avocados. I like to make this when I offer my customers my Mexican cooking class, along with ribeye steak burritos, roast corn salsa, salsa verde, spicy pico de gallo, and... well, you get the idea. 

- 4 avocados (ripe hass avocados)
- 1 cup of diced onion
- 1/2 cup of heavy cream (optional)
- 2 to 3 cups of chicken stock (or just enough to cover the avacados)
- 3 cloves of garlic minced
- 1/2 tbsp of diced jalapeño pepper
- 1 lemon
- fresh chopped cilantro
- sour cream
- salt and pepper
- olive oil

- Immersion blender, or regular blender


1. Cook the diced onions in a medium sauce pot with a little olive oil for about 7 minutes until the onions start to become translucent.

2. Add the avocado flesh, jalapeño pepper, and garlic and cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Add hot chicken stock and cream and simmer for 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Puree with the immersion blender until velvety smooth. If you don't have an immersion blender - go buy one! But if you can't, just put the soup in a blender and blend until smooth.

4. Serve with a pinch of fresh cilantro, a spoonful of sour cream and you can squeeze some fresh lemon juice to kick up the taste!

Now, go out there and squeeze yourself some ripe avocados, and make yourself a healthy treat - well, healthy-ER!