Monthly Archives: May 2011

Sweet & Skinny comes to Greece

Sweet & Skinny had a great pre-release introduction here in Greece, where press, foodies, and fellow chefs, were all so enthusiastic about guilt-free desserts.

Last week started with two Sweet & Skinny cooking seminars hosted by Athens popular television chef Alexandros Papandreou.  The classes were held at his Studio Sidayes.  We covered both the popular theme of cupcakes and desserts in under 30 minutes.  Both 3 hour classes were sold out, and not one sweet & skinny cupcake crumb was left behind!

This week began with a Sweet & Skinny night for industry professionals and the Greek press at Mozele, a beautiful bar overlooking the Acropolis.  I prepared some of my favorite recipes from the book: kourambiethes, lemon bars, carrot cupcakes, old fashioned chocolate fudge cake, spiced chocolate mousse with olive oil and sea salt, and the goat cheese cheesecake with lavender honey (inspired by a dessert at 1800 on the island of Santorini).  The desserts were paired with cocktails made with one of my favorite spirits Skinos Mastixa.  Although it is difficult to say which pairing I loved the most, I think my personal favorite was the lemon bar paired with a Mastixa and pink peppercorn martini! I promise to introduce this combination at one of the culinary festivals this summer, as it is an unforgettable, and guilt-free, combination!

Next week it is off to New York, for the official launch of Sweet & Skinny on June 7th! Until then, if you are Greek or can read Greek,  you can read more about my adventures in Greece in the article below.

Είναι Ελληνοαμερικανίδα, πρωταθλήτρια κολύμβησης, διάσημη chef ζαχαροπλαστικής στις ΗΠΑ, δουλεύει για την Coca Cola και τώρα αποφάσισε να γυρίσει για λίγες μέρες στην μαμά πατρίδα τον ερχόμενο Μάιο. Η Marisa Churchill είναι ένα πρόσωπο που σίγουρα θα συζητηθεί τους επόμενους μήνες.
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Sweet & Skinny in Shape!

Shape is one of my favorite women’s magazines. It is full of healthy lifestyle tips, on-the-go exercise suggestions, and, of course, they always have excellent recipes.  In the June issue their recipe selection includes Sweet & Skinny “Almond Joy” macaroons!  I am so excited to have this recipe featured in Shape.  Don’t forget to pick up your copy.  You can make the macaroons, and enjoy them while you read the rest of the magazine.  :-)

Sweet & Skinny – Shape Magazine – June 2011 (click here for recipe)

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Travel Tips

Travel Tips

Between gearing up for the launch of Sweet & Skinny, traveling for work, and visiting family, I seem to be living out of a suitcase these days. While I do enjoy traveling, eating $12.00 airport sandwiches and taking sponge baths in airplane restrooms, are some of the less enjoyable aspects of constantly going to and fro.

Whether you are a frequent flyer or an occasional traveler, here are a few tips I have recently picked up, that will help to make traveling easier on your body… if only I could master the secrets of getting an automatic upgrade!

1.) Drink green tea, up to 20 ounces a day, starting several days before travel, and continuing until 2 days after you complete your travels. Green tea causes the body to secrete more interferon, a key element in your body’s infection protection arsenal. This is vital when traveling on planes, which are full of germs and bacteria.

2.) Airplanes are actually lower in humidity than the Sahara desert. This can easily lead to dehydration. Becoming dehydrated can lead to headaches, muscle cramps, and other unpleasantries. So when flying, avoid drinking alcohol (sorry) and increase your water intake. Try to consume 20 ounces of water within a 4 hour flight, to ensure that you stay hydrated.

3.) Be sure to eat. Eating well will help keep your energy levels and your immune system up and running. If you have time, bring a healthy snack with you to munch on the plane, such as carrot sticks or fresh fruit. If you don’t have time to pack a snack, try to find a healthy snack at the airport, such as a turkey sandwich or fruit salad.

If you happen to be traveling into one of the following airports: LAX, Boston Logan, JFK, SFO, Denver International, or Athens International Airport, you are in luck! Of the airports I have recently traveled through, these offer a variety of healthy choices, from salad bars, to fresh fish, and even coconut juice. You will have plenty of healthy options to choose from. Your pocket book might complain, but your body will thank you.

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Lemon Edamame Cake

Lemon Edamame Cakes

Edamame Cake

This was one of the recipes I developed when I was the pastry chef at Yoshi’s in San Francisco. I had always loved the combination of lemons, strawberry and basil.  As I began to play with Japanese ingredients, I was surprised to discover that nori (seaweed) and edamame soy beans, paired beautifully with the bright flavors of citrus and berries.

(Lemon Edamame Cake – serves 10)


6 ounces Plugra butter (soft)

12 ounces sugar

Zest of 1 regular lemon

Zest of 1 Meyer lemon

5 eggs (room temp)

10 ounces pastry flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup buttermilk

1/4 cup crème fraiche

1/4 cup lemon juice

1/3 cup candied edamame

1/3 cup Turbinado sugar


In a kitchen aid on medium speed paddle the butter, sugar, and citrus zest for several minutes, until the butter is light and fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, mixing for a minute before adding each egg.

In a separate bowl combine and thoroughly mix all of the dry ingredients.

Combine the buttermilk, crème fraiche and edamame and gently heat, just enough to take the chill off.

Add half of the dry mix into the butter, blend, then add half of the wets.  Repeat with the remaining, then add the lemon juice.  Spray  half dome molds, or a muffin pan, and fill each with about 1/3 cup of the batter . Top with turbinado sugar and bake in a 350 oven for 10  minutes.

Lemon Seaweed Meringues


3 egg whites

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon lemon powder

1/2 cup finely ground nori


Slowly combine the whites and sugar to create a meringue.  Whip to a firm peak.  When you are at a medium peak add the lemon powder.  Place in a piping bag with a small round tip and pipe long meringue sticks.  Sprinkle with the ground up nori.  Bake for 2 hours in a 200 oven.

To serve the dessert, place the cake, and nori stick on the plate with some lemon olive oil, strawberry sauce, finely diced fresh strawberries and basil chiffonade.

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Pumpkin Flan

Pumpkin Flan

Pumpkin Flan


Flan is my favorite custard, and this one is perfect for the fall season, when I can use my leftover Halloween pumpkins to make this dessert.

Pumpkin Flan

(serves 6)


3/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 cup milk

1 cinnamon stick

2 star anise

1/8 vanilla bean

1/2 cup and 1 1/2 cups sugar

1 whole egg

1 egg yolk

1 cup pumpkin puree, preferably from freshly roasted Sugar Pie Pumpkins

½ teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ginger

pinch of  nutmeg


Combine the milk, 1/2 cup sugar, cream, cinnamon stick and star anise bring to a boil, and steep for 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the 1 1/2 cups of sugar in a small pot with 1/2 cup of water.  Wash down the sides of the pot to remove any sugar crystals.  Cook over medium high heat until the mixture caramelizes.  Divide the sugar evenly between  6 – 4 ounce ramekins, and set aside.

Bring the milk mixture back to a boil and whisk it into a bowl with the pumpkin, eggs, and spices.  Strain the mixture through a chinois or fine mesh strainer.  Pour the mixture into the ramekins. Bake in a water bath in 335 oven.  Fill the hotel pan with enough water so that the water comes up 1/3-1/2 way up the flan ramekin.  Bake for 45 minutes or until the flan is set.

Serve with whipped cream, pomegranate seeds and pepitas.

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Rocky Road

Rocky Road

Rocky Road

This fun and playful dessert was inspired by my favorite childhood ice cream, Rocky Road. It turns the simple combination of chocolate, marshmallow and nuts into a whimsical and unusual plated dessert, with toasted rice, soy caramel and even curry powder. Chocolate lovers always rave about this one.

To prepare the Rocky Road follow the recipe for the chocolate tort, cutting the torte into smaller disks, about 2 to 3 inches in diameter. Top with malted chocolate ice cream and garnish with melted chocolate, toasted marshmallows, soy caramel (see recipe below) and candied curried peanuts with toasted rice (see recipe below)



2 cups Rice Crispies cereal,  toasted for 8-10 minutes in a 350F oven

2 1/2 cups roasted salted peanuts

1 1/4 cup sugar


Combine the toasted rice crispies and peanuts.  In a medium sized pot, combine the sugar with about 1/3 cup water, just enough to moisten the sugar. Add the curry powder and cook to thread stage, about 240F.  Toss in the nut mixture, stirring vigorously  until the mixture begins to thicken and re-crystallize.  Cook for an additional minute, until slightly toasted.  Spread onto a sil pat or aluminum foil and cool.  Store in an airtight container for up to a week.



2 1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup water

1/4 cup corn syrup

1 cup heavy cream  (room temp)

2/3 cup artisanal soy sauce, such as Marushinhonke  (room temp)


In a pot combine the first three ingredients and slowly bring to a boil, wash down the sides of the pot with a pastry brush to remove any sugar crystals.  Cook the sugar mixture over medium high heat until it caramelizes. Once you have a medium amber caramel slowly whisk in the cream and then the soy sauce.  Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.

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Kalamata Olive Tapenade

Kalamata Olive Tapenade

Kalamata Olive Dip

This is the perfect party dip. It’s quick and easy to prepare, healthy and absolutely delicious!


2 cups Kalamata olives, pitted and drained, such as Mezzetta brand1 tablespoon capers

1 clove garlic, crushed

2/3 cup slivered almonds

1/3 cup olive oil


Combine all of the above ingredients in a food processor except the olive oil. Mix for one minute. In a slow and steady stream add the olive oil and process until well blended, 1-2 minutes. Serve with warm pita, crackers or a crudite.

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Fresh Shrimp Spring Rolls

Fresh Shrimp Spring Rolls

Fresh Shrimp Spring Rolls

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Vegetarian Dolmades

Vegetarian Dolmades

Vegetarian Dolmades

I came up with this variation of dolmades when I was going to a dinner party where I knew some of the guests did not eat meat.  The combination of sweet raisins, spices, and toasted nuts was a hit. Since then I have made this dish on several other occasions, and it always proves to be a crowd pleaser.

Serves: 8

Active Time: 25 min  Total Time: 45 min


1 cup uncooked rice (preferably Uncle Ben’s)

2 cups water

1 ¼ cup vegetable broth

1/2 cup olive oil

1 cup yellow onion (diced)

1/2 cup raisins

1/2 cup toasted pine nuts

1 ¼ teaspoon cinnamon

1/3 teaspoon clove

1/4 cup chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

1 tablespoon finely grated orange zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 jar grape leaves, drained


Preheat the oven to 350 and toast the pine nuts for 5 minutes.

In a pot, bring the water to a boil.  Add the rice and cook for 30 minutes, or until tender.  After 20 minutes, add the chicken broth.

In a separate pot, sauté the onion and 1/4 cup of olive oil over medium heat.  Cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Add the raisins, pine nuts, fresh herbs, orange zest and spices.  Once the rice is cooked, add the onion mixture and the salt.  Cook for several minutes to combine flavors.  Cool slightly.

Meanwhile, drain the jar of grape leaves.  Lay the leaves flat, with the tip of the leaf pointing towards you.  Place 1-2 tablespoons of the rice in the upper center of the leaf.  The exact amount will depend upon the size of the leaf.  You don’t want so much filling that you can’t tightly roll the grape leaf.  To fold, wrap the upper edges of the leaf over the filling.  Fold the sides in towards the center of the leaf.  Tightly roll towards you, tucking in the edges as you go.  Place the rolled dolmas onto a platter.  To serve, drizzle with the remaining olive oil and sprinkle some coarse sea salt on top. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm, but not hot.

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Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Cobb Salad with Green Goddess Dressing

Cobb Salad

I love salads. In fact, I often crave them.  Even those people who don’t love salads the way I do are always delighted when I serve this Cobb salad.  The combination of summertime tomatoes, crisp lettuce, seafood and fresh herb filled dressing could turn even the faintest of heart into a fan.

(serves 6)


2 heads butter leaf or romaine lettuce

2 tomatoes (quartered)

1/3 cup cherry tomatoes

3/4 cup sliced cucumber

3 hard boiled eggs (quartered)

1/2 avocado (sliced)

1/3 cup sweet bell pepper strips, such as Mezzetta brand

¼ cup capers (drained)

12 oz. bay scallops (pre-cooked)

12 oz. large prawns (pre-cooked)

9 oz. lump crab meat fresh or canned

1 recipe Green Goddess dressing (see below for recipe)


Place the lettuce into a large serving bowl.  Top with the tomatoes, bell pepper strips and cucumber.  Sprinkle the bay scallops on top and arrange the prawns around the sides of the bowl.  Fill the center of the salad in with the crab.  Finish with the avocado, egg, baby corn and capers.  Top with Green Goddess salad dressing.



1/2 cup light mayonnaise

1/2 cup light Greek style plain yogurt

1 1/3 cup green onions, sliced

1 1/8 cup basil

1/2 cup tarragon

1/3 cup lemon juice

1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, crushed

2 anchovy fillets

1 1/8 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 cup olive oil


In a food processor combine the mayo, onion, herbs and garlic.  Pulse until blended.  Add the anchovy paste, salt and pepper.  Blend while slowly adding the olive oil.  Refrigerate until ready to serve. Last, refrigerated, for up to one week.

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Deconstructed Key Lime Pie

Deconstructed Key Lime Pie

"Deconstructed" Key Lime Pie

Saving a step from the traditional key lime pie, I bake the custard in ramekins or cups and serve them with a graham cracker and toasted marshmallow topping. Key limes are smaller and have a more intense flavor than the common (Persian) lime. I like the balance of the two combined. A bit of coconut milk in the custard adds flavor without much fat.

Serves 8

Per serving: 250 calories, 1.5 grams fat

Lime Custard


1 1/2 teaspoons (packed) finely grated lime zest (about 1 1/2 limes)

2/3 cup fresh lime juice (about 6 limes)

1/3 cup Key lime juice, bottled or fresh (about 10 limes)

One 14-ounce can fat-free sweetened condensed milk

2 tablespoon plus 1/2 teaspoon lite coconut milk

4 egg whites, from large eggs

2 large eggs

1/8 teaspoon salt



1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin powder

1/2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 egg whites, from large eggs

8 reduced-fat honey graham crackers (about 2 1/2-inch squares)


Preheat the oven to 325oF. with a rack in the center position.

In a medium bowl, combine the lime zest and the Key lime and Persian lime juices. Whisk in the condensed milk, coconut milk, egg whites, whole eggs, and salt.

Divide the custard evenly among eight 3- to 4-ounce ramekins or custard cups. Set the ramekins into a deep baking dish large enough to hold them all. Fill a kettle with hot water. Put the baking dish onto the oven rack and pour in the hot water until it comes halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Lay a single sheet of aluminum foil over the entire dish, wrapping the edges tightly around the pan to hold in the steam. Bake until the filling jiggles slightly when you shake a single ramekin, 20 to 30 minutes. (Take care when removing the foil to avoid a blast of scalding steam.)

Carefully remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the foil (again with care). Let the dish cool until you can safely remove the ramekins from the water bath to a wire rack, about 30 minutes. Refrigerate the ramekins, uncovered, until they are completely cold, about 2 hours, then cover with plastic film and refrigerate until serving.

To make the topping: Put 2 tablespoons of water into a small bowl and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over it. Set aside for several minutes to soften.

Stir the sugar with one-quarter cup water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and whisk in the dissolved gelatin and water, scraping the bowl to make sure you have added it all. Stir for a full minute to fully dissolve the gelatin. Stir in the vanilla. Set aside.

Using a standing mixer and the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on high until they are foamy. (Alternatively, use a handheld electric mixer.) With the mixer running, add the syrup in a slow, steady stream, pouring it between the edge of the bowl and the whisk to avoid splattering. After all of the syrup is in, continue beating the whites until the bottom of the bowl feels cool to the touch, about 10 minutes. The mixture will look thick and shiny, like marshmallow creme.

Set out the ramekins and mound the topping over them, leaving some of the curd exposed around the edges. Use the back of a spoon to make decorative swirls. Refrigerate, uncovered, for up to 4 hours before serving.

To serve: Wave a kitchen torch slowly over the topping until it has the appearance of toasted marshmallow. Alternatively, pre-heat the broiler with a rack set on the uppermost rung. Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and broil until the topping is evenly browned, about 1 minute.

For each ramekin, break a graham cracker in half at the marking line. Crumble part of one piece to one side of the meringue, and plunge the second piece into the topping. Serve immediately.

Make Ahead! The baked custards can be refrigerated, tightly wrapped, up to 3 days in advance, or frozen up to 1 week in advance; defrost overnight in the refrigerator.

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“Almond Joy” Macaroons

“Almond Joy” Macaroons

"Almond Joy" Macaroons

Makes about 30 macaroons

Per macaroon: 90 calories, 4.5 grams fat

As a child, I loved coconut desserts: macaroons, coconut cake, and especially the chocolate and coconut Almond Joy candy bar. I haven’t eaten one of those in many years, but I do eat these cookies, designed to be reminiscent of the candy, but not so cloyingly sweet. In this version, pineapple replaces some of the coconut for natural sweetness with fewer calories.


1/3 cup unsweetened crushed pineapple, well drained

1 3/4 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

1 cup sugar

3/4 cup liquid or fresh egg whites (about 5 large whites)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Nonstick pan spray

30 whole almonds

1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips


Put the pineapple, coconut, sugar, egg whites, flour, and salt into a medium saucepan and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly, for 5 to 6 minutes, until all of the liquid has evaporated and the mixture is sticky. (Do not be concerned if the mixture browns along the bottom of the pan.) Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

To bake the cookies, preheat the oven to 350°F. with a rack in the center position. Coat a baking sheet with pan spray or line with a silicone baking mat.

Scoop out tablespoon-size balls of the mixture, or pinch off pieces and roll into balls between your palms. Arrange the cookies on the baking sheet about 1/2-inch apart (they will not spread). Press an almond into the top of each cookie. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, until the cookies are golden brown. Halfway through the baking time, rotate the pan from front to back. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack until they are completely cool, about 1 hour.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler until you can stir it smooth. (Alternatively, use a microwave oven.) Spoon the melted chocolate over the cookies in a zigzag pattern. Allow the chocolate to harden before storing the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.

The cookie dough can be made up to 2 weeks in advance and refrigerated, tightly covered, until forming the macaroons and baking.

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Indian Spiced Potatoes


Spiced Indian Potatoes

These potatoes are so flavorful you almost don’t want to serve anything else with them.  The coating of spices turns into a crisp layer once the potatoes are cooked. The addition of sea salt and lime adds a wonderful salty tangy, making it impossible to eat just one.

Serves: 4


6 small red potatoes, quartered

1 tablespoon jalapeno, finely minced

1 teaspoon  garlic, crushed

2 tablespoon creamy horseradish

1/3 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon cumin powder

1/2 teaspoon turmeric

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 ½ teaspoons cayenne

1 teaspoon ginger powder

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/8 cup fresh mint

1/8 cup fresh cilantro

Lime wedges

Sea salt


Rinse and quarter the potatoes. Place the potatoes into a pot of boiling water. Cook for 5-10 minutes, until slightly fork tender but still able to hold their shape. Drain the potatoes in a colander.

Preheat the oven to 450.

In a mixing bowl combine all of the remaining ingredients.  Add the potatoes and toss to coat.  Spread the potatoes out onto a baking sheet.  Bake for 45-60 minutes, until the potatoes are golden and crisp.

Chiffonade the mint and cilantro by cutting it into thin strips.  Sprinkle the fresh herbs on top of the potatoes.  Serve with sea salt and fresh lime.

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Pork Sliders w/Grilled Wasabi Teriyaki Peaches

Pork Sliders w/Grilled Wasabi Teriyaki Peaches

Pork Sliders

These pork burgers are perfect to share with friends at a summertime barbecue. The peaches add a subtle sweetness, and are a great way to feature one of summer’s best fruits. Be sure to serve extra coleslaw on the side!

(12 MINI BURGERS or 6 large burgers)


2lbs. ground pork

3 tablespoons horseradish cream

1 egg

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 Habanero pepper finely minced

12 mini sesame hamburger buns

4 peaches (sliced into ½” rings)

wasabi teriyaki glaze, such as Kona Coast


Combine the top 5 ingredients and portion the burgers into quarter pound disks. Preheat the grill to medium high. Slice the peaches and brush lightly with olive oil. Grill the peaches first. Grill for 5 minutes on each side or until the peach is tender and has nice grill marks. Remove the peaches from the grill and brush with a generous amount of the glaze. To grill the pork burger, cook the for 6-7 minutes per side. Place several slices of grilled peach on to a hamburger bun and top with a pork burger. To finish top with cabbage slaw and grilled peaches.

(Asian style coleslaw)

1 small head Asian cabbage

½ small head purple cabbage

1 red onion finely diced

2 carrots finely sliced

1 jar sweet bell pepper sandwich strips

1 cup light mayonnaise

1/2 cup fat-free Greek style yogurt

1/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup rice vinegar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 1/2teaspoon black pepper

Finely slice the cabbages and toss into a large bowl. Add the onion, carrots, and bell peppers. Mix in the mayo, yogurt, sugar, vinegar, salt and pepper. Mix until thoroughly blended.

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The Family Bandit – Feature – Food News – CHOW

Yaya & IThe Family Bandit-CHOW

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