One of my favorite classes in culinary school was titled Cuisines Across Cultures. This class, obvious by the title, explored the roots and traditions of different cuisines from around the world. We would take one ingredient, such as lentils, and prepare it utilizing different cooking techniques, methods and flavor combinations to explore and better understand flavor profiles and cuisine staples from different countries. We also spent a good deal of time learning about every herb, spice and seed used to flavor foods around the world. One of the first topics our chef instructor lectured on was curry.

Most people are well aware that curry is widely used in Indian and Thai cooking, but most don’t know that curry itself is not a spice. Curry is actually a blend of up to 20 spices, herbs and seeds which typically contain cardamom, chiles, cinnamon, cloves, coriander, cumin, fennel seed, fenugreek, mace, nutmeg, red and black pepper, poppy and sesame seeds, saffron, tamarind and turmeric. Obviously you can purchase commercial curry powder in the grocery store, but it bears little resemblance to the freshly ground traditional Indian blends and pastes. If you decide to explore this recipe I have included a recipe for making your own simple curry powder, which will stay wonderfully fresh in an airtight container for up to two weeks.
I LOVE traditional curried dishes, but I also love to mimic those deep flavors in simple easy, healthy dishes too. I really wanted to share something this time that is so simple to make that literally anyone can do it! This is a perfect dish for those who work long hours and like to use the slow cooker to ensure dinner is ready when you get home. This is one of my favorite Wednesday meals, and the leftovers make packing Thursdays lunch for Liv a breeze. Weighing in at under 400 calories per serving while boasting a whopping 37 grams of lean protein you just can’t go wrong with this slow cooked, curry inspired, healthful super easy meal!

This dish does take a little bit of prep to get into to the slow cooker, but it is worth it! The good news is the assembly for dinner is a breeze, so invest the 20 minutes in prepping this dish in the morning while you are sipping your coffee, for a healthy dinner on the table in 10 minutes when you get home in the evening. I found this idea in one of my all time favorite magazines, Clean Eating. I took the liberty to add and change a few of the basic ingredients and cooking techniques to deepen the flavor profile without adding any noticeable calories. My simple addition of onion, garlic, cinnamon and tomatoes really add a richness and body to this yummy dish. Most importantly browning the meat prior to putting it in liquid is a must for a delicious tasting stewed or braised dish. Skipping this step will result in tougher bland meat which will taste more boiled than slow cooked.

Curried Beef
Adapted from a Tosca Reno Clean Eating Recipe

1 lb extra lean or lean stew beef, defatted and cubed into about 1-1.5” cubes
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
2 tbsp Indian curry powder, divided (I used yellow mild curry, no hot chilies for the kids)
½ tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp cooking oil (I like grape seed oil)
½ large yellow onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1 tbsp tomato paste
1-14oz can chopped tomatoes
1 can (drained) low sodium chick peas, or 14 oz of cooked dried chick peas
1 cup low-sodium stock (you can use vegetable, chicken or beef. I use chicken or vegetable typically because I make my own stock and freeze it)
1 cup frozen peas

Combine cubed beef, kosher salt, cinnamon, and 1 tbsp curry powder in a medium bowl. Rub meat vigorously with your hands to cover thoroughly with spice mixture.

Heat cooking oil in a medium skillet over med-high heat, add spice rubbed meat evenly in one layer to skillet and brown on both sides. Don’t over crowd the pan, work in batches if necessary. Remove meat with a slotted spoon and place on paper towel lined plate.

Add onions and garlic to the pan and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent and fragrant, do not brown.

Add tomato paste, cook one minute then add chopped tomatoes, cook for 1 minute more to deglaze the pan.

Add beef, tomato, garlic and onion mixture to a 2- to 3-qt slow cooker.

Add stock and chick peas to the slow cooker, stir in remaining 1 tablespoon of curry powder and cook on low for 8 hours.

To finish use a large skillet heated on medium-high heat, transfer the contents of slow cooker to skillet and bring to a simmer. You will reduce this mixture to desired consistency, stir in frozen peas during the last minute of cooking so they retain their bright green color. If you would prefer this dish to stay on the saucy side don’t reduce as much and serve over cooked brown rice instead of inside a whole wheat pita!

Lime Cilantro Yogurt Sauce
1 cup non or low-fat plain Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, grated
Pinch kosher salt
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro (optional)
Lime juice, to taste
Low-fat milk (as needed to thin the yogurt)

In a small bowl grate one clove of garlic. You can use minced garlic, but I personally hate biting into a piece of raw garlic so I prefer to grate raw garlic with a micro plain or fine cheese grater. Combine garlic, yogurt, salt, cilantro and lime. If needed, stir in a dash of milk to thin the yogurt to desired consistency. I also like to add just a bit of honey to this sauce it works nicely to balance the tartness of the lime and garlic.

For Serving

6 warmed whole-wheat pitas (I love the Trader Joes WW pitas)
2 cups fresh baby spinach
Stuff each warm pita with some spinach, spoon in some curry mixture, drizzle with yogurt sauce and enjoy!

Homemade Yellow Curry Powder, makes 5 to 6 tablespoons.
2 tbsp whole coriander seeds
1 tbsp whole cumin seeds
2 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 ½ tsp whole brown mustard seeds
1 ½ tsp ground tumeric
1 tsp whole fenugreek seeds (I used 1 tsp of ground fenugreek, you can get it at Whole Foods)
3 hot dried red chilies, crumbled (when I use chilies I use dried chile de arbol)
3 whole cloves

Heat a small DRY frying pan over medium heat. When it gets hot, add coriander, cumin, peppercorns, mustard seeds, cloves and chilies. Keep moving the pan constantly, to make sure the spices do not burn, the spices will begin to get toasted and become fragrant. Keep moving the pan over the heat until they begin to darken slightly in color. Add tumeric and fenugreek and stir constantly for 10-15 seconds.

Remove from heat and pour into a bowl. Allow to cool. Once cool, place into a spice grinder and grind until fine. Store curry powder in an air tight container for up to two weeks for optimal freshness.

I have never been one to have a sweet tooth; in fact I have always considered Fourme d'Ambert and a nice vintage port to be my ideal dessert! Now my darling husband, that’s another story altogether. He loves all things sweet, with almost no discrimination; he’ll eat Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups with the same heavenly grin as when he eats a fresh baked chocolate croissant! I suppose that as I get older I do appreciate a sweet bite every now and then… My children, Liv and François (ok his birth name is Jack, but I have been calling him Francois since he was born) love sweets, but definitely approach them with a far more sophisticated palate then both their typical peers, and of course their father! Liv doesn’t like anything fancy, she will tell you without a doubt how much she loves a nice big piece of perfectly executed dark chocolate, the darker and richer the better. Françoise is my little custard and fruit forward dessert lover. He loves crème brulee, éclairs (or anything featuring pastry cream!) and of course perfect little fruit Tartelettes.

I don’t typically make dessert, but my family all love to enjoy something sweet and the end of every dinner. Usually Liv and Rick are satisfied with the small stock of dark chocolate covered cherries, and bits and pieces of good chocolate I keep in the pantry, while François will gladly opt for a piece of fruit or some yogurt. I’m not a huge fan giving kids sugar laden desserts, I have found that allowing my kids to eat sweets in moderation, choosing small portions of sweets made with REAL ingredients and not stuff bought at the grocery store or in the candy isle, which typically has tons of artificial flavors and preservatives, has satisfied their urge for sweets while meeting my expectations of eating real foods. You see I did graduate from a French culinary school, and what is more classically French than dessert? I was lucky enough to learn to make traditional amazingly buttery and flaky croissants, pâté choux pastries, clafoutis, galettes and many other delicious tarts, cakes and cookies. So…full disclosure time, I dreaded and I mean DREADED baking and pastry classes (DREADED-AND I'M NOT EXAGGERATING EVIDENT BY MY USE OF ALL CAPS)! And Dear Lord please don’t let my wonderful baking a pastry instructor Chef Adriane read this! I was (and really still am) a chef who doesn’t love to step out of the savory side of the kitchen. The best explanation for this is summed up in the expression “cooking is an art and baking is a science”. I HATE to measure…

So while I will make more complicated desserts for special events and holidays I like to stick to easier and more rustic type desserts for our family treats. I also typically need an inspiration to put on my baking apron and get out the sugar.

My inspiration for this round of baking was twofold. One being my beautiful little Meyer lemon tree and the other being Francois. It went something like this…The kids and I were enjoying the unusually gorgeous February weather out back. We picked lemons, weeded the onion beds and fed the worms (our composting worms). We were playing and chatting and I was of course thinking of what I could do with all of my lovely lemons. We were all going in and out of the house when I heard a blood curdling scream. It was Francois. He had been a good boy and taken off his mud boots in the garage before coming into the house, but in true boy fashion he was running and not paying attention. The heavy garage door closed over his bare toe and there was blood… Now those of you who have, or work with children understand that the minute there is blood with any “injury” is the minute the world must stop turning! I of course ran to his rescue, swept him up in my arms (he is only four…and my baby!) and took him to the medic station, my master bath. He was sobbing. I once had a checker at Trader Joes ask me if my son had a sister, because he pinched his finger in the cart and screamed this unworldly scream that you would only expect from a dramatic little princess. So you can imagine the drama when blood in any volume is involved. Then the magic happened. I pulled out the new box of Band Aids and suddenly like a switch he stopped, wiped his eyes, and said with such delighted surprise “you got Spiderman Band-Aids”? So I guess Spiderman saved the day! He was all bandaged up now, but he just wasn’t ready to put his boots back on over his “wound”. So when I asked him what he wanted to do he said "bake cookies"…

Ok I was inspired to bake or at least make something sweet, and after hitting a few of my favorite blogs I found this yummy Meyer lemon pudding recipe Francois was in, and excited. Liv wasn’t as thrilled, so we decided two desserts were in order. I also had about 10 homemade mini whole wheat and flax blue berry muffins (muffin recipe below) in the fridge that were on their last leg, approaching stale. My aunt had recently emailed and asked if I thought she could use my chocolate brioche bread pudding recipe and substitute old muffins for the brioche. So with that in mind I decided to turn our leftover mini muffins into a lower fat bread pudding. Both turned out super yummy and both were my favorite kind of desserts, easy!!! Hopefully you will find your own inspiration to try one or both of these recipes!

The Galley Gourmet’s Meyer Lemon Pudding (No modifications necessary, it was easy and delicious!) Serves 6
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
2 1/2 cups whole milk
3 extra large egg yolks, lightly beaten
2 tablespoons finely grated Meyer lemon zest (or 1 tablespoon lemon zest + 1 tablespoon orange zest)
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice (or 1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice + 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

In a medium saucepan, whisk together the sugar and cornstarch. Add the milk, egg yolks, zest, and salt and whisk until smooth. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently at first and constantly toward the end, until thickened.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the citrus juice and butter. Place a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl and pour the mixture through the strainer. Divide the mixture into 6 serving dishes and let cool to room temperature. Refrigerate, loosely covered (tightly covered will trap too much moisture, making a watery pudding) for at least 3 hours and up to 3 days. Serve chilled by itself or with lightly sweetened whipped cream.

Blueberry Muffin Bread Pudding
2 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
3 c. low-fat milk
1 c. heavy cream
1/2 c. unsalted butter, melted
1 tbsp. vanilla
1 tbsp fresh grated lemon zest
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp. nutmeg
8 oz. stale low fat blueberry muffins
½ cup fresh or frozen blueberries (optional)

Bread Pudding: Combine eggs, sugar, milk, cream, melted butter, vanilla, lemon zest, cinnamon, and nutmeg in a bowl; whisk to blend well. Arrange the muffin pieces in a lightly greased 4-quart baking dish and pour the mixture over muffin pieces, let stand, turning muffin pieces as necessary, until soft and saturated, about 20 minutes. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake uncovered until the custard is set and top is lightly browned, about 45 minutes.

Bleu Rosemary’s Low Fat Whole Wheat and Flax Blueberry Muffins

1 cup non fat milk (cow or nut)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
¼ cup raw honey
¼ cup naturally sweetened applesauce
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour
3 tbsp ground flax
4 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ -1 tsp cinnamon

1 1/4 cups fresh or frozen blueberries (If using frozen blueberries, do not thaw before adding them to the batter)

Blueberry Muffins: Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (Position rack in center of oven. Butter or line 12 muffin cups with paper liners).

In a large measuring cup or bowl whisk together the milk, lightly beaten egg, honey, applesauce, and vanilla extract.

In another large bowl whisk together the
flour, flax, baking powder, and salt. Remove 1 tablespoon of the dry ingredients and toss it with the blueberries. With a rubber spatula fold the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir only until the ingredients are combined. Gently stir in the blueberries. Do not over mix the batter or your muffins will be tough and dense. 

 Evenly fill the muffin cups with the batter, using two spoons or an ice cream scoop. Place in the oven and bake for about 15 - 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for about 5 minutes before removing from pan.

Well I have never been to Tuscany, but as I cook this dish and serve it with a well balanced Pinot Noir I imagine I am there cooking in a little cottage on the Tuscan countryside. I have always loved to read about France and Italy, and when I say read I mean cookbooks of course! Rustic Mediterranean cooking is what really brought me the love of cooking.

Most would assume that I have been cooking in the kitchen all of my life and loving it. The reality is I used to be indifferent to cooking. I did spend a lot of time in the kitchen growing up, both of my parents love to cook, but I never had a passion for cooking. In fact when I met my husband I told him if he wanted a woman who would cook he’d better move on! Notice I said would and not could…My love of cooking was really born from a deep desire to nourish my body with healthy natural ingredients coupled with a yearning to travel abroad. When I was younger I did not have the resources to travel, but found something special in the pages of amazingly illustrated books about the rustic European country and sea sides. Almost all of the books that drew me in were actually cookbooks. Books with pictures depicting scenes that included a tranquil picnic set on a rustic wooden table among an endless field of flowers and grapevines.  On the table: an artesian loaf of bread, an amazingly vibrant platter filled with pickled and roasted vegetables and of course the pasta, glistening with extra virgin olive oil  and dotted with bright fresh green basil and red ripe tomatoes.
I knew that for me, in my early 20s I couldn’t pick up and leave school and work to travel to such a place, but I could make those beautiful dishes. That is when I started to explore the farmer’s market downtown at 8th and W, The Sacramento Food Coop, and way before we ever saw a Whole Foods there was always Elliot’s Natural Foods, Wild Oats Market and good old Trader Joes. I should have known that something was different about me when a basket of freshly picked fava beans could literally bring tears to my eyes. I was always on the lookout for amazing, fresh whole foods that I could explore with. The act of cooking became my own escape from the crazy busy life I had. I could instantly come home from working two jobs and going to school full time and make a simple but tasty dish to satisfy my body and my mind.

This love of creating and transporting myself through cooking grows stronger all of the time. I truly enjoy preparing and sharing high quality dishes. The act of eating is also very important to me. I always set the table properly, use my favorite dishes and serve everything family style in serving dishes at the table. Rick and I have always eaten meals at a table together even prior to having kids, no couch eating! We have always made it a priority to make eating a relaxing and enjoyable escape. It may be pavlovian but I could have had the craziest day running in circles trying to get everything done, including getting dinner on the table, and always the minute I sit down to eat I feel the stress of the day escape. I hope you are able to create this kind of travel-less travel with some of the recipes I share with you!

So this salmon dish is one of my favorites, and to most people’s amazement my kids too. AND I must say not just my kids, because they are used to eating “this way,” but our good friends 3 year old daughter who is known to be picky ate two servings! I use boneless, skinless salmon fillets for this recipe and always cook 1-2 more fillets than needed for dinner as they are fabulous served cold the next day on top of a green salad for lunch! I really try to balance my meals not only according to nutritional guidelines but also for the senses. I love to pair flaky, moist and meaty salmon fillets with rich creamy polenta and top it with earthy, salty, slightly acidic greens. I hope you enjoy this dish as much as we do! For my vegetarian and vegan friends, and especially for my veggie loving friends whose other half is a carnivore, this dish is for you too!  Simply make the polenta with a plant based butter and milk substitute and add 14oz of garbanzo beans to the greens while braising, adding a sprinkle of pine nuts to the top at the end will give you added protein and a little more texture. Just have your carnivorous partner cook up their own salmon and marry the two dishes tableside atop the creamy polenta! Voila dinner for the plant and meat eater alike!

6, 4-5oz salmon fillets
½ cup of sundried tomatoes packed in oil
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
Basil (in the summer I use ½ cup fresh packed basil, in the non summer months I used about ½ tablespoon dried basil.)
Kosher salt
Black pepper
  1. In a food processer; add sundried tomatoes and their oil, garlic and herbs. Pulse until a paste is formed, you may need to add a drizzle of olive oil if the paste is not wet enough.
  2. Rinse and pat salmon fillets dry.
  3.  Rub salmon with kosher salt and black pepper. Please do NOT skip the salt! You can use less if you are watching sodium intake, but remember that salt=flavor… rub each salmon fillet with tomato mixture and refrigerate for 20-30 min.
  4. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  5. In a large oven-proof skillet add about 2 tbsp oil. Use a neutral oil with a high smoke point like grapeseed oil. Let oil get HOT. Place salmon fillets in pan, do not over crowd the pan, use two pans if needed. Let the salmon sear until you see the color change on the side ¼ of the way up the salmon. Once the color has changed to light pink (the color salmon looks when cooked) pop the whole skillet in the oven. You are NOT turning the salmon over before you put it in the oven. Cook another 6-10 min depending on how thick the salmon is.
  6. Remove from oven when cooked to desired doneness, place on a warm platter and tent with foil until dinner is ready!
I always use this recipe from Giada De Laurentis first cookbook “The Everyday Italian.” You can also find it at
6 Cups water
2 Tsp salt
1 ¾ Cups course cornmeal
½- ¾ Cups grated Parmesan
½-3/4 cups milk
2-3 tbsp Unsalted butter
Herbs, optional (1 table of mixed dried herbs such as herbs de Provence, or try fresh herbs like 2 tsp each of minced rosemary and thyme and 2 tbsp of chopped Italian parsley.)
  1. Bring the water to a boil in a heavy, large saucepan. Add 2 teaspoons of salt.
  2. Gradually whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce the heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens and the cornmeal is tender, stirring often, about 15 minutes.
  3. Remove from the heat. Add the cheese, milk, butter, parsley, rosemary, thyme, and pepper. Stir until the butter and cheese melt.
  4. Transfer the polenta to a bowl and serve.
4 cups fresh rinsed and chopped greens (I like to use greens that keep some texture like a mix of dino kale and swiss chard, but you can use spinach too)
1 large shallot, sliced into small rings
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1- 14 oz can chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp - ¼ cup red wine vinegar
10 kalmia olives, pitted and chopped
10 green olives, pitted and chopped
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and finely chopped
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper
  1. Warm 1 tbsp olive oil in large sauté skillet or pot. Add shallot and garlic and sauté until translucent and fragrant about 2 min. Do not let them brown.
  2. Add greens to pan and stir until covered with oil.
  3. Add tomatoes and vinegar to the pan, stir to incorporate among greens and partially cover. Cook until greens are tender about 8-10 min. If there is not enough liquid from the tomatoes just add a bit of hot water about ¼ to ½ a cup.
  4. Add olives and capers and cook and additional 2 min.
  5. Add kosher salt and black pepper to taste. For an added kick sprinkle a little crushed red pepper flakes in.
Scoop one portion of polenta (about ½ cup per person) onto a warm plate, top with one salmon fillet and top salmon with ½ cup of the greens. Pour a nice glass of Pinot Noir and Enjoy!