Holiday Pastel De Choclo

IMG_7842Here is a healthy version of a famous Chilean dish that is great to make for the holidays.  Think of a Shepard’s Pie version where the crust is made out of corn (choclo) rather than mashed potatoes and with warming spices like cinammon and cumin.  Although traditionally this pastel is made with chicken, this version is kept vegetarian adding your choice of white beans or chickpeas and lots of veggies.  The corn crust is not vegan as it has some eggs and butter for richness,  but hey, it’s a holiday celebration!.  One can definitely do much worse this time of the year! If you want to keep it vegan, omit the crust or perhaps test a vegan cornbread batter on top (and tell me how it goes!). Happy Holidays!


Makes about 8 to 10 servings

For the stuffing:

1 and 1/4 cup low sodium vegetable stock or water (separated)
1/4 cup dry sherry wine
1 large onion, diced
1 bell pepper, diced
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, finely diced
1 zuchinni, diced
1 yellow squash, diced
1 large can (28 oz) crushed tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 tsp ground cinammon
1 tsp ground cumin
1 cup frozen corn, thawed
1 cup cooked chickpeas or white beans
1/2 cup sliced olives
2 tbsp capers, finely chopped
2 tbsp raisins
Salt and Pepper to taste

To make the stuffing:

Heat a large pan over medium heat and add 1/4 cup of vegetable stock and the sherry wine. Bring to a simmer and add the onion, bell pepper, carrots and jalapeno and steam-saute mixing with a wooden spoon from time to time until the vegetables are soft but not brown, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add zucchini, squash, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaf, spices, raisins and corn and chickpeas. Season lightly with salt and pepper, add the extra cup of vegetable stock and bring to a light simmer. Add olives and capers and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes, stirring from time to time. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed and allow to cool. MIxture should be “soupy”.

Place stuffing on a 15X10 inch baking dish and set aside. Make sure to keep about an inch of space on the top to add the batter.  Reserve any extra stuffing for another use (blended makes a great soup base!).

For the Crust

1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
1/4 cup milk
1 whole egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup wholewheat flour, sifted
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp fresh thyme, finely chopped
fresh pepper to taste

To make the Crust:

Preheat oven to 350 F

Sautee the corn with the butter and thyme on a pan over medium heat, just until fragrant, about 4 minutes, and season with pepper. Allow mixture to cool. Meanwhile sift flour, baking powder and salt over a bowl and set aside. When corn mixture is room temperature cool, place milk, egg and egg yolk and corn in a blender and blend well. You may need to turn off the blender and use a spatula or wooden spoon to mix the ingredients in the blender a couple of times to allow mixture to blend well. Add wet corn mixture into bowl with the flower mixture and toss lightly with a spatula until well incorporated and no longer lumpy but avoid mixing too much to keep mixture “fluffy”. Drizzle mixture over the stuffing, it should have the consistency of a lightly thicker pancake batter. Spread as best you can with a spatula. You need not fully cover the whole dish with the batter.

Bake pastel for about 35 minutes or until crust is firm and cooked through and beginning to get golden in color. Allow to cool lightly before serving.

Meal Delivery Services, Holiday World Tour Dinner

Hello Everyone!

I hope you are all good and had a wonderful Thanksgiving with your loved ones.  I would like to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season that is fast approaching (see below for my upcoming International Holiday Dinner for an indulging option!) .  As we all know, these times can be stressful and with plenty of entertaining, it may be hard to maintain a healthy eating regimen (believe me, i know after this weekend!).  If you would like to set up some coaching classes, coaching calls or cooking classes in December, or offer them as a gift to a loved one, please reach out to me directly to set these up. I’d love to help.


I’d like to share my thoughts on these meal delivery cooking services that are becoming ubiquitous.  I have been trying the service from “Plated” for a few weeks as well as “Hello Fresh”.  I was curious to see if there were good healthy options available .  As you know,  my motto is “you don’t have to be wealthy to be healthy” and i thought that these meals can help many people on the hard task to eat more plant-centric dishes.  I’m always in favor of ways to make it easier to cook for people through my cooking and coaching classes with plenty of tips, techniques and advise.  Overall, i found these services a fairly good option for people that don’t have much time to plan and shop in order to cook.
Having measured ingredients from pre-selected menus, with easy to follow instructions and delivered to your door is a win win from my point of view if people can get to cooking instead of ordering takeout with another myriad of services that now offer that (seamless, grubhub etc..).  A trainer i used to have always mentioned that you have already won the bronze medal just by showing up at the gym for a class.  I would say  in a similar way, you get a medal just for showing up at your kitchen ready to cook from real ingredients!  Having said that, I was surprised to see that the calorie portion of these (all vegetarian, some vegan) options i reviewed could easily top the 700 and up calorie range per portion. That is all an improvement when compared to the meat centric dishes!  However, a very easy way to adjust this to a more reasonable level is to cut (or preferably) eliminate the use of oils from the recipe.  Once again, that no-oil sauteeing technique i teach comes in rather handy for most all of the recipes involved.  This allows to cut back anywhere between 150 or more calories per serving, leaving ample room for a nice salad to begin the meal and a piece of fruit as dessert for a really nutrient-dense dinner.  Read: yes, you still have to shop at some point!  Moreover, feel free to further enrich your recipes by adding more vegetables that you may have at hand, something that would continue lowering the calorie count of the meal, and increase the nutrient density of the plate.  As an example, i added broccoli florets to a roasted sweet potatoes with braised greens salad (pictured above).  I could have added  a whole medley of broccoli, carrots and cauliflower florets and as an added benefit, this would even stretch the meal (that was meant to provide 2 servings) to 3 servings:  voila, lunch for tomorrow is ready!
I would have liked the services to have more vegetarian options, and vegan in particular.  I also noted that many of these options tended to provide about a half a block of tofu per person (and a lot of the vegetarian and vegan options almost always had tofu), way over the recommended amount, and clearly based on no other reason than to add “protein” to the dish.  I love tofu, i just see no reason to force feed it in such large amounts!  Again, you can always cut back on the amount added and use it for another recipe.  Finally, as is the case in lots of restaurants, the use of dairy and particularly cheese, is abused big time when making vegetarian options and i would have also liked to see more vegetarian options that had no cheese in it (most of the times i would simply omit the cheese in the recipe, cutting back a hefty amount of calories and fat at the same time).  I will perhaps continue looking for other services (Purple Carrot: I’m watching you!) and see what works and what does not work.  In any case, give it a go if you are curious with some of my suggestions and you


Please join me for an International Holiday Dinner Party!. I am partnering with Customs Catering for their 1st Annual Holiday Demo & Dinner Party on Saturday December 12th @ Kitchen Rental NYC located at 306 West 51st Street between 8th and 9th Ave.   Space is limited to 18 guests, so reserve as soon as possible and come with a friend!   I will be making a 3 course menu with dishes from around the world with a first course salad with salmon rillette (spread)  on sourdough bread from France, a hearty “Pastel de Choclo”, a Chilean version of a chicken pot pie with a corn crust on top and an Almond Cake with Mascarpone and Raspberry Pomegranate Compote to represent Italy.  You will also learn how to do the first course through a demo i’ll do!.   Hope to see you there! Link for the tickets below and more information below.

EMAIL CUSTOMSCATERING @ GMAIL.COM TO RESERVE YOUR SPACE TODAY! Please include names and what type of “ticket” (with alcohol or without) SPACE IS LIMITED TO ONLY 18! Please go to PayPal.Me/customscatering to pay $125 p/p for demo and dinner with a cocktail and wine, or $100 p/p for demo and dinner with a mocktail and non-alcoholic sparkling cider. Any questions, please call Mary Reilly at 917-363-9860. Kitchen Rental NYC is located on the ground floor of 306 W. 51 Street between 8th & 9th Avenues. Please arrive on Saturday, December 12, 2015 between 6:30 pm – 7 pm for your welcome cocktail and light bites. The evening will end at 10:30 pm.

Tickets for Dinner on Paypal for customscatering Here!


Recipe Repertoire: Holiday Mushroom Chestnut Velouté

5 servings
Chestnut Veloute This recipe is inspired for a healthy holiday celebration and based on the classic French soup called “velouté” or “velvety”.  A few changes are on order to make this delicious soup more nutrient and less calorie dense.  Out goes the use of a roux (a blend of refined flour and some type of fat, usually butter or oil). The chestnuts themselves will give a nice thick consistency without the added calories.  We also substitute the heavy amounts of cream traditionally used by some hearty almond milk instead.  For ease, I use cooked, cryo-vac packed and ready-to-use chestnuts but feel free to use fresh chesnuts, pierced, steamed or roasted and peeled.  A key ingredient in this recipe is dried mushrooms and dried mushroom powder for an aromatic dish that your guests will love.  Finally, a last minute optional addition of a tablespoon of Armagnac liqueur (it is the holidays after all!) per serving raises this soup to celebratory status!


1 oz (28 gr) dried sliced porcini (or a combination of mixed) mushrooms
3 cups of hot water
2 large shallots, peeled and diced
14 oz (400gr) peeled and steamed chestnuts (feel free to peel and roast them if you are using fresh ones).  They can be whole or in pieces.
3 cups unsweetened almond milk
2 cups vegetable stock
10 oz shiitake mushrooms, stems off and rinsed
3/8 oz (12 gr) dried porcini powder or any dried mushroom powder
5 Tbsp Bas Armagnac Liqueur (optional, for serving)

Soak the dried sliced mushrooms in 3 cups of hot water and let stand for about 10 minutes.  Then remove the soaked mushrooms with a slotted spoon, sliced them to bite size pieces and set aside. Strain the remaining soaking liquid through a cheese cloth or fine sieve and set aside, making sure to discard the last ¾ inch of water with dirt and sediment.

To make the soup, heat a medium stock pot over medium heat.  Add a few tablespoons of vegetable stock aIMG_2479nd add the shallots.  Mix with a wooden spoon and steam-saute for a few minutes, until shallots start turning lightly brown and adding stock as needed to avoid sticking, about 7 minutes.  Add the chestnuts and saute for another 6 minutes or so mixing from time to time and adding more stock as needed to avoid sticking.  Add the rest of the vegetable stock, the almond milk and the mushroom powder.  Season lightly with freshly ground pepper and cook over medium to low heat until chestnuts start breaking apart, about 10 minutes.  Place soup mixture on a blender and blend well (add some of the mushroom soaking liquid if needed), in batches if needed and put back into pot.  Add the sliced soaked mushrooms, the shiitake mushrooms and the mushroom soaking liquid. Cook for another 6 minutes to allow flavors to mix together well.  Serve with a Tbsp of liquor per bowl if using.  Bon Appétit!!