Posts tagged ‘Chef Jen Wanous’

August 15, 2014

Superfood Never Tasted So Good: Cherry Chocolate Chia Pudding

by Jen Wanous

Have you heard of chia seeds yet? They might ring a bell if you remember the popular: “Cha-cha-cha-chia Pet” from the 1980’s where the chia seeds sprouted and grew into cute pet-plants. Now chia seeds are hitting the market as the next big superfood.

Like their superfood cousin, the flax seed, chia seeds have a high omega 3 content which is an important fatty acid that reduces inflammation in blood vessels, protecting against diseases like arthritis and heart disease. Take away the kitschy clay pot pet and chia seeds are decidedly less fun, even with the health benefits…but that’s what chocolate is for.

Like chia seeds, chocolate also comes from a seed: the cacao seed. In its pure form, chocolate is a superfood too. Cacao is rich in two groups of antioxidants in particular, flavonoids and polyphenols, both of which are seen to protect against heart disease. Pure chocolate, or cacao powder, is bitter in its original form. The good news is that you don’t need all the eggs, butter, cream, and sugar to make chocolate taste good. You just need to creatively combine some superfoods.

When going dairy-free, one has to think outside of the box to achieve the familiar textures that dairy offers. Chia seeds can miraculously hold up to 12 times their weight in liquid when soaked. This makes for a gelatin-like effect which is useful for mimicking the texture of pudding.

The last ingredient in this superfood recipe are cherries. Cherries are summer’s sweetheart fruit. They are ripe when picked and promise a sweet seasonal treat. They are available for only a month-long window in late summer so grab them while you can. A superfood in a small package, cherries are packed with antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Here is a simple recipe that combines a seasonal summer fruit, cherries, with other superfoods: chocolate and chia seeds to make for a creamy and cool summer treat. Cha, cha, cha, chia pudding!

Chocolate, Cherry, Chia Pudding

Serves 4

Equipment needed: blender


1 can or 13.5 ounces coconut milk

3 tablespoons cocoa powder, unsweetened, non-alkalized

2 tablespoons chia seeds, ground

2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave syrup

½ cup cherries, pitted, roughly chopped


  1. In a blender, combine the first four ingredients. Blend on medium speed until well incorporated.
  2. Pour mixture into serving bowls, top with chopped cherries and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.

If you don’t have cherries, try a berry like strawberry, blueberry, or raspberry instead.

Photo courtesy of Ella Leché, check out her incredible blog here:

Photo courtesy of Ella Leché, check out her incredible blog here:

May 29, 2014

Four Unique Ways to Prepare Fish

by Jen Wanous

1) Open a can! We all know how to make a tuna fish sandwich but there are other options in the canned fish department. Try a smoked fish like trout. Give the fish a quick sauté in a pan with olive oil, deglaze with a little white wine, add roasted cherry tomatoes, and combine with pasta.

2) Pack with spices and grill. Using a sturdy fish like salmon, create a spice mixture to press on the fish and grill on the stove top with a slatted pan. For a serving of four try: ¼ cup brown sugar; zest of one orange; 2 teaspoons smoked paprika; 1 teaspoon ground cumin; ½ teaspoon ground coriander; ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper; 1 teaspoon salt; and cayenne to taste.

3) Sear. For this type of preparation, you’ll want to use the highest quality fish available-look for the “sushi-grade”. Portion the fish into 4-5 ounce pieces. Heat a large cast iron skillet on medium-high heat, add olive oil, place the pieces in the pan and sear each side for just 30 seconds. Serve with a soy-wasabi dipping sauce.

4) Bake with a salt crust. This is a sophisticated way to prepare fish and has a built in flavor enhancement and moisture lock: salt. For this you’ll use one whole fish like red snapper or sea bass. Rinse and pat the fish dry. Add whole stems of fresh herbs to the inside of the fish. Whip 4 egg whites until they create soft peaks. To this, add 2 cups of kosher salt. Spread ¼ of this mixture on a large baking dish, place the fish on top and cover the fish with the remaining mixture. Bake for 40 minutes at 450. Crack and remove the crust to serve.

For information on the sustainability of the fish you procure, please visit:

Photo courtesy of Elaine McCardel, blogger at:

Photo courtesy of Elaine McCardel, blogger at:

February 11, 2014

Eat Your Heart Out: a Valentines Day Menu

by Jen Wanous

Valentine Chef

Did you know that garlic is an aphrodisiac? Yep, it gets your blood pumping. Its flavor can be too sharp sometimes, so I like to mellow it out with some slow roasting. Here, in this full menu, I’m inspired by Valentines Day. The menu starts off with a homemade pasta with shrimp in a tomato and garlic sauce. Of course, to simplify things, you can get a nice package of linguine and prepare that aldente, but making homemade pasta is a lot easier than you think. It’s a fun way to get hands-on with your meal and your sweetheart can help too! I always feel fancy when I eat shrimp, so I added some to this dish. Fancy. Oh and asparagus. Balsamic reduction, yeah, sexy.

Tiramisu tops off this sensuous menu. It is simplified from its original version but still has layer upon layer of creamy chocolaty sweetness. Go grab your Boo, Bestie or Bubbie and cook up this special meal for two.

Handmade Pasta with Shrimp in Tomato and Garlic Sauce

Serves 2-4

Fresh Handmade Pasta

Be creative with your pasta shapes, just be sure they all have the same thickness so they cook evenly. If you are making this with your sweetheart, divide the flour in half and you each can have one mound of flour and one egg.


1 ¾ cups unbleached all-purpose flour

2 extra large eggs


1. On a clean dry surface, mound the flour. Create a well in the center and crack the egg into the center. With a fork, gently beat the egg, slowly gathering in the flour as you go around in a circle. Try to keep the outer rim of the flour intact to keep the egg from running out.

2. When about half the flour is incorporated, begin kneading with your hands, adding in more flour as you go if it is too sticky. Once the dough comes together in one big mass, knead it with your hands for three minutes. The dough should be elastic and just a little sticky. Add dustings of flour when needed. Wrap the dough in plastic wrap and let it rest for 20 minutes.

3. With a rolling pin or wine bottle, roll out the dough on a floured surface making sure that the thickness is similar all around. Cut into your desired shape. (I like to make rectangles.) Set aside on a floured surface until you are ready to boil them.

4. To cook, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and gently boil for about 3-7 minutes. Test for doneness along the way. Your pasta is finished when it is cooked all the way through and has a pliable, yet not mushy texture. Gently drain and do not rinse pasta.

Shrimp in Tomato and Garlic Sauce


1 pound cherry tomatoes, sliced in half

6-9 cloves garlic, smashed

2 tablespoons olive oil

salt to taste

4 tablespoons butter

pinch of red pepper flakes

½ pound medium shrimp (15-20), de-veined, peeled, pat dry

¼ cup dry white wine

Salt to taste

Cracked fresh pepper

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

Grated parmesan cheese, for garnish (optional)


1. Preheat oven to 350. In a large rimmed baking sheet, add tomatoes and garlic. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt, tossing quickly with your hands to coat all. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the edges of the garlic turn golden brown.

2. Right before the tomatoes are ready to come out of the oven, heat a large sauté pan over medium heat. Melt butter and red pepper flakes 2-3 minutes until butter is slightly nutty and light brown. Add the shrimp and sauté 3-5 minutes, until shrimp are entirely pink (no gray).

3. Take the tomatoes out of the oven and deglaze by pouring the white wine onto the baking sheet and with a wood spoon, scrape up any brown bits (this is where the good flavor is). Add the tomatoes and garlic to the butter and shrimp. Add salt and pepper to taste. Toss with cooked pasta. Garnish with basil and parmesan.

Roasted Asparagus with Balsamic Reduction Drizzle

Serves 2-4

1 pound asparagus, woodsy stem removed

2 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

½ cup balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon maple syrup


1. Preheat the oven to 350.  On a rimmed baking sheet, toss asparagus with olive oil and salt and pepper. Arrange in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

2. While the asparagus is baking, in a small saucepan, combine the balsamic vinegar and maple syrup. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to low until reduced by half, about 15 minutes.

Tiramisu for You and Your Boo

Serves 2-4

Assemble the dessert in a wine goblet or 6 ounce dessert cup. (You can also assemble one big tiramisu and scoop it out.) This is best enjoyed within a couple hours of assembling.


1 cup fresh, strong coffee (can be decaffeinated)

4 tablespoons bourbon, whiskey, or dark rum

8 ounces cream cheese (low fat is fine)

½ cup confectioners (powdered) sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt (optional)

½ cup whipping cream

12 ladyfingers

2 tablespoons unsweetened coco powder (optional)

6 raspberries, sliced in half vertically, for garnish (optional)

¼ cup semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, grated, for garnish (optional)


1.In a wide bowl, combine the coffee and 3 tablespoons of the liquor. Set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, vanilla extract, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the liquor until well incorporated. Gradually add the powdered sugar until fluffy. If using a stand mixer, transfer mixture to a large bowl.

3. In a now empty bowl (no need to wash bowl), whip cream 2-3 minutes until the cream holds stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the two cream mixtures together.

4. In your dessert cups, begin to assemble the tiramisu starting with a few tablespoons of the cream mixture. Next, prepare the ladyfingers by quickly (2-3 seconds) dipping and flipping the ladyfingers in the coffee mixture. (Break the ladyfinger to fit your cup size.)  Add a layer of ladyfingers and alternate with a layer of the cream mixture until your cup is near full and you finish on a cream layer.

5. Garnish with a dusting of coco powder, sliced raspberries, and shaved chocolate. (To dust, put the coco powder in a fine mesh strainer and gently tap the edge over the top of the dessert. You might want to do this over the sink if you’re using small dessert cups.)