When Life Gives You Lemons #pickingupthepieces

During Portia Joyce Wellness’s Beyond The Resolutions: 11-Day, Winter Clean Eating Program, I probably use about 2 whole lemons in one day. My morning lemon elixir, to get my digestive enzymes started and to release toxins from my liver, alone uses 1 whole lemon for juicing. Then, throughout my day, I can possibly use a lemon or two for a massaged kale salad, to give a pâté some acidity or to season a soup. Thinking ahead, I realized there is a much wasted ingredient every time I juice a lemon and throw it in the trash.



The lemon zest is an essential part of flavoring in modern day cooking. Citrus fruit have the outer layer called a peel. The peel is made up of two parts, the flavedo and the pith. The pith is the white under layer of the peel which gives the citrus fruit its bitter characteristics. The flavedo, which is what the zest comes from, is the outer most layer of the peel. It contains the essential oils in citrus that is key to flavoring dishes without the use of its juice. Using the zest eliminates the addition of liquid and the “sour” and/or “sweet” taste of the fruit. The zest gives us the basic, yet powerful, flavor and smell of the fruit itself.


1. MICROPLANE/GRATER: This ingenious tool is designed to finely grate zest from citrus fruit such as lemons, limes, and oranges (oh, my). However, I have used my microplane to finely grate Parmagianno-Reggiano or hard cheeses, finely mince garlic, top off my coffee with ground nutmeg, or even use it to finely grate dark chocolate to top off a panna cotta. Depending on the size of the microplane or grater, you will get a different coarseness of zest.

  4414ZESTER_07_10_2012__17_55_32_456  microplane-zester-L 

2. ZESTER/CHANNEL KNIFE: This is very useful when trying to remove strips of zest from citrus fruit for garnish or to chop up finely and use as zest. The beginning product comes out a bit larger than if you were to just grate a lemon for zest finely. The channeling knife produces larger and longer ribbons of zest. Usually found on the opposite end of the zester or right beneath it on the same metallic piece. This is a great way to store citrus zest before use. Once ready to use, you can finely chop these ribbons of zest into a finer product.

                                                      brio-bar-zester-largezest1-300x260           citrus-zester


3. PEELER or PAIRING KNIFE: This method produces the largest portions of zest. This is the best way to zest citrus for later use. Whether using a peeler or knife, you just remove the zest, which is the first layer of rind. You never want to remove the white pith part of a citrus fruit. It is the most bitter part of the citrus. Removing these larger pieces can give you the best advantage of more yield. You can then julienne, cutting into long strips, them into a zest size, then finely chop those strips into a fine grated size. This is my favorite way of zesting in bulk to store for later use!


I take the zest and use it in many aspects of my cooking. I add orange zest into coffee to make an orange spiced coffee and some added cinnamon for more flavor. I always use lemon zest in making my homemade vinaigrettes or dressings. This is the best way I know to add the lemony citrus flavor to my recipe without adding additional acidity or liquid. Zest is amazing any way you use it. So please, next time you know you are about to juice lemons for a cleanse, drink, or recipe, ZEST IT FIRST! You never know when you need that extra burst of citrus in your life.

Shopping Is Half The Battle #pickingupthepieces

Eating healthy is a big part of trying to lose weight and reducing your risk for disease. Having a daily workout regimen aimed to increase your heart rate and burn fat (or calories) is detrimental to getting your body in the shape that you desire for optimal health. Combining these two practices make for one heck of a journey towards a healthy future. As a personal chef, I know that preparation before execution is everything.

Having your mise en place means to have everything ready in its place.

In every professional kitchen, all cooks have their mise en place ready to go before creating a dish, jumping onto the line to start dinner service, or even to test out a new recipe. We try to make sure everything is sorted, washed, prepped, cut, chopped, and sliced ready to be used in the final cooking process. I teach all my clients, learning how to cook, to make sure their mise en place is in order. This means planning a weekly menu, researching recipes, making an ingredient/shopping list then going to the grocery store and buying the right kind of ingredients to use for the week. This may seem like a ton of work at first. But if you think about it, doing this sets your week up with planned dinners and meals. All your thinking for the week has been done all in one day or weekend.

Now when you go to the grocery store I advise you all to keep your eyes open when shopping. Don’t go in there like robots picking up the first item on your list right off the shelves without “shopping around.”




Here are a few Successful Shopping Tips:

1. Look for deals or sales. Usually marked with bright colors, most grocery stores have sales every week. This will help out with your grocery budget and ultimately keeping your finances in check. Cooking at home for you and/or your family is not expensive if you shop smart.

2. Pre-cut and pre-prepped fruits and vegetables are usually more expensive. Buy whole produce and do the prep yourself. You may more because you are being charged extra for doing all the work for you. Sometimes this can help you out but if you plan your week accordingly, doing all the prep yourself can save you ton of money.  

3. Another key thing with fruits and vegetables is that every ingredient has its prime season for the best flavor and ripeness. When shopping for produce, buy seasonal ingredients.  Apples and squash are best in the fall to winter. Melons and tomatoes are incredible mid summer. Buy seasonally assures ripeness, full flavors, and inexpensive prices.

4. Along with shopping seasonally, purchasing products from local growers and producers not only save your a buck or two but help out your community. Locally grown produce and made products are most often cheaper than items brought in from more than 100 miles away. This not only assures fresh tasting foods but also promotes supporting businesses and farms in your neighborhoods and state.

5. Buy in bulk! The bulk department is my favorite department because you can buy as much or as little as you want. You can control the costs of the products you buy. You can reduce your costs in half because you don’t have to pay for packaging or the limited size and quantity. You will also eliminate any potential waste at home. Buying some packaged products for some recipes are great. However, if you only need a little bit for one recipe, your product may expire or go bad before you ever use it again. You’ll end up throwing out an entire container of spices or dry ingredients meaning money in the trash…something we don’t want!

This past weekend I set up my own mise en place for a detox that I was going to start. It is the Beyond The Resolutions: 11-Day Winter Clean Eating Program run by Portia Joyce Wellness. It is a detoxifying meal plan set in place to help remove toxins and waste from your body that it has acquired through the air and especially through what we eat. It is also a great way to a healthy recovery and start on a clean state. Detoxing before making any drastic changes, such as altering your diet, makes a whole world of difference. Check out my links if you have a chance and if you think this is something for you.

So I went shopping for the week. I actually designed my groceries for two people. I brought my mother along this journey in hopes to lower her Triglycerides and increase her HDL levels. If anything, she’s definitely more excited because she doesn’t even have to lift a finger. I have shopped, prepped, and I packaged and serve her meals everyday. She has no excuse and now that I have done the same for her, I don’t either. Here are the results of my shopping experience at my local Whole Foods Market.

Detox Week 1 Shopping List & Totals

Detox Week 1 Shopping List (1 of 2)

Detox Week 1 Shopping List (2 of 2)

I visited Whole Foods Market in Paramus, NJ and not to my surprise I was able to find everything I needed. As you will see, with much preparation and organization, you can pre-plan and shop for your week with ease. Then, once you have everything you need, take another hour or two washing your produce, chopping and prepping them all and pack them away in reusable containers. You’re week is basically all set and ready for you to cook. So believe me when I say,

“A few hours today will save you double the amount of time throughout the week. Planning your week out and then taking your time to organize yourself, well you’ve done the hard part. SHOPPING IS HALF THE BATTLE…now the cooking part, well…GIVE ME A CALL! :-)”

Healthy Recipe: Spinach Pesto

Yum dee lish! Simple, quick, and tasty…a perfect formula for a tasty recipe!

Enjoy…I know I did!


-Chef Flo