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! :-)”

What an Effin B****…

Oh, let me clarify!

WHAT AN EFFIN BEAST when it comes to her ZUMBA/LATIN HEAT class!!!!

I finally went back to the gym yesterday and just had to start it off with a Latin Heat sesh. It’s like Zumba but with more dance moves! I mean it’s the most perfect workout for someone that doesn’t enjoy to workout. I love to dance. I have been Latin Ballroom dancing since I was 10 years old. I met my ex-wife at a ballroom dance studio. And now my daughter is a young Cheryl Burke! Yeah, I said it! I’m one of those parents. Anyhow, it was the best. I actually didn’t know they had one at that time. I was confused by the schedule listed on LA Fitness’s website but it ended up working out. Get it?!? ;-P

It was an early day sesh, so it wasn’t that packed. The young to middle aged women that were there left some room for me in the back corner. I love walking into these workout rooms and getting all the wonderful attention. They all give me that stare of “What is he doing here? Eww!” Cue Jimmy Fallon…



I settle in and claim my space. Of course I made friends with the older women making enough room for them. I love to dance with older women. That’s for another post.

The class begins and I’m immediately in love! Why wouldn’t every workout dance sesh start off with Prince Royce’s bachata rendition of “Stand By Me?” Whaaaaat!




At that moment, I knew that this was going to be the start of a beautiful journey! But I ain’t gonna lie, my body is aching from my first day back into the workout world. But don’t they say “No pain, no gain?” Well, I’m in pain and I better NOT be gaining any weight. The only gain I accept is an increase in losing the weight.

If you have the chance, Take Joelle’s Zumba/Latin Heat class at LA Fitness in Clifton. She teaches every Monday and Thursday at 11AM! Click back <– there for the club and class info! Tell her Flo sent you. I’ll be there next Monday at 11AM!


LA Fitness | Class Schedule (Print Version) – CLIFTON – CLIFTON, NJ





Watch out ladies, Chef Flo is ’bout to show y’all that my moves extend out of the kitchen! Yassssssss!


And if you come and try out Joelle’s Zumba or Latin Heat class, don’t forget to holla at me in the back corner. Oh…

Picking Up The Pieces Before I’m 30…

Two years ago, this week, I made a promise to myself that I would change the way I ate and lived. I was fearful that four years from then, when I turn the big THREE ZERO, I would have to assess where my life is at and ask myself “How crappy does it look?”

At this point in my life, being a single, self-employed (or what I like to call “f-unemployed”), twenty-six year old father has been quite an adventure. Trying to keep afloat and busy with my hands in four different, yet strangely connected, business concepts, mainly as a PERSONAL CHEF, is quite tiresome. So confusing and frantic that I just realized I’m no longer twenty-six but two years older. As much as anyone can see that my desire for total domination in the foodservice and wellness industries look a bit hectic, it’s probably the one that is a constant. A constant that keeps me happy and moving. And by the way, I don’t talk about being a father so much as a job or something I have to think about. My instincts are what help me raise my daughter. Well, that along with my parents! What? There’s no point in lying about that. Anyhow, busy as I may seem, I do have time to notice that there is one thing that has been falling to the wayside. My health! My health AND all the fatty body parts that we all try to hide from. The truth is that I’m not getting any younger and all the stress from my life along with the crappy food I eat (Well, taste. At least that’s what I tell myself) is the cause of my unhealthy life.

And #letsbehonest, this means YOU too!


Now when I say UNHEALTHY, I’m not only talking about the food that I eat. Unhealthy describes my lifestyle, my habits, and my addictions. Just like getting yourself back on track is a TOTAL PACKAGE, becoming unhealthy takes the same amount of effort. You don’t go to the gym, you stress yourself out about work, you drink yourself to a happy-state, and you top it off with Carne Asada Fries, a Shake Shack – Shack Shake…oh, and don’t forget the Bourbon Pecan Pie with extra whipped cream. Ok, maybe I went too far…maybe you only drink yourself until you’re inebriated, whatever! YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN! Our late twenties can not just be about celebrating that we’re out of college, “I finally get my own office (translation: cubicle), and possibly getting government healthcare (or not, whatever floats your boat)!” We have to start setting up our lives for SUCCESS. And in all honesty, without our personal well being, our health and our bodies being in the best shape possible, how can we even achieve what we really want in the future?

Our health determines our wealth! Sounds cheesy but it’s true!

Now that I let this glass of SANGIOVESE open up this post, here’s what I’m trying to tell you. Along with all the other challenges and responsibilities we have in our lives, we can’t forget the biggest one of all, our health. Aside from our genetics, WE ARE IN CONTROL OF OUR BODIES! Not your mom, your doctor, or even your significant other.


I made a decision to take back my health with a vengeance. Two years ago, I became PLANT-STRONG. I changed my whole life around and accepted a plant-based lifestyle. It wasn’t just a diet. It was an entire overhaul of my health. I finally took control and said,

“I want to live. I want to live worry-free. I want to live so that I can see my daughter graduate. I want to live longer so I can walk my daughter down the aisle. I want to live so that I can watch over my grandkids when my daughter visits me in Hawaii, where I will be retiring!”

Somewhere in between me moving back to New Jersey to start over with my daughter and ending an 8-year relationship with an amazing company, I fell back into my ways. I had my ups and downs. I know what I should and shouldn’t eat. I knew what would probably send me back over the edge. I knew it all but I just kept saying, “One time won’t hurt. I’ll just work out more tomorrow. I’ve been good all week, I deserve this!” Well, guess what, I’m back where I started and nothing to show for it.

Well, not everything!

The one thing that I have that can help put me back on track is this amazing knowledge gained from a small span of time of living a plant-based lifestyle. That’s the best part, I know what I need to do. I know what the results will be if I stick to it. SO HERE I GO! AND I’M ASKING YOU TO JOIN ME! Whether you actually take this ride along with me or if you just sit back, relax, and enjoy the show. I want you to take as much away from my experience as you can. Enough to change your own life!

I joined Portia Joyce Wellness’s Beyond the Resolution: 11-Day Clean Eating Program!


It’s an amazing DETOX where guess what?…YOU CAN EAT!”

Yesterday, started the 4-day Pre-Detox. We began to slowly eliminate certain foods so that we minimize withdrawal symptoms from all the food that we probably have depended on too much. Some of these foods like caffeine, alcohol (clearly I have not weened off of that just yet), gluten, dairy, and beans are what may cause us to be so toxic. (***CHEF FLO DISCLAIMER…DAIRY KILLS***)

Once, we have slowly removed these types of food out of our diet, once the actual detox meal plan begins, it will be a lot easier to adapt. We all know that it ain’t easy to quit addictions “COLD TURKEY!” And yes, eating unclean, toxic foods found in the Standard American Diet (or how my friends over at the Engine 2 Diet phrase it, “S.A.D.”) can be an addiction. OK, I take it back. It’s not that it “can be” and addition, IT IS AN ADDICTION. Let’s call it what it is.

“ADDICTION: a strong and harmful need to regularly have something (such as a drug) or do something (such as gamble) : an unusually great interest in something or a need to do or have something” – Merriam-Webster Dictionary

“Addiction is a condition that results when a person ingests a substance (alcohol, cocaine, nicotine) or engages in an activity (gambling) that can be pleasurable but the continued use of which becomes compulsive and interferes with ordinary life responsibilities, such as work, relationships, or health. Users may not be aware of their behavior is out of control and causing problems for themselves and others.” – Psychology Today

A DETOX is about the removal of unwanted substances, such as toxins, that hinder our bodies from performing its natural and healthy functions. It is NOT to DEPRIVE or CAUSE STARVATION. It is to CLEAN AND REVITALIZE the one and only body that we have.


These next few days will be difficult and maybe at times unbearable. Knowing that this will be a form of rehab for my body and health is all worth it.  To rid yourself of one of the worst addictions in this world causing many diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, malnutrition, obesity, osteoporosis, anemia, and worse of all heart disease, is the best thing you can ever accomplish. The next best thing is to prevent yourself from contracting any of these diseases. Like I said before, aside from genetics, these diseases are more than reversible, they’re preventable. In the end, this is the best thing I can ever do for myself and my daughter.

There is still time to join. Go visit Portia Joyce’s website (or just click HERE) for more information. Like I said, if you don’t know if this is for you just yet, stick around. I’ll keep you posted on how I am feeling day to day, what I prepare to eat, down to if I ever let myself falter and grab that burger I THINK I want but know I don’t need. Follow me on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and here on this blog to get up-to-date information on how this detox is working out for me.

Maybe, just maybe, you’ll see that it isn’t that hard to “pick up the pieces” whether you’re turning 30 or even 60.

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