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! :-)”

Black Friday, Cyber Monday…NOW Small Business Saturday

As someone working hard to get their own small business off the ground here in New Jersey, I know how good it feels when patrons knock on my door. Along with this year’s holiday sales and doorbusters, Black Friday for retailers and Cyber Monday for online shoppers, small businesses have their own special day for an economic boost. Launched by American Express through their social media outlets in 2011, Small Business Saturday falls directly between the two major money-saving holiday shopping days. Growing the economy starts somewhere and for the most part we do patronize small businesses more often than we think. I’m sure that we know of and support these “mom-and-pops” as well as everyday Americans that own and work for them.

Here are a few Small Business Facts: (as of 2011)

-There are 28 million small businesses in America

-70% of small businesses are operated by one person

-Immigrants make up 12.5% of small business owners nationwide

-Small businesses pay 44% of U.S. payroll

-60%-80% of all new jobs come from small businesses <– My favorite fact!

Check out this amazing article linked above to learn a little more about how much small businesses make up the America we know of today. They also have great resources for small business owners, current and future.

In my opinion, the foodservice industry makes up a good percentage, if not, the majority of the small businesses out there. This summer, I was able to meet a few up-and-coming small businesses in the food service industry at a weekly local food fair in Brooklyn, NY called Smorgasburg. I got to see what they were all about; their passion, their creativity, and more importantly, their delicious, love-filled food. These amazing entrepreneurs originated from immigrants and college drop outs to blue collar workers and “reformed corporate suits.”

They came from all walks of life, all with the hopes to pursue personal goals and achieve childhood dreams…to do what they’re really passionate about.

They are powered by such a simple, innate emotion that are most often, if not, always lost as age climbs and responsibilities pile up.

A few popular SMORGASBURGers and small businesses:

Alchemy Creamery @thealcreamist …Thee BEST vegan ice cream IN THE WORLD! I said it here, let it be known! Say “Hi!” to Giuseppe for me!

Anarchy In a Jar …They make my favorite Strawberry Balsamic Jam!

Asia Dog …Read about them here on their own blog!

Bombay Sandwich Co. @BombaySandwich …These folks create a vegan, mostly plant-strong (my fav) menu that tantalizes your taste buds!

Lumpia Shack @LumpiaShack …A group of fellow Filipino-Americans who took a staple from their cuisine and mainstreamed the heck out of them!

Mrs. Kim’s Kimchi @MrsKimsKimchi …their product is as homemade as it gets!

Saucy By Nature @saucybynature

Uttapam & Co. …a true local farmers’ friend!

Please tell them Chef Flo (King) sent you from Serve M.E. Now!

Now if you are like me and most of my friends and family, you probably already support these businesses on a daily basis.

What I’m trying to move on is that we need to spread this “PATRIOTnizing” to our fellow consumers in order to keep these job-making, economy boosting, and local-loving American entrepreneurs afloat.

Just like we read from the Business Insider this is exactly what grows America’s economy. In the wake of our current election centered around “job creation” and “economic slumps,” supporting our neighbors, friends, and families through this season of shopping makes for a true happy holiday. Go online, walk to the corner store, or line up at a local food truck for a bite to eat with your coworkers, today and everyday.  What’s even better is that they may offer some new and exciting product or services that you can’t get at your everyday retailer and/or chain. Let this holiday season be a time of unique and special gift giving to the ones you love. You’ll not only be named the “Gift-Giver of the Year” but I’m sure you’ll make it on the “Best Customer” list as well!

Now go out there and shop local…shop small!

-Chef Flo


Here are a few resources for you up-and-coming small businesses out there. I found them extremely informative and appreciatively helpful!

U.S. Small Business Administration

Free Small Business Advice from Score

Goldman Sachs Helps the Small Business

A Montclair Must


Out in Vegas, my “office hours” (basically time that I devote to updating all my social media outlets, answering foodie questions, and creating recipes) always consisted of 9:30AM to 2:45PM Mondays at the Starbucks a mile and a half from my daughter’s elementary school. I’ve been going to this wifi cafe, if you must, for the past two years. It kept my schedule for a blog post and correspondence on point and it provided me with that black cup o’ joe or unsweetened iced green tea to keep me going. If anything the only complaint that I ever had was that there was an annoying cold draft at every single seat in the place. Makes sense, they don’t want us setting up shop for too long but shoot, didn’t I buy plenty of hot libations in exchange for the wifi connection?!

Anyhow, being back in New Jersey, I needed to find a great spot for “office hours” whenever it was available to me. It’s a little bit different out here. You get to drive a little further than 30 minutes and find yourself in a quaint town with a cute cafe or even a suburban Starbucks. Or you can take the train into the City and prop yourself up at a Starbucks in front of a park or see the organized chaos that is New Yorkers hustling to catch the next train, cab, or bus. I love the plentiful options my new home offered but I still wanted that special place that can play as my muse or sanctuary.

I was driving to Montclair State University where I’ll be taking some classes (not degree program, just classes) to spruce up my nutrition/healthy eating background. Anyway, I was in the area needing to post a quick blog on my latest trip across the country. I found myself on my Yelp app searching for a “wifi cafe.” And there it was, with 4 stars, 13 reviews, and the closest location to me. The top two reviews, both by amount of stars and recent post, excited me even more about this place.

Liz D. said, “This is what so many places in Montclair TRY to be…but just can’t. Or won’t. Or are just incapable of being, because the lady who owns this place is ‘genuine.'” 5 Stars 5/12/12

Per L. says, “This little cafe is a perfect spot for lunch – especially on a nice day when you can sit outside. Great for kids, great for adults. Really, really nice!” 5 Stars 4/1/12

This is exactly what I needed, so I checked it out!


I pull up to park on the street and see that I need to pay a parking meter. I thought, “Oh, heck no!” So I pulled up a little further then caught a glimpse of the Montclair Public Library. What?! I thought my GPS brought me to Terra @ The Isabel Rose Cafe. I kept driving and saw a side street, no meters and I can park here at the time without any time restrictions, score! I walk over to the library and wonder what was going on. Then, I look just to the left of the library entrance and saw it…Terra! This place is attached to the public library? This place just got cooler and I haven’t even gone in yet.

With a chalk sign on the front lawn and few patio seats adorning the front, it just keeps giving me good vibes. Walking in, I saw a circular nook with window table tops and four free standing tables with a counter and kitchen good to fit four team members comfortably to create all the orders. A young gentleman, who turned out to be the owner’s son (at least I think so), greeted me and asked how he can help me. Looking over the chalk designed menu behind him, I ordered an unsweetened green iced tea and a special, the Jersey Bowl Salad. I asked him if it was ok to have vinegar just on the side and no oil. He turned over to Grace, his mother and the owner of the cafe, and she obliged with a smile!



The young man (sorry brother, totally forgot your name) served me my iced tea first because Grace was making my salad, freshly cut, my favorite. Once the salad came, I couldn’t help but smile myself. It had local green leaf lettuce, so light and buttery I thought it was butter lettuce, apples, local strawberries, fennel, and thinly sliced Walla Walla onions (I think that’s how you spell it, like the city in Washington state) which at first I thought were leeks. She served it with a slice of lemon and small bowl of red wine vinegar. The salad was so fresh and the apples and strawberries were so juicy that I didn’t even need the vinegar. It was perfect! Totally Jersey fresh and local.


After eating my salad, I checked out what she had for sale other than the fresh food and libations. Terra featured Fair Trade teas and chocolates, fresh local strawberries, organic and natural coffee, tea, drinks, and specialty gourmet honey, syrups, and other pantry items. There were also a few products I recognized because we sold them at Whole Foods Markets across the country like Simply Organic bread and cake mixes. Don’t quote me on this but I believe they are Gluten Free as well. They also sold tea pots, coffee & tea cups, and a special display contained all-natural loose teas! The cafe was adorned with plenty of art, probably created by the local artists and maybe school children. Directly behind where I was sitting, there was an Opus One (some great wine) crate of locally made soaps and beeswax candles.






They were from Tassot Apiaries, Inc. out of Milford, NJ which is only 60 miles away. Talk about LOCAL!



Need I say more?! Ok I will! Sitting there, I got to see a true local cafe do what it does best, take care of its community. Parents came in to pick up their pre-ordered local strawberries, probably like a co-op program. A mom and son came in to pick up a catering order of sandwiches decorated with edible pansies, if I’m mistaken. I overheard them talking about the nice platter the sandwiches were placed on and that instead of throwing it away or keeping it. They were going to return it to Grace so that they can reuse it. The mother was exposing being ‘green’ and reusing things to reduce waste. I swear I thought I was in a global warming commercial and I was happy!


I finally flagged the owner over. She introduced herself to me and I quickly thanked her for an amazing experience. I told her who I was and what I do and extended another “Thank You” for being there for the community. She told me that she’s been in business for six years but recently moved into the library. She was on a location on Church Street prior to the library but moved over when her lease ended. I think she made an amazing decision. Greetings from library employees and frequent community members said it all to me. The community was thankful she was there and Grace was only humbled by the gesture. Just like what Liz D. said on Yelp, the owner is “GENUINE!”


There are so many businesses these days that claim to offer an experience as genuine as this one but they are definitely far from it. A lot of current and future business owners need to take notes from Terra At the Isabel Rose Cafe. Being genuine and simply humble goes a hell of a long way. A true business not only offers services and goods but must offer a sense of community and quality in its interactions with it’s patrons. Grace, her son, and team does just this!

Do me a favor, if you are in the Montclair area or if you are parched searching for true sustenance in a great cup of tea and customer service, come and visit Grace at Terra. They’re located at the Montclair Public Library on 50 S. Fullerton Avenue in Montclair, NJ. It’s in the heart of Montclair just minutes from Montclair State University and the town center. You won’t be disappointed just incredibly pleased! Tell them King sent you!


[SMN PLANTicious Recipe] Grilled Potato & Onion Salad

I featured this recipe for the first time at one of my Whole Foods Market, Engine 2, 28-Day Challenge classes in Henderson, NV. It was a hit because its amazing flavor that masked the fact it was an oil-less, fat-free, and cholesterol-free version of a traditional American salad. But potato salad is not only popular in America.

Local display of Winnemucca Farms Potatoes and Peri & Sons Farms Onions at Whole Foods Market in Henderson, NV

Throughout the world, there are different versions of this boiled potato concoction that is enjoyed by all kinds of people. From America to Italy and Bulgaria to Brazil, there is a form of this “salad” in their cuisine. Potato salad varies in ingredients but will always have the same, basic ingredients: potatoes, an acid (usually vinegar), and a fat (usually mayonnaise or its counterpart, oil). Then, different accompaniments and garnishes are added to the trifecta. From string beans and red onions in Italy to bacon bits and hard-boiled eggs in the US, there are many things you can add to the potatoes to make it much more tasty.

My version is definitely plant-strong and the healthiest way I serve potatoes in a salad.

Ingredients: 1 1/2# Russet Potatoes (quartered lengthwise), 1 medium white onion (sliced in rings), 1/2 cup low sodium vegetable broth (I like using Imagine found at Whole Foods Market), 1 tbsp turmeric, 2 tbsp paprika, 1 cup kale (finely chopped), 1/4 cup green onions (slcied), and 1/4 cup dill (finely chopped)…

Mustard Dressing: 1/4 cup stoneground mustard, 1 garlic clove (minced), 3 tbsp white balsamic vinegar, 2 tbsp So Delicious plain coconut yogurt, 2 tbsp honey, 1 tsp fresh oregano (roughly chopped), 1 tsp fresh thyme (roughly chopped), and ground black pepper to taste.

Directions: 1. Bring a medium pot of water to boil and preheat grill to HIGH. 2. Boil potatoes in water for 5-7 minutes or until potatoes are half-way cooked. It will vary depending on the thickness of each potato. Drain from water and let chill in the fridge. 3. While potatoes are boiling and chilling, combine all the ingredients to make the dressing. Dressing will seem like it isn’t enough but it will be. Remember, we want to taste the ingredients not mask it with the dressing. 4. Once the potatoes are completely chilled, toss them in a bowl with the vegetable stock, turmeric and paprika. The vegtable stock is to lubricate the potatoes and cause the spices to stick. 5. Grill the potatoes on the hot grill, skin-side down first. Cook potatoes on all sides until nice and charred, or at least until you see nice grill marks. Grill the onions alongside the potatoes. Once all cooked, set aside to let vegetables cool down. 6. Toss the potatoes and onions with the dressing. Pour the dressing in small batches. You don’t want to overwhelm the salad with the dressing. Remember, its just for flavor, it isn’t the main ingredient. Haha! 7. Add the kale, green onions, and dill to the salad. Chill and enjoy!

Grilled Potato & Onion Salad

 This salad is best served at room temperature. However, I have had it cold, straight out of the fridge and it was still yummy. If you feel the salad is a bit dry, just add a tbsp of the vinegar or the yogurt to revive the moist feel of the salad. The potatoes are a starch and constantly act as a sponge with liquid.

Variations/Additions: I have made this by adding whatever other vegetable I had in my fridge that was going to go bad soon. Remember that my recipes are always just a base recipe. Alter it to your liking and taste, add what you like in a potato sald. Enjoy!

Please post a comment on your variations so we can share with others what we like to do with our salads!