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! :-)”

Holiday Cioppino

Well, only 4 more days until Christmas and these recipes are making my mouth water! What did you think of the holiday roast? I promise you won’t be disappointed. Now, it’s Day 2 of recipes and I’m going to share with you my FAVORITE HOLIDAY RECIPE and it comes from Whole Foods Market. For the past 3 years, I have featured this recipe at my Holiday Tasting Table at WFM Henderson, NV. It was always a hit and man did we sell seafood that day. It’s a fairly easy recipe with a handful of ingredients but I promise that if you didn’t knock their socks off with the roast, you’ll definitely do it with this stew!

If you ask most Americans, they have either heard of this stew and have had it at an Italian or seafood restaurant or this may be their first time even hearing the word “Cioppino.” This dish was created by Portugeuse and Italian fisherman on the north side of San Francisco. Cioppino is loosely translated as “to chop” or “chopped” regarding leftover seafood from the day’s catch. It originated as a “poor man’s stew” and slowly grew in popularity at the local Italian eateries. Found at most seafood restaurants, this Cioppino will taste just as good as any fisherman’s best stew.

WFMs Holiday Cioppino
WFMs Holiday Cioppino

First and foremost, this recipe can be found on Whole Foods Market‘s website. This recipe is featured as their Holiday Cioppino. I’ll be adding my own variation based on my experience with following this recipe and adjusting it to my own palate.

Serves 7-8

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for brushing
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bulb fennel, trimmed, cored and thinly sliced
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
  • 1 (28 ounces) can diced tomatoes, with their liquid
  • 2 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 cup white wine
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon chopped oregano or 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon chopped thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 demi-baguette, cut crosswise into thin slices
  • 1 pound thick skinless white fish fillets, such as cod, cut into (1-inch) pieces
  • 1 (8 ounces) tub lump crab meat
  • 1 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 pound mussels or clams, cleaned
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, onions, fennel and bell peppers and cook until softened and onions and fennel are translucent. Stir in tomatoes with their liquid, broth, wine, tomato paste, oregano and thyme and bring soup to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for 25 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, brush baguette slices all over with oil then arrange in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake, flipping halfway through, until toasted and golden, 8 to 10 minutes; set crostini aside.
  • Stir fish and crab into pot with broth mixture and simmer for 5 minutes. Add shrimp and mussels, cover and simmer until shrimp are just cooked through and mussels have opened, about 5 minutes more. (Discard any unopened mussels.)
  • Stir in basil, salt and pepper then ladle into bowls and serve with crostini on the side.

SMN Variations:

– Add 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika to add another level of flavor. Full bodied and smoky. Yum!

– Use both mussels and clams. The great thing about this is that you can satisfy both mussel and clam fans. Shellfish are an acquired taste. I think if you provide various selections for all your guests, the easier to satisfy them with, my dears!

raw-squid rawlobster1

-Along with all the seafood on the ingredient list, I added two lobster tails cut in half and squid (grilled, if possible). The flavor from the lobster tail shell keeps the full flavor flowing. With the addition of the squid, it will become a seven-fish dish and be considered an entire meal for the Feast of The Seven Fishes (however nontraditional).

Serve this amazing Cioppino with your favorite bold, full bodied red wine. Find an amazing Chianti and you’ll be set to be labeled the Holiday Host/Hostess of the year!


-Chef Flo

Beer Braised, Coffee-Rubbed Prime Rib

Now this recipe came about by combining a few of my favorite recipes that I have encountered through my years at Whole Foods Market. This will definitely be a non-traditional recipe but will captivate your guests for its originality.

My Beer Braised, Coffee Rubbed Prime Rib serves about 14-16. It really depends on how hungry your crowd is. If you have kids at the dinner table, this will stretch to about 20 guests.  Just remember that every rib makes about 2-3 servings. Here it goes! Enjoy!


  • 7 rib, Standing Rib Roast (16-18 pounds; 2-3 pounds/rib)

  • Coffee Rub (below)
  • 2-3 bottles of Dechutes Jubelale or any holiday brewed ale, enough to cover vegetables


  • 4 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 bunch celery, roughly chopped
  • 3 red onions, halved
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite red wine, preferably one that you are serving. I would chose a Burgundy or Merlot
  • Parsley, finely chopped, for garnish

Coffee Rub (from Lou Lambert’s Coffee-Rubbed Roasted Brisket):

  • 2 cups light brown sugar
  • 1 cup chili powder
  • 1/4 cup paprika
  • 1/4 cup kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup ground black pepper
  • 1/4 cup finely ground dark roast coffee (French Roast for best flavor)
  • 1/4 cup red chili pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup garlic powder


  1. Preheat your oven to 450°F. IMPORTANT: Keep roast out for at least 2 hours in room temperature for proper, even cooking.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients of the coffee rub and combine well.
  3. Arrange vegetables at the bottom of the roasting pan creating a platform for the roast.
  4. Take the rub and distribute evenly around entire roast. Concentrate on the topside of the roast Then, place the roast on top of the vegetables, fat side up/ribs pointing down. Make sure that your roast is placed evenly atop the veggies for even cooking.
  5. Take your Deschutes Jubelale and pour carefully over roast and in the pan. You want the beer to cover the vegetables entirely. (Since we don’t keep it covered for the first hour, the water in the beer will evaporate and the liquid will reduce down to a glaze.)
  6. Roast in the oven for the first 45 minutes uncovered. After searing the roast, lower the temperature to 325°F, then loosely cover the roasting pan for the remaining 3 hours and 30 minutes.
  7. Take your meat thermometer and insert in the thickest part of the roast (away from the ribs/bones) and it should read 125°F (rare). Remove the roast from the oven. Place the rib roast onto a platter or cutting board covered with the foil. DO NOT TOUCH THE ROAST WHATSOEVER! Let the roast rest for at least 15 to 20 minutes. The roast will continue to cook and the temperature should rise up to 135°F (mid rare).
  8. During the 10 minutes of rest, it’s time for you to finish off your jus/glaze. Remove your perfectly cooked maybe even carmelized vegetables and place them onto your serving platter. Turn up the heat on the stove and let the jus come to a boil. Add two tablespoons of whole wheat flour and mix thoroughly with a whisk. Mix in 1/2 a cup of your favorite red wine. I prefer a burgundy or a merlot. Remove from heat and serve. Garnish with chopped parsley and enjoy!

A few tips to consider:

  • For easy carving, ask your butcher to  cut the bones from the roast and reattach them with twine. The ribs offer flavor and proper cooking but with it being removed, it will be easier for you to carve and serve at the dinner table.
  • If you don’t have one yet, invest in a good meat thermometer. Ovens vary in power and temperatures so you can only really trust your own meat thermometer. Check this one out from Williams-Sonoma, the OXO Instant Read Thermometer.
  • When purchasing your Prime Rib, think about how many people you are serving. If you are looking for leftovers or generous portions, you want to remember 1 rib serves 2 people. If you are going to be serving a second roasted meat or if you want to control portions, serve 1 rib for 3-4 people. It all depends on the size that you carve.


Now don’t be afraid if this is your first time. I will be here for you to guide you through your holiday roast. Email me at or just leave me a message and I’ll answer all your questions and concerns.


Enjoy & Happy Holidays

– Chef Flo

HEARTy Soups And Stews

Moving to New Jersey from Las Vegas was, in my mind, not going to be such a big transition. I know that weather and overall vibes would definitely change but since I grew up here I didn’t think it would be such a big ordeal. I lived in Vegas since 2006. That’s a whopping seven some-odd years to get accustomed to a certain way of life. Again, I did move to New Jersey in 2009 for at least eight months for work and a life hiatus. (Mind you, I moved back to Vegas because I couldn’t take the weather) Now that I’m rambling on, let me get back to my point. This pre-winter chill is getting me down. Not spiritually or mentally, but physically. I totally fell off my Plantstrong™ diet once I moved out here. The temptations of cuisines and the like that were new and that I haven’t had in a while grew too strong to withstand. I gave in to my stomach and I let my amazing way of life diminish. I was weak!

When the holiday season began, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to jump on right now. Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the New Year was coming, I wouldn’t be able to turn away those yummy temptations.

But then, I thought to myself, if I want to get back on it, there’s no time to waste, just do it, JUMP!

The longer I wait the longer the list of excuses I’ll most likely have to continue to stray away. So here I go…I’m JUMPING!

The easiest type of food to make and best tasting are definitely those hearty soups and stews. It takes no time to create these amazing dishes and oh my, does it do a body good. I’m going to be listing a few of my favorite recipes that I’ve came across the past year that I’ve been eating Plantstrong™. With these cold days here  in New Jersey, these dishes make me feel both powered up and toasty on the inside. Definitely cures the common cold! Try one, two, or even all these recipes. Let me know what you think, along with any variations you’ve made to accommodate those foodie taste buds and for the picky children! Enjoy!

Plantstrong™ Recipes:

Engine 2 Mexican-Lime Soup

Variation: I love to add 1 or 2 (depending how much you love legumes) cans of red kidney beans! Makes it a thicker soup plus adds more Vitamin C and Potassium to you meal.

Engine 2 Savory Lentil Soup

Variation: Hot sauce, hot sauce, and more hot sauce! I love  hot sauce, it’s the condiment I have next to water on my dinner table. Add your favorite hot sauce to this dish and it’ll totally make it brighter and more refreshing! Now, just watch out for the sodium content. My favorite is Cholula! Remember the thing with sodium in recipes, think about all components of your meal before adding salt. A lot of condiments and canned products may be packed with sodium. Keep and overall eye on the salt so that it doesn’t overwhelm the dish.

Engine 2 Mushroom Stroganoff

Variation: This is perfect as it is. Thanks, Engine 2 team! For all you gluten-free eaters, just replace the flour and pasta with brown rice flour (add one extra tablespoon) (can be found at Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods Market) and Lundberg’s Penne Brown Rice Pasta then you’re all set!

WFM Hearty Greens Soup and Bowtie Pasta and Tomatoes

Variations: First and foremost, to make it Plantstrong™, make sure you eliminate the oil, salt and the cheese. Just cook with a little vegetable broth and you can top it off with some nutritional yeast. If you can’t find escarole or rainbow, green, or red chard, by all means use some kale and spinach (my go-to greens).  This recipe can be a little bland so what I do is just add a teaspoon or two of Bragg’s Liquid Aminos and Bragg’s Organic Apple Cider Vinegar to make this soup pop with much flavor.

WFM Creamy Curry Cauliflower Soup (My Favorite)

Variations: At the very end, I like to add a bit of cooked red lentils. It makes it a whole other character with that extra addition, trust me! And if you like just just a tad bit, bolder, I like to use a tablespoon and a half of garam masala. It can be found in the spice aisle and Whole Foods Market. This addition makes it your own!


Alright, so there’s the list of amazing soups and stews that will keep you warm through the winter holidays as well as power up your heart, body and soul. This is what I’ll be having this week to come so if you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line. I’m open to comments, questions, and concerns. Leave it here in the comments section or email me at!

Thanks and happy healthy eating!

-Chef Flo


Black Friday Turkey Recipe-busters!

This is only for folks that actually have leftovers after their traditional, immense, and plentiful Thanksgiving feast.

My favorite turkey leftover recipes:

1. Turkey breast, cornbread stuffing, jellied (yes canned cranberry sauce) cranberries, spicy brown mustard, and two slices of rye.

2. If you’re lucky enough to have the turkey carcass (sorry for the gruesome terminology) like I always do, you can make some yummy full-flavored turkey broth. Take that turkey carcass, roughly chopped carrots, celery, and onions along with a few bay leaves, peppercorns, and dried thyme, plunge it in a stock pot with cold water. Bring it up to a boil and then reduce it to a simmer. Simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours, strain and store. You can refrigerate it for up to two weeks or freeze for a couple of months. It’s great medicine for that cold or flu I really hope you don’t catch!

3. Flo’s Turkey Waldorf Salad: Diced turkey breast, diced celery, diced onions, diced apples, chopped walnuts, dijon mustard, mayo, apple cider vinegar, and tobasco sauce.

Here are a few of what my friends from Whole Foods Market like to do with their turkey leftovers:

Turkey Tetrazzini

Turkey Enchiladas

Turkey Picadillo

Whole Foods Market Recipe

Turkey Pot Pie

Whole Foods Market Recipe

So now when you come back from all your Black Friday shopping adventures (like I just did) or when you wake up from that tryptophanic coma, you’ll be all set with how to feed the family some extravagant turkey dishes…makeover style.  Good luck, god speed, and Happy Holidays!!

-Chef Flo