Grilled Turmeric and Lemongrass Chicken recipe, Bon Appetit July 2012. Modified


I love that Victor’s family has a vacation home in the North Lake Tahoe, Incline Village, NV area for our use year round.   There are so many beaches, swimming pools,  volleyball courts, playgrounds, and bocce ball courts rec centers, and events at our  parks. Its fun for all residents, young to old  to cook and celebrate together during the beautiful summer months. Whenever we have a trip planned up I am always planning the food and what I think the guests would like.  During the summer month of July we usually spent a couple of weeks up there.  And of course barbecuing out on the sundeck with a lake view is one of our favorite things to do.



Last year, while we were driving up to Tahoe I had my hands on the latest Bon Appetit Magazine which featured some really fun Asian style “Street Food” recipes.  You can find the recipe for the grilled wings I originally used for the inspiration if you click right here, and with my recipe, you’ll see I completely changed the ingredients,  marinade time ,   and parts of bird used.  For starters I did not want to cook only wings, so instead I went and bought one whole chicken plus 2 breasts bone in, sustainably raised, called “smart chicken”  brand.  I bought the chicken and had it “butterflied” (the spine taken out) at my favorite  local gourmet full service butcher and seafood supplier called  “Village Meats” in Incline Village.  Any chicken butterflied will do.  You can buy a whole chicken and then butterfly the chicken yourself by watching an instructional video like this one.    I like grilling the chicken this way because it cooks faster and more evenly.


Grilled Turmeric and Lemongrass Chicken (makes 6 servings)

This can be started with the marinade up to a day ahead.  I just marinaded for about 6 hours and then basted through out the cooking process.

  • 2 cans unsweetened coconut milk (I used light)
  • 1/4 cup shallots chopped
  • I used 3 Tablespoons “Gourmet Gardens” Lemongrass, but you can also use just 2 tablespoons of fresh lemongrass, bottom third, finely chopped as the original recipe states
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 2 inch piece of ginger peeled and chopped
  • 4 tablespoons of lime juice
  • optional: (2 tablespoons of tamarind juice concentrate: I didn’t use this)
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 3 to 5 lbs of chicken (mine was 1 whole butterflied, and then 2 large breasts bone in)
  • optional: 2 jalapenos, stemmed
  • optional: Grade B maple syrup

Combine the coconut milk, shallots, garlic, lemongrass, ginger, lime juice, tamarind juice, fish sauce,kosher salt, turmeric into a blender.  Puree mixture until smooth and marinade forms.  Place chicken in a large baking dish and pour marinade over.  Turn to make sure all pieces are coated evenly. Cover and marinade overnight, or at least 6 hours.

When ready to cook, remove chicken from the marinade.  Let chicken come to room temperature for 15 minutes.

Note: The rest of these cooking instructions came directly from Bon Appetit’s recipe since I was very high altitude and grilling times and directions are different from what I would normally recommend.

  • Build a medium fire in a charcoal grill, or heat a gas grill to medium-high. Oil grill grates to prevent sticking. Grill chicken wings, turning every 5 minutes and basting occasionally with marinade in small bowl, until fat is rendered and skin is nicely charred in spots, 30-35 minutes. (The key here is to turn the wings often so the skin doesn’t burn.)
  • Continue cooking chicken without basting (so it will get crisp) until wings are cooked through, about 10 minutes longer.
  • Transfer chicken to a large platter and let it rest for 5 minutes. Squeeze lime wedges over wings. Transfer marinade in saucepan to a small bowl. Serve warm marinade alongside chicken as a dipping sauce

Final notes: This chicken was so yummy right after cooking, but even better the next day after a quick reheat and basting with the “dipping sauce” while on the grill.

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“Happier Families”, 2 hour workshop, June 5th, 7pm Stanford University


I’ve previously blogged about Dr Laura Delizonna and her 3 part positive psychology classes through Stanford Adult Continuing Education.  During this special 2 hour workshop on June 5th,  Dr Delizonna will be taking her research in positive psychology and applying it to the family system during a special 2 hour workshop titled “Happy Families: Applying the Science of Positive Psychology to Help Families Thrive”.

Full disclosure, Dr Laura and I are long time good friends, but as someone who knows her well, I can assure you this amazing woman is the real deal.  This workshop is targeted to families and individuals interested in taking their relationships and  familial dynamics to the next level.

Laura is an internationally recognized speaker and expert on positive psychology and happiness,  teaching individuals, as well as at universities and companies around the globe, the skills necessary to obtain higher levels of happiness and satisfaction they experience in their daily lives and personal relationships.    As an engaging speaker and teacher, Laura never fails to entertain, provide  laughter, and create an enjoyable learning environment.  She  not only speaks from the heart , she truly does “walk her talk” in how she lives her own personal and professional life, utilizing the  skills  and zest for life she teaches.

Laura’s next upcoming 2 hour workshop, is this Tuesday evening, June 5th  from 7pm to 9pm at the Stanford Recreational Activities Center (SCRA).  During the two hour workshop, Dr Laura will explore and discuss the skills “Happy Families” need to navigate through life and flourish, utilizing the new science of evidence based positive psychology. Each family team member will begin to learn how to “self-coach” as well as become a supportive member of the family team.  A happiness handbook developed exclusively for the workshop and worksheets for self coaching between workshops guide participants through actual behavior.

  • Building your family’s strengths
  • Increased positivity
  • Coping skills to deal with stress
  • Improving overall family relationships

The 3  topics covered are:

  1. The STRENGTH zone: Building on your best
  2. The POSITIVE shift: Enhancing  joy, gratitude, and zest
  3. The FAMILY bond: Creating flourishing relationships


Cost is $20 for non members, and $10 for members.  You can register prior to the event at the bottom of page here.  For more informational about Laura you can read my previous blog post from this past August 2011, or visit her website at .  For more info through Stanford University you may contact 650-736-7272 option #3

                                                                                        Dr  Laura Delizonna Phd









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“The Hunger Games” influenced recipe: Herbed Goat Cheese Bites

These “Herbed Goat Cheese Bites” are healthy and delicious little treats everyone will love.   YAY!    All I can say is “Bring on “The Hunger Games”.”  So excited we have a popular trilogy starting where food (and sadly hunger) play a central role.  So much room for creative inspiration, and mine will all focus on healthy interpretations of the many scenes where food and meals play a central role in the character’s life at the moment.

Why in the world am I doing “The Hunger Games” recipe or food interpretations? I have to admit, this time last week the last thing I thought I would be uploading was any “Hunger Games” influenced recipes.  Victor (long time boyfriend) and I are chilling out up here at his house in Lake Tahoe for awhile, so we decided at the last minute Friday to see the premiere of what seemed to be an over marketed movie, “The Hunger Games”.   We found the movie intriguing enough we decided to  download all 3 books onto our Ipads as well as downloading the entire series on audio book.  We have been listening to them together ever since on our Apple “boom box” while watching the snow fall.   Its been kind of fun. I decided to do an internet search to see if there were any sites posting “Hunger Games” recipes and there were.  Yahoo had this one and then I found on Amazon “The Unofficial Hunger Games Cookbook”.

These “Herbed Goat Cheese Bites” represent the morning of the “reaping day” when 2 children are chosen for the “Hunger Games”. The main character, Katniss, wakes to find goat cheese wrapped in fresh basil leaves, a gift left by her little sister Prim.   Katniss had bought her little sister an injured baby goat years before to help the family survive.    Katniss takes her sister’s gift and eats it in the meadow by the woods with her friend Gale, where they spread it on fresh bread Gale had traded a squirrel for.  In district 12, where Katniss and her family live, bread is a rarity.

I made this yesterday and it was delicious.  Is a great appetizer at a party as well.  This recipe is slightly different interpretation of a “celebrity” chef  Tyler Florence recipe featured here.


  • 1 tablespoon fresh flat leaf thyme
  • 1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
  • 1 tablespoon fresh mint leaves
  • 1 cup of finely chopped cherry or grape tomatoes
  • 8 ounce goat cheese log
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 8 ounces French baguette sliced in 1/4 inch thick slices
  • 1/2 cup loosely packed basil leaves


  1. Finely chop and combine the first four  herbs listed (thyme, parsley, tarragon, mint)
  2. Roll the goat cheese log evenly in the fresh herbs and then wrap tightly in plastic.  Chill 2 to 24 hours.  I chilled mine overnight.
  3. Preheat oven to 350 and drizzle the bread slices with olive oil and place on cookie sheet
  4. Bake at 350 degrees until browned and crispy.  Remove from oven and let cool 5 minutes
  5. Remove the fresh herb goat cheese log from the fridge and spread lightly on the baguette slices
  6. Top generously with the fresh chopped tomato and basil

Serve and Enjoy!

Adapted from Tyler’s Ultimate by Tyler Florence, Southern Living

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Chicken and Shrimp Lemongrass Dumplings

If you have been reading my blog for awhile you probably have noticed I have a “thing” for dumplings.  See 2 of my recent past blogged recipes for dumplings  here and here.   And its true, I love them.  I have a lot of personal affection and history surrounding eating and making Chinese Dim Sum and Asian Dumplings.

I can’t remember the first time I made dumplings at home, but likely quite young.  My mom taught my sister and I at a very young age how to make homemade egg rolls, wontons, and pot stickers. Additionally my  mom, a kindergarten teacher of over 40 years, used to come to my elementary classroom every year and spend the entire morning with my class, teaching us all how to make these little Chinese “treats” along with the  variety of sauces that accompany them.  My mom would set up different little stations where each of us children would participate in cutting, chopping, mixing and filling our dim sum. It was set up so that we would all alternate every 30 minutes,  so that each child had a chance to learn and participate in each step of the cooking process. Our half day lesson ended with us all cooking and then eating our “home made” won tons, egg rolls, and pot stickers for lunch.  It was a big hit every year.  Even now as an adult, at school reunions, someone will almost always come up to me and remind me of those days my mom spent the day teaching our class how to make Chinese food and how much they loved it.

This following recipe I decided upon after picking up some beautiful lemongrass at the Farmer’s Market and thinking  Vietnamese inspired dumplings certainly sounded like a yummy way to use it.  I did a quick search on the internet and the best thing I could find was a May 2010 Food and Wine magazine recipe for encouragement and inspiration, that “yes indeed”, lemongrass does work well in a dumpling.  I then made my own “Truffled Pig” version, which you will see,  ended up being a completely new recipe on its own.

As with my previous dumpling recipes, I focused on creating a  filling  that was healthy and nutrient dense.  Additionally I demonstrate how to cook these dumplings 2 methods, which are quite healthy as well.  These dumplings can be cooked  1.  Steamed in a bamboo steamer, or 2.  “Pan Steam-Fried”  (featured in photo above) which is a low fat method of browning and steaming the dumplings in a non stick skillet over medium high heat for a couple minutes.

Make Ahead: Freeze any uncooked dumplings on a floured (or cornstarch) baking sheet.  Once frozen, after about an hour, transfer them to freezer zip lock bags. Cooking your dumplings straight out of the freezer is exactly like the directions below, just extend the steaming time in the bamboo steamer or on the non stick pan (lid on for steaming) a few extra minutes.  Or if you want to have a freezer filled with a variety and large supply of dumplings ready to cook, double the recipe and your ready to go.  If you were to check my freezer at any given time, you’d likely find it filled with at leas one big freezer zip lock bag of dumplings, sometimes two.  Some say  last one month the in freezer, but I say as long as you really squeeze out all the air in the bag each time you put it back in the freezer, keeping it air tight protects them from frost and “freezer burn”.  With proper storage they can easily taste good and last up to 3 or 4 months in the freezer.


  • 1/2 lb ground chicken (I use organic ground chicken breast)
  • 1/2 lb finely chopped medium to jumbo sized shrimp/prawns  (Click here for nice guidelines on shrimp)
  • 2 stalks (2 tablespoons) of fresh grated lemongrass  or 2 tablespoons store bought prepared lemongrass
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce (Ie: Thai Kitchen Brand here)
  • 1 tsp cornstarch
  • 3 tablespoons fresh chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
  • 1 can water chestnuts finely chopped (optional, I love it for the nice crunchy texture it adds)
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh minced ginger
  • 1/2 tsp of white or black pepper (I prefer white pepper but black is fine)
  • 1/2 tsp of salt
  • 1 organic egg ( You could probably omit this if you want, its used as a “binder” but I have made this without the egg)
  • 1 package of gyoza wrappers ( found at Asian markets and most major supermarkets in the refrigerator section)

* Tip: If you can not find the round gyoza wrappers you can use square won ton wrappers instead, your dumplings can be folded into little triangles, or you can use a cookie cutter to make the wrappers into a circle


  1. In a large bowl, mix the first 12 ingredients together
  2. Place a dumpling skin on a work surface, moisten the edges with water, and put  teaspoon of the filling in the center
  3. a. To fold dumplings like in the photo featured at the to which is called Shu Mai:  Gather the edges of the wrapper up around the filling, squeezing gently, to plea the sides;  some of the filling should remain exposed. For step by step easy to follow video instructions click here: Video Here  b.  To fold and make in half moon shape like here: Place each dumpling skin on a work surface, moisten the edges with water and 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center. Fold over the skin at the median line to create a little “half moon” shape (see above photo at the top of this recipe).  Use a fork to press in and indent around the corner to make sure the dumpling skin stay folded over and stuck together.


Cooking Methods: Steaming or Pan Seared and “Steamed”

  1. Option A. Rig a bamboo steamer over a large pot with about 1 inch of water; bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer.  Option B.  Heat a non stick skillet with 1 tablespoon neutral oil over medium high heat
  2. Option A: Put as many dumpling in the bamboo steamer (lined with parchment paper) as you can fit in a single layer and cover the pot.   Option B: place dumplings in skillet with hot oil and wait 1 to 2 minutes until edges are brown and then add a couple tablespoons of water and quickly place lid on skillet to steam
  3. Option A : Cook until the exposed filling turns pink and the wrappers are tender: in steamer 4 to 6 minutes Option B :  in skillet cook  aprox 4 (do not burn the bottoms)

Serve and Enjoy with dipping sauce of soy sauce, rice vinegar and sesame oil

I’ll be posting all the nutritional information for these later this week, but these are healthy, low fat and low cal.







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Healthy “Creamy” Curried Butternut Squash Soup

This recipe is a snap to whip up in less than 20 minutes (yes I said less than 20 minutes), and with the light coconut milk and the spicy curry, make it quite a unique version, and universal hit amongst those whom I have shared this with.   This recipe is  so nutrient dense and healthy , yet at the same time sophisticated enough to “wow” your friends at any dinner party.  Great as an Amuse-bouche in a shot glass at a fancy dinner or party reception, as an appetizer, or main dish.   From my own experience, I can assure you that this is a real crowd pleasing dish!

I make “Butternut Squash” soup all the time, yet through trial and error, find this version to really showcase the kind of depth, creaminess, flavor and balance, not frequently utilized in traditional butternut squash soup.  Even if you think you don’t like curry, I think you’ll find that in this recipe, the yellow curry addition, takes the flavor and exotic “wow” factor to a whole new level.  I really worked hard to hit my perfect Fat/Acid/Sugar/Salt balance  in this soup recipe to create a taste filled/ harmonic balance of  layered flavor notes in this recipe.  I also include tips on how you can “customize” this recipe to create the perfect dimension of flavors that works best for your palate.  I hope you love it as much as me, and if you do, please be sure to share your own photos and versions wither here on my blog in the comments section, as well as on my FB page.

* Special Note for chemotherapy patients or persons experiencing weight loss from chronic illness and need to up the caloric density to the foods your eating: I ate this while going through massive amounts of chemo and radiation, and this was one of my favorite foods to eat while I was sick, nauseated, and losing weight.  The spicy curry and the creamy coconut flavor really “knocks out” that yucky chemo flavor,  and the soup itself, so delicious I just kept eating more.  If you need to put on some weight or add  extra calories due to cancer or illness related weight loss, just use regular full calorie coconut milk (and heavy cream)  to really crank up the calorie density!

*To lower the calorie and fat content in this recipe even further: omit the coconut milk and use the full amount of chicken stock when doing the puree in the blender


  • 2 1/2 cups chopped butternut squash
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 can light coconut milk (Regular can be used but I prefer light for less calories and can’t taste the difference)
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons yellow curry ( I use 2, but I really like curry, so 1 tablespoon might be enough for most)
  • 1 1/2 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 lemon to squeeze to taste (preferably Meyer Lemon, its less bitter)
  • 1 tablespoon of oil or butter
  • Grade B Maple Syrup or sweetener of choice (Optional to sweeten ONLY if necessary)
  • Salt to taste
  • White pepper to taste (optional, and I used white pepper because you don’t “see” it in the soup, you can use regular pepper if you like)



  1. Heat oil or butter over medium heat
  2. add onion and a dash of salt, and saute for 3 to 5 minutes until translucent and soft
  3. Add butternut squash and stir to coat with oil
  4. Saute the butternut squash for aprox 3 minutes
  5. pour in chicken stock, either the entire cup and a half, or just until it covers the top of the squash
  6. Bring stock to a low boil, turn down and then simmer, for aprox 10 minutes or until the squash is tender and can be pierced with a fork
  7. Pour the squash and only 1/2 of the stock into a vita mix/blender and puree, the consistency should be like a thick milkshake when through
  8. Return squash puree to the original pan on the stove and add the coconut milk, gently stirring
  9. Add curry
  10. Heat over medium, and squeeze in lemon to brighten up flavor
  11. Add salt to taste
  12. Taste and if the soup needs a little sweetening to brighten it up, add in a teaspoon or so of maple syrup (I choose maple syrup grade B because its healthier, but you can use whatever sweetener you have on hand or prefer)

Special Note:  As with any soup, but this one in particular, I find that creating that “perfect” balance  between the Acid/Sugar/Salt can really make a huge difference in the final soup masterpiece you have created.  Each time you make this soup, or any, is different.  So learn to  “play” around with it once your done with the final steps, taste and adjust.  With this soup you can make very subtle yet poignant adjustments to the overall final product just by playing around with the  salt, acid (lemon juice to “brighten it up”), and sweet.  The coconut milk and squash are naturally a little sweet so you may find you don’t need to enhance the sweetness at all, or just a teaspoon of maple syrup, sugar or sweetener.  Its up to you!

Serve and Enjoy!

Nutrition Facts
via Spark People Calorie Counter




  4 Servings
Amount Per Serving
  Calories 92.1
  Total Fat 1.6 g
  Saturated Fat 0.3 g
  Polyunsaturated Fat 0.4 g
  Monounsaturated Fat 1.0 g
  Cholesterol 1.9 mg
  Sodium 374.3 mg
  Potassium 720.4 mg
  Total Carbohydrate 19.5 g
  Dietary Fiber 4.5 g
  Sugars 0.6 g
  Protein 3.1 g






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Healthy Spanish Paella, An Amazing Family Style Dish


Wow!  What an amazing class and dish I learned how to properly make with Local Silicon Vally Chef Joni Sare.  The back story is I run and organize a local “Healthy Lifestyle/Fitness” meetup group here in the San Francisco Bay Area and with the guidance and incredibly instruction from Chef Joni Sare.  Joni was kind enough to allow me to organize a very reasonably priced cooking class to offer my members last weekend.  And boy was it a BIG hit.  Thank you Joni!  We made a really healthy and nutrient dense Veggie/Chicken and Shrimp Spanish Paella that was just amazing and am so excited to share it with you.

Paella, is a traditionally “peasant style” Spanish dish that has been round for many many generations, and a delight to serve large groups, dinner parties, or large gatherings.  Paella, is technically a four stage dish, which can be put together quickly with a little preparation.  Even better, with a few family member or assistants to help with the cutting and chopping of the vegetables,  its easy to piece together and just flow through all 4 stages easily and with little thought. When you get to the last stage of the final cooking process, you just allow the ingredients to finish their final cooking phase and you can enjoy a glass of wine or sparkling water chatting with friends.  The final product is finished in the last stage of cooking for about 20 minutes. Llastly you turn up the heat and allow the rice to toast and caramalize or that tasty crispy bottom at the end, the lid on, for about 3 to 5 minutes.

There are many variations of Spanish Paella:

To get an idea of a basic Spanish Paella “how to” you can see a great link here in an older “Fine Cooking” magazine link.  For basic Spanish Seafood Paella recipe how to with video see here through this link.

Here is the recipe for the Paella we made yesterday that are reflected in the photos I have included on this blog entry.  This was a veggie, seafood, chicken recipe but you can make any variation of this from excluding the chicken and seafood for just a super veggie version, of by just excluding the chicken or seafood very your own preferences.

Classic Spanish Paella Recipes Include Many Of These Ingredients:

Rabbit, chorizo, pork sausage, chicken sausage, chicken legs or thigh pieces, shrimp, fish, mussels, clams, greens beans and peas. Seafood options can include: Shrimp, mussels, clams, crab, scallops, and fish (any variety).  Veggies options can include: Marinated artichokes, green bean, zucchini (any type, bell peppers (green , red, yellow, and orange colored), chickpeas, carrots sliced, asparagus, parsley, mushrooms and potatoes.

Recipe below Created AND Developed by Chef Joni Sare

Serves 4 and should be prepared in aprox a 10 to 12 inch pan

Ingredients Stage 1 and 2:

  • Chicken legs or thighs bone in, or for less juicy or “lower fat” meat, chicken breasts quartered
  • 1 whole  chorizo , pork or chicken sausage sliced at a diagonal
  • 1 cup short grain arborio Rice
  • 1 large pinch of saffron (aprox 8 to 12 strings crushed)
  • 2 large bell peppers of any color, we used red and green for this particular dish yesterday
  • 2 tomatoes chopped into bite sized piece
  • 1 zucchini green or yellow sliced into bite sized pieces
  • 1 red onion chopped1/2 cup of frozen green peas defrosted
  • 1/2 cup of green olives from a can (reserve liquid)
  • 2 tablespoons sliced roasted piquillo peppers from a can

*** Remember that is just the ingredients from the recipe shown in the photos, you can be creative and use any of the ingredients I have listed as common ingredients used in Spanish Paella

*** Go to Stage 3 to make the cooking liquid if you have time before completing stage 2 so cooking liquid will be ready to go directly into pan at the end of Stage 2


Stage One:

  1. Heat until soft in the olive oil the yellow onion dieced, the bell peppers diced, and the tomato diced
  2. Heat until soft aprox about 5 minutes, stirring often

Stage Two:

  1. Brown the meat in the onion, bell pepper and tomato mixture, until meat is nicely browned on all sixed, then remove meat and set aside.
  2. Add the rice, cook, stirring often allowing for the rice to have a nice oil and vegetable mix while allowing the rice to “toast” somewhat.
  3. Make a “well” or circular area in the middle of the pan, add the saffron and toast it for about one minute.
  4. Add all the remaining ingredients except the browned meat


Stage 3 Ingredients:

  • 3 cloves of garlic minced or crush (or 1 tablespoon can prepared crush garlic)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 cup chicken broth or stock
  • 1 14 ounce can of tomato sauce
  • 1 small 4 ounce jar of pimentos (liquid too)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1.2 cup of the olive juice from the canned olive can
  • 1.2 cup of white wine or 1.4 of a cup vermouth

Stage 3 and 4 Directions:

Stage 3:

****If you have time while meat is browning in Stage 2, begin on Stage 3 while its browning

  1. In a 2 quart sauce pan , mix the liquid ingredients well, and keep warm on stove until time to add to Paella dish in Stage 4
  2. Mix the chicken broth or stock, the tomato sauce, the jar of pimentos with liquid, the bay leaf, the dried thyme, the reserved olive juice from the can, and the white wine or 1.4 cup of Vermouth


Stage 4:

  1. Add the broth mixture to the paella pan, mix well, making sure the rice is evenly distributed.  Add the brown meat to the paella pan in strategic places (wait on the seafood).  If you are using whole chicken legs or thighs, try to kind of nestle them into and within the rice in the pan so they are nicely surrounded by the warm mixture to insure complete cooking.
  2.  Keep the lid off and do not disturb the mixture until serving!
  3. Cook uncovered on a low simmer for about 20 minutes, or until liquid is well below the rice and just about gone.
  4. 4. When liquid is about gone, at the point add the seafood, if using, in strategic places, and push down into the mixture.
  5. Turn the heat up now to medium high and allow the underside of the rice to toast and caramelize, making the “soccorat” aka the crispy rice bottom that Spanish paella is known for.
  6. Remove from heat , cover and let stand for 5 minutes, this allows the  “soccarat” or crispy browned rice bottom to loosen and lift from the bottom of the pan

Recipe Developed by Chef Joni Sare

Serve and Enjoy!

Nutrition Information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 430; Fat (g): 13; Fat Calories (kcal): 120; Saturated Fat (g): 2; Protein (g): 22; Monounsaturated Fat (g): 8; Carbohydrates (g): 54; Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2; Sodium (mg): 710; Cholesterol (mg): 65; Fiber (g): 2;






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Memories from the ICU








I found this online journal, CarePages, where Victor and I documented my stem cell transplant.   I keep going back to this one particular day, October 17th, 2005.   It was one of the most terrifying yet life defining moments  in my life.  I had woken up from an extensive life saving thoracic surgery for what is quite commonly a fatal fungal illness, Invasive Aspergillus that had tremendously infected my body during transplantation attempt while I had zero immune system.   It was a very high risk surgery to begin with.  My surgery did not go as planned either.   When they opened me up I was far worse than they ever imagined… but reading this I remember what a fighter I was.  I hated that stupid ICU and desperately was begging to get back on the 5th floor, the bone marrow transplant floor, or my “comfort zone” as my  new thoracic surgeon called it.  I remember at the time I hear him say this to me,  thinking to myself, “If my “comfort zone”  is now the bone marrow transplant floor at City of Hope hospital, my life has certainly sunk to an all time low!”  I remember my reflection in the glass doors, seeing in my bald head, swollen body,  chest tubes, plastic tubes, Iv poles and bags everywhere,  electronic equipment stuck to me and around me making loud screeching noises, and just  feeling like I was the ugliest human being on the planet.  I was so incredibly sad, despondent, and felt so unlovable.   I was terrified I would never see the outdoors again.  I was terrified I would never see the outside of the ICU again.  Pathetically enough, I thought I would never know was it was like to feel pretty or even happy ever again.  I had Victor put photos of the “real me” up on the walls in my room that day, and I made sure everyone taking care of me,  knew this ugly monster that I was presenting as was “not me” and would point to  them the pictures of me skiing and having fun only a year before and cry  “See that’s me, this isn’t me!”  My mind could not reconcile what was happening, I could not understand what this horribly sick thing was, I had turned into, and I was in a state of shock.  I was only 36 years old.

Posted Oct 17, 2005 2:42am

Hi from Peg :

This note will be short as I am really tired tonight and still recovering. It may not make sense as I am really medicated as well. Victor snuck the computer into the ICU (they are not allowed and neither are cell phones but the nurses have not said anything yet). By the way the city of hope phone number is 626-359-xxxx and I am in the ICU listed under my name.

The charge nurse notified me the night before my surgery that indeed not only will I be having my case added on the next day but that I will also be Dr. Kernstine’s first case of the day (I was really hoping he got some sleep the night before). What began as a 4 hour somewhat risky case became an over 7 hour much more risky case with a lot of unforeseen problems. When I woke up from surgery, I was told that from the moment that the doctor opened me and spread my ribs, that there was Aspergillus everywhere, all over my lung, and it was beginning to invade my heart and my major and minor pulmonary veins and arteries. Dr. Kernstine decided once he saw this that his main goal was not only to remove the upper lung but to investigate and remove any fungus or other problematic tissue that he could find. In the process of doing so, my pulmonary artery collapsed and separated in Dr. Kernstine’s hands which led him to infuse 4 units of blood into me to replace what he was loosing while he was suturing and extracting all of the unneeded upper lobe. In addition, he quite frankly told me he was shocked at the extent of the fungus infection. Dr. Kernstine, in so many words, made me feel that my situation had been much more extreme than he had thought prior to the surgery. He told me that it was likely that coughing or even laughing, had we waited any longer, could have ruptured the already limited and invaded pulmonary artery and that death would have been immediate.

All my doctors came in and visited that evening in the ICU, which I hate. It’s not that the rooms are bad but everything is more limiting and extreme here. Also, when I first woke up, I looked to find 14 individual IV bags plus a pulmonary tank and a chest tube chamber, 3 chest tubes sticking out of me, a urinary catheter, and a bunch of EKG lines and a bunch of other stuff stuck to me and a bunch of bright and beeping screens that made a lot of noise. When I wanted to sit up to go to the bathroom, the nurse practically laughed at me and said, “This is the ICU, not the 5th floor. You just sit there, that is what the catheter is for.”  The idea of just laying here and doing nothing and not being allowed to move made me panicked. I devised a plan that I must prove that I not the kind of person that belongs in ICU and this has all been some crazy mistake. So I have done everything I could, little by little, increment by increment, to do whatever was necessary to remove every feature I absolutely hated (which is pretty much everything) and restructure my path back to my room on the BMT floor. So far, I have been measurably successful. Today I made sure that I had my nurse chart that I was up in my chair for most of the day and I went for 2 walks totaling about 4 rapid rounds around the perimeter of this hospital floor. By the way, my first plan was to devise a way to get rid of the urinary catheter. I need not explain the desire for that. I was successful within the first 12 hours. I think I am still a little shell shocked from what we discovered in surgery last Thursday. However, I have NO idea what out time frame looks like and where do we go from here. Whether or not I stay here and continue treatment is unknown to me as well as will they want me to heal from this procedure and then want me to come back later. It is truly up in the air. As soon as I have more answers, I will post them here.

I wanted to thank everyone for all their posts during the time I was pre and post procedure and quite nervous. Your sentiments helped me bring down my stress level. As usual, Victor read them to me when I was completely unable to do so myself, and they were read considerably more than once. Also, I have picked up on some of Victor’s ability to become popular on the floor. My friend Lori sent me 2 little soft Halloween pumpkin heads which hold candy (currently jolly ranchers). When I walk around on the floor, Victor usually has them filled so that I can offer treats to the staff. When I am in my room, they hang on my IV pole so my nurses can come in and get a snack (or take the entire pumpkin head around the floor and bring it back later, usually empty). I’m going to bed now. I just hit my green pain killer button.

I love you all


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Basil Walnut Pesto

Pesto  in its traditional form is made with pine nuts, fresh basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic and olive oil. Costs for pine nuts have really increased dramatically over the years, so I just make mine with walnuts instead.  I actually think pesto tastes just as good, if not better, with walnuts, as opposed to pine nuts anyways, and some would argue walnuts are healthier  being so high on the antioxidant index.   Pesto with walnuts its also a very economical way to add some bold flavor on any budget.   The flavor is rich but filled with good fats from the olive oil and the walnuts.  It freezes well, defrosts quickly and is so versatile it can be used in sauces, on pizza and pastas, and as a big dollop of flavor on meat, seafood, poultry and veggies.   I usually will make a big recipe and then freeze in several small serving containers.  The recipe included below is a fairly generic version of the recipe.  You can blend the ingredients into a paste in a food processor, or in my case I use a high speed blender.


  • 2 cups of packed fresh  basil leaves (found in the produce section by the fresh herbs)
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup of walnuts
  • 2 cloves of minced or crushed garlic
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt (opt)


  1. Place the basil leave, olive oil, walnuts, garlic and salt in food processor or blender
  2. Blend until thoroughly combined
  3. Add Parmesan cheese and blend 10 to 15 seconds or more
  4. Serve and enjoy, or store in freezer until ready to use

Nutrtion facts

Servings per container: 6

Calories: 213 calories per serving

Calories from fat (good fat): 188 per serving

Total carbs: 2.7

Total sugars: 1.1 g

Protein: 5.6

Total Fats: 20.9 g



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Lowfat Pan Crisp “Little Dragon” Chinese Dumplings



These little Chinese dumplings are so TASTY you would never in a million years guess that not only are they packed full of protein and good nutrition, they are juicy with a crisp outer skin, yet not greasy like most pan fried dumplings.  I know some people have an “issue” with calorie restricted food diets, and by no ways do I condone any kind of diet with severe calorie restrictions.  I came up with this healthy style “crispy” dumpling concept in my twenties while trying to create a crispy pot sticker style of dumpling I could eat, which had lots of flavor minus all the grease. In this recipe I use 100 percent fat free ground turkey breast or chicken breast in the filling and  combining it with chopped shrimp and Asian flavors. I then utilize a non stick skillet to pan “crisp” or brown the dumpling  on both sides, later adding low fat or non fat chicken broth or stock to “steam fry” the dumpling.  The  “pan steaming” works to infuse flavor and moisture to the bland or “dry” ground poultry, while the “crisping” the dumpling wrapper  on both sides providing the texture and taste you normally associate with greasy pot stickers.  Since I just posted a Steamed Shrimp Shu Mai Style Dumpling a couple of weeks ago, for ease of translation, I use most of the same ingredients for the filling in this recipe at the same time demonstrating how just some little changes in ingredients and cooking method can create a completely different result.


  • 1/2 cup soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon mirin (found in the Asian section of your market, usually by the soy sauce.  example here)
  • 1 tablespoon sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger
  • 1/2 lb of prawns/ shrimp peeled and deveined, chopped
  • 1/2 lb of ground fat free chicken or turkey breast
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves finely chopped
  • 1/4 cup chopped scallions, white parts only, chopped
  • 1/2 to 1 can of water chestnuts for some crunch and texture, finely chopped
  • package of gyoza or “round” Chinese dumpling skins
  • optional: white pepper
  • neutral oil spray for the pan to cook
  • chicken broth or stock for “steam frying” the dumplings


  1. Very finely chop the shrimp by hand or pulse in food processor for a minute or two
  2. Combine soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil and ginger in a bowl and stir
  3. In a bowl combine the ground poultry, shrimp, scallions, cilantro, and sprinkle of the optional white pepper, water chestnuts and add 2 to 3 tablespoons of the soy sauce mixture from step 2 and mix with a fork, making sure the sauce is evenly distributed through out the mixture
  4. Let the mixture or “filling” sit in the fridge for about 1/2 an hour or more so the Asian flavors can really infuse throughout the shrimp and poultry aspect of the filling
  5. Place each dumpling skin on a work surface, moisten the edges with water and 1 teaspoon of the filling in the center. Fold over the skin at the median line to create a little “half moon” shape (see above photo at the top of this recipe).  Use a fork to press in and indent around the corner to make sure the dumpling skin stay folded over and stuck together.  Repeat with the remaining dumpling skins and filling until all filling is used. Note:  Store any left over skins in an airtight zip lock bag or wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge.  Make sure its not exposed to any air or it will dry out
  6. To cook immediately: working in batches, spray the bottom of a non stick pan lightly to the pan and heat over medium high heat.
  7. When pan is nice and hot quickly place dumplings on the bottom of the pan, working in batches.  Brown or “crisp” the dumpling on one side and then flip.  Crisp the dumpling on the other side until lightly browned, making sure not to burn
  8. Add a 3  tablespoons or more, to the hot pan with the crisp dumplings and quickly put the lid on to steam.  If necessary, add some more chicken broth when the first amount completely evaporates into the dumpling.  You want to make sure the dumpling is cooked all the way through and the chicken is completely cooked.
  9. Repeat until all the dumplings are cooke

Serve with the soy dipping sauce and enjoy

**Note if making a big batch ahead:  These freeze and store extremely well.  If you want to make a large batch ahead of time and freeze, at step 5, instead of cooking, transfer the uncooked dumplings to a cooking sheet lightly dusted with corn starch and then when full immediately put in freezer and “flash freeze”.  When dumplings are frozen, carefully remove them from the cookie sheet and transfer to a freezer zip lock bag, remove most of the air, and store.    When you decide you want to eat them, just  begin at step 6 and then make sure you steam a little longer, using a little extra chicken broth steaming steps to make sure they are cooked all the way through.




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Next Iron Chef Season 4 Sundays 9/8c: October 30th, 2011 TV Show Review


Spoiler Alert!  If you do not not want to know the ending PLEASE do not read  past the “Spoilers alert” notice until you have watched this episode

Episode 1:  October 3oth, 2001

  T-PIG’s RATING:  5  STARS out of 5   QUOTE:   “I’m in Love”

OK for starters, Can I just say I am so happy I turned on the Food Network channel last night (Its my default station).  I  had forgotten that the season premier of this show was coming on, and additionally had irresponsibly forgotten to Tivo it.  Totally lame.    What a loss that would have been…. this show is AWESOME!  Super exciting, and pleasantly surprising there were no weirdo’s,  cranky personalities or “meanies” . I know that kind of crazy drama is good for “ratings” and all, but I hate it, and it gives me a stomach ache.  None of that with this season.  Yay!

From the looks of just the first show last night of this competition, I think any betting man would have a difficult time placing a wager.  All of these chefs are so incredibly talented I have no idea how this competition is going  to play out over the next several weeks, but I have a feeling it will be exciting.  The producers and editors of last night’s episode certainly did make me feel like I was watching a super exhilarating Super Bowl type  competition,.  I really was having a hard time not jumping up and down, screaming and cheering my favorites on.

The show was very fast paced, exciting, filled with some of the most mouth watering  food ever.  Even after having taken 10 pages of handwritten notes and watching the episode 2 times, I can’t be absolutely sure that all of my information as follows is totally accurate.  Understand however,  I did do the absolute best job I possibly could.  Please forgive me ahead of time for any mistakes I might have made in some of the finer, yet possibly critical aspects of this show. It was hard to note every detail described when watching food creations evolve with this kind of finesse and depth.

Hmmmm… so where to begin? I guess we should start off with the contestants the season.

Chef Contestants:

1. Anne Burrell: I love her from her many TV appearances on the Food Network, but honestly I don’t know that much about her so she is not one of my “favorites” going in.  See here for her bio here  on the show.

2. Michael Chiarello: Ok he is my favorite!  One, he is from Northern California, and two, I have had the honor meeting him at a book signing at Draegers Market’s flagship store in San Mateo.  He is so much more handsome in person, if that’s even possible. Additionally I am completely biased because  have all of his cookbooks, all of which I just LOVE.  Michael lives, eats and breathes modern Italian cuisine, and his passion is contagious!  He is really able to elevate ingredients to a whole  new  level without his ego growing at the same time.  In  this first show, Michael really exhibited he has the “chops” to be the “Next Iron Chef”.   This is just my initial totally biased impression of him.  Here is his bio here on the show.

3. Elizabeth Falkner:  When you live in San Francisco its impossible not to love Elizabeth.  I had the good fortune of meeting her at a charity event in San Francisco last year for “Share Our Strength” a national non profit (check it out).  She was cool, down to earth and just mellow, you couldn’t help but be in “awe”.  If she cooks at the “Share Our Strength” event again this year I am for sure going.  Plus Elizabeth is friends with, has cooked with and competed against Cat Cora!  Cat Cora is my current favorite Iron Chef  on the TV show, so, you know I am totally rooting for this amazing lady Elizabeth.  Here is her bio here on the show.

4.  Alex Guarneaschelli:  I know her only from one of my favorite shows “Chopped” which I religiously watch every Tuesday.  She is a judge on that show and I know very little else about her.  Here is her bio here on the show.

5.  Chuck Hughes:  Ok, I know absolutely nothing about this guy at all, but he’s cute, and his bio has a lot of cool looking recipes, so lets hope he can cook with this crew.  Here is his bio here on the show.

6. Robert Irvine:  I’ve loved this guy forever!  He’s was so awesome on the former show “Dinner Impossible” and now on “Restaurant Impossible”.  This guy seems to be able to cook and do anything under under pressure and time restraints thrown at him, so we know he can handle “cooking battle”.  I don’t know how well he can cook against some of these pretty formidable opponents, but I have to admit I am really rooting for him.  I think he is under rated as a chef.  Here is his bio here on the show.

7.  Beau MacMillan: Who is this? Am I just totally lame for not knowing who this is?  But I’ll be honest,  I knew nothing about him, but after watching this first episode  I REALLY like him.  I think he knows his stuff.  His bio claims he was victorious on  “American Iron Chef” which I think is not always an accurate “win”, so that is not really a big stamp of approval in my book.  I do believe its safe to assume he could easily be a dark horse in this race.  Here is his bio here on the show.

8. Spike Mendelsohn:   I am such a big fan of this guy after seeing him on Top Chef  in a couple of different competitions.  He knows his shit, has definitely grown as a chef since I first “met” him years ago on his first debut on “Top Chef”.  I think he is amazing and super creative.  A real competitor and one of the most creative chefs on TV in my opinion.  Here is his bio here on the show.

9.  Marcus Samuelson:  Besides the fact he produces my favorite “celebrity chef food and cooking blog” , I also love that  he is such a down to earth, inspirational human being who has never lost touch with his roots.  I also hear he cooks a pretty mean fried chicken, and god knows I am a closet fried chicken slut at heart. Loved watching him win Top Chef Masters on Bravo  just barely by the skin of his “chinny chin chin”. He  is a heavy weight competitor even amongst this group.   Here is his bio here on the show.

10.  Geoffrey Zakarian:  He is for sure one of the top guys to beat, if not THE guy to beat.  I would refer him to him as the “Obi-Wan-Kenobi” of the bunch.    I’ve only seen him as a judge on “Chopped” but after tonight, I think he has the “will”, “experience” and the nerves to really outshine everyone.    There are lots more weeks and the challenges to come, sometimes its not the ones who we think who will hold up challenge after challenge.  Here is his bio here on the show.


1. Michael Simon: Current Iron Chef and on too many show to mention.  Bio here

2. Judy Joo: Had never heard of her but apparently an Iron Chef in the Uk.   Bio here

3. Simon Majumdar:  Seen him before but don’t remember much.  Some kind of food and travel writer.  Bio here

Host for first episode:

1. Alton Brown: Who really needs NO introduction, he is one of my Food Network Favorites. Here is his Bio if you must.  Bio here

Show Premise:

The basic  premise is the same as most of the other “Iron Chef” contests, where some really awesome chef’s compete in semi bizarre and challenging contest” and he/she who loses leaves, and he/she who wins gets some special prize or immunity or whatever they decide that week.  Alton is pretty much the host although they have the “Chairman” shows up on some taped segments in this first episode which really seem kind of  unnecessary.  Sorry “Chairman”

Spoilers so don’t read past this if you don’t want to know what happens….

It begins with the cursory introduction of the “chefs” competing, which is kind of fun to watch.  Then Alton gets down to business with the “contestant chefs” drawing “matchsticks” to see who would get a “red stick”.  It was Spike to get the “red stick” so he got to choose his team mate which was Samuel Marcusson (that’s whom I would have probably picked too knowing Michael Chiarello would have been too damn good looking and distracting  for me to get anything done but make an ass out of myself).  Spike additionally had the honor of creating all the other “couplet” teams.

Teams are as follows:

1. Spike/Marcus

2. Elizabeth/ Alex

3. Micheal/Chuck

4. Jeffrey/Beau

5. Anne/Robert

Spike had some ” Psychological Theory” for why he matched these people up the way he did, but it seemed to me like pretty much all the teams worked well together.  There were no big fights, crankiness or drama, as much as I am sure the TV producers tried to create it.

The Challenge:

Now I gave this show 5 BIG stars, so keep that in mind while I lovingly critique some of the aspects of last nights episode.

The contestants were supposedly “thrown in the wild” given a whole pig “per team” on ice ( not so wild) and then a whole outdoor pantry and farmer’s market of produce (again not so wild).  I guess the “wild part ” was it was next to some pond or “lake” as they called it, likely not far from the TV studio, then given kindling and firewood stuff to make fires.  Oh yes, and had to do everything outdoors which I guess is also “wild”.  This challenge being appropriately named : “Heat and Meat”.

The challenge was to come up with two dishes within 90 minutes to be judged.

Next scene it showed everyone racing around getting their “well iced” pig from its wild  “ice bed, then running around to the outdoor pantry and “wild” mini farmer’s market getting their gorgeous produce.   Again, no real drama, everyone got along and there didn’t seem to be much confusion.  These were all well established chefs really running around by a makeshift campground with lots of supplies.  The hardest part really was the obvious: 1.  Breaking down the pig  2.  Figuring out how to cook and plate by a fire and grill.

Again PLEASE forgive me if I did not get all the finer details absolutely perfect, this was the best I could do with TEN pages of notes and watching the show twice.

Marcus/Spike: Decided to do 1. Pork stew with water from the lake 2. Pork Ribs

Elizabeth/Alex: were the most lost and confused, mainly due to Alex not doing well with stress, and Elizabeth being the cal one of the two.  The decided upon 1. Pork 4 ways using: Pork Belly/Ears and Tail/Tongue/Kidney 2. Pork leg on the grill

Michael/Chuck: Had their shit together from the get go, and worked great together.  I’m sure the producers were now annoyed with how little drama was going on amongst the “couplets”. Michael and Chuck decided upon a 1. Salad with roasted beets on grill with pork cheeks and pig ear 2. Maple Chili Glazed Pork Chop with some kind of mushroom stuffing incorporating the pig brains.  As weird as that sounded when you saw the two of them creating this dish, you felt like saying “Damn I love pork brains even though I have never tried them before, nor will I ever “.

Geoffry/Beau:  An unusual coupling that seemed to be working out great from the onset.  You had little fear anything was going to go terribly wrong here with these two.  1.  Some kind of grilled  fore hind quarters  2.  something  called ???? Barigoule Artichoke dish with Potatoes ,Shallots and Cream.  It looked great whatever it was they were cooking.  I wasn’t worried at all,  even though I was not quite sure what was happening over in their section.  The camera shots alone made me fairly confident whatever they were putting out was gonna be pretty fricking amazing.

Anne/Robert: They seemed to be having the most difficulty with the timing of the “heat”, and you were a little concerned throughout the 90 minutes that maybe it wasn’t going to all come together…. but it did.  They did 1.  Braised pork belly and pork cheeks 2.  Porchetta with Rosemary, Sage ,and Garlic

Judging Comes:

1. Spike and Marcus: With the Stew the judges thought was OK, but lacking “in depth” of flavor, perhaps from the lake water. The pork ribs while “great” glaze, not enough meat.  Ouch… you felt they might be up for elimination

2. Geoffrey/Beau: Michael Symon loved the finesse of the dish and the other judges thought the pork was cooked perfectly.  The 4 Quarter Spit Roast with the potatoes and the rhubarb raspberry barbecue sauce was a big hit with everyone.

3.  Anne/Robert:  Braised pork belly and pork cheek was well received for the sweet potatoes that it was served with. Complaints that the skin was not crispy enough but other than that, the judges seemed to be impressed.

4. Michael/Chuck: The salad of coal roasted beets of crisp Pig Ear and Pork Cheek Salad.  Everyone loved it but complaints were there was not enough Pig Ear.  Then there was the Chile Maple Glazed Grilled Pork Chop with Pig Brain Duxelle on Grilled Olive Oil Poached Potato with Pork Belly Braised and crisp on barbecue.  Gosh I hope I got all that right!  Whatever it was it looked amazing, and it was a big hit.

5. Elizabeth/Alex (By this point my short hand was referring to Anne as “hyper chick” because she was so anxious and annoying compared to Elizabeth): The offered up first what was referred to as the “Best Dish of the Evening” called “Pig 4 Ways” 1. Mushroom with crispy Pig Ear 2. Sunchokes and Egg with Tongue 3. Pig Jowl and Rhubarb and Strawberries 4. Pig Kidney with Tarragon and Leeks  Also note appropriately it seemed was the “Ambition” involved with the “Pig 4 Ways” Idea.  Their 2nd dish was Glazed pork Belly and Spiced with Maple Glazed roasted  leg with Saccatash of Celery Root, Rutabega, and Pistachio Cremolata.  Judges did not like second dish.

Super Spoilers I give who wins and who goes home… don’ read if you  don’t want to know….

Results: Not going to give that much away because I want you to watch the show, but  Geoffrey Zakarian wins, and Spike is sent home but not without a really cool “Death Match” between he and Chef Marcus Samuelson.







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