Thursday, December 14, 2017
Cooking

Home cook in Davis Islands shares her healthy habits, hummus recipes

Three steps out the back door and snip, snip. Parsley and mint for tabbouleh; rosemary, basil, dill, sage and fennel to trick up hummus. Harvesting homegrown herbs brings Valarie Blau joy every time.

Both Mediterranean mezzes are mainstays for the health-conscious Blau family. Val, a registered nurse at St. Joseph's Children's Hospital Medical Mobile Clinic, runs, bikes, swims or works out six days a week, her family history of heart disease never far from mind.

Husband Richard, immediate past chairman of the board of Feeding America Tampa Bay, is an attorney specializing in alcohol beverage and food marketing governance. Son Alex, 15, performs in piano competitions and plays football at Berkeley Prep with a rabid teenage appetite. Twin daughters Jennah and Hannah, 25, live together in Santa Monica and share the latest California health trends when they visit.

"We're all about the food in this family," Blau said, looking out the window of her Davis Islands kitchen at the garden in full bloom.

"I read that men who garden live longer," she said. "So Richard's out there for hours on a Saturday. It's so relaxing and productive, and then I make him jump in the pool before he comes back inside."

Truth be told, she said, "I really don't enjoy dining out. I much prefer to cook at home where I can control the quality of the ingredients. I know the fish is wild and the greens organic. It's more natural, healthier … and cheaper."

An ideal weekend for the couple might include foraging at Mazzaro's for fresh pastas and St. Petersburg's downtown Saturday Morning Market for organic greens, then stopping for fresh seafood at I.C. Sharks on the way home.

"Richard is more hunter and gatherer than cook," she said "He enjoys the research … finding honey, olive oil, wine. He bought me emmer grains from a grower in Washington."

We asked her to share her signature recipes for hummus and tabbouleh, both high in fiber and protein and low in saturated fat. They make for super healthy appetizers or snacks.

Hummus begins basic and Blau adds favorite mix-ins, artichokes and lemon or roasted red peppers, laced with fresh-snipped herbs.

Baked pita bread and lavash — 60 minutes at 250 degrees — turn into triangle crackers.

"So much healthier than buying high-carb, processed crackers."

Blau pairs the hummus with antioxidant-loaded tabbouleh, made of bulgur and freshly chopped parsley, mint, tomatoes and scallions from her back yard. Plus hearty squeezes of Meyer lemons plucked off their own tree.

"It makes a big difference when you use your own ingredients."

Contact Amy Scherzer at [email protected]

Comments
Five trendy gift ideas for the cook in your life

Five trendy gift ideas for the cook in your life

Giving the gift of cooking isn’t really something you can mess up. Whether gifting a gadget or paying for a class, you can encourage a budding culinary enthusiast or give a seasoned veteran a new toy to play with. Here are five ideas for holiday gi...
Published: 12/13/17
Four ideas for edible gifts you can find throughout Tampa Bay

Four ideas for edible gifts you can find throughout Tampa Bay

Carlynn Crosby, Times correspondent Florida Pure Sea Salt Harvested from Tampa Bay’s waters, these handcrafted salts come in flavors like maple bacon, Sriracha, lemongrass, habanero or black truffle. They retail for $15 a jar online, at flor...
Published: 12/13/17
Six kitchen gadgets that are completely useless

Six kitchen gadgets that are completely useless

If you’re buying me a gift this year, don’t get me an Instant Pot. I’m serious. I don’t subscribe to the "you can never be too thin or too rich" school of thought, but the "you can never have too much kitchen cabinet space" is dead right in my book. ...
Published: 12/13/17
From the food editor: How to make perfect, hot Crispy Roasted Potatoes

From the food editor: How to make perfect, hot Crispy Roasted Potatoes

Sometimes, you just want a hot, crispy potato.I didn’t get home from work the other night craving a full dinner; I arrived at my house with cartoon visions of potatoes in my head, and knew I had to make it happen.I wasn’t looking for a fast food fren...
Published: 12/12/17
Updated: 12/13/17
Party like it’s Christmas in Narnia with these recipes perfect for tea time

Party like it’s Christmas in Narnia with these recipes perfect for tea time

As a kid, I always looked for doors into other worlds. I blame Narnia. In C.S. Lewis’ classic novel The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, four British children step through a magic wardrobe into Narnia, a world filled with talking animals and plenty ...
Published: 12/12/17
Cooking challenge: Making homemade edible Christmas gifts

Cooking challenge: Making homemade edible Christmas gifts

Should I infuse this vodka with bacon?That’s not a question I expected to ask myself on a Sunday morning, but here we are. This Christmas, I’m giving homemade gifts: infused liquor and chocolate fudge. But I didn’t realize it would be so hard to find...
Published: 12/12/17
Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

Lightened Shepherd’s Pie comforting, quick

When the weather gets cooler, we want to tuck into comfort food in our home. Doing a recipe makeover on a tasty-but-less-than-healthy dish is one of my favorite challenges. Today, I’m taking on a wintertime classic with my Lightened Shepherd’s Pie. T...
Published: 12/08/17
Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

Green Salad With Pumpkin Vinaigrette celebrates holiday season

By MELISSA D’ARABIANSummer may officially be the season of green salads, but wintertime versions have advantages that make them worth exploring. The cooler weather seasonable greens are hearty and darker green, which makes them nutrient-rich. And, th...
Published: 12/08/17
My holiday tradition: Making a whole bunch of beef Wellington

My holiday tradition: Making a whole bunch of beef Wellington

For the past 20 years, my family has looked forward to a boat parade party hosted by some of our dearest friends. The hostess provides cocktails, appetizers, dinner, desserts and a trombone choir to perform from a balcony overlooking her pool. My fav...
Published: 12/06/17
Tampa Bay Times readers share their treasured holiday food traditions

Tampa Bay Times readers share their treasured holiday food traditions

When we opened this year’s call for reader submissions to any treasured holiday food tradition, I had no idea what to expect. That was kind of the point. I wanted to see what such a wide gamut would inspire. And you delivered. The stories that reader...
Published: 12/06/17