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Friday, February 28, 2014

New Home

Happy Friday Fellow Foodies!

I have decided to move my blog over to a new home. While I will still maintain "The Enlightened Chef", any and all new recipes, and thoughts will be found at "Low Country Larder"
www.lowcountrylarder.blogspot.com

Monday, February 24, 2014

Restaurant Steak at Home

Happy Monday Fellow Foodies!!!

(I have decided to move my blog over to a new home. While I will still maintain "The Enlightened Chef", any and all new recipes, and thoughts will be found at "Low Country Larder"
www.lowcountrylarder.blogspot.com)

Have you ever wondered why that steakhouse steak always tastes just a little (or maybe a lot) better in the restaurant than at home? Wonder no more, my foodie friends! I am going to give you every restaurant's secrets in one simple, easy to follow set of instructions.

I will tell you up front, that unless you have a restaurant-grade cook top or grill in your home kitchen, it is near impossible to get restaurant results. The reason for this is because in a restaurant the stoves put out way more heat (55,000BTU) than a home unit does (12,000BTU). But take heart, I said "nearly impossible".

The big trick is that you need a cast iron pan. They absorb heat so efficiently that they simply get hotter and hotter without degrading the pan in any way. You cannot do that with a nonstick pan-don't even try it! Click this link to see why: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/12/18/your-money/18shortcuts.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0

If you need to learn about cast iron please click here: http://www.realsimple.com/food-recipes/cooking-tips-techniques/preparation/cleaning-seasoning-cast-iron-skillet-10000001178519/


Enough with the boring stuff...Here we go!

1) Buy you steaks. Sirloin steaks, ribeyes, tenderloins-any nice cut of meat will do for this. I recommend Grass-fed, or organic beef, but quite honestly I've done this with steaks I've bought at Costco with shockingly delicious results.

2) Once you remove them from the packaging, pat them dry with a few paper towels.

3)  Liberally season your steaks on both sides with your favorite seasoning salt. For the record I use Lawrey's because I once worked in a Steakhouse who's "secret seasoning" was just Lawrey's with added MSG: Please don't add MSG at home, you don't need it.
 
 
 

4) Stack 3-4 paper towels on a plate big enough to fit all the steaks without them touching each other. Place the seasoned steaks on the lined plate and place open (yes DO NOT WRAP THEM OR COVER THEM), on an empty shelf towards the bottom of the fridge.

5) Allow the steaks to 'dry-age' for 24-48 hours, flipping once mid-way through the drying process. Do not worry; if your fridge is clean, and I hope it is, your steaks will not contract any food-cooties. If your fridge is not clean then go clean it right now...with bleach, please.

6) Take your steaks out of the fridge and let them come to room temperature, this takes about 30 minutes.

7) Using your trusty cast iron skillet, ( If you don't have one then now would be a great time to stop reading and go buy one. Don't email me and tell me you can't find them, I just bought one at Target-so there! ) place it over high heat. Allow it to get smoking hot-literally it should be slightly smoky. Add your steaks, turn the heat down just a pinch, and cook 3 minutes per side for medium-rare, 4 minutes per side for medium. Be sure to only flip your steaks ONCE. Never, ever, ever, ever flip them more than that. Oh...and you MIGHT want to open a window and turn on the fan-this is very smoky and will set of your smoke detectors.

8) Once you have achieved your desired doneness, remove your steaks from your trusty cast iron skillet and allow them to rest, covered, for about 5 minutes. This allows the built-up pressure inside the steak to relax, so that when you cut into it all the juice stays in the steaks, and doesn't gush out onto your plate.

9) serve with your favorite sides, and enjoy that restaurant steak!!!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Macaroni and Cheese

I have decided to move my blog over to a new home. While I will still maintain "The Enlightened Chef", any and all new recipes, and thoughts will be found at "Low Country Larder" www.lowcountrylarder.blogspot.com

The other day I made one of my most favorite foods on Earth: Macaroni and Cheese. It is the ultimate comfort food. Pasta, cheese, and not much of anything else. How can you not love that?!?

The mac & cheese recipe is so easy and so yummy, that I thought I'd share it with everyone. So here it is...

Chef Julie's Amazing Mac & Cheese

8 ounces elbow macaroni
6-8 strips of bacon-diced small
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
1 tablespoon powdered mustard
2 cups milk
1 cup heavu cream
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely diced
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 large egg
16 ounces sharp cheddar, shredded
1 teaspoon kosher salt
Fresh black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Using a cast iron skillet (or a nonstick pan if you don't own any cast iron) over medium low heat cook the bacon 12-14 minutes until all the fat is rendered out of the bacon and the little bits left are very crisp.

Drain the bacon bits on a paper towel and set aside.

In a large pot of boiling, salted water cook the pasta to al dente.

While the pasta is cooking, in a separate pot, melt the butter. Add the onions and cook at medium-low for 10-12 minutes until they are golden brown. Whisk in the flour and whisk vigorously, making sure it's free of lumps.

Stir in the milk, cream, onion, and paprika. Simmer at medium low for about ten minutes-stirring often.

Temper in the egg (see *how to temper below).

Stir in 3/4 of the cheese, and season with salt and pepper. Fold the bacon, and macaroni into the mix and pour into a 2-quart casserole dish. Top with remaining cheese.

 Bake for 30 minutes.

Remove from oven and rest for five minutes before serving.


*To temper an egg, or multiple eggs, you need a large bowl and a whisk. Give the eggs a brief whisk in the bowl. Take your hot liquid mixture and, working with just a quarter cup at a time, pour it into the eggs as you whisk continuously. Adding the liquid slowly prevents the eggs from being cooked instantly-and thus turning into scrambled eggs-from exposure to heat. Keep adding the milk in small increments until half of it has been added. Then add the remaining liquid in a steady stream. Strain the egg mixture with a mesh strainer back into your saucepan, removing any bits of egg that might have gotten cooked, or sheels that strayed into your sauce, and proceed with your recipe as written.


Thursday, February 6, 2014

What does "All Natural" really mean, anyway?


Hola Fellow Foodies!

Today I came across this video and wanted to share it with you, because I have been bitching about this deceptive practice for a very long time. I remember the fist time I saw the phrase "100 organic evaporated can juice", and my Chef's brain nearly melted down in the middle of the Whole Foods in which I was standing. Now, I do like that the cane juice in question was "organic", but does anyone out there know what the above phrase really means? anyone...anyone... ?

No? Well "evaporated cane juice" is...wait for it....wait for it....SUGAR!!!!! Yes that's right it is a very fancy way of saying sugar. Man on man, I bet the advertising guru who came up with that marketing angle has retired to Bora Bora with his millions!!!! You don't believe me? you have to, just read this article at Processed Free America (.org) http://www.processedfreeamerica.org/resources/health-news/405-the-truth-about-evaporated-cane-juice

With this in mind, I want you to keep an open mind, and a hunger for what's right, and please watch the video in the link below about EXACTLY what "All Natural" really means on your packaging. Peace out! http://www.upworthy.com/a-funny-video-that-makes-you-never-want-to-fall-for-this-natural-lie-again?c=upw1

Only Organic Thanks www.onlyorganic.org for the great video!

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Healthy Eater's Dream Snack!

Happy Humpday Fellow Foodies!
I have decided to move my blog over to a new home. While I will still maintain "The Enlightened Chef", any and all new recipes, and thoughts will be found at "Low Country Larder
As a mom, I try to eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep (yadda, yadda, yadda). Usually I only accomplish those three things about 60% of the time, and usually not simultaneously. I am always on the hunt for some kind of snack food that is high on energy and nutrients and low on fat. If you are a  health-minded individual then to you know how challenging this goal can be. We have, in the USA, sold our  very souls to the gods of convenience, and the big food giants. We Americans love our crunchy, salty, soul-satisfying snacks more than any other culture. I am guilty of this love too. What's a mom to do?

After all, it's very easy to just grab a bag of chips, pretzels, etc...when you are busy running errands, taking to precious cargo to soccer, karate, playdates: well-you know!

So the other day, someone I know posted a recipe to Pinterest (I freakin' love that site), that is easy, healthy, delicious, and inexpensive to make. You can make it in big batches and store it in baggies. The best part? There is more than one best part: this is delicious, and nutrient rich, and vegetarian-friendly. The only real drawback is that there is sodium content, but it's a SNACK! Use a little discretion and you'll have not worries.

I did quite a bit of tweaking  from the original recipe at "Being Vegan Eats", but the end result is still just as yummy! What is this magic snack? Here is the answer...

Spicy Garbanzo Snack

1 15.5 oz. can of Chickpeas/Garbanzo Beans
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. smoked paprika
dash of cayenne (strictly optional)
olive oil, for coating chickpeas
If you are feeling lazy: 1 tsp. Lawry's Season salt, and 1 tsp. smoked paprika instead of above!

Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees
Drain, rinse and pat dry the Chickpeas
In medium sized bowl, toss Chickpeas in olive oil
Add spices, coat Chickpeas thoroughly, spread out on a parchment lined sheet pan
Place in the oven for 60-75 minutes.
 

Stir them around every so often to ensure proper browning.

Remove from oven and let cool entirely before eating. You can store them in a zip top bag. If you need to re-crisp them, simply microwave the desired amount for 30-45 seconds. Allow to cool, and dig in!

I keep a little travel container in my car full of these little gems for when I am out running errands all day, and need a pick-me-up!

What's New and Beneficial about Garbanzo Beans

PLEASE click the hyperlink above for the full article.
  • There's now direct evidence about garbanzo beans and appetite! Participants in a recent study reported more satisfaction with their diet when garbanzo beans were included, and they consumed fewer processed food snacks during test weeks in the study when garbanzo beans were consumed. They also consumed less food overall when the diet was supplemented with garbanzo beans.
  • Garbanzo beans (like most legumes) have long been valued for their fiber content. Two cups provide the entire Daily Value! But the research news on garbanzos and fiber has recently taken us one step further by suggesting that the fiber benefits of garbanzo beans may go beyond the fiber benefits of other foods. In a recent study, two groups of participants received about 28 grams of fiber per day. But the two groups were very different in terms of their food sources for fiber. One group received dietary fiber primarily from garbanzo beans. The other group obtained dietary fiber from entirely different sources. The garbanzo bean group had better blood fat regulation, including lower levels of LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides.
  • In some parts of the world (for example, parts of India), garbanzo beans are eaten daily in large amounts and on a year-round basis. But a recent study has shown that we can obtain health benefits from garbanzo beans even when we eat much smaller amounts over a much shorter period of time. In this study, it took only one week of garbanzo bean consumption to improve participants' control of blood sugar and insulin secretion. Equally important, only one-third cup of the beans per day was needed to provide these blood-sugar related health benefits.
  • Garbanzos are a food you definitely want to keep on your "digestive support" list—especially if you are focusing on the colon. Between 65-75% of the fiber found in garbanzo beans is insoluble fiber, and this type of fiber remains undigested all the way down to the final segment of your large intestine (colon). Recent studies have shown that garbanzo bean fiber can be metabolized by bacteria in the colon to produce relatively large amounts of short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), including acetic, propionic, and butyric acid. These SCFAs provide fuel to the cells that line your intestinal wall. By supporting the energy needs of our intestinal cells, the SCFAs made from garbanzo fibers can help lower your risk of colon problems, including your risk of colon cancer.
  • Most garbanzo beans found in the grocery (especially canned garbanzos) are cream-colored and relatively round. This type of garbanzo bean is called the "kabuli-type." Worldwide, there's a far more common type of garbanzo bean called the "desi-type." This second type of garbanzo bean is about half the size of cream-colored type we're accustomed to seeing in the grocery, and it's more irregular in shape. The color is also different—varying from light tan to black. Researchers have recently determined that many of the antioxidants present in garbanzo beans are especially concentrated in the outer seed coat that gives the beans their distinctive color. Darker-colored "desi-type" garbanzo beans appear to have thicker seed coats and greater concentrations of antioxidants than the larger and more regularly shaped cream-colored garbanzos that are regularly found at salad bars and in canned products. Of course, it is important to remember that antioxidants can be found in both types of garbanzo beans and you'll get great health benefits from both types. But if you have previously shied away from darker-colored or irregularly-shaped garbanzo beans, we want to encourage you to reconsider and to enjoy all types of garbanzo beans, including the darker-colored and irregularly-shaped ones.

WHFoods Recommendation

Many public health organizations—including the American Diabetes Association, the American Heart Association, and the American Cancer Society—recommend legumes as a key food group for preventing disease and optimizing health. The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans developed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (USDHHS) and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 3 cups of legumes per week (based on a daily intake of approximately 2,000 calories). Because 1 serving of legumes was defined as 1/2 cup (cooked), the Dietary Guidelines for Americans come very close to this as they recommend of 1/2 cup of cooked legumes on a daily basis. Based on our own research review, we believe that 3 cups of legumes per week is a very reasonable goal for support of good health. However, we also believe that optimal health benefits from legumes may require consumption of legumes in greater amounts. This recommendation for greater amounts is based upon studies in which legumes have been consumed at least 4 days per week and in amounts falling into a 1-2 cup range per day. These studies suggest a higher optimal health benefit level than the 2005 Dietary Guidelines: instead of 3 cups of weekly legumes, 4-8 cups would become the goal range. Remember that any amount of legumes is going to make a helpful addition to your diet. And whatever weekly level of legumes you decide to target, we definitely recommend inclusion of garbanzo beans among your legume choices. You will find that many of our recipes containing beans gives you the choice between using home cooked beans and canned beans. If you are in a hurry canned beans can be a healthy option. Unlike canned vegetables, which have lost much of their nutritional value, there is little difference in the nutritional value between canned garbanzo beans and those you cook yourself. However there may be some concern over the BPA content of canned products. To find out if the cans of your favorite canned beans are lined with BPA, you will need to contact the manufacturer. Your best bet to avoid BPA is to factor in a little more time to your meal preparation process and prepare beans yourself. See Healthiest Way of Cooking Garbanzo Beans below.
Garbanzo Beans, cooked
1.00 cup
(164.00 grams)
Calories: 269
GI: low
NutrientDRI/DV

 molybdenum273.3%

 manganese84.5%

 folate70.5%

 copper64.4%

 fiber49.8%

 phosphorus39.3%

 protein29%

 iron26.3%

 zinc22.8%

This chart graphically details the %DV that a serving of Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) provides for each of the nutrients of which it is a good, very good, or excellent source according to our Food Rating System. Additional information about the amount of these nutrients provided by Garbanzo beans (chickpeas) can be found in the Food Rating System Chart. A link that takes you to the In-Depth Nutritional Profile for Garbanzo beans (chickpeas), featuring information over 80 nutrients, can be found under the Food Rating System Chart.

Health Benefits

Digestive Tract Support

Even though legumes are known for their fiber, most people do not know how helpful the fiber in garbanzo beans can actually be for supporting digestive tract function. First is the issue of amount. Garbanzos contain about 12.5 grams of fiber per cup. That's 50% of the Daily Value (DV)! In addition to this plentiful amount, at least two-thirds of the fiber in garbanzos is insoluble. This insoluble fiber typically passes all the way through our digestive tract unchanged, until it reaches the last part of our large intestine (the colon). Bacteria in our colon can break down the garbanzos' insoluble fiber into short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) including acetic acid, propionic acid, and butyric acid. These SCFAs can be absorbed by the cells that line our colon wall and can be used by these cells for energy. In fact, butyric acid is the preferred source of energy for the cells lining our colon. With the extra amounts of energy provided by SCFAs from the insoluble fiber in garbanzos, our colon cells can stay optimally active and healthy. Healthier colon cell function means lower risk for us of colon problems, including lower risk of colon cancer.

Unique Supply of Antioxidants

Many of our body systems are susceptible to oxidative stress and damage from reactive oxygen molecules. These systems include our cardiovascular system, our lungs, and our nervous system. Plentiful amounts of antioxidant nutrients are critical for the support of these body systems, and garbanzo beans are a remarkable food in terms of their antioxidant composition. While containing small but valuable amounts of conventional antioxidant nutrients like vitamin C, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, garbanzo beans also contain more concentrated supplies of antioxidant phytonutrients. These phytonutrients include the flavonoids quercetin, kaempferol, and myricetin (usually found in the outer layer of the beans), and the phenolic acids ferulic acid, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, and vanillic acid (usually found in the interior portion of the beans). Depending on the type of bean and color/thickness of the outer layer, garbanzo beans can also contain significant amounts of the anthocyanins delphinidin, cyanidin, and petunidin. The mineral manganese—a key antioxidant in the energy-producing mitochondria found inside most cells—is also provided in excellent amounts by garbanzo beans. In fact, just one cup of garbanzos can provide you with nearly 85% of the Daily Value (DV) for this key antioxidant. An increasing number of animal and human studies clearly show the ability of garbanzo beans to reduce our risk of heart disease, and we believe that an important part of this risk reduction is due to the fantastic antioxidant make-up of these legumes.

Decreased Cardiovascular Risks

While epidemiologic studies don't always single out garbanzo beans from other beans when determining their relationship to cardiovascular disease, garbanzo beans are almost always included in the list of legumes studied when heart disease is the focus of diet research. Large-scale epidemiologic studies give us a great look at potential heart benefits from garbanzo beans, and the evidence shows garbanzo beans to be outstanding in this area. As little as 3/4 cup of garbanzos per day can help lower our LDL-cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in a one-month period of time. This cardiovascular support is likely to come from multiple aspects of garbanzo beans and their nutrient composition. About one-third of the fiber in garbanzo beans is soluble fiber, and this type of fiber is the type most closely associated with support of heart health. As mentioned earlier in this Health Benefits section, garbanzo beans also have a unique combination of antioxidants, and these antioxidants clearly provide support for our blood vessels walls and blood itself. And while garbanzo beans are not a fatty food, they do contain valuable amounts of polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), the body's omega-3 fatty acid from which all other omega-3 fats are made. There are about 70-80 milligrams of ALA in every cup of garbanzo beans, and there are about 2 grams of other polyunsaturated fatty acids. Risk of coronary heart disease is one of the specific types of cardiovascular risks that has been shown to be reduced by regular intake of garbanzo beans and other legumes.

Better Regulation of Blood Sugar

No food macronutrients are more valuable for blood sugar regulation than fiber and protein. These two nutrients have an amazing ability to help stabilize the flow of food through our digestive tract and prevent the breakdown of food from taking place too quickly or too slowly. When food passes through us at a healthy rate of speed, release of sugar from the food is typically better regulated. Strong vitamin and mineral composition of a food - including strong antioxidant composition - can also help stabilize its digestive impact on our blood sugar. Given these basic relationships between nutrition and blood sugar control, it's not surprising to see garbanzo beans improving blood sugar regulation in research studies. We've seen studies in which participants consumed as little as 1/2 cup of garbanzo beans per day and still witnessed better blood sugar control in as little as one week. In animal studies, garbanzo-based improvements in blood sugar regulation have partly been linked to better control of insulin output and overall insulin function. We suspect that some of these blood sugar benefits are directly related to improved digestive function. Garbanzo beans are a fantastic food for providing our digestive system with nutrient support. Even though research studies have shown blood sugar benefits with as little as 1/2 cup servings of garbanzo beans, we recommend that you consider more generous single servings of this delicious legume, in the range of up to 1 cup.

Increased Chances for Satiety and Decreased Caloric Intake

We have been excited to see recent studies showing a positive relationship between garbanzo beans and weight management. The best single study we've seen in this regard has been a study that measured food satiety. "Food satiety" is the scientific term used to describe our satisfaction with food—how full it leaves us feeling, and how effective it is in eliminating our sense of hunger and appetite. Participants in a recent study were found to consume fewer snacks and fewer overall calories when supplementing their regular diet with garbanzo beans. They were also found to report greater food satiety, with experiences of reduced appetite and greater food satisfaction. We look forward to some large-scale studies in this area, and we expect to see a clear role being carved out for garbanzo beans in terms of weight loss and weight management. Along with their unusual combination of protein and fiber and their great ability to stabilize digestion, garbanzo beans also stand out as a food that is moderate in terms of calories. At approximately 270 calories per cup, we're talking about 10-15% of daily calories. In return for this moderate calorie cost, we get 50% of the DV for fiber and 29% of the DV for protein. Those nutrient amounts are great trade-offs for anyone struggling with weight loss or weight management.

History

Garbanzo beans originated in the Middle East, the region of the world whose varied food cultures still heavily rely upon this high protein legume. The first record of garbanzo beans being consumed dates back about seven thousand years. They were first cultivated around approximately 3000 BC. Their cultivation began in the Mediterranean basin and subsequently spread to India and Ethiopia. Garbanzo beans were grown by the ancient Egyptians, Greeks and Romans and were very popular among these cultures. During the 16th century, garbanzo beans were brought to other subtropical regions of the world by both Spanish and Portuguese explorers as well as Indians who emigrated to other countries. Today, the main commercial producers of garbanzos are India, Pakistan, Turkey, Ethiopia and Mexico.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Chinese Style Chicken and Mushroom Wontons

Happy Tuesday Fellow Foodies!
I have decided to move my blog over to a new home. While I will still maintain "The Enlightened Chef", any and all new recipes, and thoughts will be found at "Low Country Larder" www.lowcountrylarder.blogspot.com
Today I had some leftover chicken to use up, so I made wontons with it for soup. Normally wontons are made with ground raw meat of some kind; such as chicken, pork, shrimp, crab, etc... The raw protein acts as a binder holding all the ingredients together, but since I used leftover, already cooked, chicken-I had to find another binder ingredient...enter leftover, cooked brown rice!

If you'd like to try this recipe with raw meat instead of cooked, just follow the recipe as written omitting the rice, and substituting in ground raw meat for the cooked chicken. Easy Breezy Lemon Squeezy!

As well, this recipe makes 5 dozen wontons. I usually use between 10-12 in a batch of soup, and simply freeze the rest for later. They keep about 12 weeks once frozen.

Chinese Style Wontons for Soup

8 oz. cooked chicken
1 cup cooked brown rice (white rice will do)
12 oz. shiitake or crimini mushrooms-quartered
1 Tbs. sesame oil
1/2 cup onion-diced
4 cloves garlic-minced
1 tsp. minced ginger
60 wonton wrappers
1 egg beaten with 2 Tbs. cold water

In a food processor, with the blade attachment in place, add the mushrooms and pulse until they are finely chopped up and looks like fine beach pebbles.
Remove from the food processor and do the same to the chicken
(if you are using raw meat, process until you have a fine pastes), remove the chicken from the processor and add the rice. Run the food processor until you have a thick pasty rice mash (if you know what MOCHI is, then you want a coarse looking mochi). Pour your sesame oil- please don't substitute a different oil here-into a hot sauté pan and cook the onions over medium low heat until they are translucent and golden brown-stirring often. Add the garlic and the chopped mushrooms, turn the heat up to medium high and cook stirring occasionally for 4-7 minutes, until most of the water has evaporated from the mixture.
Add the ginger and chicken, toss to combine everything. Remove the chicken  and mushroom mixture to a bowl and allow it to cool to a workable temperature. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Add the rice paste and gently mix with your very clean hands until you have a smooth uniform consistency that hold a ball shape when you squish a little in your hand.
Lay out 5-10 wonton skins on your clean work surface, brush with the egg wash and place about 1-1.5 tsp. of chicken mix in the center of each skin.
Fold into a triangle and then fold the points of the long side together to make a wonton. I have put a brief (and very, very rare Video) together for you to watch below.
Now, simply bring your favorite soup recipe to a simmer, drop in as many wontons as you like, and cook for 4-6 minutes.
serve, and feel the love!

You can store the Wontons you don't use in the freezer for up to 12 weeks. Simply lay in one layer on a cookie sheet to freeze the for about an hours. Then transfer to an airtight container for long-term storage.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Sticky Buns (a half-homemade recipe)

Happy Saturday, fellow foodies!
I have decided to move my blog over to a new home. While I will still maintain "The Enlightened Chef", any and all new recipes, and thoughts will be found at "Low Country Larder"
www.lowcountrylarder.blogspot.com
This morning I made Half-Homemade Sticky Buns. Are they healthy? NO! Are they an amazingly delicious once-in-a-while-treat? YES...yes they are!

Here is the recipe:

Half-Homemade Sticky Buns

1 1/2 tubes Flakey Pillsbury Grands biscuits 
1/2 stick butter, melted
1/2 C Maple Syrup (please oh please use the REAL stuff!!!!!)
1/2 C Sugar 9you can use brown sugar if you like)
1/2 tsp cinnamon (optional)
3/4 C Toasted Chopped Walnuts (or pecans)

Spray a fluted pan liberally (seriously-go to town)with non-stick spray. Combine butter, sugar, and syrup in a small sauce pan.
Bring just to a simmer and remove from the heat.
 

 
 
 
 
 
 
Place about 3/4 of the syrup mixture in the bottom of the pan. Then sprinkle in the nuts-reserving about 2-3 Tbs. Lay the biscuits on the bottom of the pan, overlapping to form a ring.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Top with remaining syrup and nuts. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. 
Cool for 2 minutes in the pan, then invert onto a serving platter, eat warm.

 YUM, YUM!!


Friday, January 31, 2014

Picky Eaters Suck!!!!! (and here's why...)

Thank you, thank you, Amanda Nelson. You have just put into type exactly what I have been trying to say to picky people for years! My child eats what I cook , unless it's just too spicy, and then she get a sandwich or something simple. I hate, loathe, and despise super picky adults. I'm not talking about aversion to onions, or someone who simply doesn't like 1 thing. I know people who won't eat fish (or anything that came out of the ocean) at all, who won't eat steak at all, who won't eat anything green including herbs! Seriously, who the f*** are you people?
(Miso Roasted veggies, that a "dinner guest" refused to even try!)

As a Chef of 20+ years, I can relate to the frustration and rage of servers and cooks everywhere who have to deal with grown-ups ordering like toddlers. If you want a kid's meal, then ORDER A FREAKIN KID'S MEAL!!! Go eat some broccoli and get a life!

(caramelized Brussels sprouts-even my 7 year old scarfs these bad-boys down!)

Just so the "WEB POLICE" don't come after me, in full disclosure, I copied this article from the Huffington Post: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/food-riot/raising-open-minded-eaters_b_4698712.html

First appeared on Food Riot, by Amanda Nelson
What I'm about to say will remove me from the Hip Parent Club and place me firmly in the Old-Fashioned Parent Club along with dads who wear khaki shorts with white socks and sneakers and moms who require their children to say "yes, ma'am," so prepare yourself to throw stones my way: my children eat what I prepare, or they don't eat anything.
My reasons for this, like everything having to do with parenting, are personal: I don't have the energy or the time to be a short-order cook in my own home. I don't want my kids to think they can customize the world to their liking by having a tantrum when something happens to not suit their whims. I don't want them to eat only bread and cheese and bread and cheese (which is exactly what would happen if I let them pick their meals). Admittedly, there's also a bit of My Parents Never Made More Than One Meal And I Had To Eat What Was In Front Of Me And I Turned Out Alright, Dammit, with a side of Because I'm The Parent And I Said So.
All those reasons play a big role in my mean mommyhood, but there's also this big one: there is very little on this Earth that I find more irritating than a grown-up human being who is as picky as a child. Not just someone who is picky, but has high levels of pickiness combined with the demanding entitlement of a toddler. Being as picky as a child means someone's gumming up the works at a restaurant, asking 50 million unnecessary questions about the chicken breast they want and making all those substitutions, dear Lord, you are not in When Harry Met Sally. Being as picky as a child means that you're That Person at the dinner party making the host run ragged trying to accommodate how you just don't eat this or that and can't be bothered to eat around it (pickiness in the face of someone who is literally and figuratively serving you being the height of rudeness to my Southern sensibilities).
Being as picky as a child -- and I don't mean just not liking some things and carrying on about your business, I'm talking pickiness that negatively affects other people -- shows a weird dearth of open-mindedness, an "I like what I like and that's all that I like" nose-in-the-air 'tude that implies a lack of culinary adventuresomeness (similar to, ya know, a toddler's).
Well that got a bit out of hand. MOVING ON. So, I place a really high value on raising my kids to not be a pain in the ass when taking in other people's hospitality. To that end, dinner goes like this: I make a thing and serve the thing. The children are required to take one bite of the thing (I find this to be really important, especially since mine are young enough that any new food -- which, when you're 3, is still probably most of the foods -- is frightening).* If they do not like the thing, they are free to get down and go on their merry way. There's no after-dinner snacking because you're hungry because you decided not to eat the thing. There's no negotiation, there's no mommy making other things.**
The results so far: Who knows? They're only 3, they don't know what they like. They'll eat beans and quinoa and peas and goat cheese with no complaint, but won't eat any sort of leafy green, red peppers, eggs that aren't cooked the "right" way, chicken nuggets (what kid doesn't like... whatever), or really any meat. They'll chew on a raw onion with wild joy, then randomly decide that grapes are the devil's eyeballs. When they're older and have developed more firm ideas about actually not liking something (as opposed to just trying and failing to exert their will, toddler-style, in any way they can), I'll take those ideas into consideration when I make a meal.
But the best result of my mean-meanness is this: I only cook once per night and then I sit down on the couch, amen and hallelujah. And I hope I hope I hope that maybe it will mean that someday, when their adventures take them to the table of a stranger who is serving something unfamiliar, they'll eat it with an open mind and an of-course-I'll-have-some grateful attitude that they'll owe JUST THE TEENIEST TINIEST BIT to their parents.
*The American Psychological Association and the USDA say it can take a kid nine to twelve times to accept a new food, which is why I always require them to take at least one bite.
**Since this is the Internet and parenting is second only to politics in the rage it induces in the comments, let me go ahead and say these few things before someone else does: No, my children are not starving or even mildly unhealthy. No, refusing to cook separate meals for my children is not child abuse. No, I don't think this is the only way to create adventurous eaters -- it's just what works for us right now. And no, I'm not talking about children/people who have allergies or any other medical or ethical dietary restrictions. Carry on.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Moroccan Cinnamon Chicken with Orzo

Happy Weekend, Fellow Foodies!

Here in the USA we love cinnamon. It is one of the most popular spices sold, but usually we only use in sweet preparations such as: Apple pie, apple sauce, hot apple cider, mulled wine, sweet rolls, mixed with sugar for our toast, ice cream, etc...

Cinnamon is so much more than just a dessert additive. In Indian, Middle Eastern, and Northern African cuisine, cinnamon is added to sauces and rubs in savory preparations. It is a wonderful spice that add so much depth of flavor, and zest to whatever it has been grated or sprinkled into.  There are hundreds of recipes available on the net for preparing every kind of meat you care for with cinnamon, but here is one of my favorites. It is easy to make, and even though the ingredient list is a bit long you should have most of it already in your spice holder. You can use pork, or lamb, or even smoked tofu instead of chicken in this recipe, so there is no reason not to try it. If you don't want to use Orzo pasta you can simply cook a bit of your favorite rice in place of orzo too!

Moroccan Cinnamon Chicken with Orzo

1.5 Lbs. of chicken (white or dark meat, or a combination)-cut into 3/4 inch cubes
4 cloves (2 Tbs.) garlic
1 tsp. kosher salt
7-10 black pepper corns
2 tsp. smoked paprika (plain will work too)
1-3 tsp. excellent quality cinnamon (depending upon your personal tastes)
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (OPTIONAL)
1 Tbs. first cold pressed olive oil (or any oil you have will do)
1 cup diced onions
1 cup raisins
2 cups petit peas
1/2 cup water (or chicken stock)
Garnishes of your choosing (see below)

12 oz. package orzo
1 Tbs. turmeric

With a mortar and pestle, crush the garlic along with the salt and pepper.

If you do not have a mortar and pestle just mince the garlic by hand. In the mortar, or a small bowl add the next 4 ingredients (and cayenne if using), and stir with a small spoon until you have a thick paste.

In a nonreactive bowl, place you chicken pieces and with your very clean hand mix the spice pastes and the chicken together. Allow to stand in the fridge for 20 minutes-24 hours.

When you are ready to cook: Heat a little olive oil in a 12 inch sauté pan over high heat until it begins to shimmer. Add the onion and turn the heat down to medium low. Cook the onions 9-12 minutes stirring often. Bring the heat up to high and add the chicken and spice mix, and toss with the onions to mix them together.

Cook for 3-4 minutes without disturbing to brown the meat darkly on one side. Add the raisins, peas, and water, and stir. Cover the pan turn the heat down to medium and allow the mix to simmer until the meat is cooked through.

Meanwhile bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil. Add the turmeric and orzo, and cook according to the package directions.

Once the chicken is cooked; remove the lid and allow the water to evaporate. Drain your cooked orzo and spoon onto your serving plates. Spoon some chicken mixture over the orzo and serve with a few garnishes on the side:

Chopped cilantro
French fried onions
Hot chili sauce such as Sriracha or sambal sauce
Pickled onions
Sliced pickled garlic
finely sliced green onions or chives
Oil cured (or Kalamata) olives-chopped
Cayenne Pepper

HEALTH BENIFITS OF CINNAMON 

  1. Blood Sugar Control – Several studies have found that Cinnamon has properties that help those with insulin resistance. It is therefore very popular with Type 2 diabetics who take it to control their blood sugar variations.

    Ceylon Cinnamon is particularly popular because it has low levels of Coumarin. compared to Cassia Cinnamon found in your grocery store. In case you did not know Coumarin in high doses can cause liver damage.

  2. in another study Ceylon Cinnamon was found to have an effect on blood sugar control in a rat model. If you are taking Ceylon Cinnamon for diabetes, take it in moderation as part of a healthy program of diet, proper nutrition and moderate exercise.
  3. Candida Yeast Infections - Cinnamon has shown an amazing ability to stop medication-resistant yeast infections. This applies to Escherichia coli bacteria and Candida albicans fungus. This study discovered that Cinnamon Oil was one of three leading essential oils effective against Candida. Another study was found Cinnamon Oil to be effective against two strains of Candida, C. orthopedics and C. parapsilosis. A third study found that Cinnamon Oil was effective against three strains of Candida, Candida albicans, Candida tropicalis, and Candida krusei. Real Ceylon Cinnamon Tea infused with Cinnamon Bark Oil could be an excellent way to fight internal Candida infections and boost your immune system. For topical applications (except genital areas and mucous membranes) 1% Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil mixed with a carrier oil could be an extremely effective treatment option.
  4. Stomach Bug/Flu - By far and away the best remedy for a horrible stomach bug is Cinnamon. It make sense because Cinnamon is a powerful anti-bacterial. Research has shown Cinnamon is one of the most effective substances against (click the links for the research) Escherichia coli Salmonella, Campylobacter. Another study found Cinnamaldehyde from Cinnamon Bark Oil in its various forms is effective against adenovirus. Another reason to have our Cinnamon tea which is infused with Cinnamon Bark Oil that has high levels of Cinnamaldehyde (over 75%).
  5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) – As a digestive cinnamon dramatically reduces the uncomfortable feelings associated with IBS especially the bloating. It does this by killing bacteria and healing infections in the GI tract and enabling the gastric juices to work normally. A Japanese study apparently showed it to cure ulcers but this cannot be verified. But if you do have stomach cramps or upsets, a cup of Cinnamon tea 2-3 times  per day will dramatically reduce the pain.
  6.  
  7. Cancer Preventer – Research shows that Cinnamon oil is a promising solution in the treatment of Tumors, Gastric Cancers and Melanomas. Research studies show that sugar maybe causing or sustaining cancer cells and cinnamon may have a mitigating effect by controlling blood sugar levels in the body. Another study found good results with leukemia and lymphoma cancer cells. Cinnamon in its various forms has two chemical constituents called Cinnamaldehyde  and Eugenol (From Cinnamon Oil). These have been used to develop nutraceuticals in this study that have proven fairly effective in fighting Human Colon Cancer Cells (Eugenol) and Human hepatoma cells (Cinnamaldehyde). So the evidence seems to suggest that Cinnamon is starving cancer cells of the sugar needed to sustain them.
  8. Arthritis/Osteoporosis –  The widely cited Copenhagen university study is a hoax. Most of the evidence that Cinnamon helps arthritis is from personal testimonials. Some people claim drinking Cinnamon tea helps the pain from arthritis while others claim a Cinnamon Oil based massage oil helps ease the pain.

    What we do know is that Cinnamon has high levels (73% DV in two sticks of Cinnamon) of Manganese which is used to build bones, blood and other connective tissues, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. The body needs manganese for optimal bone health, so people who are deficient in the mineral are more likely to develop osteoporosis. Of course another factor causing Osteoporosis may be excessive dairy consumption.

                                     
  9. Anti-Bacterial/Anti Microbial - Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil is a powerful anti-bacterial and makes a great natural disinfectant. Cinnamon oil had the best anti microbial activity among three oils against Escherichia coli , Staphylococcus aureus , Aspergillus oryzae , and Penicillium digitatum.
                              Dilute it with water to disinfect kitchen counter tops, sinks, your refrigerator, door knobs, toys and many other things. If you have young children and don't want to use harsh cancer causing chemicals use Cinnamon Oil. Cinnamon sticks are also a good anti bacterial but you would need a lot of it to make a difference. If you want a mild disinfect, like to wash your face, then a couple of Cinnamon sticks boiled in hot water might be an idea.
  10. Food PreservativeCinnamon is effective in inhibiting bacterial growth. This maybe one reason why it is widely used in food preparation in hot Asian countries. In Sri Lanka, virtually every dish has a pinch of Cinnamon in it. In addition to great flavor, Ceylon Cinnamon in combination with other spices like Turmeric and Chili may have been an indigenous solution to preserve food without a refrigerator. This study for using Cinnamon Oil coated paper as a preservative found a 6% Cinnamon Oil solution was responsible for complete inhibition of mold in sliced bread packaging. This study listed on Feb 2013 also found cinnamon oil effective in developing insect resistant food packaging film. Cinnamon also came on top in this study, even against All spice and Clove Oil as very effective for making edible food film.
  11. Odor NeutralizerPure Cinnamon Leaf oil not only smells great but is an effective odor neutralizer as it kills bacteria that creates bad odors and not just mask odors. All you need is 2-5 drops of Cinnamon leaf oil mixed with water on a diffuser and within minutes all odors are neutralized. Alternatively spray diluted Cinnamon Leaf Oil and wipe down toilets, floors and kitchen counter tops, garbage cans and the interior of vehicles to rapidly remove foul odors. Far better than any chemical sprays. It also has the effect of improving your mood. Especially great as a cure for the winter blues.
  12. Alertness, Memory & Cognitive Development –  According to a by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, Director of Undergraduate Research and associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV. Cinnamon may keep you more alert and decrease your frustration when you are behind the wheel.

    This hard to verify German study cited in this article those taking Cinnamon improved their response times and memory recall. While not scientific, our personal experience suggests pretty good results in alertness and concentration.
  13. Anti-oxidant – With an ORAC value of 267536 μmol TE/100g (USDA 2007) cinnamon is one of the top seven anti-oxidants in the world. The suggestion is that Anti-oxidants reduce the formation of " Free Radicals " that cause cancer. A study found Cinnamon has sufficient anti-oxidant properties and makes for improved food palatability.
  14. Weight Reducer – Cinnamon apparently has the effect of thinning your blood thereby increasing blood circulation. Increased blood flow generally boosts your metabolism which is why it may be helpful in weight loss. This blood thinning property of Cinnamon also helps it in acting as an anti clotting agent especially for those suffering from heart disease. However care must be taken to NOT to take it with other blood thinning medication. The main ingredient that causes your blood to thin is Coumarin which is present in high doses in Cassia Cinnamon (4%) but not in Ceylon Cinnamon (0.04%). However Coumarin causes liver damage. So taking Cassia Cinnamon for weight loss may end up causing liver damage.
  15. Massage Therapy – Cinnamon is a well known warming agent. Combined with a carrier oil it is highly effective in relaxing and relieving muscle pain. Some put a few drops in their bath to relax and to sooth tired and aching muscles.
  16. Anti-Fungal – Got a bad case of athletes foot? Perhaps a toe nail fungus? Cinamon's powerful anti fungal properties are the perfect natural alternative to killing the athletes foot fungus. You can use Cinnamon sticks or even better a few drops of powerful Ceylon Cinnamon Leaf Oil (not to exceed 1% cinnamon oil to water) and soak your feet. Usually good results in three days with the oil. Similar results for toe tail fungus.
  17. Lowering LDL cholesterol & triglycerides – According to a Mayo clinic article the only possible way Cinnamon could lower cholesterol is indirectly via how the body processes sugar and fat. But there is no direct effect on cholesterol. Still another study in Pakistan found Cinnamon reduced triglyceride (23-30%), LDL cholesterol (7-27%), and total cholesterol (12-26%). A review in 2011 found The consumption of cinnamon is associated with a statistically significant decrease in levels of total cholesterol, LDL-C, and triglyceride levels, and an increase in HDL-C (the good cholesterol) levels, but qualified it by saying that applying it to patient care is difficult. Still, worth a try in our book.
  18. E-coli Fighter/Salmonella – One of the most effective E-coli fighters because of its anti microbial properties. Mix cinnamon oil with hydrogen peroxide and spray your cutting board and kitchen sink especially after you have cut meats. Spray it in your refrigerator. It’s safe and natural. A  concentration of 2 microl/ml from cinnamon was enough to inactivate Salmonella Enteritidis, E. coli, and L. innocua in apple and pear juices and 8 and 10 microl/ml from cinnamon for melon juice and tryptone soy broth.
  19. Tooth Decay and Gum DiseaseAgain the anti-bacterial properties of Cinnamon play a crucial role in getting rid of harmful bacteria without damaging your teeth or gums. It’s one of the reasons that Cinnamon Oil is often used in chewing gums, mouthwashes, toothpaste and breath mints.
  20. Nutrients –  One teaspoon of Cinnamon Powder (a realistic dose) has 0.33mg (16% DV) Manganese, 0.76 mg (4% DV) Iron, 24.56 mg (2% DV) Calcium.
  21. Insect Repellant – The anti microbial qualities of Cinnamon Leaf oil is often used for head lice treatment, black ant control, bed bugs, dust mites, and roaches. It is well known as a defense against mosquitoes'.
  22. Cold, Sore Throat and Cough At the first sign (within 5-10 minutes) of sniffles or an itch in your throat take some Cinnamon Tea or Cinnamon stick Tea. It is said to stop an impending illness in its tracks. Again this is related to the anti bacterial properties and warming properties of Cinnamon and its propensity to increase blood flow and thereby improve blood oxygen levels to fight illness. Chinese traditional medicine commonly recommends Cinnamon for phlegm coughs.
  23. Alzheimer’s Disease An Israeli study done at the University of Tel Aviv that found sufficient evidence to conclude that Cinnamon can delay the effects of five aggressive strains of Alzheimer's inducing genes. Another study also finds that orally administered Cinnamon extract has had good success in correcting Cognitive Impairment in Alzheimer's Disease in Animal Models.

    The latest finding indicate that two compounds found in cinnamon — cinnamaldehyde and epicatechin — may be effective in fighting Alzheimer's. According to a study by Roshni George and Donald Graves in 2013, two scientists at UC Santa Barbara, Cinnamon has been shown to prevent the development of the filamentous “tangles” found in the brain cells that characterize Alzheimer’s.
  24. PMS - Again because of the high levels of Manganese Cinnamon may be an excellent candidate to mitigate the effects of PMS. According to the University of Maryland web site women who ate 5.6 mg of manganese in their diets each day had fewer mood swings and cramps compared to those who ate only 1 mg of manganese. These results suggest that a manganese rich diet may help reduce symptoms of PMS. Another clinical study found that 46 patients with PMS had significantly lower amounts of calcium, chromium, copper, and manganese in their blood. You should not consume more than 11 mg of Manganese per day (about 12 cinnamon sticks) according NYU. FDA guidelines establishes a daily value of 2mg (about 2 Cinnamon sticks).
  25. Depression/Reduced irritability/Mood Enhancer Ancient folklore says the smell of Cinnamon is the best cure for the winter blues. The only scientific evidence we can find to support this thoery is this study by Dr. Bryan Raudenbush, Director of Undergraduate Research and associate professor of psychology at Wheeling Jesuit University in Wheeling, WV. The study found that the scent of Cinnamon reduced driver irritability.

    But Cinnamon may be an excellent cure for depression in a more round about way. There is some evidence that certain types of gut bacteria may make you more susceptible to depression. Cinnamon as a powerful stomach anti bacterial may help you remove the bad bacteria. However since Cinnamon removes both bad and good bacteria from your stomach you would be advised to repopulate your body with good bacteria by drinking a good probiotic or eating fermented food after taking Cinnamon.