Monday, December 8, 2014

The Food Police Need a Holiday!

Hola Fellow Foodies! Let me be one of the first people to wish you a happy holiday season filled with amazing food, and good cheer (which as far as I am concerned go hand in hand).

I have ALREADY started to see the Damned Food Police out on TV waggling their boney fingers at us, and telling us all how to avoid excess holiday calories! Every year since I first read it (in 2003), I have sent out this OpEd from the USA Today newspaper about holiday eating to friends and family. I am posting it here so everyone can read and enjoy it.

 By Craig Wilson, USA TODAY

 I hate this time of year. Not for its crass commercialism and forced frivolity, but because it's the season when the food police come out with their wagging fingers and annual tips on how to get through the holiday without gaining 10 pounds. You can't pick up a magazine without finding a list of holiday eating do's and don'ts. Eliminate second helpings, high-calorie sauces and cookies made with butter, they say. Fill up on vegetable sticks, they say. Good grief. Is your favorite childhood memory of Christmas a carrot stick? I didn't think so. Isn't mine, either. A carrot was something you left for Rudolph. I have my own list of tips for holiday eating. I assure you, if you follow them, you'll be fat and
happy. So what if you don't make it to New Year's? Your pants won't fit anymore, anyway.

 1. About those carrot sticks. Avoid them. Anyone who puts carrots on a holiday buffet table knows nothing of the Christmas spirit. In fact, if you see carrots, leave immediately. Go next door, where they're serving rum balls.

 2. Drink as much eggnog as you can. And quickly. Like fine single-malt scotch, it's rare. In fact, it's even rarer than single-malt scotch. You can't find it any other time of year but now. So drink up! Who cares that it has 10,000 calories in every sip? It's not as if you're going to turn into an egg- nonalcoholic or something. It's a treat. Enjoy it. Have one for me. Have two. It's later than you think. It's Christmas!

 3. If something comes with gravy, use it. That's the whole point of gravy. Pour it on. Make a volcano out of your mashed potatoes. Fill it with gravy. Eat the volcano. Repeat.

 4. As for mashed potatoes, always ask if they're made with skim milk or whole milk. If it's skim, pass. Why bother? It's like buying a sports car with an automatic transmission.

 5. Do not have a snack before going to a party in an effort to control your eating. The whole point of going to a Christmas party is to eat other people's food for free. Lots of it. Hello? Remember college?
 6. Under no circumstances should you exercise between now and New Year's. You can do that in January when you have nothing else to do. This is the time for long naps, which you'll need after circling the

buffet table while carrying a 10-pound plate of food and that vat of eggnog.
 7. If you come across something really good at a buffet table, like frosted Christmas cookies in the shape and size of Santa, position yourself near them and don't budge. Have as many as you can before becoming the center of attention. They're like a beautiful pair of shoes. You can't leave them behind. You're not going to see them again.

 8. Same for pies. Apple. Pumpkin. Mincemeat. Have a slice of each. Or, if you don't like mincemeat, have two apples and one pumpkin. Always have three. When else do you get to have more than one dessert? Labor Day?

 9. Did someone mention fruitcake? Granted, it's loaded with the mandatory celebratory calories, but avoid it at all cost. I mean, have some standards, mate.

 10. And one final tip: If you don't feel terrible when you leave the party or get up from the table, you haven't been paying attention. Reread tips. Start over. But hurry! Cookieless January is just around the corner!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Broccoli (gluten free)

I loathe fad food diets. The Adkins diet back in the 80's started the trend. I have seen the Zero-fat diet, Low (to zero) carbohydrate (CARBs) diet, The Japanese diet, the Mediterranean diet, the Paleo Diet, the Sonomoa diet, the French diet.....Oh My Goodness, where will it end???

The newest one, that I quite particularly despise is the gluten-free diet. I know a couple of Celiacs, and I feel all these thousands of people suddenly "discovering" late in life that they are gluten sensitive/allergic cheapens and degrades the people in the world who truly suffer with the affliction of Celiac Syndrome.

All that being said, Asian cuisine is naturally low in gluten. this is a recipe that I have had in my arsenal for a long time, and I only just realized this week that it is 'gluten free'. I am not sharing this recipe for all the FREAKS that seem to have every new allergy and bad reaction because they read about some celebrity giving up bread and having their life changed. I an sharing this recipe because it is delicious, and my Celiac friends and family members can have a pasta dish that is amazing! 
Don’t let the ingredients list scare you. You can get most or all of the items below at your local grocery store these days, but if you cannot find them, then simply make a trip to Rivers Ave. You will find-right off the I-526 connector-a great Asian Grocery called H&L Supermarket. It’s worth checking out!

Stir Fried Rice Noodles with Broccoli

3 Tbs. wheat free tamari
3 Tbs. rice wine vinegar
2 Tbs. freshly ground ginger
1 Tbs. finely minced chives
2 Tbs. chili garlic sauce
2 Tbs. brown sugar
1 Tsp. sesame seeds

1 Tbs. Fresh minced garlic ( about 3 cloves)
12 oz. broccoli florets
16 oz. bag of wide rice noodles
1-2 Tbs. sesame oil

Combine the first 7 ingredients together in a glass measuring cup, or a jar. Whisk to make a smooth thick sauce.

Place a large pot of water on the stove and bring it to a boil. In the meantime, place a 12-14 inch skillet over very high heat. Once the skillet is hot, spray it with a little nonstick food spray. Add the broccoli and allow it to brown on one side. 

Toss, and add ¼ cup of water, and allow this to completely evaporate while continuing to toss the broccoli. Be careful not to overcook it, as broccoli loses nutrients during the cooking process. The longer you cook it, the more goodness escapes!

Once the water begins to boil; add the rice noodles and turn the heat down to low. Soak the noodles according the package directions (about 7-9 minutes).

When the broccoli is done cooking remove it from the skillet, and add the sesame oil. Turn the heat off and add the minced garlic, gently brown it by tossing it vigorously to keep it from burning.

Add the reserved sauce. 

When the noodles are done drain them thoroughly, turn the sauce mixture up to medium-high heat and allow it to begin to simmer. Add the noodles and broccoli and toss together.  

 Serve immediately.  

Yields 4-6 portions. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

A Lighter Fried Rice

I love fried rice. This is one of those dishes that I have a long memory of eating. I love every version that I have ever eaten-pork, beef, chicken, shrimp, veggies, etc...

There isn't a plate of fried rice out there that I haven't scarfed down with reckless abandon.

My favorite version is what the Japanese call ChaHan, and it is a very simple affair of rice, sea salt, sesame oil, sesame seeds, a few diced onions, and scrambled egg tossed in at the last minute. The addition of soy sauce is left to the individual after it is served.

Lately, though, I have been trying to avoid white rice, because it is a bit starchy and heavy on calories. ENTER...BROWN RICE! What's the difference? Brown rice is loaded with fiber and protein, both of which white rice is lacking in. Here is an quick article from that explains the difference in plain English:

When it comes to rice, looks are deceiving. Chefs and food stylists like the attractive, photogenic qualities of fluffy white rice. Brown rice, however, when compared to white rice, wins as the superior choice for a number of other reasons. Much research concludes that color is not the only factor that separates these two types of rice. Brown rice and white rice are different in some very important ways that can affect your health.

White Rice: Diabetic Risks

Diabetics are often warned about the link between eating white rice and bringing on a rapid rise in blood sugar levels. The message is that if you are a diabetic or are at risk, stay away from white rice. Medical experts advocate replacing white rice with brown rice if you have diabetes. A study team at the Harvard School of Public Health recently found that eating five servings per week of white rice increased the risk of diabetes. They also found that replacing white rice with brown rice lowered the risk.

Brown Rice: Fiber Advantages

Brown rice has more fiber than white rice, and the difference is due to the way both types are processed. White rice is brown rice that has gone through some changes in the milling process. With brown rice, only the husk is removed. White rice is polished and pre-cooked or parboiled. The bran is also removed. The bran is kept intact in brown rice, and that bran gives you a healthy dose of fiber.
Brown rice contains nutrients like magnesium, manganese and zinc. White rice has less amounts of these nutrients, but is fortified with iron and some B vitamins. Brown rice is the only form of the grain that contains vitamin E.

Global Call for Brown Rice

The difference between brown rice and white rice is taking on global importance, because aid agencies have become more aware of nutrition deficiencies in poorer nations where rice is often a diet staple. Research groups and aid agencies are saying that, in these countries, the consumption of brown, or as they call it, whole-grain rice instead of white rice should be encouraged. Even with all this evidence mounting in favor of brown rice, Americans apparently do not eat more of the brown variety. Most of the rice eaten by Americans is white rice that has gone through the refining process.

Here is a recipe for what I think is a really good version of fried rice that is way healthier and lower in calories than the standard Chinese/Japanese restaurant version. I will warn you though, you have to be very careful no to add too much liquid to the leftover brown rice, or it will become very gummy and unpalatable! You need:
1 tsp. sesame oil
Pam (or other brand) cooking spray
1/2 onion, finely diced
2 cups leftover, cold brown rice
1 tsp. black or plain sesame seeds
3 eggs lightly beaten
1-2 Tbs. soy sauce
1 nonstick skillet heat over a medium high flame

Spray a large skillet with Pam. Then add the sesame oil-"But Julie Dear, why the Pam if you are using cooking oil?" I am glad you asked. The Pam contains something called lecithin. It is an emusifier, and acts as an agent to help the sesame oil spread out thinly instead of just beading up in one little pool. Swirl the oil around and add the onions. Cook for 3-5 minutes until the onions are browned and translucent. Add the rice and toss. place a lid on your skillet and let the rice cook undisturbed for 4-5 minutes until the bottom is browned and fragrant.

Toss if you need to in order to prevent burning. Toss in the sesame seeds, and remove the rice to a plate and keep warm. scramble the eggs in the pan. Once the eggs are cooked add the rice back to the pan, toss everything together and sprinkle in the soy sauce. give the mix one final toss and serve hot.

This and a bowl of Miso soup are my favorite Meatless Monday Meal!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Vitamix Tomato Soup

The clouds are rolling in, and the forecast is predicting cooler temperatures and rain on the way for the Charleston area. This has me feeling a lot like it's "soup weather". I have recently perfected my tomato soup recipe for the Vitamixer. I have discovered that using fresh garlic and onions made the soup very harsh in flavor. So I have toned down the strength of flavor by using powdered spices and bouillon. The carrots add the sweetness you need without adding sugar. The low fat sour cream add smoothness and tang without making the soup unhealthy. You can omit the peppercorns if you don't like zesty flavors as well. BON APPETITE!!!!

Don't despair if you don't have a Vitamixer. Just puree your soup in any blender and cook it on the stove top for about 15 minutes.

Vitamixer Tomato Carrot Soup
5-6 Roma tomatoes
1 cup baby carrots
2 Tbs. low far sour cream
1 Knorr Chicken bouillon cube
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
5-8 black peppercorns.

Place everything into you carafe in the order listed.

Starting on the lowest speed, and slowly turning the machine all the way to high, puree the mixture until smooth. If you are using your vita mixer, set a times for seven minutes and allow the soup to cook in the carafe.

If you are using a mere mortal blender, once the soup is smooth, transfer it to a sauce pan and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Serve with a little spoonful of sour cream or creme fraiche on the and top and garnish as you like.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Irish Potato Hash

I love potatoes. Lately I have been craving a recipe from a restaurant I used to be head chef of in Ireland- The Kingswood Country House in Clondalkin (just outside of Dublin on the Naas Road). Here is the recipe. It is so amazingly delicious and so versatile. I use it as a side for breakfast and dinner too. Don't be scared of the involved process either. It is much easier than you think, and the results are sooooooooo worth it!!! Enjoy!

Hash in a Hurry
1 onion diced
1/2 Lb bacon-diced
3 potatoes-diced
1 clove garlic-crushed and minced
1/2 bell pepper-minced
1/2-1 cup frozen peas
season salt to taste (I use Lawry's)
In a very large saute pan, over medium heat, cook the onions and bacon 10-12 minutes until the onions are browned lightly.

Add the potatoes and cover.

 Cook for 15 minutes stirring every 4-5 minutes to prevent burning. Once the potatoes are fork tender, turn the heat to high and allow the mixture to brown, about 5 minutes stirring once or twice. Toss in the peppers and peas, and allow them to heat through.

Adjust the seasoning with the seasoned salt and serve hot.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Kid Friendly Brussels Sprouts

Kid Friendly Brussels Sprouts

Happy Tuesday Fellow Foodies!

If you are a friend of mine, or have followed my blog for any length of time, then you know that there are certain foods that I have loathed since childhood; such as Kale, Cauliflower, Brussels Sprouts, Corn, etc...the list is longer than I care to admit being a chef.

My mother, whom I love, is your typical working mom of the 1970's-1980's. She has the double curse of not having enough time to put great effort into cooking, and she also learned how to cook from her 1950's era mother.

Now, please don't email me and tell me I have the whole "Americana Experience" wrong. When I grew up vegetables were either fresh and then cooked to a dead death, or every mother in American assumed they grew in a can. So most of the veggies that I consumed growing up (peas, green beans, corn, beets, what-have-you) came out of a can. The fresh ones, when we got them (Broccoli, Brussels, cauliflower, sprouts, carrots, etc) were cooked to a mushy, yellow, stinky mess of ick! [Sorry mom, I love you- and it's not your fault, that's how Nana taught you to do it.]

So when I went to culinary school, my entire world opened up! I learned everything that they taught, but what made the most lasting impression upon me was that veggies were fresh, crispy, delicious gems of yumminess! It was a life altering experience that broccoli was tasty, and that cabbage didn't have to stink up the house when you cooked it!

With all that said there were still a few vegetables that I found most repugnant: Kale, Brussels sprouts, Cauliflower, and a few others. I have simply been avoiding them all these years, but now the game has changed, because I have a little kid. I don't want her growing up to be a picky eater, and while she eats and loves most veggies, I have not until recently served the vegetables that I disliked, as a child, to her.

Enter a change of heart... A friend prepared roasted cauliflower for a dinner party a while back, and in a show of "grown-up-ed-ness" I had a helping. I found this dish not only inoffensive, but downright delicious! So began my journey into previously untried veggies, and recipes to cook them in a way that I and my 7 year old will enjoy them! Below you will find my Chili-lime Brussels sprout recipe that we both gobble up. It starts out kid-friendly and then it finishes with a grown-up kick.

The secret to enticing kids into eating their veggies, is to add a salt, fat, and acid. That may sound extreme, but a little soy sauce, sesame oil, and lime juice go a LOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNG way! Even kosher salt, a small amount of butter, and lemon juice can make a big difference to a kid's successful consumption of the mysterious green things they must eat to obtain dessert! So here is the recipe:

Kid-Friendly Brussels Sprouts

2 Tbs. sesame oil
1 Lb. Brussels sprouts
3/4 cup chopped onions
1 Tbs. minced garlic
2 Tbs. dark soy sauce (you can use regular soy sauce, but the finished product won't be a delicious)
2 Tbs. light brown (or coconut palm) sugar
juice of 1 lime

1-2 Tbs. Vietnamese Chili-Garlic sauce

Trim the heels off your sprouts and cut then lengthwise in half. In a 12-14 inch skillet heat the sesame oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook 3-4 minutes until lightly browned add the garlic and the Brussels sprouts, toss them all together to coat the sprouts with the oil. place the turn the heat to high and turn as many sprouts as you can to the cut (FLAT) side down in the pan.

 Leave them undisturbed for 2-3 minutes, until they are nicely browned.

Meanwhile, mix the soy sauce, lime juice, and sugar in a one cup measuring cup. Add enough water to make 1/2 cup of stock. Once your sprouts are ready pour the soy sauce stock over them and toss gently. Allow them to cook for a minute or two, just long enough to evaporate most of the liquid, and you have a shiny glaze. Your sprouts should still be a bright green color, and have a slight al dente crispness-please don't overcook them, I will weep!

Remove a few sprouts for your kid(s), and then add the chili garlic sauce and toss to evenly coat the sprouts for the grown-ups! Serve with your meat, and starch of choice.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Moroccan Cinnamon Chicken with Orzo

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


  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. 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.
  7. 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.

  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.
  17. 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.
  18. 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.
  19. 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.
  20. 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'.
  21. 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.
  22. 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.
  23. 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).
  24. 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.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

R Kitchen-A charming Rutledge Ave. Café

What can I possibly say about  R Kitchen? It is definitely one of the new-yet undiscovered-gems, that are beginning to take over the casual food movement on the Charleston Peninsula. It is an absolutely delightful little café on Rutledge Avenue, sitting anonymously across the street from: Fuel. If you have ever been to Europe; this place has the look and feel of a small family run café somewhere out in the countryside.

When you walk in, you are struck with the coziness of the space, and how the kitchen is front-and-center. There are no tables inside, but instead two long wooden bars at which people are to perch. There are, however, a half-dozen tables outside on a back patio that is completely shaded in by massive Oak trees (can you say ROMANTIC LUNCH?!?).  My sister and I sat on the patio and ordered lunch today.

It was wonderful. Everything was expertly prepared and thoughtfully plated. We ordered a duck and brie sandwich, a baby bella and fontina sandwich, with sides of Brussels sprouts, and mac and cheese. We shared everything so we could get a good feel for the food. The only fault I can find is that they squirted a little mustard over the tops of the sandwiches,  which looked pretty, but made for a messy time trying to hold the bread. But now I know for next time to have them leave that off.
Bella and Fontana sandwich.  Yummy!

This little place, and the food they serve, took me back to a little café in Belgium of which I was super fond. I will be returning again and often. 


Pickled Beets

When I was growing up, I thought that all vegetables grew inside a can. Needless to say,  I loathed most vegetables as a kid. This was especially true of beets: which were not only mushy, but also tasted of the can, and always had a hint of dirt flavor as I swallowed. I would try to eat them to avoid being punished for not finishing my dinner, but I would end up gagging and crying and in a fit by the end of dinner. Needless to say; for a very long time (even as a Chef of 20+ years) I considered beets to be one of those things that grew straight up out of Hell!

Being a Chef, and always on the hunt for new ways to cook things. I came across a recipe for pickled beets that didn't look too offensive. I love pickled things: Any food doused in vinegar and salt and spices is always going to be my favorite thing on a plate.
What is Pickling, and why do we do it? Simple: Pickling is a global culinary art. If you were to go on an international food-tasting tour, you’d find pickled foods just about everywhere. You might sample kosher cucumber pickles in New York City, chutneys in India, kimchi in Korea, miso pickles in Japan, salted duck eggs in China, pickled herring in Scandinavia, corned beef in Ireland, salsas in Mexico, pickled pigs feet in the southern United States, and much, much more.

What makes a pickle a pickle? On a most general level, pickles are foods soaked in solutions that help prevent spoilage.

There are two basic categories of pickles. The first type includes pickles preserved in vinegar, a strong acid in which few bacteria can survive. Most of the bottled kosher cucumber pickles available in the supermarket are preserved in vinegar.

The other category includes pickles soaked in a salt brine to encourage frementation—the growth of "good" bacteria that make a food less vulnerable to "bad" spoilage-causing bacteria. Common examples of fermented pickles include KIMCHEE, MISO, and many vegetable pickles: Such as cabbage, cucumbers, okra, carrots, etc....

Pickling is not only an international food-preservation technique, it’s also an ancient one. For thousands of years, our ancestors have explored ways to pickle foods, following an instinct to secure surplus food supplies for long winters, famine, and other times of need. Historians know, for instance, that over two thousand years ago, workers building the Great Wall of China ate sauerkraut, a kind of fermented cabbage.

But pickling foods does much more than simply preserve them. It can also change their taste and texture in a profusion of interesting—and yummy—ways. It’s no surprise that cultures across the globe enjoy such an assortment of pickled foods, as you would discover on your international food expedition. In fact, food experts say, the evolution of diverse pickled foods in different cultures has contributed to unique cultural food preferences, such as spicy sour tastes in Southeast Asia and acidic flavors in eastern Europe.

I tried the Pickled beet recipe and I ended up loving it. Pickled beets are my new favorite 'thing of the month'. The best part of this recipe is that there are onions pickled in with the beets and they are, not only, amazingly tasty, but beautifully colored from the beets. Once you have eaten all the beets and onions out of the pickling liquid, slice up a few more onions and let them rest in the beet brine for a few days and you have a second batch of delicious pickled onions. It's the gift that keeps on giving!

Pickled Beets
6 medium (or 4 large) red beets, cleaned
1 onion-peeled and quartered 
1 bunch Thyme
2 teaspoons olive oil 
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
In a large bowl toss all of the ingredients. Place into a foil pouch and roast in the oven for 40 minutes.
2 large Vidalia (or other white,sweet) onions-peeled and sliced into rings
3 cups red wine vinegar
2 cup water
1 Tbs. Sea salt 
1 1/4 cups sugar 
Remove the skin from the Roasted Beets and slice thinly. Arrange in 1-quart jars alternating layers with the onion. In a small pot boil the rest of the ingredients and pour over the beets. Tightly lid the jars and place in the refrigerator for 3 to 7 days before serving.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Kimchee Kale- An elegant way to make a superfood super!

Happy Thursday Fellow Foodies!

If you've been a fan of my old blog: The Enlightened Chef, then you know that I have been on a mission to try the vegetables that I hated as a kid. I have had great success with this experiment. I have found that not only are cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and corn not offensive, but that they are actually delicious!

Today I tackled something I never had as a child, and only once as an adult-KALE...

Kale is one of those greens that is in the cabbage family.  It is very high in beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and rich in calcium. Kale is a source of two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. Kale, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane (particularly when chopped or minced), a chemical with potent anti-cancer properties. Boiling decreases the level of sulforaphane; however, steaming, microwaving, or stir frying do not result in significant loss. Along with other brassica vegetables, kale is also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells. Kale has been found to contain a group of resins known as bile acid sequestrants, which have been shown to lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat. Steaming significantly increases these bile acid binding properties.

It is dark, and fibrous, and a little bitter.

For this reason I think most people in the past (and my mother-in-law in the present) boil the ever-lovin' shit outta this stuff. Thereby making the house stink to high heaven, and the kale taste like a 3 day old gym sock worn by a guy with fungal feet. JUST SAYIN'...

Kale is exceptionally healthful, as you read above, and I've wanted to try it again. So here is how I prepared it. I thought the recipe came out pretty yummy and I might even try it again soon.

Kimchee Kale

1 Tbs. veggie oil of your choosing
2 cloves of garlic-minced
1 bunch (or one bag from Trader Joe's) Tuscan kale-if you can't find Tuscan Kale, don't worry, just use regular Kale-it comes out just as yummy.
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup kimchee
1 tsp. soy sauce
2 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. pure toasted sesame oil
sesame seeds to garnish (optional)

Heat the veggie oil, to medium heat, in a large sauté pan. add the garlic and sauté for about a minute. add the kale, water, and soy sauce. Cover the pan and cook 2-3 minutes until the kale turns a bright, shiny green.

Remove the cover from the pan and allow the water to evaporate. Meanwhile slice your kimchee into thin strips.

Once the water has evaporated from the pan, add the kimchee, lemon juice and soy sauce. Toss everything together and finish with a drizzle of sesame oil. Pile high onto a few plate and garnish with sesame seeds.

* If you want to make the dish a little more exciting, add a few drops of SRIRACHA and toss before finishing with sesame oil.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Pimento Cheese Raviolis

Today I made Raviolis. Not just any raviolis though: Yesterday I made, from scratch, Pimento Cheese, thus I made pimento cheese raviolis today.

You can fill your ravis with just about anything you like. You can also "sauce" them with tomato, or Alfredo sauce, or just tossed in some butter (the possibilities are endless) you can even float them in soup. I happen to be very fond of tasso ham and collard raviolis in split pea or potato leek soup.

The filling and sauce combinations for raviolis are only limited by your own imagination and personal tastes. So here is my "Southern" take on the ravioli:

For the Dough

3 cups all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
6 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 cup Pimento Cheese *RECIPE BELOW

In the bowl of your food processor combine the flour and salt and pulse 2 to 3 times. In a liquid measuring cup whisk the eggs, water and oil. While pulsing the machine pour this mixture in a continuous stream and continue running the machine until the dough begins to pull away from the sides of the bowl. It will look loose and pebbly.

Empty the food processor bowl onto a clean work surface and knead the dough about 4 minutes until it is a stiff shiny ball. It should feel a bit dry and very stiff. Wrap the ball in plastic. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to rest.

If you are lucky enough to have a pasta roller, by all means use it, and roll your pasta to #2 thickness. If you are like me and have to use a rolling pin...then some patience will be required. Lightly flour your work surface, and with a rolling in, roll your dough to a thin 1/32 of an inch. Cut your dough in half as it will be easier for you to handle.

When you have your sheet ready to go, trim it to as even a rectangle as you can make. I fold my dough in half and use a pizza cutter to trim the edges to "match".

Cut the dough in half. Place 1 to 1-1/2 tsp. of pimento cheese about 1-1/2  inches apart on one sheet of dough.

Lightly beat an egg, and brush the egg over the second sheet of dough. Pick it up and stretch it very gently and lay it egg side down on the pasta sheet with the filling.

Starting with the ravis in the center and working outward, press the dough over the filling trying to squeeze out as much air as possible to form little pillows. You can cut them into whatever shape you like-I find using my pizza cutter to make squares or rectangles easiest. A small round or triangular cutter is nice as well if you have them.

Gently press the edges of your ravis to between your thumb and first finger to seal them tightly. Allow them to rest on a sheet of parchment or waxed paper while you proceed.

Bring a large stock pot of salted water to a boil. Drop in your ravis and allow to cook 3-4 minutes. Meanwhile in a sauté pan combine:

2 Tbs. butter (I used browned butter-but plain butter is easier-*see below)
1/2 cup pancetta cut into matchsticks

Cook over high heat until the pancetta starts to crisp, By now your ravis are done. Drain and add to the sauté pan. Toss to coat your pasta, allow the ravis to cook over high heat about a minute-just until they brown a bit (this adds textural interest), and serve garnished with Italian (flat leaf) parsley.

*Browned Butter
Heat a thick-bottomed skillet on medium heat. Add 1 to 2 sticks, sliced butter (sliced so that the butter melts more evenly) whisking frequently. Continue to cook the butter. Once melted the butter will foam up a bit, then subside. Watch carefully as lightly browned specks begin to form at the bottom of the pan. Smell the butter; it should have a nutty aroma. Remove from heat and place on a cool surface to help stop the butter from cooking further and perhaps burning. Use as you wish.

Pimento Cheese
8 oz. Shredded cheddar, 3/4 cup mayo, 4 oz. jar sliced pimentos-drained but not rinsed, 1/2 tsp. each onion powder, garlic powder and kosher salt. Mix Everything in a big bowl. Store in fridge for 24 hours before using. EASY BREEZY LEMON SQUEEZY!!!!

For traditional Ricotta filling combine 1 cup whole milk ricotta one large beaten egg and a pinch each or salt and pepper. Chill for a hour before proceeding.