Wednesday, December 3, 2008

0 Recipe #41: Mafalda with Cauliflower, Kalamata Olives, Sun-dried Tomatoes, & Asiago

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Any of you who've eaten or cooked with Mafalda know that this is the pasta shaped like mini-lasagna. IMHO, this pasta forms the perfect mellow "canvas" upon which to "paint" a wide range of complementary flavors & textures, especially for this particular recipe - the ever-so-subtle crunchiness of lightly steamed cauliflower, the sharp tang of asiago cheese & sun-dried tomatoes, the saltiness of the Kalamata olives, and a mix of other complementary flavors.

Yes, cooking is an art as well as science, & in many ways, is very similar to painting a picture. There needs to be contrast between background & foreground tastes, & the ingredients must balance each other out in terms of textures, colors, & flavors. There needs to be a good foundation, not only in terms of knowledge & experience, but also in terms of the ingredients one uses. In this particular recipe, the pasta forms the base or foundation upon which the other ingredients rely upon. This is why using good pasta is essential!

Of course, sometimes good food is simple; other times it can be complex & multi-layered. This dish probably falls in the latter category. While the mafalda isn't necessarily the predominant flavor focus of this dish (i.e., the sun-dried tomatoes, kalamata, parsley, & asiago definitely steal the spotlight!), the particular texture of the mafalda pasta is certainly unique, & lends the dish its distinctive, mellow appeal, providing balance to the other more intense flavors & textures.

Anyhow, enough discourse & onto the recipe. :)

BTW, I made this for dinner tonight & it was a huge hit with the family..... It's an original recipe I created today for tonight's dinner, as a way to say thank-you to & express my love and affection for my family.

Please note: While you are certainly welcome to apply this recipe (& any of the other recipes on this blog) for your own personal use in the kitchen & adapt it to your own taste specifications, please, however, do not reprint or redistribute this recipe in any media format (i.e., blog, websites, online or paper publications, etc.) without first receiving express permission/authorization from its author -- i.e., me. Thank you & enjoy!



Mafalda with Cauliflower, Kalamata Olives, Sun-dried Tomatoes, & Asiago


Ingredients:
5-6 c. water (for cooking pasta)
1 small drop olive oil (for cooking pasta)
1 dash table salt (for cooking pasta)
2 c. dry, uncooked mafalda pasta
1 shallot, finely minced
1/2 Tbsp. butter
1/3-1/4 c. sherry (preferably medium dry)
1 head cauliflower, chopped into bite-sized florets
rock salt (or, if not available, coarse kosher salt) (for seasoning cauliflower)
cracked black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp. dried oregano leaves
1/4 c. buttermilk
4-6 pieces farmer's cheese (thinly sliced, 1/4" thick) (or can substitute with low-fat mozzarella slices)
1/3 c. lite non-dairy creamer (I use Nestle Low-Fat Coffee-Mate, original flavor)
8 sun-dried tomatoes, (i.e., the kind that's not packed in oil), julienned (or about 40 slivers of sun-dried tomatoes, if using presliced kind in packages)
10 kalamata olives, pitted & sliced into quarters
freshly shredded asiago cheese - best to use solid block & shred fresh for best flavor
fresh parsley, finely minced (for garnish)

Directions:
1. Boil water for pasta. Salt the water & add a few drops of (extra virgin) olive oil. (The salt is for flavor; the olive oil is to keep the pasta from sticking together.)
2. While water is boiling, chop all produce & put aside into separate bowls.
3. On another stove top burner, place shallots & butter in pan. Sauté shallots until tender. Watch carefully, so it doesn't burn.
2. Add sherry to deglaze pan.
3. Add cauliflower florets & sauté under tender. Shortly after adding cauliflower, sprinkle a dash of salt & cracked pepper on top & then mix thoroughly. (The salt will help to "sweat" the cauliflower & also absorb excess liquid in the pan after the cauliflower starts cooking.)
4. If necessary, add additional 1 c. water to cauliflower & stir continually to keep from burning during cooking process.
5. After pasta finishes cooking (i.e., about 11 minutes for al dente), add cooked & drained pasta to the cauliflower mixture in the sauté pan.
6. Next add buttermilk & oregano, & stir.
7. In final phases of cooking, add farmer's cheese slices & non-dairy creamer. Stir continually.
8. Add olives & sun-dried tomatoes, cooking for one final minute.
9. Remove from heat & sprinkle asiago cheese on top immediately, so it gently melts.
10. Garnish with parsley & serve.

Yield: Serves 2-4, depending upon your appetite & whether or not you serve side dishes with dinner. ;-)

Chef's Notes: Do NOT use non-stick pan. It's very important to brown the cauliflower, & a non-stick pan will not allow you to do this.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

1 Recipe #40: Farfalle with Eggplant & Tomatoes

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Farfalle (Bow-tie Pasta) with Eggplant & Tomatoes

Ingredients:
1 medium-sized eggplant, cubed into 1/2" pieces
2 tomatoes, diced
1/2 c. tomato sauce (NOTE: I recommend using a simple tomato sauce like "Classico Tomato & Basil," which has zero added sugar & is very low in fat.)
1/2 yellow onion, diced
3 scallions
4 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
2 medium-sized bay leaves
juice of 1 lime
1/2-1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 c. water
salt & pepper to taste
1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes, (i.e., the kind that's not packed in oil), sliced julienne
1 c. farfalle (bowtie pasta)
Parmesan cheese (to sprinkle on top) (Vegans can substitute sharp-tasting, vegan imitation cheese.)

Directions: Sauté onions in olive oil on medium heat for a few minutes, or until translucent. Then add garlic & scallions. Stir on occasion to avoid browning. Then add eggplant & tomato cubes, water, lime juice, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, dried basil & oregano, & bay leaves. Cook for about 15-20 minutes to reduce liquid, stirring constantly.

In another sauce pot, boil water, adding a drop of olive oil. When water has reached a rolling boil, cook farfalle/pasta for 11 minutes (which will give you a perfect "al dente" texture), drain, & then set aside.

Pour pasta into a bowl, add eggplant tomato sauce & garnish with sun-dried tomatoes & parmesan. That's it. Eat & enjoy!

0 Recipe #39: Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

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Here's my own quick & easy recipe for pumpkin pie spice mix. Why go to the store when you can make it from what you already have in your own kitchen. The total prep time is less than 5 minutes!

This spice mixture is really versatile; it can be used for both sweet & savory dishes. (Its use doesn't have to be limited to just pumpkin pie! :-D) Some healthier uses (other than pies, cakes, cookies, & custards!) include baked apples & pears, fat-free/sugar-free apple tarts (recipe is forthcoming), acorn/butternut squash dishes, & root vegetable casseroles.
Pumpkin Pie Spice Mix

Ingredients:
4 parts ground cinnamon
2 parts ground nutmeg
1 part ground ginger
1/2 part ground allspice
1/2 part ground cloves

Directions: Mix all ingredients together in a bowl. If you're making a large quantity for future use, I would recommend storing the mixture in a labelled, airtight container. I like to use glass Mason jars, because they keep spices a lot longer than other types of storage materials & won't react with the ingredients, unlike plastic.  If you are making only a little bit, you can store the spice mixture in an empty glass spice container with a shaker top lid.  In general, it's best to store spices in a dry, dark location.

0 Recipe #38: Avocado Soup

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Here's my own take on avocado soup. It can be served hot or cold, although on a cold day, I know which way I'd rather have it. ;-)

As a cold soup, it's cool & refreshing, especially in warmer weather. As a hot soup, it's smooth & tangy, & does a good job of warming the cockles. Either way, it's extraordinarily creamy-tasting (without having to resort to using any cream or added oils) & is very good for you as well!

As many of you probably already know, the avocado is actually considered to be a fruit & not a vegetable (just like the tomato), & contains 25 nutrients, including vitamin C, folate, vitamin E, fiber & unsaturated fats. They are also naturally sodium-free, contain no trans fats and are low in saturated fat.

Those of you who have zero time to cook will especially love this recipe. Not only is it easy to make (Hello, it's practically idiot-proof! 8-) ), but it takes only a few minutes (i.e., 10-15 minutes tops!) to prepare from start to finish. Basically, you just chop up the ingredients (& at that, there are only 3 things that actually need chopping!) & then toss it all into a blender. No fuss, no muss. Gotta like that!

OK, so here it is. The first recipe posted in -- GASP! Could it be true?! -- almost 7 months! Drum roll, please. Da-da-da-dummmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm..........



Avocado Soup

Ingredients:
1 chilled (seedless) cucumber (about 16 oz.) (If you can't find seedless, regular cucumbers are just fine to use too!)
1 (6-8 oz.) firm, ripe Haas avocado
2 scallions
1/4 c. fresh mint leaves (or, if fresh not available, use 1 tsp dried)
1/2 c. well-shaken chilled nonfat/lowfat buttermilk
1 c. cold water
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4-1/8 tsp. black pepper
1/2 tsp. cumin
2 Tbsp. dry sherry
2 Tbsp. lime juice
fresh cilantro (for garnish)

Directions: Cut cucumber coarsely into small 1-1.5" pieces. Half avocado lengthwise, then pit. Score avocado flesh into quarters, & then peel. Toss avocado pieces into blender. Roughly cut white part of scallion & toss into blender. Thinly dice dark green parts of scallion into thin rounds & put aside; reserve as garnish. Toss in all remaining ingredients. Blend together all ingredients 1 to 2 minutes. Chill soup, uncovered, 15 minutes. Or, if making hot, heat soup in microwave 1-2 minutes. Garnish soup with green scallion slices and a few sprigs of cilantro. Serve & enjoy!

Yield: 2-4 servings (although I can easily eat the whole darned thing as a meal & then some! 8-) )

Chef's Notes: This recipe tastes best with firm, ripe Haas avocados. Substitute at your own risk. ;-)

0 Coming Up Next: Some Soups For Winter

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Yeah, I know it's been forever & a day since the last time I posted here, but those of you who've patiently stuck by this blog through thick & thin will be well-rewarded for your readership loyalty today. 8-)

Since the weather's starting to get a lot colder here (& in many other parts of the USA & the rest of the world!), I've decided to post a number of soup recipes to help take the chill out of winter! So warm yourself by the fireplace & get ready to have a tasty bowl of soup!

From my kitchen to yours,
-C

Sunday, October 19, 2008

0 Nutrition Tip: Carbs Are NOT the Enemy! ;-)

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Pardon me while I sound off about something that just bugs me, both as a health-centric person & as an athlete: Low-carb diets.

Not only do I abhor diets, dieting, & all that these ideas stand for (short-cuts, laziness, short-lived results, unrealistic expectations, resultant unhealthy metabolisms, short-sightedness, etc.), but I think the currently ubiquitous "low-carb" trend is stupid.

First of all, your body needs carbs. It's just that simple. The real issue is WHICH carbs one chooses, which can make all the difference in terms of health. People often forget that fruits & veggies contain fiber & carbs, & if you're going to choose a carb, why not choose one with additional perks? ;-)

Also, unlike most of the diet-obsessed world, I believe that one should eat for overall health, instead of narrowly focusing upon on which foods make one gain or lose weight.

Rather, it is the amount of body fat that one lugs around on one's body frame which is the real culprit. (And by this illustration, I'm clearly not talking about carrying a 10 lb. sack of butter on one's shoulder ;-) ) Please note that this does not mean that you shouldn't eat fat. Ironically, you need to eat a certain amount of fat in order to be able to lose it. Yes, that's right. You heard me correctly. If you restrict your calories too severely or eat a diet that's too low in fat (i.e., lower than 25%), your body's gonna hold onto the fat & scream "No, I will not let you go!" precisely because it thinks it's gone into survival/starvation mode. :)

How much body fat one can lose is not determined solely by either exercise or one's nutritional plan alone. We really do need both for lasting success & health.

That being said, what we eat has a huge impact on our energy levels, mood, & also upon the success of our efforts to lose body fat. Nutritionists that work with top athletes know this, & so it's important not to disregard the role that healthy eating plays in the process of getting into shape & feeling good about our food choices. Food also affects mood, which in turn can have an effect upon exercise & our attitudes towards our progress. Why not eat a healthy balance of foods & stack the cards in your favor?

Now, as a runner/athlete, I know this better than most. The factors of what, when, & how much I eat profoundly affects my training. I burn off lots of calories & my body needs to continually replenish glycogen stores, as well as vitamins, minerals, salt, & other nutrients, etc. And this means eating.

Now to be fair, I'm not looking to lose weight right now. However, that being said, I was able to drop some pounds of body fat by eating healthfully & working out, all the while using a moderate, common-sense approach. If you're curious how I did it, you're welcome to visit my blog to follow the journey I took, "back to a healthy self," which I began back in July 2007.

Please note that I didn't approach the process as a "race against time," & along with the body fat percentage loss also came a newfound wisdom & clarity. :) Through the process of "becoming me again," I was profoundly & irrevocably changed for the better. All along this journey, little "lights" kept going off inside my mind, metaphorically speaking, & I've found that there's a good really reason why "this time, it will really be different" & why I will never go back to the less-productive former attitudes & approaches which were holding me back, with regard to exercise progress, performance, & maintenance.

Of course, the whole point is that the journey does NOT end after you lose the body fat; if you operate from a long-term perspective, exercise becomes a constant source of renewal & progress, & through it we can continue to grow our minds & nurture our bodies. After a while, the questions stop becoming ones of "why, how, & when do I need to exercise," but rather, "how can I exercise more effectively for maximum benefit & enjoyment," or "when can I exercise next, because I can't wait to get out there & move?" It becomes an integral part of one's life, as if one could not imagine not exercising!"

But back to eating & nutrition: Even though I'm no longer trying to lose body fat, I still am conscious of portion sizes, & focus on eating a balanced diet, rich in nutrients & fiber. As most of you probably already know, eating foods high in fiber means that you will achieve satiety for a longer period of time. This is key. So start eating your fruits & veg, as well as healthy grains & legumes! (If you are open to trying new things, chance are good that that you'll find healthy produce that you like & won't feel like you're forcing yourself to eat the things that you don't enjoy!) This way, if you fill up on fiber, you won't reach for things you know you shouldn't be eating, because your tummy isn't screaming out in hunger &/or your blood sugar isn't taking a nose dive & then hitting rock bottom!

Speaking of which, it's absolutely crucial to keep one's blood sugar level throughout the day. Even if you aren't hypoglycemic or diabetic, maintaining a steady blood sugar level is still important for cultivating balance in one's eating & health, & from a preventative health standpoint, will help to shield you from disease & create the best possible health scenario for yourself, especially further down the road. For me, this means eating snacks & small meals throughout the day. I try not to eat a heavy dinner, doing my best to make lunch the "main attraction."

My current nutritional plan is composed of about 50% carbs, 25% fat, & 25% protein, & is specifically geared towards running fitness/performance. [For more information, please see "The Runner's Diet" (from Runner's World), which is a misleading title, because of course this nutritional program isn't actually a diet at all.]

Also, like the above article similarly discusses, I watch what I eat & when I eat it. If I do eat certain foods with high glycemic indexes (like potatoes, etc.), I make a real effort to eat them in moderation & also try not to eat them in the middle of the day when I know I have to focus & get work done, because these types of foods (especially when eaten in substantial quantities) make me feel like I'm in a "food coma." :)

If you've ever experienced a "food coma" before -- that uncomfortable, discombobulated, spacy feeling that sometimes happens after eating a large meal, then perhaps you will recognize that this not-so-lovely sensation is the body's way of trying to tell you something. And usually that something is "You've eaten too much of a particular thing." :)

But seriously, one thing I've learned through the sport of running is that it pays to listen to your body. And that applies to nutrition just as much as it does to exercise.

Now this is not to say that I don't ever eat complex carbs like pasta & potatoes. Quite the contrary. Certain high glycemic foods (of the healthiest variety!) do serve their purpose, particularly if you have an active lifestyle. However, generally speaking, I find that it's best to be strategic about eating complex carbs. For example: As a runner in training, I tend to save these types of high-glycemic index foods for when I'm training & need to fuel for a road race. In other words, they are eaten to fulfill a specific, practical purpose.

As with most types of foods, complex carbs are best eaten in moderation. Why do I say this? Well, for one, even though complex carbs release glucose into the blood stream more slowly than simple carbs, it's still best not to overdo it. After all, just because the glucose is released more slowly into the bloodstream when we eat complex carbs, doesn't mean that we should go bonkers & eat large amounts of them! Even if you don't have blood sugar problems, eating too many complex starches in one go can cause imbalance in the body, by cumulatively flooding the body with large amounts of glucose which must then be processed/burned off, or if not, then stored somewhere in the body as fat.

Wanna be able to eat heartily, feel satisfied, & not have to worry so much about weight & body fat? Then start exercising! It's really not that hard; if you can lace up your sneakers, toss on exercise clothes, & just get out the door, then you've already mastered the most difficult step. :) I'm being 100% serious. The mental aspects of getting started are usually a lot harder to conquer than the physical ones.

Instead of playing games with ourselves, why not just get out there & move? If you are really resistant to the idea, then start small & try something simple: For example, walking is a great place to start. You'll be surprised at how refreshed you feel after getting outside & talking a quick little stroll around the neighborhood!

And when you take that second step (i.e., exercising!), remember to start slowly & gently, & be patient with yourself. Exercise is supposed to be fun, not a punishment, so find a physical activity/sport that you truly enjoy doing! Chances are that if you approach your exercise with a sense of joy & anticipation, you'll not only see results, but be able to sustain those results for a much longer period of time!

If you are in need of a little encouragement & motivation to get started, the key thing is not to "wait to feel inspired." Often times, it works the other way around. If you just lace up the sneakers & head on out the door, you will most likely find the motivation you are seeking once you get started! Yes, it's true. It really is!

And then, to help you succeed, I recommend participating in some sort of system to hold yourself accountable & track your progress. Start an exercise blog or join fitness-centric social networking communities (like DailyMile, JustFinish, Wellsphere, or SparkPeople, etc.). Work out with a friend or family member, or meet new friends by getting involved in a local activity group for a sport you've always wanted to try. You can join your local running club, local Y, or fitness center, or sign up for community classes. Whatever, whichever. The point is to just get started! :)

Also, for additional ideas & inspiration, feel free to check out my fitness blog. On it, you'll see how I got started up again with exercise after a hiatus period of inactivity. (It's a very honest accounting of the whole process. You'll see all the steps, both forward & backward! There's a lot of useful analysis of "what worked & what didn't," which'll hopefully help steer you towards success.) There are also helpful tips on all sorts of topics relating to exercise, fitness, preventative health, nutrition & healthy cooking, body image, body-fat loss, & exercise psychology/philosophy, etc. Also, you'll find several resources there to help you along in your process to obtain long-term health & fitness. So check it out!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

0 Check Out the "Simple, Healthy Meals" Series on See Corey Run

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Just letting you know that I've started a new series of posts on my running blog, See Corey Run, called "Simple, Healthy Meals" to help people -- whether they be runners, athletes, or aspiring exercisers/healthy-eaters -- plan tasty & practical meals, which will fuel their bodies & satisfy their taste buds.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

2 Faster Page Loading, I Promise!

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I've recently noticed that it was taking forever for this blog to display properly, so I've fixed some of the glitches. You should notice that the page now loads a heck of a lot faster. Ta da! Enjoy.....

6 Get Great Advice (on Nutrition, Life, etc.) at "See Corey Run" !

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Hi All,

I'm baaaaaack. Yes, it's been far too long since my last blogging session here. If you keep in mind the fact that I've got 5 blogs & a full life in the real world, it seems quite insane & unreasonable to expect that anyone could have the kind of time to blog every day (or even every week!) for every single one of their blogs, respond to every email & comment, & still have a life (!) -- that is, unless you make a living from blogging. ;-) Of course, it'd be great if someone could pay me to write, & I could still make a decent living from it. That'd certainly be my dream job. However, until that time, I'm just like every other regular working Joe or Jane, making ends meet, & making a point of living life to the fullest. And sometimes that means putting blogging in its rightful place, as an extracurricular activity that I do when I can. I know as soon as I start feeling pressured to blog, that I probably shouldn't be doing it anymore.

So, I'm just going to blog when I like (like I've always done in the past!). And anyone who doesn't like it or can't handle it, well.... Do I have to complete that sentence?! I think you know where that sentiment's going. ;-) [I'm generally a very nice & polite person, but all the same I don't have any patience for strong-arm tactics, or people trying to passive-aggressively manipulate others with their displeasure. That $*%&@ is just whack. ;-) N'est-ce pas?! ;-) ]

To be honest, these days one of the central focal points of my life is running & nutrition, so if you want to keep up with my latest adventures & thoughts, the best place to do it these days is at my running blog. I update this blog quite regularly, after every run, strength-training workout, & road race. I also write regular reviews of sports apparel & other products, as well as articles on sports nutrition & exercise psychology. The blog addresses goal-setting, goal-setting & training metrics, & other "concrete" concepts, but also deals with the mental & philosophical aspects of running, eating, & the psychological aspects of sports & getting into shape. I also talk about motivation & strategies for success, tips for leading a healthy lifestyle, & how to maintain a healthy perspective with regard to one's body image. It's really a smorgasboard of topics. ;-)

My approach is to address the totality of sports and healthy living as part of a larger whole. It's really discussing sports as not just "something you do for an hour or two here & there," (i.e., which is a rather finite & limited view), but rather viewing running & sports through the larger lens of life. So, in a word, the blog isn't just about running! Even if you aren't an exerciser or a runner, you might still enjoy reading this blog. In fact, several of the people who regularly read my blog have confessed to me that they don't currently exercise, but enjoy reading my blog because they find that it helps motivate them in positive ways. Other people have told me that they like reading it because it's often good for a laugh or two. Whatever the reasons, I'm happy to hear that people are enjoying the blog. ;-)

So if you would like tips on how to live healthier & feel good (about your body, your life & accomplishments, etc.), or are looking for motivation to get back into shape or achieve your goals, you'll definitely want to check out my running blog!

Have a great afternoon!

-C

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

0 The Attention Span of A Flea -- No, Not ME! ;-)

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In this ADD-like culture we are living in, it amazes me that people have the patience to sit for more than a half-hour listening or watching or reading anything. :)

So, on that note, I ask that you disregard the length of some of the posts on this blog, & instead pay attention to their content. :)

All I'm saying is that if you do see a post longer than 3 paragraphs (LOL!), please try to remain calm. ;-) Long posts aren't necessarily indicative of prosaic prose. :) I don't relish reading dull, dry minutiae, & so, will do my best to not subject the readers of this blog to the same treatment. :)

I realize that some of my posts are probably better suited for a book format, which is actually a good thing, because I'm writing a cookbook. :)

Yeah, I know, very funny. ;-)

Of course, not all of the blog posts are long. And if you're printing out the recipes, you'll notice that some can actually fit onto a single sheet of paper. LOL.

I realize that different people are looking to get different things out of this blog: Some are here for the recipes, some like reading the foodie commentary & kitchen/nutrition tips, & some may've ended up here by pure chance. :)

And that's OK. Simply put, what we get out of an experience is what we put into it.

(See, this post provides clear evidence that I can also write short posts too. :) )

Sunday, May 18, 2008

0 Zero Time To Cook? Make Something Simple & Healthy!

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I don't know about you, but right now, I don't have a lot of time to cook. I just started a new job not too long ago, plus, on top of it, I'm adjusting to a new sleep schedule, & so, am a bit tired. Even with all of the running I do to give me energy throughout the day, it's going to take a bit of time to adjust.

So, in order to accommodate, I've been making quick, simple meals to get through the day. And I mean quick & simple. :) Breakfast is usually just cereal, almonds, & a banana (or some quick easy-to-eat-on-the-go type of fruit). Thankfully, I'm able to come home for many PM meals, that is if I'm not just shoving in something that I brown-bagged or going out for the occasional quick meal. If I do go home for lunch, I've got some perennial stand-bys: Sometimes, it's seasoned soft-boiled eggs & a slab of matzo, & other times it might be as easy as raw veggies with cheesesticks or hummus. Basically, right now I'm into anything with zero prep time. :)


If I'm feeling like making more of an effort, I've got two quick, low-maintenance favorites. Both need to be made fresh & eaten immediately afterward for the best & most flavorful eating experience. The first is homemade Greek salad: It takes just minutes to chop up the ingredients (non-fat feta, red onions, cucumbers, red & green peppers, spring mix salad, olives, bottled dressing) & eat it. The second is a mozzarella, basil, & tomato sandwich on some sort of gourmet, rustic, freshly-bread from the supermarket (i.e., sourdough, etc.). The key is to use super-fresh ingredients: The mozzarella I use is the kind that have been made into balls & packed in water; the basil I use are fresh leaves (either store-bought or if available, picked straight from my indoor basil plant); and the tomatoes are of the organic, vine-ripened variety.

Where work is concerned, going out is actually a rarity & usually only done for reasons of convenience; however, when I do "go out" to eat during work hours, I try to keep it healthy, I'll either grab something quick & simple at the "corner store" like dried fruit, plain snack crackers, low-fat cheese or tuna in a vacuum sealed pack, etc., or will eat out at the more-health-oriented restaurants just around the corner, usually for a quick simple sandwich & soup/salad type combo or my usual "quick-to-order, quick-to-eat" selection of Asian-style tamari-marinated salmon with scallions & salad.

So are any of you in a similar situation? If so, how do you personally make healthy food choices with limited time to prepare meals? And finally, if you've got any quick meal or snack ideas, I'd love to hear them! Thanks!

-C

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

9 Welcome To My Schizoid Blog ;-)

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One minute I'm writing about health food, & the next booze & chocolate? So what's my deal? Well, I've got moods just like the rest of you. And I'm a Gemini. ;-) So, in emoticons, that means you might get either >:) or O:-), depending on which twin decides to check in at the appointed heure de blogging. ;-)

(Speaking of which, I think I'm going to cut out the little figurines from this website & perch them on my shoulder the next time the twins want to duke it out.)

Sometimes I feel like blogging about chocolate-covered goodies & other times, about food that's good for you! So, whichever category you like to read about, stick around, because this blog will have a bit of both!

Now I know I've said on previous occasions that I was going to mainly focus on delicious & healthy, whole foods, but there are times when the >:) in me just has to blog about gourmet goodies too. After all, life isn't all applesauce & oatmeal. ;-)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

0 What's Your Favorite Healthy Snack?

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Today, as I was making up my usual grocery shopping list of last-minute items for my main squeeze to pick up at the local supermarket on his way home from work, it occurred to me that I'm often stumped by his usual question, "So, any snacks you want me to pick up from the store?"

For some reason, I can never think of a good answer unless I'm currently craving something & it happens to pop into my head while I'm compiling this "shopping list." If I'm not currently hungry, sometimes I just can't predict what I'll be in the mood to eat in a few hours or days from now. And I don't want to waste food because I'm not hungry for whatever was purchased or likewise, eat it just because it happens to be sitting there in the cupboard or fridge. :) And furthermore, I've found that when I eat things that I really don't want for one reason or another, it usually doesn't diminish the craving for the things that I actually wanted to eat at the time but didn't have it in the house. :)

Now while I can come up with meal ideas at the drop of a hat, I'm often at a loss when it comes to snacks. It's probably because the bar for my "snack expectations" are set a tad too high. :)

A lot of times it's not so much that I don't know what I want, but rather that I'm doing my best to make healthy choices but also still want to feel "satisfied" by something that tastes yummy. And since a snack is bite-sized & momentary (unlike a meal, which typically lasts a whole lot longer!), it has to live up to a tall order in a short time frame. :)



So, if you've got any good ideas for healthy, tasty snacks, I'd really love to hear them. Thanks!

Some brief "snack" criteria (Yes, I'm kinda picky!):
1. The snack should be something tasty, healthy, & relatively low-fat, or if it's higher in fat content, then it should atleast contain mostly "good fats" (like Omega-3s, etc.), which are typically vegetable or nut-based fats (i.e., mono- & polyunsaturated fats).
2. I'm not really into eating meats for snacks, so please don't suggest them. Thanks! I do eat meat on occasion, but it's mostly a lunch or dinner thing. I think I might've once eaten left-over steak for breakfast (several years ago!), but it was most likely because I'd probably gotten up around lunchtime. I wonder if this was a memory from my days at university. :) At any rate, it's not exactly a recent trend.....
3. I like salty, sweet, sour, & savory flavors, (& often like combinations of these multiple taste sensations) but tend to stay away from things that taste out-&-out bitter. In other words, I won't be eating Bitter Melon again anytime soon. But hey, give me credit, I did try it. :)
4. It'd be great if the snack could be easily portable, but it doesn't have to be.
5. I'm a huge fan of crunchy snacks, but again, the snack idea doesn't have to be crunchy. :) Speaking of which, please don't suggest carrot & celery sticks, rice cakes, or air-popped popcorn. Let's be a bit more creative than that, OK?
6. Also, I don't mind cooking or baking, or an elaborate assembly/preparation. What I'm looking for is something that I can preferably make in advance & eat later as a snack. :) Taste & health are of paramount importance.

I know it sounds like I'm stating a lot of preferences here, but sometimes it's easier to think of ideas when the critera isn't so wide-open. It helps to focus the mind on specifics. :)

So, if you've got any great go-to snack ideas that make your tastebuds scream with delight, now those are the kinds of snack suggestions I'd like to hear!

Thanks so much in advance for your suggestions!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

3 Recipe #37: A Very Vibrant Vichyssoise

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This is vichyssoise like you've never had it before! Not only is it more interesting & flavorful than the traditional version, but I've also reworked it so it's also lower in fat. It's so incredibly creamy & delicious that you won't believe that the recipe doesn't contain any cream.

I made it earlier tonight for dinner & it was delicious! Hope you enjoy it too!


A Very Vibrant Vichyssoise

Ingredients:
2 leeks, sliced (crosswise) into 1/4" rounds
1 Tbsp. butter
3 c. water
2 large red potatoes, peeled & cubed
1/2 pint mushrooms, sliced into quarters
2 Tbsp. sherry
1/4 c. lite nonfat creamer (i.e., I use low-fat, plain-flavored "Coffeemate")
1/4 c. low-fat plain soymilk (i.e., I use low-fat, plain-flavored, refrigerated "Silk" soy milk)
1 Tbsp. lemon juice
1 Tbsp. chopped chives (fresh, if possible)
salt & pepper to taste

Directions:
(1) Toss butter & leeks into a sauce pot & cook gently until they soften, for about a minute or so. Leeks will cook very quickly, so watch them carefully & do not let them brown or burn.
(2) Add water & cubed potatoes & cook for 15 minutes.
(3) Then add mushrooms & sherry & cook for another 15 minutes.
(4) Remove sauce pot from heat & transfer contents to blender. (Don't use a food processor, or mixture will become gummy.)
(5) Add creamer, soy milk, & lemon juice.
(6) Season with salt & pepper.
(7) Blend mixture until smooth.
(8) Pour mixture into soup bowls, & garnish with chives.
(9) Serve & enjoy!

Yield: Makes 2 servings.

Chefs Suggestions: If you'd like to give the soup a bit more "zing," then just add several springs of watercress (about 1-2 c.). A little bit of watercress goes a long way; too much & the soup will taste bitter. So easy does it. ;-)


0 If You Like This Blog, Please Consider Subscribing to the Feed! ;-)

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0 You've Got To Check Out TasteSpotting.com!

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OMG, I just discovered the pantheon of all foodie sites, TasteSpotting.com. Have any of you ever heard of this site before?! It's absolutely amazing. It contains links to a zillion recipe sites -- mostly blogs -- & has the most amazing pictures of food I've seen.

It's more or less a composite recipe site in which you can register (for free) & submit recipes from your blog to share with the foodie community at large. In addition to being a great place to exchange recipes, it's also an excellent place to discover new recipe blogs & of course showcase your own recipe blog.

The pictures alone will make your mouth water. After looking at this site, you'll want to dive into the kitchen & take these recipes for a test drive. So be sure to check it out! You'll be really glad you did!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

3 Why Exercising & Eating Healthy Are Only Part of The Equation

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OK, so you eat healthy foods & exercise regularly. That's great & I applaud you for it.

And you limit the amount of fat, caffeine, alcoholic beverages, & refined sugars in your diet. Again, excellent work. Pat yourself on the back & give yourself a cookie. Er, well, perhaps I should rephrase that. ;-) Well, you know what I mean.....

And now let me ask this, how many of you who eat healthfully & limit your refined sugar intake wonder why you still get cavities? Anyone?

Well, for those of you who want to know the answer to that question, I'm here to clear up that little mystery. ;-) Even if you don't have cavities, you might still want to read this article, to learn ways to stay cavity-free.

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Limiting the amount of sugar in your diet doesn't mean you won't get cavities. (While genetics & other biological issues can certainly be factors in determining one's likelihood of getting cavities, for now let's just focus on factors within our immediate control. ;-)

You might be surprised to know that sugary foods aren't the only source of cavities. All carbohydrates -- and not just sugar -- can contribute to the situation. And that means even foods like milk, pasta, rice, & fruit!



Right about now you might very well be wondering: "So, if even the most basic carbohydrates can cause cavities, what the heck am I supposed to eat that's good for me?" Or, maybe you're thinking: "Why exactly is this so & what can I do about it?!"

Well first, it might help to understand how a cavity is formed: The bacteria in your mouth combines with the carbs you eat to form dental plaque. This substance accumulates on the surfaces of the teeth, between the teeth, & sometimes even on your tongue. Yuck!

But the real culprit is the acid formed by the carb-plaque combo, which attacks your tooth enamel & can cause tooth decay. The acidic plaque eats away at the enamel, dissolving the calcium in the tooth. If enough calcium disappears, the surface breaks & forms a hole. And that's how cavities form.


Of course, if follows that the more often you eat carbs, then the more often this pesky cavity-causing acid's going to hang out on your teeth. So what can do you do about it? Easy. Whenever possible, brush your teeth & floss after meals! ;-) Aside from being a mark of good hygiene, regular brushing & flossing is absolutely essential for cavity prevention. Even if you can't brush or floss, at the very least, it's a good idea to rinse your mouth with water, to dislodge food particles from your teeth.

There are several other things you can do to combat cavities. Aside from suggesting ridiculous ideas like eating less often (Eating several small snacks & meals a day actually helps regular blood sugar & is also a good deterrent to eating imbalances, to avoid overeating or gravitating towards unhealthy foods, etc.) or going on a no-carb diet (Hahahaha! Don't worry, I'm not going to suggest that! We all need to eat some form of carbohydrates for health & nutritional balance; veggies also contain carbs, BTW!), here are some other, more realistic recommendations:

  • Choose snacks that are less likely to get caught in your teeth. ;-) (Low-fat cheese or apple slices with peanut better are some good examples.)
  • At the very least, brush your teeth a minimum of twice a day with a fluoride toothpaste.
  • Floss atleast once a day to remove plaque & food particles from teeth & under the gum line.
  • Go the dentist regularly.
  • Eat a balanced diet.

Now that you are armed to the teeth with information (Pun intended! ;-) ) & perhaps even a newfound respect for dental hygiene, it's time to show those nefarious pieces of plaque that you mean business, just like our cavity-fighting hero pictured here on the immediate left. "Yeeee-haw!" ;-) So go get 'em, tiger. It's a show-down at the OK Corral, with you wielding your toothbrush like a six-shooter & your floss like a lasso. ;-)

0 Dr. Frankenstein's in the Kitchen! ;-)

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"It's, it's ALIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!" ;-)

So, I was just wondering: How many of you out there in the blogosphere enjoy concocting new creations in the kitchen? Do you ever create your own original recipes, or mostly just put a new twist on existing ones? Just how experimental ARE you?! ;-)

Friday, April 25, 2008

0 Bloggers, Get Your Blog Listed At The Million Blog List!

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I just wanted to encourage my fellow bloggers to join the Million Blog List Project. (BTW, if you're curious, this blog is #1042 on the list.) Of course, the goal is to reach 1 million blogs, but it's also a directory where you can get more visibility for your blogs. So check it out!



Also, I just wanted to encourage the rest of my blogger pals out there who aren't already connected to me via Facebook or some other social networking communities (you know who you are), to befriend me on these communities, if you haven't already done so. To find me on these social networks, just click on any of the links on the Wink widget at the bottom of the left sidebar of this blog & that'll take you to the corresponding profile page where you can befriend/link to me.

Another great idea for bloggers is to use this blog's Wink bar as a checklist for the social networking communities you'd like to join! ;-) The more places to list your blog(s) the better, right?! ;-) Just thought you might find this tip helpful!

Speaking of which, if you have a particularly good blog directory resource you'd like to share, one which isn't already mentioned here on this blog, you're more than welcome to share it with us here in the comments section of this post. I'm sure that the bloggers who hang out here would certainly be grateful for the tips! Thanks!

Friday, April 18, 2008

0 How to Conquer A Sugar Addiction

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I'm not going to deny it. I love sweets. Most people do.

However, I also realize that if I were to eat a diet high in refined sugars, I wouldn't exactly be doing myself any favors either.

Of course, the trick is to eat it in moderation.

Too much sugar over prolonged periods of time can have deleterious effects upon your health & physiology, as most of you already full-well know. It can wreak havoc with your skin (i.e., prematurely aging it!), teeth, and waistline, etc., to name just a few areas of the body. And of course, there are more serious medical consequences, like diabetes and reactive hypoglycemia. Refined sugar has even been linked to increased risks for various diseases and cancers.

So, it's clear that regulating one's refined sugar intake is a crucially important health matter indeed. Even regulating one's intake of natural sugars is equally important in maintaining health. The point is not to replace a "refined sugar high" with a natural one, but to find balance in your dietary plan. And that's such an essential key to health & well-being. After all, they don't call it a balanced diet for nothing. ;-)

It's not exactly an earth-shattering conclusion to recognize that most health problems, and life problems in general, are caused by imbalance. So, it makes sense that the more balance in your life, the healthier & possibly even happier you will hopefully be!

But I'm not here to scare you witless; I'm here to offer some helpful suggestions & alternatives.

[I loathe fear tactics: Giving people a good scare rarely usually only has a temporary effect upon people's consciences, unless they are facing immediate mortal danger, like a serious health crisis, etc. Rather, my point is this: Why wait until it gets that dire? (Physicians, and people in general, need to put more emphasis on practicing preventative medicine!)]

So, if you know you are eating way too much refined sugar in your diet, it's probably worth reconsidering your eating behaviors & making a concerted effort to limit (note, I didn't say completely eliminate!) the amount of sugar in your diet, so that you can enjoy good health & stay on this earth for as long as possible.

The big problem is that many people find eating refined sugar incredibly addictive. And like a junkie, it takes greater & greater concentrations of the substance to achieve the same effect.

In specific, there's been a lot of recent debate over whether or not high fructose corn syrup (or HFCS as it's mostly commonly called) is really the "crack of all sweetners" out there. It's been linked to increased sugar cravings & also an increase in obesity (as per studies done of female & male subjects in the United States).

But putting all of that aside for a moment, let's just focus upon a common sense point: HFCS is a molecularly-altered, chemical compound not found in nature. And do you really want to put something into your body that we still apparently doesn't know that much about?

Some of you might hedge your bets & take your chances, but I'll stick to eating whole foods as much as humanly possible, thank you very much.

Of course, I'm certainly not immune from the "sugar addiction" phenomenon either, but I've worked out a "deal" with myself so that things don't get out of hand. So to keep the sugar cravings in check, I have a "weekend fun food" guideline, where I allow myself the weekend to indulge in "reasonable amounts" of sugar/sweets. When the weekend ends, so does the bulk of my sugar/sweets-eating. While I'm not always successful in keeping the "deal" -- it honestly depends upon my larger motivations -- it certainly does help immensely to have a food "guideline" for managing the cravings. Note, I didn't say food "rule," which would imply an immutable rigidity. ;-) When I'm not in training, this weekend guideline might also include an occasional alcoholic beverage as well.

Realistically, I know that sometimes it's not always possible to always eat organic, whole foods especially when I'm not the person preparing the food & cooking meals. But I'm still going to try to do my best.

Basically, if I were to have an "eating credo," the tenets would be the along the following lines:
(1) To eat a full & balanced diet of whole organic foods, rich in lean proteins & Omega complex fatty acids, non rBST (i.e., bovine growth hormone) dairy foods, legumes, vegetables, fruits, & whole grains, etc.
(2) To eat consciously, slowly savoring my food -- & to enjoy the experience of eating. This means that when I eat, I am ONLY eating, not simultaneously watching TV or reading.
(3) To eat whole organic foods & to avoid putting chemicals in my body. After all, the body is a temple. ;-)
(4) To eat consciously & free myself from the crazed notion of having to be a "health-food saint" 24/7 & instead enjoy the occasional treat (i.e., french fries, chocolate, etc.). At times, I give myself permission to eat what I want & not just "what I think I should eat." This doesn't mean that I consume unlimited amounts of food, but rather that I've got some established guidelines concerning portion sizes, to help maintain nutritional balance, as well as a healthy weight & body fat percentage.
(5) To create meals & original recipes that follow the above guidelines, to serve as a complement to my nutritional/health goals. ;-)

So, in keeping with tenet #5, you'll notice that I frequently feature recipes on this blog that use healthy alternatives to refined sugar. Yes, you might occasionally still see a recipe here or there that happens to contain refined sugar -- usually in limited amounts, but whenever & wherever possible, I will also include suggestions for sugar substitutes & ingredients which are "natural sweeteners" like honey, stevia, etc.

You'd be surprised how yummy recipes can taste with other naturally sweet ingredients. If you tasted these recipes without knowing the ingredients beforehand, you might not even notice the difference! You'll find it hard to believe that they contain not a smidgen of refined sugar. Yes, my new catch phrase for this post is "I can't believe it's not sugar!" ;-)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

0 Have Some Cookies, And Munch On The Label While You're At It!

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Now check this out! Now you can read the nutritional content of your cookie on the actual cookie. Yes, you heard me correctly. And no, I'm not making this up.

Design company Andrew Andrew is selling these 4" x 5" cookies at a cost of $25 per 2 cookies. Whoah. I wonder how many they've sold (especially at that price)?

It could be a good idea from the consumers' perspective. After all a good customer is an informed customer, etc., etc.

Who knows? Maybe people will eat a cookie like this. That is, if reading the contents doesn't stop you dead in your tracks first. But maybe people won't stop long enough to read the label because they're too busy eating it! ;-)

My question is this: Will printing the nutritional information directly on the cookie deter people from actually eating the cookie? There are 13 grams of fat in a single cookie. Hmmm, that'd make me think twice before eating it. ;-)

Also, I don't know about the overall appeal of this cookie: Aside from turned off after seeing how many fat calories I'd potentially be pasting onto my hips, these cookies frankly aren't that aesthetically pleasing to the eye. That's part of the delight of eating desserts, after all. (And of course, if you're going to blow the calories, it'd better taste good too!) A big rectangular cookie with a giant label on it? Sounds more like a sales gimmick that Andy Warhol would have a field day recreating as a tongue-in-cheek joke (i.e., he'd probably do a silk-screen mosaic of the cookies in 10 different colors!), rather than a seriously viable marketing concept.

Just what we've always wanted, edible labels, right?! LOL. What will they possibly think of next?!

But what I want to know is this: Do they factor in the label when they're counting calories & other such nutritional data? ;-)

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(Apparently, this isn't exactly breaking news, but since it's the first I've heard of it, it's certainly news to me! After all, it's not exactly the stuff of headlining, front pages news. ;-) But one can never tell with so many info-tainment news programs these days!)

Saturday, April 12, 2008

0 Recipe #36: North Indian-Style Omelette -- Eggs For The Adventurous!

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Don't know about you, but every once in a while, I get tired of eating the same kind of omelettes with the same old ingredients. Most omelette recipes you'll see in typical American cookbooks or online recipe archives will have ingredients like tomatoes, cheese, & vegetables (i.e., usually onions, spinach, mushrooms, peppers, and the like). The origins of these recipes are typically American (particularly Continental and Southwestern American), Spanish, English, and French. There's nothing wrong with that, but sometimes it just gets a little.... predictable. So every once and a while, I like to shake it up and toss in something unusual. ;-)

I realize that not all of you will fancy the idea of the below recipe, as it's undoubtedly different from what many of you might be accustomed to eating, but I ask that you keep an open mind and give the concept a chance before you dismiss it. You never know, you might discover, that by trying this recipe, that you've found a new favorite dish to make.

It's been taste-tested in my household (I made it last night for dinner), and it came back with a green light. And those of you who regularly follow this blog, already know that my household has some fairly discerning "customers" to please. ;-)

So, if you are an omelette lover, enjoy Indian dishes & spices, have an adventurous palate & are up for something a little bit out of the ordinary, there's a very good chance you'll like this recipe. The great thing about this recipe is also super-fast & easy, & takes less than 5-10 minutes to make. And with that introduction, I give you the recipe for an "North Indian-Style Omelette"!


North Indian-Style Omelette

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. butter
3 eggs
1 dried red chili, crushed
1 tsp. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. raw almond slivers
1 tsp. garam masala (or if you don't have this, you can use red curry powder instead -- i.e., "McCormick's Gourmet Collection Blends" makes a decent version)
1 Tbsp. finely chopped fresh cilantro
salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Crack eggs into a bowl, & beat together.
2. Add all remaining ingredients -- save the butter -- to the bowl & mix together thoroughly.
3. Heat nonstick skillet (or omelette pan) to medium-high heat & add butter.
4. After butter melts, pour egg mixture into the pan. After omelet starts to solidify, fold over & cook until golden brown. Serve & enjoy!

Yield: Makes a single serving. (If needed, double, triple, or quadruple recipe, etc.)

Chef's Notes:
Tips for the health-conscious: You can also add a bit of Lite non-dairy creamer to add richness. It's a great way to add a fuller flavor without the fat calories. Also, if you'd like to reduce fat calories, you can make an egg-white omelette or leave out the butter. Of course, if you leave out the butter, you'll need to make the omelette in a non-stick pan; Calphalon makes great non-stick pans that aren't made with Teflon. As many of you already know, Teflon pans contain a chemical known as perfluorooctanoic acid (or PFOA), which is potentially unhealthy, especially since it's been known to peel off & bond to food. Now while the verdict's still out on PFOA's long-term effects, it's probably best not to chance it. Think about it. Would you want a substance like that in your stomach? I certainly wouldn't. In general, I try to steer away from ingesting chemical compounds whenever I can help it, whether they be found in food, the air, or household objects. ;-) )

On that note, I don't use non-stick aerosol sprays like PAM & the like, for the very same reason.

IMPORTANT: If you aren't used to cooking with hot chilis or high-heat spice blends, I'd particularly recommend using a mild garam masala the first time you make this dish, especially since this recipe also calls for a red chili, which already gives the dish plenty of heat. You can always add more spice to the dish after you are done cooking it, by sprinkling some red pepper flakes on top. Or, alternatively, if you want to use a hotter garam masala, there's always a next time around. ;-)

After all, you want to make sure that the dish is still edible! That reminds me of the first time I ever cooked with chilies: Several years ago, (it's probably been more than 10 years at this point!), I made an atomically hot daal dish that practically took my fiancé's head off. I'll give him credit: He's stuck by me & by my food, through thick & thin. Even after surviving some of my worst culinary catastrophes. ;-)

I'm telling you this story not to scare you (LOL!), but rather to humble myself before you & tell you that even the most experienced & creative chefs have a few dynamic disasters every now & then. I firmly believe that, you've got to live on the edge & push the boundaries every now & then, especially if you want to be exceptionally creative in the kitchen. Even if you've been cooking for 40 years, you still have to experiment if you want to discover new & exciting combinations. For as much as you do know, it's what you don't know or haven't yet discovered that'll keep the prospect of cooking fresh & exciting.

So, if you're gonna go for it in the kitchen, do it with a grand relish. Even if that means you'll clock up some potentially embarrassing, marvelously heinous creations every now & then. When you fail, fail fantastically & do it without remorse or excessive apology. It's simply a way to learn what works & what doesn't. It's also the pathway to achieving extraordinary things in the kitchen, & in life in general.

And in this life, it's rare to have grand successes without experiencing grand "failures" along the way. Otherwise, if everything was all safe & perfect all the time, how would you truly learn? What would be the point of living without the unexpected & a little adventure? So live a little.

0 Cowgirl, You Got Something "Yummy!" ;-)

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I happened to be poking around the web researching some things for my JCrewaholics blog, when I came upon this really cute & clever blog written by a woman named Tara called "Cowgirl, You Got Something." Tara writes in a very entertaining manner, & her blog is sprinkled with amusing anecdotes, recipes, & fashion.

Of course, the primary reason why I'm mentioning her blog here is, of course, because of the recipes. She recently posted a fantastic-looking recipe entitled Moroccan Chickpea Salad. YUM!

I happened on her blog quite randomly, after doing a search for pictures of JCrew items from the previous season (i.e., Winter 2007). I first saw the above recipe on her main page (as it was a fairly recent post), but then found more after browsing her archives.

Her recipes look great & I was so delighted to find more! Another delicious-looking recipe of hers that I'd like to reference here in this post is a recipe for (Slow-Cooked) Thai Chicken. Not sure if it's an original of hers or not, but nonetheless, it looks absolutely DELICIOUS!

I hope she posts more!

Saturday, March 15, 2008

1 Recipe #35: Whiskey Shrimp A-Go-Go!

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Next up, an original dish made with whiskey, which I've named "Whisky Shrimp A-Go-Go."

I just realized that the order in which I've posted these recent booze-infused recipes thus far is almost identical to the one rattled off in that old George Thorogood song. All you classic rock folks will know the one I'm talking about: "...One Bourbon, one whiskey, one beer. Ah-wah-hah-hah-hah......" ;-)

(Well, to be fair, those aren't the exact lyrics. It's actually, "...one Bourbon, one Scotch, & one beer." But close enough! And anyhow, I didn't exactly have a bottle of Scotch just lying around my house to use as the basis for my next recipe. ;-) )

But let's return to original subject of this post: Whiskey & shrimp. I made the aforementioned "Whiskey Shrimp A-Go-Go" dish for dinner earlier tonight & it was another smashing success. So, below is that delicious recipe, for all of you to enjoy:


Whiskey Shrimp A-Go-Go (Shrimp Stir Fry)

Ingredients:
1/8 c. sesame oil
2 cloves garlic, finely minced
1 c. blended whiskey
1/2 pint mushrooms, sliced into 1/4" thick pieces
salt, to taste
1 lb. shrimp, peeled & deveined, with tails removed
1/8 c. rice wine vinegar
1/4 c. Lite (low-sodium) soy sauce
2 inch piece of fresh ginger root, peeled & sliced julienne (NOTE: Can also use 1 tsp. dried ginger)
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1/2 tsp. red chili flakes (optional; for a hotter dish, add 1 tsp. instead)
2 Tbsp. sesame seeds
6 green scallions, finely sliced

Directions:

1. Heat a wok (or skillet) to medium-high heat. Add sesame oil & garlic. Cook for 1-2 minutes, but do not let garlic brown.
2. Add 1/2 c. whiskey to deglaze pan.
3. Then add sliced mushrooms, & sprinkle salt on top help remove moisture.
4. After mushrooms have cooked, add shrimp, stirring often.
5. Immediately following, add rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, & remaining 1/2 c. of whiskey.
6. Next, add the ginger root, & stir.
7. Sprinkle freshly ground pepper, & red pepper flakes (if using) on top of the shrimp. Mix well.
8. Cook shrimp until they turn pink. NOTE: Shrimp will cook fairly quickly, so be sure to watch the stove, so they don't overcook.
9. Divide into 2 portions & put on a plate. Garnish each portion with sesame seeds & scallions, & serve. Enjoy!

Yield: Makes 2 servings.

0 Recipe #34: Honey-Glazed Bourbon Chicken (Au Nouveau) - A Fresh Reinterpretation of An Old Southern Classic....

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As promised, I'm now (at long last!) going to post the first of two Bourbon-inspired recipes,"Honey Glazed Bourbon Chicken," which is a recipe I worked up on the fly as I was trying to figure out what I was going to make for dinner last evening. (As I was pondering this question, my eyes just so happened to land on a bunch of Bourbon bottles resting on top of my bar area, et le voilà, an idea was born. ;-) )

The recipe is a new twist on an old Southern favorite, "Bourbon Chicken." The two of us had it for dinner last night & OMG, was it amazingly delicious!!!! So you lucky ducks, you! (LOL); in just a few moments, I'm going to be sharing that little gem of a recipe with you..... Hot off the presses, taste-tested, & given the seal of approval by its author & her significant other alike. [And let me tell you, this author's fiancé has a very discerning palate (not much escapes his notice) & is quite straightforward & fair in his assessments. At times, the author of this blog wishes that the delivery of these opinions wasn't always quite so straightforward (LOL), but atleast it's good to know that he'll always give me an honest opinion when asked. After all, a well-intentioned, constructive critique, when it is of the solicited kind, can be educational, character-building, & ultimately good for the soul. ;-) ]

Anyhow, as many of you probably already know, "Bourbon chicken" is a famous recipe that's often associated with Cajun-style cooking, BBQ, & Louisiana -- more specifically, Bourbon Street in New Orleans, which is also the origin of its namesake. Chinese restaurants also have been to known to serve a version of it as well. (In addition to the obvious ingredients of Bourbon whiskey & chicken, the traditional recipe also typically incorporates ingredients commonly used in, & associated with, Chinese cooking -- i.e., soy sauce, ginger, garlic, vinegar, corn starch, & brown sugar.)

My original recipe was created in the spirit of the classic Southern-style Bourbon chicken, retaining its tangy, spicy, & sweet flavors, but also adds some new ingredients & textures, & is a tad bit healthier than its more traditional incarnation as well. (Yes, even with all that booze! ;-) ) I hope you enjoy it! We sure did!

So now you've heard all of the backstory from the past 2 posts, & have waited ever so patiently, I bet you just can't take it any longer. Are bursting with anticipation yet?! Heheheheh. Anyhow, enough anecdotes for one day already (!), let's get straight to the recipe:

Honey-Glazed Bourbon Chicken (Au Nouveau)

Ingredients:
1 Tbsp. butter
2 shallots, diced
1/2 of 1 red onion, diced
1 c. Kentucky Straight Bourbon whiskey (i.e., Old Grand Dad, etc.)
1 lb. boneless chicken breasts, defatted
1/2 tsp. dried tarragon leaves
1/2 tsp. thyme
2 tsp. dried parsley leaves
1/4 tsp. lemon peel
juice of 1 lemon (Use fresh, not bottled/from concentrate!)
1/8 c. toasted, slivered almonds
4-6 large (fresh) mushrooms, sliced into 1/4" thick pieces
1 tsp. honey
1/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1/4 tsp. pepper, or to taste
1 dried red chili, crushed (optional)

Directions:
1. Chop onions & shallots & put aside.
2. Slice mushrooms & put in a bowl.
3. Wash & slice chicken breasts into small strips, & put aside.
4. Melt butter over medium heat. Add onions & shallots. Cook until translucent, but do not allow them to brown.
5. Deglaze pan by adding 1/2 c. Bourbon.
6. Toss in mushrooms & season with salt to aid in evaporation of moisture. Cook until mushrooms are soft but do not let them shrivel or burn.
7. Add chicken strips & then pour in remaining 1/2 c. of Bourbon.
8. Next add lemon juice & peel, & all remaining spices (taragon, thyme, parsley, black pepper, & chili pepper if using).
10. Stir often, cooking chicken on each side for about 3 minutes, or just until chicken is mostly cooked, but still has a warm pink center. Be sure to drizzle each side with honey when you flip the chicken over. IMPORTANT: At this stage, you don't yet want to cook the chicken all the way through.
11. If need be, gradually add a bit more Bourbon as the chicken cooks to keep it moist. Let the alcohol cook down until there's no more than a 1/2" layer of liquid covering the bottom of the pan. Mixture should have a sauce-like consistency, but not be as thick as ocean-liner sludge. ;-)
12. Let chicken cook until warm pink center gradually disappears. When you're done cooking, the chicken should still be soft! Set aside.
13 Toast almond slivers (in a toaster oven) for about a minute or two. Slivers will cook really fast, so be sure to watch them carefully so they don't burn.
14. Divide chicken into 2 portions & place on plates. Sprinkle toasted almond slivers on top of chicken & serve. Enjoy!

Yield: Makes 2 servings.

Chef's Notes & Suggestions: As alluded to above, I used Old Grand Dad, which is 86 Proof Kentucky straight Bourbon whiskey. You can probably get away with using any type of Bourbon whiskey, & could even substitute regular whiskey as well.

This chicken recipe would be great on the BBQ, especially during those warm summer months.

3 Booze 101: A (Not-So-)Brief History Of Bourbon Whiskey......

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Like that title? I'm sure some of you are probably thinking, "Too bad they didn't offer course in college? I would've passed with flying colors." Hahahahaha. But this little history lesson isn't about recording one's own personal drinking history. LOL! It's about the history of booze itself, more specifically Bourbon whiskey.

As a continuation on the previous post's theme, I decided it would fitting to write a little piece on the history of Bourbon whiskey, & in the process, learn something about a subject that, only just moments ago, I'd professed to know next to nothing about. Have to say that I learned a lot through my research. And no, not THAT kind of research! ;-) I mean actual research, as in books & online references.

OK, so let's start with the basics. Many of you might already know that Bourbon whiskey is frequently associated with Kentucky, & other parts of the South. You might also know that it's typically distilled from grains like corn, wheat, rye, & barley. And if you're really savvy, you might even know that there are US federal regulations requiring that, in order for a whiskey to be labelled true "Bourbon whiskey," it must be made in the US, be 100% natural, consist of atleast 51% corn, be distilled to no more than 160 (U.S.) proof, & meet various other requirements. If you know all that without having to look it up, I will now congratulate you & say, "Man, you are good. I'm really impressed you know that off the top of your head." Either that or you work in the distillery business. ;-)

But what you might NOT know is that Bourbon whiskey did NOT actually originate in Bourbon County, Kentucky, as it's so commonly thought, but rather in another county in Kentucky altogether. And no, I am not playing some kind of inane April Fool's trick on you, even though April is still almost 2 1/2 weeks away.

Shocking, I know. ;-)

Yes, I do realize that most of the world refers to Bourbon county, Kentucky, as "the birthplace of Bourbon whiskey." In fact, if you google the word "Bourbon whiskey," you'll see several of these erroneous references to this supposedly "well-documented fact," plastered all over the internet (i.e., Wikipedia, etc.) & probably other offline sources as well.

Well, now you can tell anyone who repeats this little fallacy that they're all dead wrong & that this commonly-held notion is complete & utter rubbish. ;-)

And here's why..... The honor of that claim (i.e., the true & rightful birthplace of Bourbon whiskey) apparently goes to Fort Harrod, which in 1774 -- the year commonly attributed to Bourbon whiskey's birth -- was then part of Lincoln County, Kentucky. Back then, Bourbon County didn't even exist. Bourbon County was first formed in 1785, & at that point in American history, it was actually part of the State of Virginia. It was brought into being by the Virginian state legislature, whose members decided to slice off a piece of Fayette county & retitle it "Bourbon County." ;-)

Now, while it IS true that Bourbon whiskey has been brewed in Bourbon County for quite a long time, this fact was purely coincidental & had nothing to do with its true place of origin. Furthermore, the distilling of whiskey was no mean an exclusive practice of the region. According to historians, by the time Bourbon county came into being, there were already several distillers throughout Kentucky who were well-versed in the art of making whiskey.

So, first came the drink, then came the county. And neither began with any connection to the other. [Yup, you heard me correctly! "So how about them apples?!" ;-)] It was only until much later that an association was imposed upon the two entities, forever linking them together in the minds of Kentuckians & consumers everywhere. (More on that later.) To some, this revelation might seem like splitting hairs, while others might not really care, but it's still the truth! ;-)

Even though I'm sure it'd be much less of a bother for people to go on believing the less-complicated, albeit fallacious, version of this story -- it'd certainly be a whole heck of a lot easier to remember, & at first glance, appears logical enough -- it would be irresponsible of me or anyone else to suggest otherwise.

But of course, history is more complex than that. It also has this funny little way of being convoluted & inconvenient, & doesn't always end the way we'd like. It would be rather nice if it came wrapped in a pretty little package, but it's not always as nice & neat as we would often like it to be. And sometimes what we'd like to call historical fact is really just a myth repeated over & over to the point where the repetition of a statement in perpetuam is eventually believed as fact. Don't even get me started on the purported "facts" surrounding the origins of pizza, the inventor of the Vigenère cipher [commonly misattributed to -- you guessed it -- a man by the name of (Blase de) Vigenère], the discovery of America, or Paul Revere's "midnight ride." ;-)

But let's return to our story...... So, if Bourbon whiskey didn't originate in Bourbon county, then why do people still associate it with this area? What gives? Where did the name "Bourbon whiskey" really come from? Well, all shall be revealed very shortly, I promise.

It all began with a region once referred to as "Old Bourbon" & the early exportation practices of one of its most popular products, whiskey.

"Old Bourbon" was a term originally used to describe the geographic location of the original Bourbon county as it was first established in 1785, which encompassed a vast region of Kentucky, (basically all of the land to the north, east, & southeast of Lexington). (This area was named after the French royal dynasty, The House of Bourbon, to demonstrate America's gratitude for their military aid during the Revolutionary War.) This area was later sub-divided into other, smaller counties. (To give you an idea of just how big this county once was, consider that 34 modern Kentucky counties were once part of the territory originally delineated as Bourbon county.) In the late 18th century, any barrels of whiskey from this general region were labelled as "Old Bourbon," regardless of their specific location within this territory. The stuff which came from this area was generally regarded as the best.

Around this time, whiskey also became the region's most important export, & out of financial necessity, farmers often found themselves resorting to the practice of distilling their crops as a way to stay economically viable. However, distilling wasn't done merely for the purpose of basic economic survival; it was also clearly a highly profitable venture, and so, not surprisingly, the whiskey business soon began to flourish. At the turn of the 18th century, there were more people distilling whiskey than you could shake a stick at, & pretty soon everybody & their grandmother was trying to get in on the act.

So eventually, people stopped referring to "Old Bourbon" as a geographical region, & the term instead became synonymous with the Bourbon whiskey product itself, as distillers in various other parts of Kentucky soon also took up the practice of labelling their barrels as "Old Bourbon," regardless of where it came from.

So, as you can see, the name of this legendary libation was, in fact, appropriated ex post facto by some rather shrewd distillers before the advent of patent law. ;-) Basically, it was an ingenious little piece of "early American" marketing -- as in "ye olde hype"(!) -- dreamed up by some rather clever & opportunistic Kentuckians, who were out to make a buck or two. ;-)

Hey, they knew a good thing when they saw it! The fact that the name of this distilled beverage has little to nothing to do with its true geographic origins wasn't about to stop these guys either. The way they saw it, it was just savvy marketing.

Probably one of them said to the other something like, "Hey, that 'Old Bourbon' whiskey coming down the Ohio River sells really well & is some pretty great stuff to boot. Wouldn't it be a great idea to call our whiskey 'Old Bourbon' too?! Now that would certainly help to drum up business, eh?!" And, thus we have an early American example of the copy-cat phenomenon. ;-)

Regardless, I'm sure these whiskey distillers found it incredibly convenient indeed to have a "Bourbon county" located in Kentucky! :-) (By the way, you might be interested to know that Kansas also has a Bourbon country, founded in 1855, which is named after the original one in Kentucky. Sorry, Kansas, I think someone already beat you to the punch for those booze-infused tourism dollars. ;-) Nice try though! JUST kidding.)

Anyhow..... By around 1840, the first descriptor ("old") was dropped & it just became known as "bourbon." (For some reason I'm very tempted to geek out & now find it difficult to restrain myself from reciting that infamous HHGTTG passage which begins, "Oh don’t give me no more of that Old Janx Spirit...." Any clueless people, please simply disregard the reference!) As I was saying, pretty soon people everyone had taken to calling their whiskey "bourbon," & it became rather confusing; so something had to be done about that! To distinguish the various types of whiskeys, the definition of "bourbon" was restricted to whiskeys that were predominately corn-based, in order to distinguish them from the other types of grain-based whiskeys like wheat & rye.

So why do people still persist in thinking that Bourbon whiskey comes from Bourbon county, Kentucky, even to this day? In the end, the real truth of the matter is this: Over time, much of the prior collective knowledge about the history of Bourbon whiskey was either forgotten or lost to the annals of history. And, as is the case with the passage of time, decade after decade went by, & after a good long while, the people who knew that sort of knowledge firsthand had pretty much all died out. There were suddenly a lot of people around who weren't at all familiar with the history of the region or the true origins of Bourbon whiskey.

Apparently, there weren't any job openings for "whiskey historian" back then. ;-)

Anyhow, due to the aforementioned reasons, people, in general, through basic ignorance or lack of curiosity about the heritage of the region, just began to assume that Bourbon whiskey was originally invented in Bourbon County, Kentucky, even though the association was, in truth, quite false & there was little supporting evidence to back up these foregone conclusions. In fact, I wouldn't be at all surprised if this myth persists to this day. (I imagine that perpetuation of such a falsehood could be, in varying turns, either deliberate or inadvertent, depending on the extenuating circumstances.) And, thus ends our little history lesson for today. Phew!

So how about that for a curious little factoid, which will surely impress all your friends & colleagues?! Who knows, maybe it'll come in handy the next time you play Trivial Pursuit?! Now you will have an interesting anecdote to tell people at parties whenever anyone raises a glass of Bourbon. ;-) I'm sure you'll be the life of the party with that story. ;-) Hahahahaha. But at the very least, it will surely be fun to freak out everyone else around you with this little known piece of trivia! Plus, you can show up all of those snooty know-it-alls who think they know everything there is to know about alcoholic spirits. ;-)

So, you're welcome for that little history lesson. Have a side-order history with that honey-glazed Bourbon chicken. ;-) (Yes, I promise, the recipe's coming up next!!!!)

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Footnote: The above story is a good illustration of the point that just because something might seem as if it's highly likely to be true (i.e., that two entities appear to have a correlation, etc.) doesn't mean it's necessarily so. ;-)

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