Friday, July 29, 2011

0 New Tag Cloud Category: Kid-Friendly Recipes

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I just got a request for healthy, kid-friendly recipes, which gave me an idea: Why not add this topic as a recipe category on this blog? So, if you've got kids or as taking care of someone else's kids for the day, and you're the one who'll be making their meals, here's yet another feature to simply the process of finding recipes that kids will enjoy. :-D

Anything that helps simplify our daily meal plans -- especially when it comes to cooking for kids, who can sometimes be finicky eaters --  has got to be a good thing, right? This new category ought to make parents very happy. :)

Happy Cooking,

Thursday, July 7, 2011

2 Recipe #277: Grilled Chicken Salad with Walnut-Dijon Vinaigrette

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Made this for dinner tonight. On sweltering hot and humid days like the ones we've been having lately (!), it feels especially good to eat light. :-D

Another nice thing about this salad is that much of the prep work can be done advance. That'll make the prep work seem to go by even faster, which means it'll be ready to eat a lot faster as well. ;)

Grilled Chicken Salad with Walnut-Dijon Vinaigrette

Chicken Marinade Ingredients:
1 lb. thinly sliced, skinless boneless chicken breasts, rinsed, defatted, tendons removed, patted dry, and then cut on the bias (i.e., diagonally and against the grain) into 1"x 2 1/2" strips*
1 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves
1/2 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1/2 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
1 tsp. paprika
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. onion powder
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (for coating the pan)

Salad Dressing Ingredients:
2 Tbsp. fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves
1/4 c. shallots, peeled and minced (about 1 medium-sized shallot)
2 Tbsp. (1/8 c.) walnut pieces, slightly crushed
1 Tbsp. fresh garlic, peeled and roughly chopped (about 2 large cloves)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 c. water
1/4 tsp. Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper chili flakes, or to taste

Salad Ingredients:
1 jumbo-sized heart of romaine, sliced crosswise into 2"-long sections
2 c. organic mixed (i.e., mesclun) spring greens
1/2 c. red bell peppers, sliced into 1 1/2" long strips
1/2 c. red onion, halved and then thinly sliced into crescent slivers (about 1/2 small red onion)
1 1/2 c. unpeeled cucumber, scored lengthwise with fork tines all the way around, sliced crosswise into 1/4" thick rounds & then halved (about 1 small cucumber)
2 Tbsp. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, shredded (optional)

Directions: Marinate the chicken first, preferably up to a day in advancePlace all chicken marinade ingredients -- minus the olive oil -- into a resealable plastic/Ziploc bag. Seal tightly and massage the spices and other marinade ingredients into the chicken from the outside of the bag. If you plan to serve the salad right away, set it aside. Otherwise, refrigerate. In either case, you should ideally allow the chicken to marinate for at least 30 minutes before serving time. (The longer you marinate the chicken, the more time the various flavors will have to meld together, which typically leads to a tastier outcome.)

Make salad dressing, which can also be made up to a day in advance: Place all salad dressing ingredients into a food processor and pulse until fully emulsified, about 1-2 minutes. It's OK for the walnuts to be pulverized into finely ground bits but avoid pulsing too much as the chopped pieces of shallots and garlic should still be recognizable. :) Please note, if you'll be making the dressing in advance and then refrigerating it, be sure to reconstitute the dressing with additional water when you remove it from the fridge, and then mix it all together until well-combined, as the refrigerator tends to dry out and thicken liquid ingredients.

Cook the chicken: About 10-15 minutes before cooking, remove bag of marinated chicken from the refrigerator, and set it aside to allow it to reach room temperature first before cooking. (This ensures even heat distribution so that the meat will be uniformly cooked.) Heat 1/2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil large (11"), square, nonstick grill pan (with a ridged/grooved bottom) on high heat until it glistens. (Test by flicking a small drop of water into the pan; if it sizzles, the pan is ready.) Reduce heat to low and add half of the chicken (i.e., 1/2 lb.) to pan, evenly spacing apart the chicken pieces so that they don't crowd the pan and will finish cooking at around the same time. Cook chicken  for 4-5 minutes per side, or until grill marks appear and chicken turns a nice, golden brown.* If oil starts to crackle and pop fairly often, then you'll probably need to turn down the heat a bit more; regardless, you might want to use a splatter guard. When chicken is ready, transfer to a plate and set aside to cool. Repeat procedure with remaining 1/2 lb. chicken and 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil.

Assemble salad: Meanwhile, while chicken is cooling, prep all of the vegetables for the salad and place them into a large salad bowl. Just before serving, add chicken (which should still be slightly warm), salad dressing (using only just enough to cover), and 2 Tbsp. shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (if using) to the salad bowl, and toss until dressing has been evenly distributed throughout. (Salad should be lightly coated with dressing, not drenched in it, so it's best to add a few tablespoonfuls at a time and then mix to avoid saturating salad. [Of course, it's a lot easier to add a small amount first and then, if need be, add more later, than the other way around. ;) ] If you have some leftover salad dressing, it's no big deal; just refrigerate it and reserve for future use.) Serve and enjoy!

Yield: 4 main course servings. (Each portion of salad should contain 4 oz. chicken, which is the typically recommended portion size per person per meal.)

Chef's Notes: *You could also try making the chicken in a George Foreman grill, to further reduce the amount of olive oil used in this recipe. (I haven't yet tried this technique for this particular recipe, but judging from my other "Foreman forays,"  I imagine it'll probably work fairly well.) Even if you select this particular grilling method, you'll probably still need to baste/brush the chicken with a small amount of olive oil on both sides, to keep it from sticking to the grill. Sometimes even food will stick to so-called nonstick surfaces. ;) Of course, the olive oil also helps to keep the chicken moist and also enhances its flavor. You don't need to use a lot, so this way, you can use it sparingly and still produce a quality end result.

I'd strongly advise against cooking the chicken in advance and then refrigerating it. Again, the refrigerator will dry out the chicken, and there's not much you can do to salvage it after that. ;) Of course, it'll taste immeasurably better fresh.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

2 Recipe #276: Blueberry-Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

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The other day a runner pal of mine, Penny (a.k.a., @southbaygirl), asked me if I had a recipe for oatmeal pancakes. I didn't, but of course, then offered to custom-create one just for her. Needless to say, Penny took me up on the offer. :-D So this morning, I decided to test out the recipe that I'd created and written the night before.

The funny thing is that I've never even made oatmeal pancakes before today, but since I'd already made other types of whole-grain pancakes in the past, I figured, how hard would it be to create another yet another variety? The same basic principles still apply, even if the ingredients for oatmeal pancakes might vary slightly from say, buckwheat or whole wheat pancakes. Also, it wasn't like I was really going out on a limb, like the time I'd created an original recipe for pumpkin pancakes, yet another dish I'd never made before until a friend requested a recipe for it. ;) I had even less to go on for that recipe, just my wits and culinary instincts, which thankfully didn't let me, or the aforementioned friend, down. LOL.

As for the recipe creation process for the oatmeal pancakes, I decided to go with blueberries as they seem to be made for pancakes. Whoever first thought of that classic combo was a genius. :) They provide the perfect flavor and texture contrast, and also won't caramelize in the pan like some other fruits do. I love how they get all warm and gooey as they cook. Yummmmmm.

I'm happy to report that my test batch of blueberry-oatmeal buttermilk pancakes was a rip-roarin' success! Otherwise, you wouldn't (yet) be seeing a recipe for them here. Haha. My general rule of thumb for recipe-posting is as follows: If at first you don't succeed, then don't post the recipe to the blog unless you do. ;) After all, it is I, and any willing family members (!), who are supposed to be the recipe guinea pigs, not you. Har. See, what sacrifices are being made so that you get only the results of my best efforts. ;)

The surprising thing about this recipe is there's not a drop of butter in the batter and yet it still tasted really good. Here's the secret to accomplishing this amazing little feat: It's actually the lowfat buttermilk that allowed me to get away with that. ;) I haven't yet tried using nonfat buttermilk for this recipe as the supermarket was all out of it at the time. However, I suspect that the batter might be a little bit drier, as a little fat might be need to keep the batter pliable, although I'd have to test that theory to be absolutely sure. From knowledge gained from past experiments, I can tell you that sometimes no-fat baking can lead to some rather rubbery results. ;) Of course, buttermilk does lend a lot of much-needed moisture to the batter, so it's hard to say without doing a trial run with the nonfat kind.

Here's yet another pretty cool thought: Not only does this recipe provides a fun and tasty way to get in your daily fiber, but the pancakes themselves don't even taste remotely like oatmeal, just pancakes. :) Personally, I think that's probably a good thing. :) While I do enjoy oatmeal as a breakfast cereal or as ingredient for an apple tart crust, I must admit that I was initially a bit concerned that the batter for the oatmeal pancakes wouldn't turn out so well -- i.e., as in dry, flavorless, &/or lumpy and such. ;)

Thankfully, that concern was quickly put to rest. The batter was smooth, and to my surprise, the end result was actually pretty darned tasty. The pancakes were moist and warm with just the right amount of spice and vanilla. They had tons of blueberries that melted in my mouth and oozed with flavor and sublime deliciousness. :)

So, thank you, Penny, for making this recipe request. :-D I hope that you, and everyone else who tries this recipe, will enjoy it!

Blueberry-Oatmeal Buttermilk Pancakes

1 large egg, beaten
3/4 c. lowfat buttermilk
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 Tbsp. honey
1 1/4 c. whole oats, finely ground (into oat flour) in a food processor
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/8 tsp. ground cardamom
1 c. fresh blueberries (if unavailable, fully thawed frozen ones will do)
1 Tbsp. (or less) unsalted butter (for lightly coating the pan)

Directions: Prepare the batter: In an electric mixing bowl, whisk together all of the liquid ingredients (i.e., the first 4 ingredients listed above). In a separate, medium-sized bowl, mix together all of the dry ingredients (i.e., the next 7 ingredients listed above), minus the blueberries, which should be well-washed and placed into a separate bowl. Then, empty the bowl of dry ingredients into the wet ingredients, gently whisking together on the lowest speed until just combined (i.e., until the dry ingredients become wet). Turn off mixer and add blueberries, gently folding them into the batter by hand.

Batter should be fluid and thick, but not lumpy. Be careful not to make the batter too wet, because this'll make the pancakes harder to flip. For the best results, use a light touch and be careful not to overmix batter or it'll be gluey and heavy and will yield stiff, unpalatable pancakes.

Make the pancakes: Heat pan over medium-high heat until a drop of water sizzles when dropped on the surface. Next, melt a 1/2 Tbsp. of butter in a (12-13"), nonstick sauté pan (or griddle). Then turn down heat to medium-low, quickly spreading the butter across the pan with a heat-proof pastry brush. Working in batches, quickly but carefully ladle out batter, about a 1/4 c. at a time, tilting the pan so that the batter forms a thin layer (or spreading batter with back of a spoon), and cook on medium heat for about 1 minute per side, or until small bubbles appear on the pancakes' surface and the undersides are golden brown. Repeat procedure with the remainder of the batter until all pancakes have been made. If necessary, melt and spread some of the remaining 1/2 Tbsp. butter across the pan/griddle between batches each time until it’s all used up. Try to fit as many pancakes as possible into the pan, while leaving yourself enough room to flip them, about 1/2" between pancakes. (Try not to crowd the pan, or it'll be a real challenge to flip the pancakes. ;) ) Stack pancakes on a warm plate (that's been heated in the microwave for a few seconds) to keep them warm while you are making the rest of the pancakes. Transfer pancake stacks to plates. Serve hot, with pure maple syrup or honey, (if desired).

Yield: 8 pancakes, about 3 1/2 - 4" in diameter each.

Chef's Notes: If you happen to make a few too many pancakes, not to worry; pancakes freeze well for future use. :) Pancakes can then be reheated in the oven, or even in the toaster oven, if they aren't too large for it.

I could've made these pancakes without adding any butter into the non-stick pan/griddle. However, even with nonstick cookware, a little bit of butter is needed to cook the pancakes, as it's the key to creating crisp edges. It also helps to give them a nice golden brown color and, of course, adds a bit of richness to their overall flavor. The amount of butter used is a very moderate amount; it's only a 1/2 Tbsp. per 4 or 8 pancakes, depending on whether you use the 1/2 Tbsp. or the full 1 Tbsp. You could possibly try making the pancakes without butter, but they might be a bit harder to flip. Whatever you do, don't try substituting a strongly flavored oil, especially one like olive oil, which doesn't complement the flavor of pancakes, and won't taste very good at all. Considering how healthy and lowfat the rest of the recipe ingredients are, a small amount of butter, in moderation, is perfectly fine.

Monday, July 4, 2011

0 Update: This Blog Has a New Domain Name,

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Woo-hoooo! I'm happy to announce that my new domains, and are now LIVE!

Current subscribers, please note that there's no need to resubscribe to these blogs. Your subscriptions will seamlessly carry on as before.

And, if you should perchance go to the old blogspot addresses, they will automatically forward to the new ones.

Now, the URLs are much easier to remember, shorter, and a lot faster to type. :) That'll probably make a lot of you even happier. :-D

If you're a new visitor to this site, I encourage you to check out the companion site,, which provides healthy gourmet recipes geared towards athletes and those living healthy, active lifestyles. The two sites are really meant to be utilized together, as complements to each another, because they form two parts of a greater whole. After all, healthy eating is only part of the equation. To get the most out of our healthy habits, we also need to stay active. :)


P.S. In other news, I should probably announce that, in addition to my upcoming cookbook, there's just another book project in the works: This is a collaboration with Brett Stewart (author of 7 Weeks to 50 Pull-ups) et al for the upcoming book, 7 Weeks to Ripped, which shows you how to achieve total body fitness using bodyweight exercises and "games" targeted at improving speed, flexibility, endurance and strength. My contribution is a chapter called "Fit Foods," in which I'll be debunking (sports) nutrition myths and providing a few healthy gourmet recipes geared towards overall health and total body fitness.

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