The Incredible Egg

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It’s very hip these days to throw an egg on most everything. Traveling through Southeast Asia in my twenties, was my first experience in seeing eggs on top of fried rice and noodle dishes.   I once ordered soup and they had floated a hard-boiled egg right in the middle.  In that region of the world, it seemed to be out of necessity.  Most Malaysians and Indonesians eat noodles for breakfast, and white rice for lunch and dinner.  They don’t get a lot of meat.  Most of the chickens they slaughter are past their prime, not the three month old plump ones we raise here in this country.  To kill a chicken that young would be wasteful to them, because the chicken can lays eggs.  The older chickens they eat are boiled for stock, and the small amount of meat is cut up and used almost like a garnish.  They don’t waste any of it, either.  The head, neck, and feet are eaten as well. So, whenever possible, they throw an egg on it.

Perhaps that’s where the recent trend here in the US has come from.  Southeast Asian food is very trendy these days.  Throwing an egg on top of it, however, has become a sign of excess, or gluttony.  Which the latter also seems to be a trend lately.  Order a burger with cheese and bacon, and why not fry an egg and throw it on top Pizza, crack an egg right in the center before cooking, and have all that eggy goodness ooze out when you slice it.

Somehow eggs got a bad rap back in the 80’s and 90’s.  Remember back when all fat was bad, and margarine and Snackwell cookies were good for us? Trans fats were unknown, and cholesterol was evil.  Eggs are actually quite good.  Cholesterol comes in good and bad forms nowadays, and eggs contain both.  They are full of protein and low in calories.  One hard-boiled egg is about 78 calories and 6 grams of protein.  Sure, they contain cholesterol, but as long as you don’t have issues, two eggs a day is perfectly fine. Dr. John Berardi, Ph.D, and founder of Precision Nutrition, says, “Unless you have diabetes, or a rare genetic disorder (Familial Hypercholestorolemia), eating a few eggs every day is not bad for you.” If you are still scared of the cholesterol levels, then bypass the yolks, or have one egg with yolks and two egg whites.  Egg whites are cholesterol free!

There are so many great local farms around raising superb eggs fresh out of the hen house and into your kitchen these days. Besides, eggs are about the coolest food out there.  What other food transforms in cooking quite the way an egg does?  Meat maybe?  Not really.  No, eggs are way cooler.  Think of what cookies or quick breads would be without eggs.  Shortbread is good, but where would the chocolate chip cookie be without our friend, the egg?  Have you ever made a meringue?  Now that’s some cool stuff.  It’s the base of most light and fluffy cakes.  Think Angel Food.  That’s a cake that is basically egg whites and sugar with a bit of flour sprinkled in.

I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing to throw an egg on top of your burger, or your pizza, or your burrito, or whatever.  When I eat eggs, I like them to be the star.  Especially in a clean and healthy eating sense, when I am not treating myself, eggs are a powerful ally. I like having them for my mid-morning snack.  Just two simple hard-boiled eggs with salt and pepper are delightful. Sauté up some kale or some spinach, and scramble some eggs right in.  Throw on a little hot sauce, and you got yourself a bona fide low calorie treat.  I also like to add them to my lunch or dinners in place of a meat protein.  A couple of chopped hard boiled eggs transforms a good spinach, or lettuce, or kale salad.  A nice pot of simmering broth with lots of veggies and a soft boiled egg is true comfort.

Bring water to the boil.  Once it starts to boil, set a timer for 8 minutes.

Bring water to the boil. Once it starts to boil, set a timer for 8 minutes.

When the timer goes off, immediately plunge the eggs in ice water.

When the timer goes off, immediately plunge the eggs in ice water.

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Preparation = Success. Snacks and lunch for the day.

How to Boil a Perfect Egg:

Place eggs in a sauce pan or pot and cover with cold water.Once the water comes to the boil, set a timer for eight minutes. Immediately scoop the eggs out and place them into a bowl of ice water.

These eggs are easy to peel and just perfect. The yolks will be just a bit gooey in the center, but that’s the way I like them. If you would like your eggs cooked through, set your timer for 10 minutes.

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Tis The Season for Soup!

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Ah, the Holidays…  Since I have had kids, the season has been kind of a love-hate thing (maybe hate is too strong of a word).  Don’t get me wrong – I love the Christmas story, all of the lights, the parties, the cookies, the music, the food and drink, the tree, and more.  On the flip side, there’s the stress of having enough extra income to pay for gifts, the food and drink, decorations, etc.  Hosting relatives that can be less than the best houseguests.  The bombardment of advertising, the expectations, the thought of having to work off all the food and drink (and cookies), vacuuming all of those pine needles.

My husband always has to work like crazy.  He’s tired and stressed.  Last year I admitted to my mom that I was finding it difficult to enjoy the Holidays, and she laughed out loud for about three minutes.  I guess that is just another one of those parental satisfactions that I will experience when I’m sixty something. I try to keep things simple and easy, but all of the above seems to creep back in. I am trying hard to focus on the LOVE and not the (not) hate.

One thing that keeps me grounded and healthy throughout the season is chicken soup.  As much as I want to jazz it up, the simpler it is, the better.  I love the simplicity of it all.  The methodical simmering of the bones to make the stock.  I love simmering them long enough that when the stock cools, it becomes a solid.  I love gently cooking (sweating) the vegetables, slowly bringing out their flavor, while I gradually add more layers of flavor with salt, pepper, garlic and ginger.

The traditional vegetables for a good chicken soup are onion, celery, and carrots.  I love swapping out the carrots with the delightful root vegetables that are available this time of year.  Parsnips, fennel, rutabaga, celery root, turnips, oh my!  I sometimes try and push the envelope with the celery flavor.  I double up on the celery AND add lots of celery root.  I know. That’s crazy, right?  Celery root is the best.  I suppose slightly adapting subtle flavors on a classic dish like chicken soup while still keeping it simple, is what I love so much about cooking.  These simple, methodical techniques are what I have come to appreciate about cooking after doing it for so many years.

Consider the recipe here a guide for a simple chicken soup.  I encourage you to make it your own. You can add and/or substitute whatever vegetables you want. Add mushrooms and finish the soup with cooked brown or wild rice.  Add some fresh ginger, lots of garlic, and fresh chilies, and finish it with a splash of rice vinegar and tamari for an Asian hot pot.  Play around with the fresh herbs that you finish your soup with.  Add chopped fresh sage, rosemary, basil, thyme or mint.

Buying a raw chicken, roasting or poaching it, and then making stock for soup can be ambitious.  I buy a rotisserie chicken from Earthfare.  They sell nice, regionally produced chickens without antibiotics, hormones, and the like.  The chickens aren’t coated with a bunch of nasty chemicals to season it, either.  Even better, they have already done half of the work for me by cooking it. It has been sitting on a rotisserie, cooking slowly and evenly all day.  The meat is flavorful and fall off the bone tender and juicy.  It’s a better cooked bird than I could have hoped for, and the best part is that it’s actually cheaper than the raw chickens for sale.  Also, these chickens have been cooked so long, that the stock “goodness” that you want to simmer out of the bones, is already on it’s way.  You don’t have to simmer the bones as long to make a great stock.

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The meat is really easy to separate from the bones. I start by removing the legs.  Remove all the skin.  Carefully separate the meat from the bones.  Remove the wings and set them with the leg bones (it’s not really worth my time to separate the small amount of meat from the wings).

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Remove the breast meat from each side of the chicken.  I reserve one of the breasts for other uses, like salads.  Once the breast meat is removed, turn the chicken over and remove all of the meat from the back and whatever is left from the sides of the chicken.

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Pick through all the meat once more to be sure you’ve removed all of the bones and fat.  Dice up the meat and set aside in the refrigerator until ready to use.

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Place the bones in a small stock pot or dutch oven. Cover with COLD water.

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Bring the pot to a simmer, and cook slowly for 3-6 hours.  Once the stock is finished, strain it into another container, discarding the bones.

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Meanwhile dice up the vegetables.

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Get another pot or dutch oven hot. Add a bit of olive oil, and then the vegetables.  Season the vegetables with salt and pepper, and cook slowly, stirring often until they are translucent and slightly tender.

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I like to add garlic and/or ginger after the vegetables have cooked for a bit.

At this point, add the stock.  If it’s a small amount, I like to strain it right into the soup pot.

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Bring the soup to a simmer, and add the chicken.

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Allow the soup to simmer for about 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.  Adjust the seasonings, adding more salt and pepper if needed.  Finish the soup with fresh herbs.  Add rice or pasta if desired.

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CHICKEN SOUP RECIPE

1 Rotisserie Chicken

¼ cup olive oil

3 small to medium yellow onions, diced small

4 stalks celery, cleaned and diced small

3 parsnips, peeled and diced small

½ celery root, peeled and diced small

3 cloves garlic, small dice

5 teaspoons Diamond Krystal kosher salt

1 ½ teaspoons ground black pepper.

½ bunch flat leaf parsley, washed and chopped

Procedure:

  1. Make Stock.  Remove chicken meat from bones.  Reserve one chicken breast for other uses.  Carefully pick through meat to make sure you didn’t miss any bones.  Chop chicken meat and set aside in the refrigerator.  Place the bones in a small stock pot or dutch oven.  Cover with cold water.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat.  Turn the heat to low, and simmer bones for 3-6 hours, depending on the desired depth of the stock.  Add water as needed as the stock reduces.  Once the stock is finished.  Allow it to cool and strain it through a fine mesh sieve.  This step can be done a day or two in advance.
  2. Get another pot or dutch oven hot over the stove. Add the olive oil.  Add the vegetables and 3 teaspoons of the salt, and one teaspoon pepper. Slowly cook the vegetables, stirring often, until they start to release their water.  At this point add the garlic, and continue to cook, stirring until the vegetables are translucent and slightly tender.
  3. Add the stock to the pot of vegetables. Add the chopped chicken, and remaining salt and pepper.  Bring the soup to a simmer, cooking for 20-30 minutes, allowing the flavors to meld together.  Finish the soup with the parsley.    Soup will keep up to five days in the refrigerator and three months in the freezer.
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Forty in New York

Running on The West Shore

Running on The West Shore

Warning: This is not a low calorie post, and has nothing to do with clean eating. I turned 40 a couple of weeks ago.  I was planning on being really tight with my diet and workouts leading up to my birthday.  I wanted to do a “This is 40!” blog post, showing off my hot bod, and how I was in the best shape of my life. Instead, I went on a three week bender of celebrating with drinks and not-so-skinny food. Now I am feeling very LARGE heading into the Holidays. Not exactly a good place to be. You only turn 40 once, right?

Kirk and I went to New York City for a few days to celebrate.  We had an amazing time.  Our time there went pretty much like this…Eat, Eat, Run, Eat, Walk, Walk, Eat, Walk, Walk, Eat, Eat, Eat, Walk, Sleep. Eat, Run, Eat, Eat, Walk, Walk, Walk, Eat, Eat, Eat,Walk, Sleep. I do not lie.  When a couple of chefs go to New York, they aren’t going to Broadway shows or visiting various tourist sites.  It’s all about the Food. If it wasn’t for all the walking and a bit of running, I might have gained 100 pounds.  A great tool for knowing where to eat comes from one of my favorite food blogs, Serious Eats.  They have a section called, “Serious Eats New York.”  You can type in what general location you might be in, and it will give you several restaurant choices that they consider to be worth a visit. They list them starting with food carts all the way up to fancy, expensive choices.

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Statue in Riverside Park

The restaurants where we did eat were a dream come true for us. Upon our arrival (thanks to Serious Eats), we found this little hole in the wall Cuban Diner, Margon, for lunch. The cafeteria-style hot line was really tempting, but we both could not resist ordering Cuban sandwiches, and we were not disappointed. I have had an obsession with Mario Batali after reading Heat several years ago.  I love his style.  I own all of his cookbooks.  Our first night in New York we ate at Babbo.  It was surprisingly more quaint and cute than I had anticipated.  We ate grilled octopus, testa (house made charcuterie), beef cheek ravioli, lamb chops, grilled quail, and more. The most impressive part was the huge table (there was one upstairs and downstairs) completely covered with open wine bottles.The next day, I had a latte and a croissant at Amy’s Bread in Hell’s Kitchen.  After a run up the western shore of Manhattan, I met an old friend for lunch at Le Pain Quotidien, a cute and healthy café.  I ordered the Kale Ceasar with Salmon.  It was delicious, and quite healthy.  The base of the ceasar dressing was tahini.  Our second night we ate at BLT Steak, an upscale steak house/bistro where they served these goat cheese popovers that were bigger than your head.  Around midnight (thanks again to Serious Eats), we went to Sake Bar Hagi.  It was a very small underground restaurant (which is difficult to find after having lots of wine, steak, and popovers), serving Japanese pub food.  Our waiter was really friendly and helped us order.  We feasted on a sashimi dish with scallop, octopus, and sea urchin wrapped in seaweed.  We also had a pork and noodle dish and they were both mind-blowingly good.

 After waking up, we stopped for a latte at Blue Bottle Coffee in the very cool Gotham West Market, before striking out for another run. After our run we headed downtown, browsed the Union Square Greenmarket, and headed to Eataly.  Eataly is this amazing market with everything Italian you can imagine. In every corner of the market was a counter featuring a different Italian specialty. There’s Gelato, Espresso, Fresh Pasta, Charcuterie, Cheese, Meat, Seafood, Breads, Desserts.  In between all of this is more produce, dry pasta, olives, cookbooks, beer, olive oil and other stuff than you can imagine.  Peppered throughout all this are restaurants. There is a meat restaurant, a pizza restaurant, and my favorite, a section with high tables that you stand at. It is located between the charcuterie and cheese, and we sampled some of each with wine.  We then headed to yet another restaurant that was all glass on the roof, where they were brewing beer in casks. We sampled the beer and had some house made Cotechino sausage and lentils. After two and a half hours, Kirk said to me, “I know this is very sad, but we are going to have to leave Eataly now.”

Charcuterie at Eataly

Charcuterie at Eataly

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Our final dinner in New York was the grand finale.  We dined at Le Bernardin, one of the fanciest places in New York. The chef, Eric Ripert, was born in France and worked in some of the best restaurants in the world before joining this Michelin star, seafood-focused restaurant in Manhattan. We both ordered the chef’s tasting menu which was mind-blowing to say the least. It was a fine dining flurry of French servers, expert sommeliers, and tweezer cuisine that did not disappoint.  Eight courses of fish and seafood, flawlessly prepared with fancy butter sauces poured on at the table. It included sea urchin, monkfish, lobster lasagna, and more.  The highlight of the meal was a surf and turf entrée with with Escolar and the most tender, flavorful piece of (waygu) beef I have ever had.  It literally melted in my mouth.  After three dessert courses and a cappuccino, it was everything we could do to waddle back to our hotel.

I must say, it feels good to be back in my clean eating routine.  I feel like I should detox for months, but I have to weather the Holiday storm ahead.  In this journey of mine to be healthy, thin, and happy, I believe treats and indulgences are very important.  It’s important to enjoy life to the fullest which, in my world, involves wine, beer, and rich foods. I choose to eat clean and healthy so I can feel good. After being disciplined, I enjoy the indulgences much more. Did I slip too much toward indulgence? Perhaps.  Like anything else in life, it’s about finding a balance.  It’s also about the journey and what you learn along the way.  Forty feels good so far.  I feel good knowing what my goals are.  I feel good knowing that I will reach those goals, and that I will enjoy the journey.

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Braised Taco Turkey

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I like roasting turkey breasts that still have the wing attached.  The breasts seem to be bigger, and have more flavor and juiciness due to the bone.  I then cut the wing from the breast and have the wing left over.

I also like buying rotisserie chickens from my neighborhood natural foods store, to add to a dinner salad or a different meal.  I often have leftover wings or legs that I wrap and freeze.  Once I have a plethora of frozen leg and wing pieces, I braise them and use the meat for tacos, soups, or burritos.  It’s quite simple, it just takes time.  Here I’ve used Southwestern flavors, but you could make any flavor combination you like.

First, take your wings or legs.

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Place them in a large roasting pan.

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I like to add green salsa.  You could also add red sauce, herbs, or other seasonings of your choice.

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I also add about a quart of chicken stock and a quart of water.

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You want the meat to be covered about half way with liquid.

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I usually don’t add salt until after they are cooked.  Most likely, the meat has already been seasoned, and you don’t want to make it too salty. Cover with foil and place in a 325 degree oven for at least three hours.

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Once the meat is cooked, I allow it to cool on my counter for a bit. I then let it cool overnight in the refrigerator. This will allow any fat to rise to the top of the liquid, which makes it very easy to remove.  The liquid will probably be solid due to the high amount of collagen.  This is really good for flavor and nutrition.

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The meat should fall right off of the bone.  Take the time to pick through the meat while shredding it, removing any skin or tendons.

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Once the meat is picked through and shredded, you can add in the liquid to add more flavor and moisture.  Feel free to re-season the meat with salt and spices as I have done with chili powder, cumin, and salt.    Use the taco meat in my previous post, Kale Tacos.  You can also use the meat for other meals.  Below is a Sweet Potato and Brown Rice Bowl with Braised Turkey and Chilis that I threw together.  Enjoy!

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Kale Tacos with Sour Slaw, and Apple Salsa

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Today is National Kale Day.  Kale has come a long way. Who would have thunk it?  Remember when it was just a mere garnish for Shoney’s and Pizza Hut salad bars?  Who knew that it was easy to grow and extremely bountiful?  Who knew that it carried super powers that would make you feel fabulous about your body and soul after eating it?  Who knew that it was even edible?

Even in the early days of kale’s coming out, I had trouble selling it.  In the early 2000’s, the farm for our restaurant, Sugar Snap, was cranking out kale at an epic pace.  I was putting out kale chips, kale fillings for burittos and frittatas, tons of garlic sauteed kale, red wine braised kale, and the ever popular cheesy kale bake.  Kale was (and still is) a rock star of locally-grown crops in Vermont.  I thought it was a Vermont thing.

 Upon moving to North Carolina, I realized that the “Kale Kraze”  was universal, and it had hit hard.  My biggest seller at Chef Katie’s Cafe was the Kale and Sweet Potato Salad.  I was processing a case a day.  There are places where the most popular sandwiches have kale pesto as the main ingredient. Even at our local pizza joint, Marco’s, the “Kale Pizza Special” has been on the board since we moved to Asheville. I admit – it’s what I order every time – and its delicious.  Let’s face it people – you can’t take kale down, King Kale cannot be beaten.  Just face it, celebrate and embrace kale!

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These Kale Tacos are gluten free, low calorie, ultra tasty, quite healthy, and easy to make.  You can use any protein you like.  I like to take chicken or turkey legs and braise them with green salsa and Mexican spices.  You can also use the Mexican chicken from my previous post, Mexican Chicken Dinner Salad.    Blanched kale is the base of the taco, taking the place of a tortilla.  I top the kale “tortilla” and braised chicken with fresh sour slaw, apple salsa, and pickled jalapeno.  The slaw and the apple salsa give the tacos a nice crunch.  Cheese is optional.

Place vinegars, 2 tbsp kosher salt, and ground cumin into a saucepan.  Bring to a simmer.

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Thinly slice cabbages and add to a bowl.

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Pour hot liquid over cabbage, mix well with tongs, and cover with a plate.

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Place diced apples in a bowl.  Add chopped onion, cilantro, pepper, and salt.  Mix well.  Squeeze  the orange and lime into the mixture, discarding any seeds.  Mix well.  Meanwhile, bring a bot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare a bowl of ice water.  Dip the kale leaves in the boiling water, and immediately add to ice water.  Remove leaves, gently wring out extra water, separate leaves, and drain on a clean kitchen towel.

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Build tacos:  Lay kale leaves down.  Top with hot chicken or turkey, sour slaw, apple salsa, and then jalapeno.  Enjoy!

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Kale Tacos with Sour Slaw and Apple Salsa

Makes About Eight Tacos

Ingredients:

2 cups cooked protein of choice (braised chicken or turkey, sliced seasoned chicken breast)

1 bunch lacinato kale

1/4 head red cabbage

1/4 head green cabbage

1/2 cup rice wine vinegar

1/2 cup apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp Diamond Krystal Kosher Salt

2 tsp ground cumin

2 fresh apples (Gala or Macintosh), peeled and diced small

1 fresh orange

1/2 fresh lime

1/4 cup finely chopped sweet yellow onion

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 tsp Diamond Krystal Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/2 cup pickled jalapeno

Procedure:

1.  Make slaw:  Place vinegars, 2 tbsp kosher salt, and cumin in a small saucepan.  Bring the mixture to a simmer.  Finely slice cabbages with a knife.  Add cabbages to a bowl and pour hot vinegar liquid over the top.  Toss the mixture well with tongs, and cover with a plate.  Set aside.

2.  Bring a pot of salted water to a boil.  Prepare a bowl of water with ice cubes.  Carefully and quickly drop the kale leaves in the boiling water, and immediately remove with tongs, and dunk into the ice water.   Wring the kale leaves out without ripping them.  Separate the leaves and drain on a clean kitchen towel.  Set aside.

3.  Place diced apples in a bowl.  Add sweet onion, cilantro, 1/2 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and mix well.  Squeeze the orange and lime over the salsa, removing any seeds.  Toss well.

4.  Gently heat chicken, turkey, or other protein.

5.  Build tacos. Lay kale leaves flat on a plate.  Top with chicken, turkey, or other proten.  Top with sour slaw, apple salsa, and pickled jalapeno.

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Bittersweet End of Summer

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The end of summer is always bittersweet.  The cool air in the evening, and crisp mornings that faintly smell like burning wood, always bring on excitement for back to school and football.  Saying goodbye to summer is always difficult, however.  I will miss not having to get the kids up at six am, camping and beach trips, extended time outdoors, grilling, and of course, all the summer produce.  Tomatoes, I will miss you most of all.  

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The Fiore family had an amazing summer.  I feel as though the kids have gotten independent enough to really do some fun stuff.

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We had trips to the grandparents house, a long weekend at a beautiful mountain lake with cousins, tons of swimming, canoeing, mountain biking,  whitewater rafting, and an amazing week at the beach which has become our favorite week of the whole year.

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Of course, we cooked up some great food.  My favorite being a fresh caught whole grouper that Kirk grilled to perfection.

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Change in the season also brings some change for me.  Some work changes…I have closed the cafe, and I am going to be focusing on being a personal chef.  I love cooking clean and healthy food for people.  It is so gratifying to cook delicious food for clients while helping them lose weight or stay on a restricted diet.  I am also going to be working part time as a pastry chef.  I know it is shocking – but I really enjoy baking and making desserts.

This blog is also going through a change.  Apparently, there’s another “skinny chef” out there that owns the trademark.  Please look to re-follow me at either “Chef Katie Cooks,”   or “Chef Katie Cooks Clean.”

Lastly, we met some great new friends at the beach.  Sadly, they must have gotten our phone number down wrong.  We would love to get together sometime.  N. and D. if you are out there, please find us!

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For the Love of Oatmeal

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My mother didn’t serve much oatmeal while I was growing up.  To be honest, we were more of a cream of wheat family.  When I first started my clean eating crusade, I ate greek yogurt for breakfast and an energy bar for my mid-morning snack.  My guru for clean eating and all things fitness, Kim, taught me to eat oatmeal for breakfast and then greek yogurt for my mid-morning snack.  I’m not sure about the science of carbs versus protein, and eating either one first thing in the morning versus the mid-morning, but I do know that I feel a lot better.  I have a lot more energy for my morning workouts, and throughout the day.

The double chef factor in our household leads to a lot of debate, trial and error, and pondering of even the simplest of cooking techniques. This is one thing I LOVE about having cooked professionally for so long.  Cooking is such a vast subject of which you can never stop learning and discovering new things.  Anyway, we came to the conclusion that cooking grains in the same method as one would cook risotto, leads to a nutty, yet creamy and delicious oatmeal.

I like to start with steel cut oats.  The typical ratio for oatmeal is 4 to 1.  One cup oats to four cups water.  I cut that ratio down a bit, because I add water periodically during the cooking process. I start with three cups of water and two cups of oatmeal.

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Pour the water into a large saucepot or dutch oven.

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Add a pinch of kosher salt.

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Bring the water to a boil.

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Sprinkle in the oats while stirring constantly.

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Keep stirring until the oatmeal is getting thick. Pour in a bit more water, about 1/2 a cup.

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Keep stirring and cooking, adding water three more times.

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The extra water will equal two cups.  At this point, I like to add a handful of quick cooking or thinly cut oats.  This adds a whole extra dimension of texture.

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Stir the quick oats in and cook for a bit more.

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This might seem like a long process for oatmeal, but this oatmeal is fabulous, and it makes about eight cups which will last you a few days.  I recommend one cup of cooked oatmeal for a breakfast serving size.  Garnish with cinnamon and about 1/2 cup of fresh or 1/4 cup of dried fruits of your choice.  Enjoy!

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BREAKFAST OATMEAL

2 cups steel cut oats

pinch of kosher salt

3 cups plus 2 more cups water

1/4 cup, or small handful of quick or thinly cut oats

Procedure:

Place three cups of water in a medium sauce pot or dutch oven.  Add a pinch of kosher salt, and bring to a boil.  Sprinkle in the steel cut oats, stirring constantly.  Keep stirring and cooking until the oatmeal is thickening.  Add more water, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition, and cooking until thickened.  After the extra two cups of water have been added and cooked down, add the quick oats.  Stir and cook a bit longer, about five more minutes.  Serve and add desired garnishes.  Allow extra oatmeal to cool.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to one week.

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Cooksnap’s Contest

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My life has been crazy as of late, and I like it. I seem to function better and I’m more productive at a busy pace. I seem to attract the busy craziness. Not letting the crazy busy get the best of me is the challenge. Anyhow, exciting developments are happening to yours truly…stay tuned!

Some other fun news, I have been entered in a cooking contest of sorts. Cooksnaps.com, an international recipe sharing website has chosen my Chocolate Pumpkin Seed Crunch Recipe for their pumpkin seed cooking contest. The contest is to get as many people as possible to make the recipe, take a picture and post it to Cooksnaps. Go for it. I promise you won’t regret having it around!

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Grilled Mexican Roadside Chicken

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I first discovered this chicken recipe on Serious Eats, one of my favorite food blogs, and it is slightly adapted from there.  The recipe originally comes from Rick Bayless’s Mexican Everyday.  This recipe, if you execute it correctly, might be the best chicken you ever make.  I cook this once a week.  My kids love it. They ask what we’re having for dinner,  I say, “grilled chicken,” they say “Yay!!!

Executing this recipe correctly, embodies what I have come to learn is key to cooking, after my fifteen plus years of professional and non-professional cooking experience.  The recipe is simple, but it comes down to the technique.  It is not rocket science, it is the subtle intuition that comes from doing something over and over again.  It is finding joy in tweaking one thing or another in a recipe you’ve cooked dozens of times, to make it slightly more delicious.

The marinade is unique and simple.  I have always been a fan of the method of butterflying chicken, also known as, “spatchcocked” chicken. “Spatchcocked,” simply means to remove the backbone, which flattens the chicken.  This promotes even cooking, and allows a shorter cooking time for a whole bird.  The other key to this recipe is cooking the chicken slowly, over indirect heat, on a charcoal grill.  Basically, the longer you can keep the coals going, the better.  My minimum cooking time goal is one hour, and I have cooked a chicken for up to two hours.

Start by making the marinade.  I like to mix the marinade in a large wet cup measure.  I can easily whisk the marinade and pour it over the chicken.  The recipe calls for 1/4 cup of fresh orange juice.  I can usually get this out of one orange, but I usually buy two, just to be safe.

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Add 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar.

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Add 1 1/2 teaspoons ancho chili powder.

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Two garlic cloves, peeled and chopped fine.

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1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican.

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1/2 teaspoon cinnamon, 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, and a big pinch of ground cloves.

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Whisk the marinade well, and set aside.

Next, get a fresh chicken.  I always give any meat a good rinse with cold water, and pat dry with paper towels.  To keep “raw chicken funk” off of my counter tops and cutting boards, I place the chicken in a large baking dish.  Place the chicken breast-side down in the dish.

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Using kitchen shears or clean household scissors, cut a straight line up the back of the chicken, starting just to the right of the tail.

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It might be difficult to cut all the way through.  Start the cut, and use both hands to press down on the scissor handles, cutting all the way through.

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Continue cutting a straight line up the left side of the tail.

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Finish cutting and remove the backbone from the bird.

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Turn the chicken over, spreading out the sides, placing it in the pan breast-side up.

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Using your hand, apply pressure on the breast bone of the chicken and press down until you hear the breastbone crack, flattening the chicken more.

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Pour the marinade over the bird, covering the breast side of the chicken.

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Turn the chicken over, coating the other side completely. Allow chicken to marinate at room temperature, about 30 minutes.

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While the chicken is marinating, prepare the charcoal grill.

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Oh yeah, look at that baby.  The Weber kettle is the only way to roll…

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Once the coals are mostly grey in color, place them on one side of the grill.

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Toss some fresh charcoal over the hot coals.  Be careful not to smother the fire, but put enough to keep the coals going for a while.

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Place the grill grate over the coals and oil the grill.  Pour some oil on a dry paper towel, and, using tongs, rub the paper towel along the grate.

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Place the marinated chicken, breast side down, on the opposite side of the grill as the hot  coals.

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Place the cover on the grill and cook for 45 minutes.

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After 45 minutes, remove the cover and flip the chicken over.

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Return the cover to the grill and cook another 30-45 minutes, adding new coals if needed. Once the cooking is done, allow the chicken to rest about 10 minutes.

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Serve the chicken however you like. I’ve served it with homemade tortillas, southwestern slaw, and salsa, as a “make your own taco” dinner.

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This night I just threw some extra vegetables on the grill, tossed them with a little vinegar, salt, and pepper, and sprinkled a bit of feta over.  I’m a dark meat kind of girl.  Delicious.

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GRILLED MEXICAN ROADSIDE CHICKEN RECIPE

  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ancho chile powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
  • A big pinch of ground cloves
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped or crushed through a garlic press
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1 1 /2 teaspoons Diamond Krystal kosher salt
  • 1 large chicken, about 3 lbs

Procedure:

1.  Make the marinade.  Place the orange juice, apple cider vinegar, chili powder, oregano, cloves, cinnamon, garlic and  salt in a large wet measuring cup.  Whisk to combine, and set the marinade aside.

2. Prepare the chicken.  Rinse in cold water and pat dry with paper towels.  Place chicken in a large backing pan, breast-side down.  Using kitchen shears or clean household scissors, cut the backbone out of the chicken, cutting a straight line up either side of the tail.  Turn the chicken over, and apply pressure to the breast bone to flatten the chicken out a bit more.

3.  Stir the marinade once more.  Drizzle about half of the marinade over the top of the chicken, making sure to evenly cover it.  Flip the chicken over and drizzle the remaining marinade, covering the entire bottom side of the chicken. Let the chicken marinate at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

4.  Prepare a charcoal grill.  Once the coals are ready,  pile them up to one side of the grill.  Toss some extra charcoal on top of the hot coals.  Place the grill grate over the coals, and using tongs, oil the grate by rubbing a paper towel soaked with a bit of oil over the grate.

5.  Place the chicken breast side down on the opposite side of the grate from the hot coals.  Place the cover on the grill, and cook for 45 minutes.  After 45 minutes, flip the chicken over and cook the other side at least 30-45 minutes more.

6.  Remove the chicken from the grill and allow it to rest for 10 minutes.

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Greek Salad Pita

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My new favorite afternoon snack:  Greek Salad Pita.  I like my snacks to be satisfying.  This snack is like a second lunch.  I looove Greek Salad.  My husband discourages me to order it in restaurants.  He’ll say, “I know how much you love Greek Salad.  I just don’t want you to be disappointed.”  He’s right.  It’s difficult to find a good one.  It’s so simple…why is it so hard to find a good one???  Just stick to the basics.  Don’t change or substitute.  Don’t use canned black olives, bell peppers, or weird grated cheese.  Cucumbers, tomatoes, feta, greek olives, pepperoncini, a bit of salt, pepper, and vinegar.  When it’s done right, it is oh so good.  Crunchy.  Salty.  Fresh.  Delicious.

This recipe is quick, easy, and simple.  Stick to the basic Greek Salad rules listed above and you can make it your own.  Leave out the pita and add some extra greens for a gluten free version.  Add some fresh herbs for a little punch.  Dill, basil, parsley, or chives.  Add some leftover chicken and make it lunch.  Enjoy!

Start with half a cucumber.

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Peel it and chop it up.  Medium dice.

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Chop up half of a tomato, medium dice.

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Finely slice three pepperoncinis.

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Olives. Beautiful olives.  Pit them and chop them up.

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Cube up one ounce reduced fat feta.

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I like to add a little chopped fresh spinach.

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Put it all in a bowl.

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Squeeze a bit of lemon.

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1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a pinch of coarsely ground pepper.

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Finally, add a splash of red wine vinegar and stir it all up.

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Cut one whole wheat pita in half and fill it up.  250 calories.

GREEK SALAD PITA RECIPE

1/2 cucumber

1/2 medium tomato

3 each pepperoncinis

3 each greek olives

1 ounce reduced fat feta

1 lemon wedge

1/4 teaspoon Diamond Krystal kosher salt

generous pinch coarsely ground black pepper

1 teaspoon red wine vinegar

one whole wheat pita cut in half

Procedure:

1.  Peel and cut cucumber into medium dice.  Cut the tomato into medium dice.  Finely slice the pepperoncini.  Pit and chop the olives.

2.  Place all of the above ingredients into a bowl.  Squeeze the lemon into the bowl.  Add the salt, pepper, and vinegar.  Stir well to combine.  Fill the pita with the salad.  Enjoy!

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