Come find yourself...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

KILLER Stuffed Vegeterian Poblano Peppers (and The Meaning of Life)

This, my dear kittens, is the Meaning of Life:

"Try and be nice to people, avoid eating fat, read a good book every now and then, get some walking in, and try and live together in peace and harmony with people of all creeds and nations."

End of blog. Thank you very much for coming. Enjoy life until you die.

Ta Ta!

I'm joking, of course. But am I really? I can't add to much more than the twisted geniuses behind Monty Python, but I will say this - Know Thyself.
It's true, isn't it?

If you are old enough and been through enough shit, you know I'm right. This life is an odd thing, but I have come to realize one thing - Know Thyself. How does one Know Thyself? Easy!

All you have to do is follow my Handy-Dandy Portable Know Thyself Cheat Sheet (which I've given you below). You can print this out and laminate this if you wish....or save it for a lovely Christmas present. Here we go:

  1. Stop looking at yourself in the mirror during yoga (and really, your body in some of those shapes is not pretty)
  2. Quit looking at/examining/trying to tone the parts of your body which are falling because you are getting old and careening towards's no use and the sooner you admit this the better and the closer you shall come to Knowing Thyself
  3. Gain seventy pounds and walk naked on the beach in late August singing any six bars from any song in The Sound of Music
  4. Have a roaring outside bonfire of every single self-help book in your house; receive extra Know Thyself spiritual points for adding gasoline to anything from Louise Hay, Dr. Phil or the fat Hawaiian guy who has a thing for his father and money
  5. Tell Suze Orman to stop talking about your inability to internalize your fear of money and, instead, ask her to please find the money for a new haircut
  6. Ask Jane Fonda to teach an aerobics class, today, while she is still on Broadway; video tape it and pipe into Britney Spears dressing room during her European tour, with the title below: "This is you in ten years, Britney".
There are many more, but you'll have to buy my cookbook, FOOD FOR MOOD and look under the 'Ego' category for the complete list. think I'm giving you this for free?

Oh, I'm JOKING, of course. But I am serious about this - this recipe your about to make is all about KNOWING THYSELF, in the sense I made this with an idea of the final result, but I had no idea how to get there. I trusted what I would make, and I tasted, tasted, tasted along the way and it came out spectacular.

Stop looking outside yourself for the answers. There. Meaning of life. Enjoy death!

All of those books and talk show hosts can't tell you what you need to do in your life. Only YOU.
Take it from me...I've tried every single goddamn self-help thing about there. They motivate you for a week, then...blah. You're back to being depressed and eating Little Debbie's in the closet to old Olivia Newton-John songs. Oh, wait. That's my secret story.

Find the courage to tell people in your life what you want - do this compassionately and lovingly, but be honest first and foremost to YOU...others second.


Over-Stuffed, Kick-Ass Spicy Vegetarian Poblano Peppers w/ Thick, Rich Rustic Mexican Tomato Sauce (and the lowdown on dry beans).

Okay, this recipe truly rocks. When Andy and I bit into this, we sorta lost our minds. This is the perfect vegetarian meal for people who live to eat no meat and for those who can’t imagine a life without meat. This is a combination of many different recipes I’ve seen over the years, but with my own decisive spin.

This is low in calories, high in taste and extremely versatile. This is the perfect example of my coming up with a recipe by tasting it every step of the way. I firmly believe the way to a good meal is to taste, taste, taste and this was no exception!

  • 1 can (28 ounces) whole tomatoes in thick puree, watch out for those in tomato SAUCE
  • 1 large yellow onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 very large white onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 fresh serrano pepper, halved
  • 1-3 diced chipotle peppers, halved
  • 5 whole garlic cloves
  • Salt and pepper to taste, watching the friggin’ salt


  • 3 large, fresh poblano peppers
  • 1 can no-salt black beans
  • 1 cup pre-soaked white hominy
  • ¾ cup yellow stone ground cornmeal
  • ½ cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, plus 6 ½ inch squares for inside of peppers
  • 1/3 cup shredded manchego cheese
  • 1 small Idaho russet potato, boiled and mashed
  • 1-2 diced chipotle peppers, plus up to 1 extra tablespoon of sauce for the very daring
  • 2/3 cup no-salt tomato sauce
  • 1 fresh serrano pepper, diced
  • 1 tablespoon cracked pepper
  • ½ teaspoon Morton lite salt


  • 1 cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • ½ cup shredded manchego

This recipe isn’t as complicated as it looks, trust me. It’s not a bunch of work and it’s the ideal meal to make with the kids or the significant other. It’s very fun stuffing the peppers as they have a few layers which results in the extraordinarily meaty and thick spicy texture.

What will drive you a bit batty, is you must find certain ingredients and do a bit of prep. Here is what you have to do in advance:

HOMINY – I didn’t start cooking with this until about four years ago. Once I started, I never wanted to stop. Hominy is corn often used in Mexican food. It gives a deep, rich taste to food and adds a texture unlike anything I’ve found. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

Look for dried white or yellow hominy sold in the dry bean section of the market. I know most of you don’t want to work with dry beans. I didn’t either for years until I tried once and realized how easy it is. It takes planning but very little effort.

The health benefits of dry versus canned are ridiculous. Even with low-sodium canned beans, there is still a tremendous amount of sodium and preservatives, whereas with dry beans, NADA. Not only that, but dry beans when reconstituted taste friggin’ great (and by using dry beans you can cut down on farting by changing the water once or twice during soaking).

Here his how to reconstitute any dry bean:

Place one pound of dry beans in a big, dry clean bowl one night before you plan to use them. Pick them over for weird looking pebbles or discolored pieces. Some are hard and will not reconstitute, so make sure you pick them over carefully.

Pour cold water into the bowl, enough to cover the beans by 1 inch of water. Place a loose layer of Saran Wrap over the beans, let them soak overnight and all through the next day. Most recipes say let them soak for 8 hours, then you are fine. I don’t know who these people are, but they are clearly toothless.

Unless you soak the beans for close to 12 hours, I swear, they are hard and taste undercooked. Some recipes say cook them in boiling water for 10 minutes, then set aside, covered. Doesn’t work either. You have to soak them for 12 hours. THEN you boil them in water (cover with at least 2 inches of water) for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

Other potentially annoying ingredient issues:

White onions & serrano peppers. Most supermarkets now carry huge white onions with the yellow. But serrano peppers are a bitch. Hard to find. If you can’t find them, use jalapeno, but serrano do add a more layered spice to the dish.

Poblano peppers – now, I have a hard time finding these where I live in Queens, so I can imagine how anyone else must suffer. You can use regular red or green bell peppers, but I’m telling you, they lack the punch of the poblano and are a bit bland in comparison BUT still rock.

Manchego cheese – I’ve waxed poetically about the virtues of this amazing Mexican cheese before. It’s strong, creamy and melts wonderfully…and a little goes a long way (like Parmesan), so despite the fact it’s pricey you don’t need much to make a dish very tasty.

Okay…let’s cook!


Turn on the oven to 350 degrees. This meal takes a solid 45 minutes for tender peppers, so make sure you get it at the right temperature.

Take your UNPEELED RUSSET POTATO and cut it into four small pieces (so it cooks faster). Place it in a pot with cold water and crank up the heat. Let it cook away as you work. Never peel your potatoes…cooking in their skins results in a tastier potato every time.

In a blender toss the canned tomatoes, the white and yellow onions, the serrano (or jalapeno pepper), the chipotle (add one, then taste) and the garlic cloves with a dash of salt and a healthy dash of pepper.

Blend on the ‘crush’ setting until it’s all well mixed and only tiny flecks of raw onion appear. Taste it. Add only a tad bit of salt and more chipotle and blend. When are you done it will be super thick and rich. The taste of the sauce deepens as it cooks, so make sure you don’t add too much heat.

Take out a 9x13 Pyrex baking dish and pour the very thick mixture along the bottom.

Cut a slim section of the tops and the bottoms of the peppers and then cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and ribs and lay on their backs:

Place one tiny ½ inch of sliced extra sharp cheddar cheese in the center of each pepper.

Turn around and check on your potato. You want it a bit undercooked as it bakes in the oven in the base of the peppers.

Now, in a big, dry, clean bowl mix the black beans, hominy, cornmeal, ½ cup shredded extra sharp cheddar cheese, 1/3 cup shredded manchego cheese, 1 diced chipotle pepper, 2/3 cup no-salt tomato sauce, 1 diced fresh serrano pepper (or jalapeno), 1 tablespoon cracked pepper, ½ teaspoon Morton lite salt.

Lightly mix this all together and taste. Wait a second. The burn of the peppers will come and when they do, determine if you need more spice or not. Only after waiting a minute should you add more chipotle.

Turn around, carefully drain the water with the potato. Carefully remove the skin, mash the flesh (ew) up in a bowl and then spread this atop the cheese in the base of the peppers.

Now, with the help of the kids or your husband or wife, ladle the bean mixture into the peppers. This part is so fun! After the peppers are filled place them into the Pyrex dish nestled inside of the sauce.

Pour ½ of the cheddar cheese evenly over the peppers, then 1/3 cup of manchego, and then the remaining final ½ of the cheddar:

HAHAHAHA...I love this photo. I'll be you dollars to donuts the producer of my cooking show promo is yelling now as he sees this...he wants the photos on here so clean and neat, but this is so ME. Messy and tasty and full of life! It looks alive! Agh!!

Get out a piece of thick aluminum foil and spray it generously on one side with Pam canola spray. This is so the cheese doesn’t stick to the foil when you remove it late.

Gently cover the dish with the foil and back for 20 minutes.

Remove the foil and let it cook for a full 25 minutes more. If you like a crunch to your peppers, only cook for 15 minutes and then remove from the oven.

Let is sit on the counter and after it’s rested 10 minutes, dive in!

My partner and I are very active guys who go to the gym 5-6 days a week and let me tell you – only ONE pepper with some sauce and a side salad TOTALLY filled us up. Only take one, make a little side salad of greens and baked groutons and some shaved manchego and you are set with a very calorie-friendly and budget-friendly meal with LOADS of SPICE, Mama!

Mikey Bryan
Your Food Therapis

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Weeknight Rich and Tasty Bolognese Sauce (aka, Mikey's Gay Goddess Bolognese Secret Sauce recipe)!

Many cooks know Bolognese sauce originated from Bologna, Italy (not surprising, huh?). What they may not know is traditional sauce very rarely includes tomatoes and only rarely scant amounts of heavy cream and milk. Also, most traditional meat sauces in Italy always use small amounts of pancetta (unlike American bacon, it is unsmoked and gives the sauce a deep, rich meaty taste in very small amounts) and we are impatient in America – if it’s not on the table in one hour or less, we don’t eat it.

Marcella Hazan, a master of Italian cuisine in America, will not serve a Bolognese sauce which hasn’t simmered at a bare bubble less than 3 hours…in her Essentials of Italian Cookbook, she recommends cooking Bolognese no less than 6 hours (and up to 9). I love Mrs. Hazan, but NINE HOURS? Sure, it’s spectacular, but I live in NYC and I cannot stay home all day and stir every hour. Well, I can, (and I would, Freaky Bitch in the kitchen), but I have better uses for my time, just as you do.

So how do we make a Bolognese sauce which is rich and creamy and as tasty as the 9 hour sauces without committing an entire workday and some backbreaking effort in the process?
We use more vegetables, we use tomato paste and crushed tomatoes with puree added...all of this results in a thick, rich sauce which tastes great when served but amazing later.

This is a sauce best made on a Friday night and then served Sunday night with thick ribbons of tagliatelle pasta (fettuccine if you must), freshly grated Parmesan, fresh mescalin greens and baked croutons, torn pieces of bread and roasted broccoli with garlic and pepper.


Come…let me show you how to make one of the great comfort meals of all time…


Serves 8 (note: we know overeating is an epidemic in this country; why do you think so many are obese? Most cooks would say this is a recipe for 4, but I say it’s for 8…make it for 8 and you won’t get fat eating it but can supplement with a nice garden salad and tossed broccoli…4 servings indeed).
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 very large yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 2 jumbo carrots, finely chopped
  • 2 ounces Italian pancetta, thinly sliced
  • 6 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 pounds ground chuck, 90% lean if you can (85% is fine, but not less)*
  • Salt and pepper
  • ¼ cup no-salt tomato paste
  • 1 cup red wine, preferably Merlot
  • 1 large 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes with thick puree
  • 1 cup 1% skim milk
Freshly grated Parmesan

* There are lots of different preferences for the meal used in Bolognese. I find the pure, even texture of all chuck works the best in the end, but by all means, substitute one pound of chuck for pork or veal if you’d like.

Let’s cook!

One of the tricks for true, old-fashioned Bolognese is cooking the meat with scant amount of vegetables and then adding the wine and the cream and/or milk in 20 minute increments until the meat absorbs the liquids, resulting in meat which is ridiculously tender THEN cooking it in in tomato sauce. Problem is, such a sauce takes forever. It’s great, sure, but do you have 9 hours to spare?

In this version, we speed up the process by adding tomato paste and the milk towards the end. This version does thicken as it cooks, but it will not be super-duper thick when you first serve it…it does thicken in the fridge (and will last up to 5 days refrigerated; 2 months frozen).

Here is what you do:

Chop all of the vegetables and pancetta first. It’s very important you dice them all very small. Why? Because they cook faster if you do, have an even consistency in a sauce and distribute the taste evenly, which is essential.

See how pretty they look with the amazing carrots?

Once you have all of the vegetables chopped and ready, heat the butter and the oil over medium heat in a thick-bottomed Dutch oven until the butter stops foaming (this tells you the butter is at the perfect temperature to cook the veggies), then add the veggies and pancetta for a scant 2-4 minutes until they soften but do not brown.

Now add the meat.

Cook for 5-7 minutes until the pink is gone. Keep stirring and breaking up the meat with the tip of a wooden spoon. The key to a good Bolognese is tiny pieces of meat to grind, grind, grind!
Once the meat has lots its raw, pink color, pour in the wine – now, be patient. Let it cook at a solid yet lazy simmer for 15 minutes until the meat has sucked up a lot of the fluid. Very important. Don’t rush this.

I usually prep my salad and veggies during this time. I wash baby greens and tear off pieces of a baguette and bake them for 20 minutes in a 350 oven to make croutons (Pam spray, a bit of pepper and garlic powder); then I diced up 2 pounds of broccoli, toss with 3 tablespoons olive oil, pepper and bake at 475 for 20 minutes…

After 45 minutes, you will see liquid from the canned tomatoes is still there; this is unavoidable unless you want to wait another hour. No, thanks.

Add the milk, stir, bring it back to a vibrant yet chill simmer.
What do you do now? Taste, taste, taste! Add a bit of salt (watch the salt!) and pepper…keep simmering…

This is your mantra at this stage (and with all cooking): TASTE, TASTE, TASTE!

As it finishes, heat up water for the pasta and shred your Parmesan. After 15-30 minutes, taste, taste, taste and you are ready to eat!

This is a great sauce, pretty fast for Bolognese and BRILLIANT the next day or the day after.

Here is the finished meal:


Mikey Bryan
Your Food Therapist!

Monday, March 23, 2009


(or, how to find that little voice)…

"All things are possible, if you believe..." (Mark 9:23)

For my dearest moody foodies…

A few weeks ago I chose to take down my original blog for a variety of reasons. One of the reasons was my lack of compassion for people in my life who have treated me very well and did not deserve some of my, um, slightly snarky ways. I am still trying to forgive myself; they have forgiven me fully and I am very thankful.

Cynicism is very tired and we shall have none of it here! Banish thee!

Another of the other reasons I took it down was because I decided the tone and the theme of this blog (and, hopefully, the reality TV show and published cookbook) needed to be re-examined. Such is the creative process!

The idea behind The Food Therapist is simple. It was to be a reality TV show where people come to me with their relationship issues and I help them heal through the making and preparation of health-oriented, tasty and budget-friendly food for those they love or wish to love.

Of course, I am a very, very emotionally sensitive guy which makes me extremely introspective and hell-bent on figuring out my life, thus making me the perfect guy for helping others. I have issues, as we all do, with unconditional love and acceptance in others.

But the real truth? The real reason I am meant to help others? Something is expanding within me (and no, it’s not the bland Gumbo I had last night). I am finally trusting that small, tiny voice in me (and in you) which knows the right actions to take and the right people to trust and treat with compassion and respect.

Does this mean I don’t rely on my shrink or my friends of my sister or partner? No, but it means it’s becoming comfortable checking in with myself first, and then checking in with others. Let me tell you – it feels fantastic.

I’ve had loads of feedback since I took the old blog down. One of my favorites was from my friend Gregory Grunston who said the blog and potential TV show is how “Life happens over food.” Great one-liner, huh?

Life does happen over food. It happens but it doesn’t happen to us, we make it happen. We choose how we want to live our lives. We choose the direction in which it goes.

Don’t get me wrong, I think there is divine intervention and I believe the saying “We make plans and God laughs” is the truth, but you can’t deny reality when it smacks you in the face. We must take responsibility for our lives and that means making smart, conscious decisions by listening to the little voice inside of us which knows the right thing to do, always.

I, The Food Therapist, am here to help you do just that!

This project will focus on celebrating the drive we all have to achieve our relationship, career and life goals while also accepting the glories and the annoying bullshit inherent in all aspect of life while making some KICK-ASS FOOD!

Starting tomorrow, I will post a whole new series of recipes full of flavor, taste, style and pizazz!


Mikey Bryan - YOUR Food Therapist