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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Rest In were very loved and will be missed...

Twitter Mango!

"Can you know the mighty ocean? Can you lasso a star from the sky? Can you say to a rainbow 'Hey, stop being a rainbow for a second'?

No! Such is Mango!"

Chris "Mango" Kattan

I joined Twitter. I know. Twitter. Sigh. But it seems inevitable.

Twitter allows you to only send text messages of 147 words or less, which is not much. Especially for me. But, keeping in the Twitter mode, here is a very short and sweet recipe which all of you mango lovers will adore.

Andy could live off of mangoes. He adores them. I have learned to love them and they are rather tasty.

Here is a link from the National Mango Board (who knew?). They make it look a hell of a lot easier than it really is (and the guys fingernails are totally gross):

Why should we eat a mango?


They are low in calories and packed with vitamins, antioxidants and minerals.

They are also powerful powerful cancer-fighters.

One mango provides a quarter of your recommended daily allowance for vitamin C, nearly two thirds of your daily quota for vitamin A, good amounts of vitamin E and fibre.

They contain vitamin K, phosphorus and magnesium. Mangoes are particularly rich in potassium which can help reduce the risk of high blood pressure.

Mangoes are a ‘high volume’ food which means you get a lot of food for a relatively small amount of calories – one mango contains around 135 calories.

In Chinese Medicine, mangoes are considered sweet and sour with a cooling energy and are known as a yin tonic. They are used to treat anaemia, bleeding gums, constipation, cough, fever, nausea, sea sickness and to help with weak digestion.

It is being said that the Vitamin E present in mango helps hormonal system function more efficiently and thus, boosts sex life. Talk about MOOD FOOD.

Mango has been found to be beneficial for people suffering from the following ailments:

• Bacterial Infections • Constipation • Diarrhea • Dysentery • Eye Disorders • Hair Loss • Heat Stroke Leucorrhea • Liver Disorders • Menstrual Disorders • Morning Sickness • Piles • Prickly Heat • Scurvy • Sinusitis • Spleen Enlargement Vaginitis

My sister loves the 'vaginitis' part:My favorite fact?

Mango is good for Scorpion bites! The juice which oozes out at the time of plucking the fruit from the tree gives immediate relief to pain when applied to a scorpion bite or the sting of a bee. The juice an be collected and kept in a bottle.

Come with me! Let's make today's short and sweet Twitter recipe!

Fast and Easy Pork Tacos
*Spicy* Mango Salsa


Prep time: 15 minutes

Cooking time: 20 minutes

Eating time: 2 minutes (they're that good!)

What you'll need:

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large chopped red onion
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 4 chipotle peppers, not from a can - too much salt! Use dried - if you can't find chipotle, 2 fresh jalapenos diced is great - remove seeds if you don't like it a bit hot
  • 1 tablespoon no-salt added chili powder
  • 1/2 cup toasted frozen corn
  • 1 pound lean ground pork, do NOT normal supermarket pork, it's much too fatty - ask the butcher at your market for lean cuts of ground pork
  • 1 14.5 ounce can no-salt pinto beans, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup shredded Manchego cheese, or Monterey jack
  • Toasted Tortillas
  • Pepper to taste
MANGO SALSA! I am mango!
  • 2 large RIPE mangoes, peeled and chopped into one-inch cubes
  • 1 large jalapeno, diced, seeds included
  • 1 large red onion, chopped fine
  • 2 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon lower-sodium salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • Freshly cut radishes
  • Romaine hearts diced
  • Plumb tomatoes diced
  • Fat free sour cream
  • Small amounts of shredded cheese

One thing I do differently is add beans to the tacos. Why? Because most recipes call for 1 1/2 pounds or even 2 pounds of ground pork which is not a very balanced meal. I try to go meatless as much as I can, or use less meat. Vegetarian meals are so much better for your body. You digest them better, they support your immune system and give you the fuel you need to keep active and healthy.

Mexican and Indian cuisine lend themselves to fantastic vegetarian meals. We eat as much vegetarian Mexican as I can make.

Okay, stop writing. TWITTER!

Here is what you do.

Make the mango salsa. Dice up the mango (good luck with that), put in a medium bowl with HALF of the onion and HALF of the jalapeno and the lime juice. Add add a dash of salt and pepper and then TASTE, TASTE, TASTE.

I love a ton of onion in my food, so if you like the way it is now, don't add the other half of onion or jalapeno The trick to all food is taste, taste, taste as you go.

Put the salsa aside.

Now, chop up the onion, garlic and chipotle (or jalapeno) peppers and put in a bowl by the stove next to a 12-inch, non-stick frying pan.

Get out ANOTHER smaller skillet and put your frozen corn in there and toast slowly over medium heat. The corn is done when it a bit dark on all sides and makes a 'popping' sound. Toasting corn in a skill with NO OIL is a great way to add super flavor and no calories.

As the corn slowly starts to toast, add your oil in the 12-inch skillet and let heat up over medium high heat for 3 minutes, until it's smoking.

Add the onion, garlic and peppers. Cook for 5 minutes, mixing occasionally so it doesn't burn. Add the chili powder, cook it for 1 minute. Now add in the ground pork, breaking it up with the tip of a wooden spoon into small chunks. Cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the pink-raw color is gone. Add the beans and let it all cook for 3 minutes.

Now taste. For some of you, it may be hot enough. You will need to add up to 1 teaspoon of salt but that's IT. Others may need more heat. If you do, add up to 1 tablespoon of pepper and a bit more untoasted chili powder.

When you like the temperature, take it off the stove (don't overcook the pork) and add the cheese into the skillet, making sure the heat is turned off.

Mix well until combined and serve with toasted tortillas and any of the sides.

We love to have these with one tortilla and a big side salad.

Buen Provecho!Remember, Mango loves you...

Monday, June 22, 2009

Roast Chicken Without The Shtick

"Any time a person goes into a delicatessen and orders a pastrami on white bread, somewhere a Jew dies."
Milton Berle

When I first moved to New York, I was a bright eyed and bushy tailed Irish/French Canadian kid from Seattle. The most exciting culinary adventure I ever took part in was putting fresh pineapple in cottage cheese. We considered it a delicacy.

Six months after arriving in Manhattan, I dated Hank Weinberg, a sweet and adorable guy from the Bronx. Every time we finished having sex he would look at me with this expression both oddly curious and amused. He'd mess my hair and say, "Who knew I'd be dating such a cute goy?" I thought goy was Yiddish for gay. I would walk up to people at theater parties and say, "Hi, I'm goy and from Seattle. How are you?"

Hank didn't correct me until the night he broke up with me to date Anne Rosenthal, a nice Jewish girl he met in synagogue. I guess I wasn't that cute of a goy after all.

One thing Hank did introduce me to were what he called the 'Top 10 Foods Jews Kill For'. Some day I'll post all of them, but the one I'll never forget was my first pastrami on rye. It was at Carnegie Deli. I remember the overwhelmingly large sandwich and the look of sheer boredom on the waiters face as he served me. I was reluctant to take a bite. I had one in Seattle when I was a kid, but it was on whole grain bread with some sort of chutney mayonnaise. Don't ask.

You know the ending to the story. I took a bite and fell into a food coma for three full days. All I could think about was that damn sandwich. I went back and had two more over the next week. Everything about the sandwich was so right. The bread with the pastrami...unreal.

That is how I feel about chicken. There is a way to make roast chicken which is right and there is a way which is insulting to all chickens everywhere. Follow me as I show you the right way.

And Hank, if you're reading this? Thanks for introducing me to my first true pastrami and rye sandwich. You were a real mensch.I'll detail how I spread this over three days. This is designed to serve two people; if you are serving a family of four, this will easily spread over 2 meals, but it won't be enough for 3 meals.

Let's cook!

What you'll need:

  • 1 4 1/2 pound organic roasting whole chicken (try to get organic and try for Murray's brand)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large lemon
  • 16 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 3 large russet potatoes, peeled or unpeeled, diced into golf-balls sizes
  • 2 large sweet potatoes, diced into same golf-ball sizes
  • 5 large carrots, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch skinny rounds
  • 2 turnips, peeled and cut the same size as the carrots
  • 2 large butternut squash, skins shaved off, flesh diced same the potatoes
  • 1 very large bunch of fresh thyme
  • 1 very large bunch fresh rosemary, or fresh sage which works very nicely
  • 1/2 fresh French baguette, torn into bite-size pieces
  • Salt and Pepper
  • 1 cup of the roasted chicken (dark and white meat)
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 2 diced chipotle peppers, plus 1 tablespoon chipotle sauce
  • 1/2 cup frozen corn
  • 1/2 cup diced yellow onion
  • 1/2 cup black beans, if canned, rinse thoroughly with water and pat dry
  • 2 tablespoons hot chili powder, avoid the blends with salt
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 cup Manchego cheese, or extra-sharp cheddar
  • 4 medium-sized flour tortillas
  • 1 cup roasted chicken
  • 1 cup per person roasted vegetables from chicken
  • 1 package fresh greens, rinsed (even if the packages says it's rinsed, you need to do it again)
  • 1/2 fresh French baguette, chopped into cubes for croutons
  • 1 teaspoon no-salt garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon no-salt onion powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt-substitute
  • 1 tablespoon pepper
  • Balsamic Vinegar, or packaged low-sodium dressing
  • 2 cups washed and diced radishes
  • 1 large Hothouse cucumber, halved lengthwise and diced into small pieces
  • 2 large plumb tomatoes, seeded and diced small
  • Pam Organic Olive Oil spray
LET'S COOK!Many people love the convenience and taste of rotisserie chicken (myself included!). But what most people don't know or don't want to know is the reason Boston Market and Perdue chickens are so tasty is because they are brined or seasoned with whopping amounts of sodium and fat to make the chicken moist and tender.

My recipe calls for 1/2 teaspoon of salt at the most. No one listens to the CDC's recommendations for sodium until they are hit with a physical illness. Why are we such a stubborn race?

The CDC says the recommended daily allowance PER DAY of sodium is 2,400 milligrams. This is one teaspoon of salt.

One. Teaspoon. One serving of a typical Boston Market breast (ha, ha) with no sides, just the meat, clocks in at almost 1,000 mg of sodium. ONE PIECE. Get three legs of dark meat and you're at almost 2,000 mg.

The national average of sodium American's consume according to the National Heart Association is nearly 5,000 mg per day. Is it really worth it to watch your sodium? I mean, really, what is the big deal, right?


According to a report on WebMD in 2007, even tiny reductions in salt can dramatically lower heart disease risk. I know, I know, you've heard this all before but yet you still refuse to stop eating fast food and you won't put down the chips.

Until you have a stoke or a friggin' heart attack. Think I'm being dramatic?

In the WebMD study, people who reduced their sodium saw 25% reductions in heart disease and stroke risk 10 to 15 years later, compared with people who ate their usual diets.

Nancy Cook, a research scientist in Birgham, had this to say: "This was not salt restriction, it was salt reduction. These people ate normal diets, but we taught them how to look out for hidden salt and avoid it."

"Hidden Salt."

Participants were between the ages of 30 and 54. All had slightly elevated blood pressures, but none had heart disease at recruitment.

During the initial trials, roughly half of participants were taught to identify, select, and prepare low-salt foods and asked to reduce the salt in their diets. The rest were not asked to lower the salt in their diets. One study lasted for 18 months and the other study lasted for 36-48 months.

Ten to 15 years after the end of the original trials, participants in the intervention arms of the two studies were found to have lower cardiovascular risk and a slightly lower risk of death from all causes than participants who ate their usual diets.

Have you seen anyone with a stroke? Do you know how heart disease can ruin you life?

One of the reasons I cook so much is because I have seen the effects food has on my life and my husband's life. We are what we eat. When we cook at home we control what goes into our food and into our bodies. It is the ultimate healing.

Rotisserie chickens are a staple for many people at least once a week. Up until six months ago, I would swing by my local food store and get a Perdue chicken and cut it up and put over lettuce greens and think, Wow. So easy and healthy!

Wrong!The reason those chickens are so tasty is because they are loaded with salt which preserves the meat and softens the tissues. Add on any 'barbecue' or 'lemon pepper' seasoning and these Salt Birds are through the roof!

One word on low-sodium salt - yes, these are viable alternatives, but just make sure you are not on a diet or diuretic which would be threatened by potassium chloride, the primary ingredient in 'mixes' of low-salt diets. Do your research. It is best to simply lower natural salt.

Remember, tasting salt is a learned behavior. Reduce your use of salt and you will soon be unable to tolerate salty foods.




For the bird, you want to get a nice, plump organic bird. These birds are fed an all-grain diet so their muscles are much more lean and tender. They are not pumped full of antibiotics and steroids, resulting in a natural and lean protein. Check to make sure the expiration date of the bird is at least one week from purchase.

This recipe is one I've had handed down and one I adapted from the brilliant Jamie Oliver. Jamie has no fear. He simply cooks. It's fantastic. He has freed me up as a cook and hopefully, as I detail how to make this, I will free you up as well.

Rinse the chicken inside and out. You need to remove the 'giblets.' It's totally gross. I'm sure Martha Stewart would have a whole thing on how to use them in some stock, but I throw them out. Make sure the cavity (ew) is very clean. Put on a large roasting pan or Pyrex glass dish.

Pat it dry. Why? Because dry skin results in pepper and oils to be absorbed more readily into the meat.

Take one tablespoon of butter, microwave it for 15 seconds so it gets a bit moist. Measure out one tablespoon of oil and put it in with the butter and mix it up.

Now, this part is totally disgusting, but fun. On the top side of the bird is where the breasts are (this is the closest I come to touching breasts, like, ever). You want to gently push you fingers UNDER the skin and lift if from the breast. It's like a membrane. I know, gross, gross, gross.

But you need to do this. Why? Because the skin protects the meat from getting overly dry when you cook it and serves as a natural moisturizer. You'll see it comes up fairly easily. Once the skin is detached, take half of the butter/olive oil mixture and rub it over breast meat.

The chicken pre-roasting:

White breast meat is extremely lean, so it needs a bit of oil and fat to make it moist when it cooks. This adds hardly any calories and will serves as the drippings (DOUBLE 'EW!) for the vegetables which will roast alongside.

Massage half of the butter/olive oil mixture into the bird breast and then the rest over the outside of the bird.

Pepper the breasts and the outside of the bird. DON'T ADD SALT. Unnecessary.

Now, dice up all of your vegetables, but put the garlic cloves, potatoes and onion in a separate bowl. Bring a pan of water to a boil, enough to cover the lemon, potatoes and garlic. Once the water boils, throw in the potatoes, garlic and lemon and boil for 8 minutes.

You want the potatoes a bit underdone. Drain, reserving the garlic and the lemon. Now, this is the fun part. You want to STAB the lemon 8-10 times and then SHOVE it inside the cavity of the bird. But be careful - it is very not and lemon juice will spurt out.

The lemon juice does two things - it moistens the bird AND it starts it cooking BUT adds no calories or salt. Nifty, huh?

Now shove the garlic cloves in the bird, as well as all of the bunched thyme. Leave the partially cooked potatoes in the now drained pan.

Crank up the oven to 375 degrees. Pop in the bird for 45 minutes. This is round 1 of the cooking.

Now, throw all of your veggies into the pot with the potatoes. Dice up, very finely, the fresh rosemary and some pepper in with the vegetables and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt.

Mix well.

After 45 minutes, take out the bird. It will smell so lovely. There will be drippings on the bottom of the pan (double EW). Toss all of the veggies in the drippings (ewwwwwwwww) and roast for 20 more minutes.

Take out the pan, mix the veggies up some more, roast for 20 more minutes. How can you tell it's done? If the leg pulls of easily, you are good to go.

Now pluck off the meat, put the dreamy veggies in a side dish, throw out the whole carcass (lemon, garlic, thyme and all) and there you go! Meal #1!

Now, Let's Cook:


The trick with this meal is you want to try and buy dry Chipotle Peppers. I know they are hard to find, but you can buy them online via the amazing Penzeys Spice. Go to this link and you'll find a great introduction to dry peppers AND how to order them:

Go. Now:

Rehydrating dry peppers is the trick to all good and truly tasty dishes requiring peppers. You put dry peppers in a bowl of hot water for 30 minutes and PRESTO. Instant chili! No added preservatives, salt or calories but AMAZING FLAVOR. God, you don't understand - dry chili's are amazing.


Back to the recipe...

In an empty skillet toast your corn until a bit darkened. Put into a medium sized bowl. Carefully wipe the skillet (the corn gunk can remain and burn). Heat up one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat until smoking.

Add the onion. Cook 3 minutes. Add chili powder and cumin. Cook 1 minutes. (one big trick for all good dishes - TOAST all SPICES). Throw in the beans. Heat up for 2 minutes. Add the corn back into the pan, mix.

Dump all of this into the bowl which held the corn, add the lime juice and perhaps a tiny sprinkling of salt and loads of pepper and TASTE, TASTE, TASTE.

Put aside.

Wipe the skillet clean with a paper towel. Put in a tortilla and toast over medium heat (not medium-high; it will burn) until nicely brown on one side, flip over and do the other and take it out of the pan and put on a flat surface.

Fold into a taco shape, then unfold and add 1/4 of the bean/corn/onion mixture and add a tiny sprinkling of cheese.

Do this for three more.

Once you have for folded over portions, put them back into the skillet, butt side to butt side (hope that makes sense). Spray very lightly with Pam Olive Oil Spray (with the flame OFF OFF OFF) and then turn the flame on and cook, 5 minutes, each side, until toasty and the cheese is melted.

Goes nicely with a side of the Extra Credit Salsa and a salad, or a tiny handful of chips (no-salt, of course).

Let's cook meal #3!

This one is as simple as pie. Andy and I eat this often when we don't want to be bothered with a ton of cooking or a mess in the kitchen.

So simple. The only real think we 'cook' is the croutons. We never buy croutons from the store anymore. There is no reason. If you dice up half of a baguette, spray with Pam spray, add a healthy dash of loads of salt-free and calorie free seasoning and bake in an oven for 15 minutes, you have instant croutons with no preservatives and they taste SPECTACULAR.

So do that - get a white baguette (whole wheat and multi-grain work great as well), dice up to even sized cubes, spray with a heathy does of Pam Olive Oil Spray, add the garlic powder, the onion powder, the salt-substitute (if you wish; just a tad), loads of pepper and bake in a 350 degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Watch as they can burn.

As they bake, cut up your veggies, get out the salad and rinse and dry. Put heaping mounds of salad on the plate, top with some chicken and serve with a side of the roasted vegetables.

Take out the croutons, transfer to a plate and VOILA! Tasty, healthy and filling meal!

(Extra credit - For an amazing salsa you can mix directly into the chicken before you make the quesdillas, here is what you do.

I adapted this from the king of all things Mexican, chef Rick Bayless. This is just so unreal it boggles the mind: Get five large tomatillos (green tomatoes) - this is what they are and look like:

Some you buy have the outside membrane removed (it's very thin, like soggy paper); some have already done so for you. Before you cook with them, you must remove the 'soggy paper' membrane.
Broil them in your broiler until all sided are black. Will take about 10-12 minutes, maybe a bit longer if you are farther than 4 inches from the flame. They will be very juicy so make sure you line your broiler pan with foil to catch the tomato juice. Very important.

Then take ten UNPEELED garlic cloves and put them in a large frying pan and toast on all sides until black. Takes about 15 minutes. Watch so they don't burn. Put them aside and let them cook.
Then take 5 Penzey dry chipotle chili's (after they've been rehydrated) and press them on the now empty and hot skillet for 3 minutes or so on each side, or until you smell them cooking.

What are chipotle peppers? Here you go:

Unpeel the garlic (it will be mushy). Put in a blender. Throw in the blackened tomatillos with the juice. Roughly chop up the rehydrated chipotle peppers, throw those in the blender as well.

Put in one tablespoon granulated sugar and 1/2 teaspoon salt, blend until thoroughly mixed and VOILA! Unreal salsa. Just unreal. Hardly any sodium, very few calories and INTENSE flavor. Just like nature intended. You have not tasted real salsa until you've tasted this.)

xoxo Your Food Therapist!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Get Baked - AGAIN!

"I don't like gourmet cooking or "this" cooking or "that" cooking.

I like good cooking."

James Beard

Four years ago, I met a psychic. Her name is Joyce Killer.

You can find Joyce here:

She was the first person who told me I needed to keep cooking. She said it would lead to great things. I believed her to such an extend, I've been cooking nearly every night for the past four years. I think the term 'susceptible schmuck' might apply here.

She said one of my champions in life was James Beard. She said his ghost was watching over me. I'm not sure if this is entirely the truth (yet I feel it is), but since then I've read quite a bit on him and have fallen head over heals in love with who he was and his work.

He was clearly a very generous man who was also privately tortured. He tried his hand at acting, it fell apart, so he stumbled upon food, but always regretted never 'making it' on the stage.

Life never goes the way we want it to go. All we can do is work hard and accept where were are. A bit depressing (yet freeing).

I dedicate this second part of my blogging on BAKED to James Beard. He would have LOVED it.

And if you have not yet gone, you MUST go to the bakery itself. If I could, I'd rent a cot and sleep on the floor, just so I could wake to the smell of flour and sugar and cinnamon.

Go. Now. Right now. Here is where they are:

I made their Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chunk cookie. Renato told me it's one of his favorites. I see why.

My husband is OBSESSED with peanut butter. He puts a dollop in his morning coffee, slathers it on his iPod in the gym so he can nibble when he gets hungry and strongly feels a well-made Peanut Butter and Jelly Sandwich trumps any 5-hour chili.

My husband is also fanatical about being in shape and skinny. He forces me to take all baked goods out of the house after I make them (suffice to say our neighbors love me but so does the nearby Jenny Craig where membership has increased 30%).

But try as he might, once he took a bite of these cookies, he could not stop eating them. I have to say, these are unlawful. Really, the boys at Baked must be made to serve time for these.

They are gooey, ooey, full of sugar and truly blissful. I can find no way to improve on them (except to double the chocolate, which I'm sure they won't hold against me.)

Since these cookies are so decedent and unreal, I am going to dub them:

Renato and Matt's Sinfully Good Jailbreak Ooey, Gooey Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookie

I didn't get the 24 they said I would, but somewhere around 18 (what? sue me, I ate some of the batter).

What you'll need:

It's annoying, but you need to make the dough at least 3 hours in advance of baking them. I made it on a Saturday night (yea, my social life is fucking thrilling) and baked on Sunday. The dough needs time to sit to become truly flavorful.

The dough:
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose, unbleached King Arthur flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter (try European brand Plura), room temperature, cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 cup granulated sugar, plus two tablespoons for sprinkling
  • 1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure or artificial vanilla extract
  • 1 cup Jiff creamy peanut butter (choosy queens choose Jiff!)
  • 12 ounces milk chocolate, chopped into large chunks*
*Take their advise, use milk chocolate, not bittersweet or semisweet...I doubled the amount they used as it just wasn't enough for my many tasters. Also, I used Godiva milk chocolate and it was divine...

Take your butter and eggs out of the fridge. And the peanut butter (if refrigerated - did you know you don't have to refrigerate peanut butter? Only people with OCD think you do.)

Go do something for an hour. Laundry, write, sing, dance, write a musical, spy on your neighbor who wears the funny boxer shorts...then come back to the kitchen.

Mix your flour and baking soda and salt in a blow, put aside.

Do a little dance.

Chop up the chocolate. Put aside. Stop eating it. This is how fat celebrities keep getting an ass, and then losing it, and then getting it again.

At this point in the recipe, everyone writes " a bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment..." to mix the butter sugar and vanilla so they get all light and fluffy. The light and fluffy part, I've learned, are vital but the paddle attachment part...not so much.

Most home cooks I know don't have this equipment so I advise this: use an electric mixer if you wish BUT the butter must be soft or it will go flying across the room. I've had this happen more times than I can say (and it makes me happy, a room full of newly flung butter) but it's not the best way to mix.

I use my standing mixer. I don't have a paddle attachment, only a mixing hook thing which does the trick very nicely. I'm a big fan of my KitchenAid standing mixer. Andrew hates it. It's like a big orange Buick parked in the middle of the kitchen.

Beat the butter and sugars until fluffy, about 5 minutes. Scrape the sides so all the goo on the side goes into the center of the bowl. Add your eggs, one at a time, and mix until just incorporated. It will be very light and fluffy. You can beat for up to 3 minutes at this point. Add the vanilla and peanut butter, but only just mixing.

Now comes the cool part - GENTLY fold in the chopped chocolate with a spatula, not a wooden spoon. Just get it all incorporated. Look at the chocolate inside of the peanut butter. It's so pretty. It puts the lotion in the basket!...see the pretty put it your finger and scoop it out and put it in your mouth. carried away.

Cover it in Tupperware and put in the fridge for at least 3 hours.

Take it out when ready to bake. Pre-heat your oven to 375 and get out two jelly-roll baking trays. Line with parchment paper (don't use parchment paper? You is a link:

Let the dough rest on the counter for 30 minutes while the oven heats. Now comes the kinda tricky part.

You want to scoop out HEAPING tablespoons of the dough onto the paper. I could only get 6 of them on one sheet for this recipe. I tried to make them sorta heaping tablespoons and did exactly as they said in the book, but the cookies came out flat, uninspired and depressed (how ironic - I feel that way many days of the month).

You must put HEAPING (I need to stop the caps) on the parchment paper (which is on the cookie sheet, right?) and then shape them into tiny little Lord of the Ringsish towers. They need to be kinda ridiculously high. Here is a picture I took with my iPhone:

See how tall they are? The trick is to very, very gently press on to the of the tower a tiny bit so you compact all the tasty goo in the tower. Why? This is how the boys made this so good, this is the trick - when they go through the last 5 minutes of baking, the tower suddenly falls and the goo melts and just piles into the center, making them extra chewy and tasty when eaten by appreciative sugar gluttons.

So do this for the cookies, and before you cook, sprinkle with a tiny bit of sugar.

Bake for 5 minutes, one tray on the top run, one tray on the bottom, then TURN them so front is back and back is now front and bake 5 minutes more but watch so they don't burn.

Take them out, let them rest on the baking sheet 5 minutes, gently take them off with a spatula and rest on a cooling rack or plate for up to 15 minutes.

Then chow down!


Mikey Bryan
Your Food Therapist

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Get Baked!

"The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you've got
to have a what-the-hell attitude."
Julia Childs

I feel cooking is progressive. I know everyone wants to go 'back' to the way things were, but honey, those days are gone. What we CAN do is work towards the future while respectfully acknowledging the past, but ultimately, the future is where it's at.

Today's post is about two fabulous men in our own little New York, Renato Poliafito and Matt Lewis. These two boys have taken the best traditions of the past and made them very new and cool. They're stars, so the last thing they need is a shout-out from little old me, but when coolness, fabulousness and flour come together, praise MUST be given.

These boys have been written about everywhere. They're publicly loved by Oprah and the Big Kahuna herself, Miss Stewart, and they used to work in marketing. They're a big deal.

And yet they wrote back to me via Facebook, saying I could quote from their recipe and book. Brilliant.

I made a few of their recipes out of their new cookbook, BAKED. Today I'm blogging about their brownie recipe. Friday will be about one of their cookie recipes.

I always feel commercial bakers who write books for home cooks need to be reviewed. Why? Because they're accustomed to cooking in a commercial bakery and not in a home, like the rest of us.

I've been seriously home cooking for 15 years and let me tell you, not every Martha Stewart or Jamie Oliver or Jacques Pepin recipes works in a home kitchen. Worse, they're bland. It's not the fault of commercial bakers, but once you start making dishes for restaurants or bakeries, you're cooking like a mo' fo' and have to adjust everything to accommodate...sometimes, you lose touch with the reality of home cooks.

Most people I know won't spend more than 15 minutes in the kitchen. All they want is to grab a rotisserie chicken (or rubbery pre-cooked chicken breast) and throw it over a bag of lettuce. Or better yet, take-out.

I used to find this insulting. I mean, life happens over food! Don't you care what your putting in your body? Are you so out of touch with how 'real food' tastes, you've lost any motivation to cook? What about feeding yourself and your family?

Why is our home eating culture almost dead?

Because the majority of America heads into the kitchen only because they must.

We've forgotten how moist and tender chicken sauteed in a light white wine sauce and served with paper-thin lemons and capers tastes can be. We can't remember the sting of the capers, followed by the layer of tart lemon juice and the delicate flour coating on the velvety chicken.

Few of us know the way fresh pasta feels in our hands, or the way sunlight plays off of the flour as it floats through the air and lands, gently, on our wooden cutting boards as we roll and roll our dough. And even fewer of us know how it feels to see the expression on our families faces when they bite into a slice of fresh, warm homemade bread.

One of the things I always try to do is inspire non-cooks to cook. Cooking is an art form. Once non-cooks start cooking, they never stop. They love how good it feels to create and feed people.

Confession: I'm not a huge chocolate fan. I've baked endless pies and cakes and torts and cookies and cupcakes and bread, bread, bread. I've found 50% of the recipes in print turn out unforgettable. Except for Julia Child (and my personal fave, James Beard), the other half are flawed and uninspired.

I grew up with pies and cakes. Loads and loads of pies. I grew up in the Northwest so my mother (of very limited baking skills) could bake two things very well: Banana Bread and Country Berry Pies. These were about the only culinary skills she passed along to me (except for a love of drinking wine and getting partially sloshed whilst baking and/or cooking at night).

Given my appreciation for the limits of time and my lukewarm love of chocolate, you can be sure if I say these recipes are good, they're friggin' brilliant.

FOOD FOR MOOD: As everyone knows, I am all about how FOOD affects MOOD. Here is the science on chocolate:
  • Phenylethylamine (PEA) is found in chocolate. PEA is an adrenal-related chemical that is also created within the brain and released when we are in love. A neurotransmitter called anandamide has been isolated in cacao. Anandamide is also produced naturally in the brain. Anandamide is known as the bliss chemical because it is released while we are feeling great. The purer the chocolate, the stronger the effect!
And more chocolate fun...
  • Chocolate may be used by some as a form of self-medication for dietary deficiencies (eg, magnesium) or to balance low levels of neurotransmitters involved in the regulation of mood, food intake, and compulsive behaviors (eg, serotonin and dopamine). Chocolate cravings are often episodic and fluctuate with hormonal changes just before and during the menses (I love that word), which suggests a hormonal link. A combination of chocolate's sensory characteristics, nutrient composition, and psychoactive ingredients, compounded with monthly hormonal fluctuations and mood swings among women, will ultimately form the model of chocolate cravings. The goal is to harness this knowledge and harness the power of chocolate will.
Makes a girl think!(NOTE: The boys suggest using Valrhona cocoa powder in their brownies, so of course I had to get it. True to their word, it did impart a deep and earthy chocolate base to the brownies, but it is a bit elitist, expensive and hard to find. In NYC, you can get it at only one authorized retail store: Food Emporium at Trump Plaza by glamorous Hunter College on the corner of 68th and 3rd avenue. Inside, there is a chocolate shop which is simply AMAZING. Loads of chocolate in an Upper East Side location. But fair warning: all of the clerks there were the rudest people I've ever met. And I've lived in NYC 22 years. One clerk didn't speak to me, another yelled at me to 'stand ten feet away when you talk' and another said she hates chocolate and only works the job to pay for her 'babies to eat.' I refuse to go there again. I'm much too fragile. I'm going online. So should you: ).

So, without further ado, I give you BAKED:

I rarely buy new cookbooks. I use a lot of magazines, buy used books, or corner poor, unsuspecting old women and demand they give me their secret family recipes.

But a few months ago, I was doing my standard once-a-week spin around the cookbook section of Barnes and Noble, when a dark brown book in the baking section caught my eye. I was annoyed. When a book calls me, I'm in trouble. I hesitated. I stared at it and then sighed as I pulled it from the shelf with a sharp exhale.

I flipped the first page back, ready to scoff at the tone or the writing or the recipes. Most new cookbooks are so impractical and silly. I love Martha, but if she had her way, I'd have to buy duckling eggs, raise them from birth, feed them whole grains every day of their pathetic existance and slaughter them 2 hours before dinner for the meal to be kinda fresh.

Ina has a kitchen the size of most of my friends apartments and Gina can't POSSIBLY eat the food she makes, so I distrust very popular cooks.

I flipped and flipped and flipped the pages. I couldn't stop flipping! I threw it on the ground, fell to my knees and thrust my clenched fists to the food gods in the sky and demanded they deliver me from this mad temptation (I tend towards the dramatic)!

But I'll be damned if I couldn't put the book down. All cookbooks make me want to cook, but this cookbook made me want to cook AND read. Very rare (outside of the prose by James Beard in his cookbooks).

The book was ego-less. The cover was absent of a manic TV chef, all teeth and forced happiness. The inside opened easily and would stay open on the kitchen counter. The prose were fun, smart, direct and gave delightful side notes. The book wasn't crammed with endless recipes, but a nice, solid selection of varied goodies. The tone was fun, light yet serious.

If you are smart, you will buy this as well. Let me make it easy for you. Here is the Amazon link. Go now. Click and buy.


The (infamous) Renato and Matt

The boys give props to Lesli Heffler-Flick in inspiring the recipe, so I feel it only right to so here.

What you'll need:

I have modified this slightly as opposed to the original published recipe...don't hate me, boys...
  • 1 1/4 cup all-purpose, unbleached King Arthur Flour (please use King Arthur
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons dark unsweetened cocoa powder* (see rant above regarding Valrhona)
  • 14 ounces dark chocolate (72% cocoa)**, coarsely chopped (such as Godiva or Scharffen Berger)
  • 1 cup (yes, 1 cup) unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder***
  • 1 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 5 jumbo eggs, room temperature
  • 3 teaspoons vanilla extract****
A few home cook notes on all of those damn asterisks:

* - Cocoa powder - you don't need to get Valrhona. Try any unsweetened cocoa powder - DARK for maximum flavor is the key. Just don't buy Key Foods brand. Cook with cheap products, your shit is gonna taste cheap.

** - You know how confusing it is to see percentages on dark chocolate? This is telling you the amount of cocoa in each bar. Find any highly reputable supermarket brand at 72% and you're good to go.

*** - The words "espresso powder" confuses everyone. Just get the small plastic jar which reads: "instant espresso coffee" and you'll be fine. It looks gross, but it isn't.

**** - The boys advocate 2 teaspoons but I found it lacked in vanilla. I added 3 and it was great. Also, I'm sorry, but there is no difference in taste between pure vanilla and artificial. None, nada, zilch. Get either.

Take your eggs and butter out of the fridge and put out on the counter. Cut the butter into four pieces. Do this FIRST. Let it rest and get to room temperature. All the cooks are right - room temperature eggs and butter are essential. So there.

Get out a 9x13 or 10x14 pan (Pyrex is great) and coat lightly with butter (don't forget the corners and the sides). Put aside. Stop licking your fingers.

Cut up your chocolate and measure out your cocoa powder and have these nearby in SEPARATE bowls. Prepping is the key to fun cooking! Oh, dear. I'm veering into dangerous Martha Stewart language here.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. It's very important you do this before you start. You want your oven to be at a nice, even temperature. Not doing so can kill even the most well-planned home baking events. Just like baking a cake for your husband on his 40th birthday saying, "You're not getting older, just wiser!".

All home cooks really must have an oven thermometer. Why? Heat within an oven is not consistent. There are many hot and cold spots.

The fine folks at anal-retentive Cooks Illustrated had this to say about their test of ovens in 2005:

"Though we might have suspected otherwise, we found that the bottom of our electric test oven tended to run hotter than the top, usually by between 5 and 15 degrees. We also found that the rear of our oven ran hotter than the front by roughly 5 to 10 degrees. There was also a stunning difference from right to left in our oven, with the right side sometimes running up to 50 degrees hotter than the left!"

It's futile to argue with Cooks Illustrated. They are Gods of research and they will beat you up with their statistics if you don't give in. So give in. Buy a thermometer. Preferably the Cooper oven thermometer at around $6. It will last at least 3 years in a hard working oven.

In a medium bowl, whisk your flour, salt and cocoa powder. Easy does it. Handle this part with care. This recipe is all about just mixing. Put this bowl of dry ingredients aside.

Now, if you've never melted chocolate and sugar and butter on the stove, it's fun but a bit tricky. The idea is to heat water to simmering in a Dutch oven and then put another pan on top of this pan but you don't want it touching the water. You are creating a fake 'double boiler' to safely melt the goodies. You can do it in a microwave, but this is more practical for later steps.

So get out the Dutch oven. Pour water inside and put on the stove. Heat to simmering. SIMMERING. Not boiling. Slow and easy does it with baking.

Place the bowl without anything inside ATOP the Dutch oven with the water. When you are happy it isn't touching the water, put the chocolate, butter and instant espresso into the bowl and slowly melt until it's a drippy, gooey mess, using a spatula, not a wooden spoon. Can take anywhere from 5-10 minutes in a nicely warm bowl.

Trust me, this shit is a bitch to clean. But don't think about that right now!

Turn off the heat, wait a few minutes, then slowly add the sugars, a bit at a time, mixing, mixing and mixing until all of the sugar is melted and the chocolate mess in the bowl is now a diabetics worst nightmare. Get close and take a smell. Dear, Lord. Friggin' brilliant.

Carefully remove the bowl with the chocolate and sugar goo off of the Dutch oven and place on the counter and let cool. DON'T RUSH THIS PART. The mixture must cool and get to room temperature. If you are impatient, the eggs will actually cook when you put them into the mixture. So...chill.

Most people are terrible at cracking eggs, so crack three eggs into a small, light colored bowl so you can see all of the shells you left in there ('cause you and I both know you left them in there). Lightly mix the eggs and whisk them into the chocolate goo until you can see only tiny streaks of yellow.

Add the other two eggs and mix until the yellow is almost gone. Now add the vanilla and stir until just combined. I'm going to shout now because this is where all cooks screw up major time:


This is why Racheal Ray doesn't bake. She's got ADD (she even admits it!) and baking requires you to chill. Baking is meditative. You must go easy, slow and enjoy it at home. You're not baking for TV or for a crowd, so chill.


So -- mix until barely combined. Now, sprinkle a third of the flour mixture over the chocolate, egg and vanilla goo, barely mix it in. Keep doing this until all of the flour is in. In the end, you must be able to see streaks of flour...very visible streaks of flour.

This method and underbaking is the key to the success of this disk. Barely beating = tasty goods which are not cakey.

Pour gently into the buttered pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Put in the oven.

Now, the boys totally freaked me out in the book. They wrote " even slightly overbaked brownie is not an Baked Brownie." Oh, Christ. Talk about pressure! I was hunched over the oven, staring inside like a rabid English Setter staring at two mating squirrels. I knew I'd fuck this part up, and of course, I didn't. But it was very unnerving.

This is the deal - every ten minutes, poke a toothpick into the center of the brownie and you want to see if you have a few wet crumbs on there. If you do, it's done. Mine took 28 minutes. Check at the 10 minute, the 20 minute and then every minute from 25-30 (max cooking time).

Be careful as a few of the corners in my pan were undercooked, so cook just a minute past when you think you should, and you'll be good to do.

Put them on the counter, let them COMPLETELY COOL, cut into pieces and wrap them up, and disperse them to grouchy people everywhere! They need them. You'll get 20 nice sized pieces out of this recipe, not the 24 the boys wrote.

Or better yet, find a model and tell them these are made with fat free (and rare!) European granola. Watch them scarf them up. Models are cranky because they're so damn hungry. They need love too.

COMING FRIDAY: Baked Part Two - the making of their Ooey Gooey Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie! (this one almost gave Andy a full-on cardiac arrest).


Mikey Bryan
Your Galloping Gourmet Food Therapist!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Ah, Perry...

Smile, though your heart is aching,
smile, even though it's breaking!
When there are clouds in the sky,
you'll get by!
If you smile through your fear an' sorrow,
smile and maybe tomorrow,
you'll see the sun come shining through
for you!

Light up your face with gladness,
hide every trace of sadness,
although a tear may be ever so near,
that's the time you must keep on tryin',
smile, what's the use of cryin' ?
you'll find that life is still worthwhile,
if you'll just smile!

Perry Como - "Smile"

Fifteen years ago, I moved out of Manhattan and rented a room from a sweet guy, Joe P. in Brooklyn, New York (I'm avoiding using his last name because I love him, not because I don't want to be sued).

The apartment was sprawling and two stories. There was a spiral staircase in the corner which led to a tiny bedroom in the front of the house. I rented the room for $350 a month. It was ridiculously noisy. I would wake up every morning to garbage trucks fifty feet outside my window.

The apartment was one in a series of row apartments on a quiet street sandwiched between two massive highways. On the corner was a Catholic church and a playground; across the street on the opposite side was a small bridge which extended over a dirty yet oddly pretty 'river'. I use the word 'river' loosely. It smelled like dead fish heads in summer and in the winter froze over with dirty snow and ice. On my second morning in the apartment, I bolted up in bed as the garbage trucks outside thundered past, shaking windows and rattling my teeth. My mouth tasted of rotten cotton and my body aching from the move. I looked forward to being greeted by my new Italian-American roommate, Joey.

Joey was a tiny, dark-haired and muscular guy who could not, for the life of him, stand still. He was always in a state of motion. My sister, Joy and her now husband, Ken, came to stay once and loved him, which is saying something. Joy can be very sensitive to outside stimulation and despite his frantic nature, she loved him.

It was after living with him for six weeks he sheepishly confessed his use of recreational drugs.

I was fairly naive about drugs. I knew people smoked a lot of pot and my only true experience with coke was seeing Al Pacino comically snort it up his nose (do people really think Scarface is a good movie?).

I never did find out what Joe was using, but let's just say living with Joe was like living with a gay, muscular and tan version of The Flash.

He was needy and emotional and taught at an elementary school during the day. My own personal Mr. Goodbar. He was messy and sweet and as queer as a three dollar lire and I adored him. His heart was bigger than the Brooklyn Bridge and had New York Italian charm which is impossible to resist.

I strolled downstairs to find the living room empty. It was 7AM. Joe's two fat cats rolled across the floor and nuzzled my feet. I'm not a cat lover. Back then I thought I was, but I've since had a dog and realize they are God on earth. Cats are for passive aggressive older women who have lost the desire for sex.

I walked over to the coffee machine and poured a cup of coffee when the door burst open and in stormed Joey, his hairy arms waving in the air, his tiny hairy Hobbit feet flying across the floor. He plopped on the counter four gigantic packages of butcher-paper.

"Go ahead," he whispered. "Open it up."

With shaking fingers, I opened the first package. Frank stood back and took in a deep breath. He folded his massive, bulging forearms over each other and beamed ear to ear.

In front of me were the most beautifully pink and marbled cuts of steaks and Hot and Sweet Italian sausages I had ever seen. I heard myself gasp. The smells rose into the air. Sweet and salty...a hint of smoke and musk and paprika. A deep earthy desire rose in me and I started to salivate.

The smell of freshly cut onion and garlic floated across the room as Joey diced away in the corner of the kitchen.

He pushed me aside, grabbed a large serving platter, dumped the pounds and pounds of perfectly shaped meat and vegetables atop and raced to the backyard.

It was April. I could see my breath. I knew Frank had a barbecue but he couldn't possibly be using it yet.

On that brisk April morning and every Saturday and Sunday afterward (well, Saturday and Sunday mornings he wasn't out the night before until 5AM taking still yet undefined recreational substances), Joey would cook endless reams of sausages and steaks on the grill.

(Sorry, I couldn't resist...I had to put in a pic of my favorite Italian cook, the amazing Marcella Hazan...bless you, my dear.)

In the air, floating above our heads like some wayward but joyfully confused (and hungry) birds were the sweet and low sounds of old Perry Como. I felt as if I had stepped back into some oddly new and blessed world which was so right, yet so undefined.

Row after row of houses would do just as Joey was doing. Slice bright yellow and deep red peppers into tiny ribbons (never, ever green peppers) and fry them up or cook them in foil on the barbecue. The sweet smells tumbled through the air and wrapped themselves around me like a warm flannel blanket on a cold New England day.

The tart and then savory smells of frying onions rose into the deep musk rising from the barbecue as the hot and sweet sausages cooked. You could smell the thick, smoky olive oil and the sharp garlic.

Nearly every Saturday and Sunday, 7AM, sounds of Perry Como crooning and crooning and crooning.

Joey was always a man of great optimism and hope. I loved his manic energy and his frantic style as he swerved through life. Like Perry, he always felt you should "Smile when your heart is breaking...".


One of Andy's favorite meals is sausage and peppers. He's part Italian, so the meal reminds him of his youth. I'm fanatical over Italian food. Next to French, I think there is no food more exciting than Italian cuisine. So when Andy learned his blood pressure was through the roof, I knew I'd have to find a fast, quick and lower sodium version.

What we all love in a good, basic Sausage and Peppers recipe is the cutting taste of vinegar and the sheer power of hot and sweet colliding together into gastronomic bliss. Since a powerful Sausage and Peppers meal is very assertive, I always like to serve a homemade bread with the meal and a simple mashed potatoes. The bread and potatoes cannot compete with the dish - they are the ultimate character roles.

FOOD FOR MOOD FACT: There have been many studies which have shown vinegar improves not only blood sugar and insulin levels BUT also has appetite-reducing qualities.

Anyone who has read this blog knows I'm all about how food affects the chemical composition of our brains. We need to know how foods we eat alter the production or release of neurotransmitters, the chemical messengers that carry information from one cell to another.

Neurotransmitters are the brain chemicals that make us FEEL.

We all know blood sugar levels directly impact our moods. We feel good after we eat, because our blood sugar increases. Not rocket science.

BUT...when blood sugar levels sink, our moods takes a dive (and we take everyone down around us). We get pissy, angry, aggressive and plain annoying.

Fiber provides stable blood sugar and energy by slowing the rate at which nutrients are absorbed into the bloodstream. Foods such as RED BELL PEPPERS are high in fiber and low in sugar, so they help to regulate our blood sugar and thus, our MOOD.

Eat lean protein at each meal (like CHICKEN). Protein stabilizes blood sugar and provides the brain with the amino acids essential to FEELING ALERT. Same principal with foods such as beans and nuts and cheese.

We all know eating olive oil is good because it's a good fat. But why is it 'good'? Because it has the delightful omega 3's. Many, many studies now show deficiency of omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to depression and mood swings. Restoring the body's natural balance of omega-3s may help alleviate (and prevent) many types of depression, even for those who don't respond to traditional antidepressants.

Onto the food!

Mikey's 30-minute Sweet and Succulent Italian Chicken and Peppers Weeknight Feast with Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Crispy Italian Bread

I find most 30 meals are NOT truly 30 minute meals. Unless you're a sous chef at the Waldorf, 30 minutes turns into 60.

When I come up with a 30 minute meal, I time myself in my kitchen and make sure I can make the meal at a fairly fast pace and not be annoyed or frustrated (which happens often). So this is what I'll say about this 30 minute meal - you can make this in 30 minutes, but you will be moving a bit.

But it's worth it.

I created this so we could have our own lower-fat, lower-sodium and lower-calorie version during the week, but not sacrifice flavor. I add a lot of vinegar to this and short-cut it a bit based upon many I've made over the years.

Let's cook!


Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 4 medium chicken breasts (about 2 1/2 pounds)
  • 2 large yellow onions, sliced very thin
  • 1 red bell pepper, sliced very thin
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, sliced very thin
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 5 cloves garlic, sliced thin
  • 1 cup jarred pepperoni peppers, sliced thin
  • 3/4 cup white wine vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 large russet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1 inch cubes
  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream, or milk
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • Salt and LOTS of pepper to taste
Store bought crusty Italian bread served on the side...

Let's cook!

One of the major issues I hear from people all the time is how they overcook their chicken. Traditional recipes for this meal say you need to get bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts for maximum flavor. I disagree. These breasts ARE tasty but they take time and effort, whereas the boneless, skinless, when cooked RIGHT, are just as tender and tasty.

Here is what you do:

Before cooking, place your four breasts (trimmed of all fat) on a cutting board, cover with a double layer of Saran Wrap and gently pound the fat tips of the breast with a mallet (or a frying pan, if you don't have a meat mallet) until they are of equal thickness.

DON'T OVER POUND so they are extra thin. You just want them even thickness so they cook the same.

Prep your meal. This is key.

PRE-COOKING POTATOES: Shave the skins off of the potatoes. Cut into one inch dice. Put in a pan of COLD WATER until the water just comes over the potatoes. Put the flame on high.

Russets have a very strong and sturdy taste and starch content. They are great with this meal, versus a red or golden. You can, of course, make this with either, but Russet holds up much better for such a strong dish.

Cut your onions and peppers BEFORE the chicken. Put in a bowl near the stove.

Cut up the garlic, the jarred peppers and put in a medium bowl with the basil, oregano and red pepper flakes.

Measure our the vinegar.

NOW Let's cook!

PAT DRY the breasts (this ensures the salt and pepper sticks). Cut into one inch dice, put in a bowl and generously pepper and lightly salt.

Heat up 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a 12-inch NON STICK skillet until it smokes - very important you wait for it to smoke.

Cook the chicken cubes for 5-7 minutes, only until they are browned all over. Remove from skillet on a paper-towel lined plate.

Put in the last tablespoon of olive oil in the now empty skillet and WAIT for it to smoke as well. Throw in your peppers and onions with a dash of salt (extracts from the vegetables), cook 5-7 minutes.

As the peppers and onions cook, check on the potatoes. You want them fork tender. If they are done, drain and put back into the pot you cooked them in.

Add the cream and/or milk, butter, salt and pepper and mash WITH A FORK. Taste as you season. Watch the salt! These can be lumpy so you don't need to go crazy. Just mash until you like them.

When the onions and peppers are tender, add the garlic, jarred peppers and spices and cook 1 minutes. Smells good, huh?!

Now, add the vinegar, cook 5 minutes so it thickens, add the cooked chicken to heat it up (you don't want to cook the chicken or it will be tough!

Put four tablespoons of potatoes on a plate, add a few scoops of the yummy chicken and sausage mixture, tear off some bread and you have dinner!

These make GREAT left-overs the next day. Heats up so well and is very tasty and filling.

Bon appetit!

Mikey Bryan
Your Food Therapist!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009


"The best sauce in the world is hunger."

On my old blog, I posted this recipe to much success. Success in the form of people telling me this was their favorite Taco Night recipe...and success in how much my husband LOVES this meal.

So do I. It truly rocks.

The posting was originally entitled 'Hunger'. We all have secret, unfulfilled dreams. Alone, in our childhood bedrooms, we all dreamed of what our future would be. All those possibilities! All those places we would see! The things we would do!

Time passed, we became adults and our lives became busy, busy, busy. Our dreams faded and eventually forgotten.

But not completely.

Many of us wonder 'What if...'. Why isn't our life the life we dreamed of as children?

For me, cooking and baking are ways to satisfy part of my hunger. For you, it may be doing what it takes to make your dreams come true, thus satisfying your 'hunger', or doing nothing at all...because it's probably right in front of you.

Each of us must be willing to acknowledge what our hunger is and live our life as fearlessly as possible trying to fulfill that hunger. I know life can be a rough, but sometimes getting through the rough patches is simply about choosing to see things in a more positive light.

Feel grateful for what you have, but never stop reaching for the stars.

Cheesy, I know, but it's real (and aren't we all sick of cynical people?).

One thing I know for sure...this Taco Night will satisfy even the most starving need in all of us. It's a great meal. Cheap, easy to make. healthy and full of the kinds of foods which fill out stomachs and fuel our brains.


Food snobs can roll their eyes all they want - go buy your organic salmon and Truffle oil and baste and broil your fattening Mario Batali meals all you want...

As a Seattle boy who has lived in New York 22 years, I'm part country and part city. I find the pompous and elitist New York food culture exhausting (almost as exhausting as Paula Deen's endless smile).

I was born and raised with very simple meals. We didn't have money, we didn't have a fancy supermarket nearby. We had one store, one meat guy, one produce guy...that was it.

This meal reminds me of my childhood. Don't get me wrong...I like sophisticated food -- I just hate the attitude that seems to come with it.

So come with me as we make one of the the healthiest and tastiest taco meals you will ever eat. This is for the sophisticated city snobs and the down-to-earth country folk.

Before we cook, let's talk about potential pitfalls of Taco Night, shall we?

* Huge amounts of sodium
* Fat, fat, fat
* Time intensive (all of those sides!)
* Tasteless (unless you pour a million gallons of sodium into the meal)
* White trashy food (which isn't bad, but it's uninspired)

There is one way to avoid all of these pitfalls: stop using packaged taco seasoning!

Get this -- three tacos with the Old El Paso Low Sodium Seasoning rocks out at roughly 1500 to 1800 mgs of friggin' sodium.

That' 3/4 of the daily recommendation for sodium. High blood pressure is one of the top three preventable killers in this country. Exercise, meditation and yoga is vital for high blood pressure, but to avoid taking medication you MUST lower your sodium.

Three tacos with my recipe (including all of the fixing's including cheese) comes to approximately 200 - 150 mgs of sodium, minimal fat and few calories.

See? You can have your Mexican taco and eat it too (and not get fat(ter) in the process)!

Let's cook!


* 1 tablespoon corn oil
* 2 large white or yellow onions, chopped fine and divided
* 5 large garlic cloves, diced or pressed through a garlic press
* 3 heaping tablespoons extra-hot chili powder, decrease to 2 tablespoons if you like it mild
* 1 heaping teaspoon cumin
* 1 heaping teaspoon coriander
* 1 heaping teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
* 1/2 heaping teaspoon cayenne pepper
* 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt, NO MORE
* 1 1/2 pound 90-95% extra-lean ground chuck or sirloin, avoid 85% fat as it can be greasy
* 3/4 cup no-salt chicken broth
* 3/4 cup no-salt tomato sauce
* 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
* 2 teaspoons cider vinegar, white cider vinegar is fine as well
* 1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper


* Low-fat sour cream
* Roma tomatoes
* Avocado, no more than 1/2 per person, per meal
* Iceberg lettuce
* Diced red onion
* Low-fat, low-moisture cheddar cheese with jalapeno or Monterey Jack cheese
* Taco shells, no more than 2 per person per meal
* Cilantro (ew)


Before we start, you must become familiar with the Holy Five Spices for all Mexican food:
  • Cayenne
  • Cumin
  • Chili Powder
  • Mexican Oregano
  • Coriander
I love Penzey's Spices (on the Internet), but you can buy these in any supermarket anywhere. Try to avoid blends which add salt. Mexican Oregano is a tiny bit tough, so regular Oregano is cool.

The only thing you must do before you cook Tacos is prep. If you prep in correct order, cooking them is easy as pie.

Follow me now...

Make sure you have your tomato sauce and chicken broth measured out and nearby.

For no-salt chicken broth, you can't beat Health Valley. Sure, it's not as silky or creamy at Organic Swanson, but have you read the amount of sodium in those?

For tomato sauce, I've only found one which is truly no-salt and it's made by my favorite all-time canned tomato product company, Muri Glen. Always rich, tasty, fresh and yes, a bit expensive. But there is NO salt in these versus other tomato sauces which have an average of 700 mgs of sodium PER CAN!


Chop ONE onion up now, put aside; chop the garlic up and set aside SEPARATELY...seed and dice up two tomatoes.

Put all of these aside in separate bowls.

And it is ESSENTIAL you put all of your pre-measured spices in in a bowl before you cook! I love very spicy food, so if you do not like spicy food, use a bit less chili powder and Cayenne pepper.

You want to grate your cheese now. I love Cabot. They're an excellent brand. They have a wax-encased Special Reserve I love, but it's pricey so I buy it for special occasions.

I shredded one cup of this for four tacos last night (which is, I feel, a lot of cheese - it's 50% less fat but in an 8 ounce serving of these cheese there is still 70 calories, 4.5g of fat and 170mg (!) of sodium - and quite a bit of protein - 8g).

You must use cheese sparingly, and a little of good cheese goes a long way. This cheese was fine last night, but Andy says he prefers the Kraft Mexican Mix cheese which is made with 2.5% milk fat and does have a creamier and tangier taste to it. Can take the boy out of the white trash neighborhood on Long Island...

I grated it on my super-duper Microplane grater. Andy hates this thing. He says it's terrible to clean and big and bulky, but let me tell does the job!

There are always two sides to a large, box-sized grater. You want the one with the larger holes.

Be VERY CAREFUL using the Microplane grater. It is very very sharp and seems to never dull.

Turn on your oven to 350 degrees. This is for the taco shells. Get out your rimmed baking sheet and line them with the taco shells.

I use Old El Paso...good shells, but very caloric. The serving size for tacos is 3 shells - 150 calories per serving, with 7g fat and 135mg of sodium.

Heat up a large, 12-inch non-stick skillet with the one tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat for one minute. Throw in ONE onion chopped. Cook, stirring a few times, making sure they do not brown. If they brown, lower the flame.

Now throw in the spices and the garlic. Cook 1 minute. WARNING. The oils of the spices will be released when you cook and while it smells amazing, you will cough!

One of the tricks to great cooking with spices is to always toast them for one minute before putting the main ingredients in. This makes for a tasty base to your meats and/or vegetables.

Now throw in the 1 1/2 pound of ground meat:

Cook this for 10 minutes until the sharp red is done. Keep dicing it up with a wooden spoon, breaking up the meat so it's in tiny, tiny pieces.

We're cooking now!

Don't overcook the meat - just get the red out of the center, and then throw in the chicken stock, the tomato sauce, the brown sugar, vinegar and a few grinds of pepper and let it simmer at a brisk boil until the meat has absorbed the fluid.

It ends up like a fast bologonese sauce - meaty and rich because the meat has absorbed all of the broth and seasons and tomato sauce. Without ANY ADDED SALT! Woo hoo!

When the sauce is done (it needs to be saucy), pop the shells into the oven and let them heat while you get everything done. All you want to do is get the shells warm, not cook them.

Now lay out all of your goodies, take the shells out, and assemble to your little hearts content.

As I finished editing this tonight I listened to Barry Manilow belting out "Daybreak." I love Barry Manilow. My mom and I used to listen to him as we cooked. We had the best time. Corny, I know, but corny is good now and then.

So pop in your favorite corny music, make this great family meal and feel the love you feel for everyone in your life.

Damnit! It's DAYBREAK!


Your Food Therapist