Come find yourself...

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Boost Your Mood!

I'm all about food and mood.

That is my deal and that is the goal of my little blog.

Research and science shows when you eat certain foods you feel certain moods.

It's scientific FACT.

I cook keeping one eye on how nutrition affects the body and the other on how it affects a person's mood. I try to eat at much positive-inducing food and snacks as I can to feel better. And I have to tell works.

I see so many magazines starting to understand the correlation between mood and food. Here is your little tidbit for today.

As I listed in a previous posting, B12 is a great source of what I call a 'feel good' food. How? Well...a lack of B12 can result in loss of appetite, sleep and a steep dive into depression.

To increase B12 in your diet, have low-fat yogurt for breakfast and add a few bits of fresh raspberries or a tablespoon of your favorite low-sugar jam.


One serving of 8 ounces of low-fat yogurt with one tablespoon of jam and a handful of berries tops out at a mere 180 calories.


I've posted before how a lack of folate-enriched foods in your system can result in an unstable and erratic mood. Raw edamame is very rich in folate. Have a handful as a snack between meals! Only 100 calories per 3/4 cup!

Toss a cup of fresh broccoli on your lunchtime salad and get a double dose of folate!

Yes! Yes!

I posted a long time ago about the rewards of carbs. Yes, we all feel they are evil, but we know they are not! Whole grains have loads of fiber. If we eat carbs with whole grains then we feel full longer and the effects of carbs - that delightful, soothing calm they give us (science has proven this!) - it last much, much longer with whole grains!

Don't get a white bread bagel in the AM - get a whole grain bagel (Starbucks sells them all the time now and so do most delis and bakeries) - add a tablespoon of peanut butter or have with 1/2 cup of low-fat and low-sat cottage cheese and you are only eating 275 calories and getting your daily dose of a carb 'high.'

Yes! Yes! And...


You are in control of the food you put into your body.

Eat the right foods and you will feel the 'right' moods!

I'm Mikey! And I'm your emotional FOOD THERAPIST!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Amazing Croque Monsieur that won't make your ass bigger than the Eiffel Tower.

Today's post is dedicated to an absolutely amazing woman,
my dear, darling friend Vicky Kahn.

You have the heart of an angel, my love.

Je t'aime encore plus...

It's all true. The best bread in the world is in Paris.

For those who have been, you know I speak the truth. For those who have not been, you don't know what you're missing.

In New York, there is a chain of cafe's - Le Pain Quotidien. The bread in each of their five or six city stores is the closest to Parisian style bread I've found yet in NYC.

At least twice a week I swing by the local bakery and get a baguette. I shred it up and put it on salads, cut up and make homemade croutons or simply tear off a piece and add a piece cheese with wine and grapes. instantly transports me to Paris.

It's no secret one of the most popular quick meals in Paris is the famed croque monsieur. There are many version of the 100-year old recipe.

A croque monsieur served with a fried egg or poached egg on top is known as a croque-madame (or croque cheval). A version of this sandwich in Spain replaces the ham with sobrassada, a soft sausage from the Balearic Islands that can be easily spread.

Here are a few other variations:

* croque provençal (with tomato)
* croque auvergnat (with bleu d'Auvergne cheese)
* croque gagnet (with gouda cheese and andouille sausage)
* croque norvégien (with smoked salmon instead of ham)
* croque tartiflette (with sliced potatoes and Reblochon cheese)
* croque bolognese (with Bolognese sauce)
* croque señor (with tomato salsa)
* Croque McDo sandwich at McDonald's locations in France

As you can see, the variations are the sandwich are many and endless. While in Paris, we ate one nearly every other day and the results were always sublime.

So why don't I make this more and why shouldn't you?

Because most of the recipes are chocked full of fat and calories AND I always refused to make this without the benefit of Parisian bread. But the other day I realized such thinking is very dull.

Why not make croque monsieur at home?



My goal was to make one with half as much fat and calories as most of the original recipes using (mostly) ingredients you can get at the supermarket and making it on the cheap.

I read a number of recipes but the smartest one (shock, shock) was from Cooks Country for a 30 minute recipe. Despite the fact they are super anal retentive and have the unique New England ability to take the fun out of cooking, they are OCD in the kitchen and most of the time their audacious claim of only publishing 'recipes that work' is pretty spot on.

But like most of their recipes (and others) the end result was simply too rich and gooey for most people's taste.

Here is my slimmed down and very tasty version. Talk about a perfect meal on a chilly Autumn day...


Let's cook!!

This meal serves four. The sandwiches are so rich, simply cut them in half and serve them with a nice side salad of homemade croutons, freshly shaved Gruyère cheese and a light sprinkling of pure, fresh balsamic vinegar. We eat too much in America, so eating a full sandwich is (say it with me) over eating!

Start to finish is 25 minutes.

What you'll need:
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1/2 cup 1% milk
  • Pepper and salt
  • 1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyère cheese, or Swiss cheese, commonly listed as Emmental cheese*
  • 4 slices of Country Wheat bread (Arnold makes a great one), or any other tender wheat bread
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard, no you can't use yellow mustard you silly American
  • 8 ounces thinly sliced sliced Ham*
*Do NOT, I repeat, do NOT be a schmuck and substitute any other cheese. To do so would be to insult to the entire French culture and every single meal ever created on this planet. And I will hunt you down if you make any substitutions. Hunt. You. Down.

**Use a cheap ham, you'll have a cheap tasting sandwich. If this sandwich is all about the cheese and the ham, then it makes sense you need to be very picky about both, right? Right. I used Niman Ranch's Jambon Royale ham for this. An extremely tender and mouth-watering ham which was the perfect blend of spices and salt and flavor. Here is their website: Try to find them. Amazing.

Let's cook!In a medium sauce pan, heat your little pat of butter over medium heat until it's melted and bubbling lightly. Whisk in the flour. Cook for a minute. It will be very gloopy. This is good, this is what you want. Cook for no more than a minute.

SLOWLY pour in your milk, just a bit at a time, stirring like a mad fiend. The gloop of butter and flour will soak it up like a sponge for the first bit, but as you pour it in it will turn more into a creamy sauce.

Cook the sauce for a scant 3 minutes until it's a bit thick, then take off the flame and add 1/4 cup shredded cheese, and salt and loads of pepper to taste. Put aside and cover.

Heat up your broiler. Make sure the rack is 4 inches from the flame.

Place two slices of bread on the counter. Spread your Dijon mustard evenly on the bread, then top with ham, followed by 3 tablespoons of the flour/butter/cheese mixture on EACH sandwich, followed by 1/2 cup of the cheese over both sandwiches. Top with the remaining bread.

Heat up a 12-inch non-stick oven-proof skillet over a medium flame. Spray with butter flavored Pam (hey, we gotta cut the calories somewhere). When it is hot (about 1 minute), place each sandwich gently in the skillet, making sure they are not touching so they brown properly.

After a minute or two, check to make sure they are not browning too much.

Remove the skillet from the stove and spray the tops of the sandwich (away from the flame!) with the Pam butter spray and then flip them and cook 2 more minutes.

Turn the flame off. Now, gently spread the flour/butter/cheese mixture over the TOPS of the sandwiches, and gently layer the rest of the shredded cheese over the sandwich and put in the broiler (skillet and all) for 2 minutes, checking constantly.

If you prefer, you can remove the sandwiches and put on a foil-lined broiler pan - I use the skillet to cut down on dishes.

USING AN OVEN MIT (the handle is hot, hot, hot) remove the skillet from the broiler when the to is slightly brown. You don't want to overly crisp the sandwich.

Set aside to cool. Cut each sandwich in halves and serve each half as on portion. ONE PORTION, AMERICA.

Serve with a nice large, side salad of torn baguette and freshly ground pepper and cheese.

Bonne et longue vie fructueuse... aimez vous pour qui vous etes vraiment et mangez beaucoup de pain !

bon appetit mes cheris!

Friday, September 25, 2009

B12 - The FOOD Vitamin That Could...

Have you seen the ads out there for this brand of vitamins called Stresstabs?

They go under other names as well - Super Heart and Stress and Mood Pills...all by different manufacturers. I saw TWO commercials for such pills early this morning on CNN as I was sweating my ass off hitting the 60 minute mark on my third cardio machine (sweating at the gym on a Friday is a rather unpleasant site).

I bring this up because one of the ideas for The Food Therapist TV show is to discuss how certain foods, when eaten, cause certain chemical reactions in the body which changes our MOODS.

I like this part of the show but not at the expense of first emphasizing people must deal with their emotional issues first, in therapy, before supplementing such work with foods causing certain chemical reactions in the body AND, possibly, medication.

Let me be very clear - I'm not a therapist, I've never been a therapist, I have no desire (as of yet) to go to school to become a therapist BUT...I am surrounded by therapists. My father was a therapist, my sister is one, so is my hubby and his best friend as well as four of our closets friends.

I've always said my childhood was odd. But mine really was out there. When other kids were going to Star Wars and Alien, I was home reading Carl Jung's, Man And His Symbols and Desmond Morris's The Naked Ape.

Enough said.

So I am very well versed in how the human psyche works. I get people and I see the real reason behind most people's behavior. It's rare I can't figure out what is really the case when people get wacko or overly reactionary, hence the reason for most of my life I'm always the one who manages people and helps out. It's what I do all day at my current job, and what the cooking show, The Food Therapist, will be about.

For years, I've said taking pills for anxiety or depression of any other various mental illness was the easy way out. I've said the way to find balance in life is to face your emotional demons and either embrace them or wrestle them to the ground. Any other system is false and cowardly.

I've changed my mind. Let's just say, I've become enlightened. Some people must take meds to get past terrible humps in their life. I see the error of my judgement and agree some people in extreme cases must take pills to get by.

HOWEVER...I do think the first and best line of defense is intensive therapy and then other methods to help someone's mood.

Which brings me to The Food Therapist TV show...

One of the healthiest ways to increase mood is to look at how certain foods we eat affect certain moods we may have. Part of the show will be doing just that. And one of the biggest trends I'm seeing right now is the news on how B12 can have tremendous effects on a person's mood.

Here is partial list of how a deficiency of B12 can make you feel, both physically and emotionally:

* Chronic fatigue - macrocytic / megaloblastic anemia
* Unexplained numbness or tingling of arms or legs
* Anxiety and irritability
* Depression
* Digestive problems like a sore tongue, loss of appetite, and constipation
* Poor hair

And those are just a few. The research clearly shows a deficiency in this vitamin can be disastrous to a persons emotional and physical well being.

These new lines of vitamins on the market have a large amount of B12 in them. They are designed to fill in the gaps you may have in terms of a B12 deficiency.

But this is my argument and this is one component of the show - why take a supplement to reap the benefits of this super vitamin when all you need to do is change your diet just a bit and then have this in your body in it's purest and strongest source?

It's very well known many cereals now contain B12 and are common. While that is one source, it is not one of the cleanest and as we all know, cereal has tons of sugar and shit in it. Not a good option.

The daily recommended allowance of B12 adults 19 years and old need is 2.4 mcg per day.

The natural source for foods high in vitamin B12 is meat, fish, diary products, cheese, eggs, specifically:

The following is based on a 3 ounce serving
  • Mollusks or clams (84.1 mcg per serving)
  • Liver, beef, barised (47.9 mcg)
  • Fortified breakfast cereal (6.0 mcg)
  • Wild Salmon (3.0 mcg)
  • Beef, top sirloin, lean (4.5 mcg)
  • Yogurt (1.4 mcg)
  • Haddock (1.2 mcg)
Turkey, cheese, chicken and eggs do NOT have very quantities of B12 in them to the point where you'd have to eat at least 2-3 portions per day to get the allowance your body needs.

For vegetarians, the issue becomes a bit thorny.

I found a great answer on Yahoo Answers on B12 in terms of a vegetarian diet. It said:

"B12 is made by bacteria and fungi, but not by yeasts or higher plants. Friendly bacteria resides in large quantities in the gastrointestinal tract of animals and humans. Since the manufacturing site of B12 in humans is not located where absorption occurs, humans can not rely on its availability.

The total vegetarian must find vitamin B12 from other reliable sources.
For the lacto-ovo-vegetarian, reliable sources would include dairy products and eggs which can supply substantial amounts of B12. For example, one cup of milk contains 0.9 micrograms of vitamin B12 while 8 ounces of yogurt has 1.5 micrograms. Sterilized, boiled, or canned milk destroys about one-half of the vitamin B12.

Since most of the vitamin B12 resides within the cholesterol-laden yolk, it would be better for the lacto-ovo-vegetarian to rely on low-fat dairy products for their source of B12. Vegetarians who use a B12 supplement should ensure that it contains an active form of the vitamin-namely, cyanocobalamin or hydroxocobalamin.

Fermented soy products, such as miso and tempeh, shiitake (dried mushrooms) and algae such as spirulina and nori contain practically no vitamin B12. While these foods are often sold in health food stores as "excellent souces of B12" and are widely used by the macrobiotic community, they actually contain little, if any active B12 (cobalamin). Instead they contain analogs of B12 that are not active and may actually block the absoprtion of true vitamin B12."

There was a widely published article in the New England Journal of Medicine 2 years ago. It detailed how those who adopted a strict vegan diet for 13 years or more showed eyesight loss and tested below normal blood levels of thiamin, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin D, vitamin E, zinc, selenium and vitamin B12.

The patient was given large doses of vitamins that quickly raised his blood vitamin levels. However, the damage to his eyesight was permanent.

Vitamin B12 is one vitamin that vegetarians should be very aware of, since the long term damage from vitamin B12 deficiency may not be reversible.

For vegans this is important nutritional breakdowns:
  • Fortified breakfast cereals, (100%) fortified), ¾ cup 6.0
  • Fortified breakfast cereals (25% fortified), ¾ cup 1.5 25
  • Yogurt, plain, skim, with 13 grams protein per cup, 1 cup 1.4
  • Milk, 1 cup 0.9 15
  • Egg, whole, hard boiled, 1 0.6
  • American pasteurized cheese food, 1 ounces 0.3
In the coming weeks, part of the focus of the blog will be to insert nutritional data in the meals and I will be focusing on B12 and how eating it is essential for our emotional well-being.

Until the next super-duper B12 recipe, this is Mikey Bryan, Your Food Therapist, signing off...

Now what the hell can I make with calves liver...

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Biopolar Weeknight Jambalaya!

Ah, my mother.

The 2 year anniversary of her death was the other day. I told myself it would be appropriate on the night after her death anniversary to make something with a kick. My mom was always full of spit and fire (and it wasn't just the Valium talking). She was feisty.

I didn't know what to make, then it hit me -- Andy told me a few nights ago he wanted shrimp for dinner. My first reaction was, "ew".

I know, I know, I know.

Here I am, a home cook on the cusp of pitching his own cooking show the Food Network and I am freely admitting I don't like seafood.


I was raised by Midwestern parents. My Mom and Dad are both from Idaho and Montana. They both knew each other as kids growing up in the same town. Up until 2 years ago when my mother died, they had been married 64 years.

Normal Rockwell! Calling Norman Rockwell!

Yea, sure, my childhood was real Normal Rockwell. If Mr. Rockwell had painted portraits of women who were biopolar manic depressives who secretly drank scotch in the dry pantry of their country home then it would be have been just like a scene from my childhood.

Is this getting depressing?

Forgive me, but I'm reading Carrie Fishers new memoir Wishful Drinking (is that a great title, or what?) and it has me both howling and cringing at how similar her battle with mental illness is to the ones certain members of my family cope still cope with.

I'm obsessed with the book and movie Postcards From The Edge. It all makes sense. Sure, it's a great book and very good movie, but it's no Citizen Kane. So why am I so obsessed with it?

I'm obsessed with it because I am consumed with mother angst and will devour anything mother/daughter or son/mother related. I am ashamed to type this, but I take perverse solace knowing Carrie Fisher had to get electro-shock therapy to exorcise her mother. I realize that's not really funny but I have a sneaking suspicion if I were having a cocktail with Ms. Fisher she would find it very amusing and probably knowingly cackle along with me as we shared mother horror stories. What other choice do we have?

My mom (and her Mom) were mentally unstable for years. I grew up around lots of wacky behavior so I get mental illness. I also get how one can develop a lacerating in the face of such misery. It's what made me the man I am today. No matter how awful things become or how dark the days are, I can see the irony in anything.

So don't think it doesn't escape me the smell of fish and the feel of fish just makes me ill. I am about to pitch a cooking show to the biggest food TV network in America and I swear I'll yak if they serve scallops or (God help me) octopus or (deliver me Lord) calamari at the meeting.

I'm a wreck.

But I think a lot of American's feel this way. Look - here is the upside of my aversion of slimy food that smells like the inside of my jock after a 2 hour spin class or has eyes that are glassy and look like they're judging me, I can tell they're judging me...if I can make a meal and use seafood in it and actually like it, then I can assure other seafood-phobic American's (and Europeans - god the BEEF they eat in Prague is unreal), they'll LOVE it.

I got high standards when it comes to good tasting seafood. Like, give me three glasses of wine beforehand and a side of corned beef hash, if you don't mind.

And last night, I made my own version of Jambalaya and let me tell you - the shrimp was good. I know! Sure, it had sausage and ham in it, but the shrimp stood out as the star of the show and it mixed perfectly with the rest of the dish.

I was shocked.

So, without further ado, may I present:

Biopolar Spicy Weeknight Turkey Andouille Sausage,
Cajun Tasso Ham and Wild Maine Shrimp Jambalaya
with Cayenne, Red and Yellow Pepper Rice

Now THAT'S a recipe title.

I read a lot of recipes before I did my own version. My starting point was my spiritual mentor, the wonderful Mr. James Beard (I love you James - you better have a tender beef brisket and boiled potatoes with sweet cream ready for me when we meet in the afterlife).

Mr. Beard wrote a book given to me by a jerk of a former friend, Angela F. (I'll try to be polite and not type out her last name, but she was mean, really mean, she dumped me as a friend a year ago, no call, no email, what is that about?, but ironically, she introduced me to James Beard so GO FIGURE)...the book he wrote is a little paperback:

Fish Cookery. Isn't that a great title? It's a small little book with the most practical and useful advice you can imagine. In my mind, if there is one person who can give me a fish recipe I'd like, it would be my spiritual mentor, Mr. Beard. And he gave me a perfect starting point.

Mr. Beard was famously called, by Julia Child, un serieux, or, someone serious about cooking. And he was.

He was practical, down-to-earth and serious about his food. But he was also very funny. The writing in his books, particularly Beard on Bread, is smart, funny and slightly odd.

He was very much an actor and performer, so he and I have much in common. He deserves more of a place in American cooking. Tell Martha to share the spotlight. God, now she's a ham!

Beard recommended sausage and the shrimp, as the other ten recipes I read recommended, but his was the only one which recommended butter instead of oil and which recommended ham instead of chicken or other meats.

Most older Jambalaya recipes require cooking in separate pots and not combined into one. Very tedious. I mixed and matched and came up with this.

Note: a few people have wrinkled their nose when I mentioned I put in tomatoes. They said authentic Jambalaya doesn't have tomatoes, but the canned tomatoes, drained, were a very nice addition, so I recommend using them.

To cut down on fat I used half butter and then olive oil. Butter has gone out of style with cooking nowadays. All anyone says is olive oil, olive oil, olive oil. But if you use only one tablespoon of butter and add a bit of oil, you get a truly rich flavor to the dish which, when spread over many servings, is a small amount of calories.

This dish can be heavy, so I cut down on the calories and fat by using turkey sausage, less oil, less chicken broth and used the hot sauce sparingly to cut down on sodium and added loads of veggies to give it super taste.

This dish heats up very well and will last up to 2 full days after cooking. After that, the rice may become soggy. NOT for freezing. God, I'm yelling. I sound like Martha. Shoot me.

Let's cook!

Prep time: 20 minutes (10 minutes for speedy home cooks)

Cook time: 25 minutes

Serving size: 6 nice sized portion bowls of steamy, spicy Jambalaya

Note: If you have a food processor, throw in the veggies (the first four ingredients) and pulse 5-6 times. Will save you cutting time.

What you'll need:
  • 3 medium yellow onions, chopped fine
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped fine
  • 1 red pepper, chopped fine
  • 8 cloves garlic, chopped fine
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons unbleached white flour
  • 10 ounces spicy turkey sausage OR low-fat Andouille sausage*, cut up into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 pound smoked Tasso ham**, cut into thin strips
  • 1 1/2 cups long grain white rice, rinsed thoroughly for 2 minutes under cold water***
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon dried basil
  • 1 tablespoon dried French thyme
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 can UN-SALTED canned tomatoes, drained entirely
  • 1 1/2 cup no-salt canned chicken broth
  • 1 cup cold water
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 pound fresh (or frozen) shrimp, cleaned and shelled
  • 2-5 teaspoons Franks Extra-hot Cajun Sauce, plus more at serving
*Andouille is French in origin. The recipe was brought to the New World by the French colonists of Louisiana. Andouille is made of butt or shank meat and fat, seasoned with salt, cracked black pepper, and garlic, and smoked over pecan wood and sugar cane for up to seven or eight hours. There are many excellent vegetarian AND turkey Andouille sausage on the market. It's all pre-cooked meat, so I suggest you have a taste of it before you throw it into the pot so you know how hot it is. They all vary greatly.

**There is a lovely girl, Amy, who works in the Murray's Pork Store in Grand Central. I told her I wanted a great, full-body ham with a kick at the end and she gave me a taste of Tasso ham. It was perfect. It's a specialty of Cajun cuisine. It is a spicy, peppery version of smoked pork made from the shoulder butt. The meat is cured briefly, only three or four hours, then rinsed, rubbed with a spice mixture containing Cayenne pepper and garlic, and hot-smoked until cooked through. As Mr. Beard notes, "...evidently, any old smoked meat was considered jambon in the old day [for Jambalaya]".

***A few reasons why you must rinse rice - the most logical is bagged rice can be dirty and you can remove hard grains easily when clean - also, it removes some starch when you rinse and results in a fluffier and drier rice.

Let's cook!It's imperative you prep the vegetables before cooking. It will result in a much more streamlined process.

You also must cut up your meats and have those ready as well. The shrimp must go in at the end of the meal or else you will overcook it.

Get out a large Dutch-oven. Heat up the butter and 1 tablespoon of oil until the butter stop foaming. Throw in the 2 tablespoons of flour and mix it in and cook it for 30 seconds.

Throw in the diced Andouille sausage and the ham. Make sure the butter, oil and flour coat the meat. Cook over a medium flame until the fat on the ham is rendered and the meats are nicely brown.

With a slotted spoon, remove the meats and put on a plate (do not line with a paper towel - you want those meat juices!).

Now, throw in your veggies with the remaining tablespoon olive oil. Mix so the veggies are covered in the fat ( gross) and cook until the onions are translucent.

Now add rice and mix up so the rice is covered with some of the oil. Turn the flame up to medium-high and cook for a few minutes, mixing as you do. You want to cook the rice a bit and give it a slight brown.

Put in your drained tomatoes (MUST be drained or it's too soupy and tastes all tomato), the chicken broth, the water and the dried herbs. Bring to a boil. Cover for 20 minutes, checking once and mixing from the bottom up - the rice can stick to the bottom of the pan.

You need to be careful at this point. You don't want to overcook so the rice is soggy. TASTE the meal. See what the consistency of the rice is. See how spicy it is. Add Frank's Extra Hot Cajun bottled sauce accordingly, as well as salt and pepper.

When the rice has a bit of give to it, rinse and triple check the shrimp for shells or tails.

Then gently place the shells on the top of the rice, cover and cook 5-7 minutes NO MORE.

Take off the flame, mix in the shrimp and serve, passing the hot sauce.

Last night I wished I had a crusty Italian bread with this. Would have been PERFECT.

There you go! Great weeknight Jambalaya in under 45 minutes with much less fat and calories than most!

Enjoy my darlings!

Mikey Bryan
Your Food Therapist

This painting is by Grandma Moses, a very famous American painter. She painted this when she was well into her 90's. I've always liked it. Reminds me of where I grew up.

I imagined, last night, I was cooking the Jambalaya in a kitchen in a house like this. I didn't have the radio or the TV on. The windows were open and the breeze last night was warm and humid.

I imagined it was a brisk fall day and Mr. Beard was sitting at the table with me, in quiet, eating the meal, the only sound, perhaps, of a wind outside and the gentle ting, ting, ting of our spoons as they met with the edge of our bowls and ascended to our mouths, a look of great surprise and amusement on his face as we enjoyed our meal together, both wondering what we'd make for dessert.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

I'm Tired, Hungry and Want My BBQ!

People think I'm insane in the kitchen. Why?

Not because I make homemade pasta, or create Bolognese Sauce from scratch (and only from Marcella Hazan's recipe, thank you), or love to create samosas (see my last post) or like to meal plan and cook 5-6 nights a week for me and my husband. No, that's not the reason.

The reason they think I'm insane is because I don't mind spending 2 hours a night in the kitchen cooking and experimenting after getting up at 5:30AM to to go the gym and then work my day job and then run home and then cook and clean and get up and do it all over again.

The other night? I had to agree with them.

I was this close to losing my mind.

If I had to pick up one more package of chicken and make sure it didn't smell like ass or check one more package of broccoli from the disgusting Key Food by my house for yellow mold or ask the mean man at my local cheese shop for a taste of the newest German cheese and put up with his scowl on his face when it's people like ME that put food on HIS table, I was going to lose my mind and throw a block of parmesan-reggiano at him.

Sorry, but my compassion went out the door the other night, but I refused to order greasy take-out. I love take-out like anyone, but there is so much shit in the best take-out, I just couldn't do it.

So in a flurry of emotion and wine-induced frustration, I made the fastest BBQ Chicken and Tangy Buttermilk Coleslaw sandwich I've ever had and let me tell you - the shit not only rocked, but it was cheap and took me 20 minutes to make.

20 minutes. Oh, yea. I can live with that.

Like a lot of fast meals, this uses pre-packaged sauce and bagged coleslaw, but such is the deal with the fast meals. Most fast meals I've made taste like ass. No flavor and just full of thick, gooey sauce to hide the fact there is nothing there to start with.

This one is for all of the people out there who tell me they want fast, fast, fast meals during the week. I think we rush way too much in this society, but you know what? The world is a much faster place now. We have kids, jobs, school - we don't always have time or energy on a Tuesday night to spend an hour in the kitchen.

My biggest complaint with meals 30 minutes or less is that they often taste awful, are boring and are chocked full of fat and calories. The LAST THING WE NEED IN AMERICA IS TO EAT MORE FAT AND CALORIES. Eating fat and calories when you are short on time is NO EXCUSE.

I agree with Bob and Jillian on Biggest Loser. NO MORE EXCUSES. You can eat fast but stop the madness! Have you seen some people asses lately? Christ. Put the fried food down! Stop with calories.

Enough is enough.

So here is my version of...


Let's cook!

Prep time: 5 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves 4 and can easily be doubled.

What you'll need:

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon extra hot chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 large chicken breasts OR one large 3-4 pound rotisserie chicken (BBQ seasoning, if you can find it)
  • 1/2 cup pre-made BBQ sauce*
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon light brown sugar
*Hands down, the best of the best in the supermarket of bottles BBQ is BULLSEYE. All else are pale and suck my ass.

  • 1 bag of Dole brand pre-made coleslaw mix
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup low-fat mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1/4 cup cider vinegar
  • 4 teaspoons pickled relish
  • Loads of fresh pepper and salt to taste
Pre-packaged pickles - A MUST to serve on the side

Let's cook!

If you use a rotisserie chicken, shred the sucker up and put the meat in a bowl.

For the coleslaw, put the entire bag of pre-packaged coleslaw in a big bowl and toss with the teaspoon of salt and let it sit, at room temperature, as you cook the chicken. The process of the coleslaw sitting with the salt extracts moisture from the slaw and results in a crispier slaw. Sloppy, non-crunchy slaw is truly foul.

If you are using chicken breast, I like to cut big ones in half so they cook a bit faster. Pat dry. Why pat dry? Because it causes any seasoning you put on it to stick, which is key. To get flavor in the meat, you need to season pretty liberally. So pat the flesh dry (ew), salt and pepper both side and put aside.

Throw into the pan 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large, non-stick pan; add the onion with a dash of salt (why salt? extracts the water faster out of the onion)...

(side bar - the other day I passed a cooking store and I saw this on an apron in the window and I nearly pissed myself laughing because it's TRUE):Cook the onion for 4 minutes or so...don't brown!

As the onion cook, put all of your spices in a small bowl and put near the stove.

After the 4 minute or so mark, toss the spices into the pan. Cook them 30 seconds with the onions. Tasty!

Put the last tablespoon of olive oil in the pan. Throw in the chicken breasts and brown for 1-2 minutes on each side.

Now comes the part I loathe but it's the only way to make this cook in time (I'm very old-fashioned...I think one should use homemade sauces, but in this case, I'll make an exception).

Pour the bottled BBQ sauce, the water and the cider in the pan and bring to a boil. Turn to a simmer, cover and cook until the breasts are done, about 8 minutes.

If you are using rotisserie chicken, add the chicken 4 minutes after you have reduced the boiling sauce to a simmer. Since the chicken is cooked you don't want to overcook it as you want it to absorb the flavor.

Remove the chicken and put on a cutting board (or remove the rotisserie with a slotted spoon) and let the sauce simmer for a few more minutes until it becomes thick. Pour into a side bowl and reserve.

Brush your four whole wheat (or multi grain hamburger buns) with a 1 teaspoon of olive oil and broil (or toast) until a light brown.

When the chicken is cool, shred by using two forks to pull the meat apart and put aside.

Toss the crispy slaw with the mayo, the buttermilk, the vinegar and the pickled relish. Salt and pepper to taste.

Top 1/4 of the chicken mixture on each bun. Serve with a big heaping side of coleslaw and a pickle or two.

Pass the reserved sauce around and let everyone decide who much they sauce they'd prefer to put on their meat. Why does that sound nasty?

That's it! A sure fire hit. Lots of taste, lower calorie by cutting the BBQ Sauce with water and tart vinegar...and who doesn't love BBQ with tart coleslaw?


Mikey Bryan

Your Food Therapist!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Kill(ing) Samosas

I have no idea what I was thinking. My intentions were good.

I wanted to make an Indian feast for my hubby as a surprise. I was going to make vegetarian Baingan Bhartha served with a side of authentic Basamati Onion Rice, and for the appetizer, homemade Spicy Baked Potato Samosas.

All in under an hour.

I came this close to passing out.

At the end of the meal, there was flour in my hair, mashed potato on the floor, exploded eggplant in the microwave and enough curry floating in the air to make the entire Indian community in nearby Jamaica, New York salivate for the next three years.

Here is the big lesson - SAMOSAS ARE NOT EASY. BUT...even after I made them, I didn't feel discouraged. They were so good they were worth the challenge. And the process of making them is very fun.

I read a number of recipes on the web before I created mine. The biggest time saving trick was using frozen pizza dough versus homemade dough. I'm sorry, but that's gross. If there is one thing I've learned from years of cooking, is if there is an interesting recipe to be made, it's worth making it right.

Cooking is a joy, not a labor.

There is never, ever a substitute for homemade dough. And there is no excuse not to make it, since it's easy and the taste is unparalleled. How could a cook not want to make dough? The only reason is because they are impatient and wish to rush through the meal and get onto the next (Rachael Ray anyone?).

Samosas are amazing. Layers of taste, a wonderful bite to the curry and peas and potatoes, a tender, flaky crust and, as everyone who has eaten these knows, a marriage made in culinary heaven.

And the good part for my belly was that these have 75% less fat then deep-fried samosas and taste JUST as good!

I've never been skinny. I have tried for years to be as skinny, but it's never happened. I eat less, I run, run, run on the treadmill, I don't eat snacks or drink wine after a certain hour, but I still have this little tummy. My husband loves it, but my ego wants to be thinner.

One part of me knows being really thin and having people tell me I look good and skinny is my ego talking and I need to tell it to chill...but then their is another part of me who wants people to tell me I look good and say the immortal words, "Have you lost weight?!"

It's exhausting.

When our health is at risk, clearly, that is the time for dieting and exercise. I'm 15 pound overweight and need to get it off. But dear God, it's a pain in the ass.

Which brings me to the Samosas.

They are all potato and flour.

The recipe I'm going to give you makes 12. Most recipes make 24. But let's be very blunt, shall we? More than 2 or 3 of these is fattening, so you need to enjoy the 2 or 3 you have with a low-calorie meal. That is exactly what I did and it's what you must do to stay healthy but also enjoy your food.


What you'll need for the dough:
  • 1 cups unbleached all-purpose King Arthur flour, plus some to dust work surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • 2 tablespoon plain yogurt, full fat or low-fat is fine - you can also use low-fat buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoon cold water
What you'll need for the filling:

  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon black or brown mustard seeds
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground fenugreek
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground tumeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 pound russet potatoes (2 medium is fine), peeled and cut into equal sized cubes
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 large yellow onion, diced small
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, diced small
  • 1 teaspoon diced fresh ginger, or 1/2 teaspoon ground
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
It's important you get 'seed' seasoning for the filling. They impart a truly authentic taste to the dish which is nearly impossible to duplicate. Trust me - you want to use these ingredients.


First thing is first - cook the potatoes. Get out a big pot, add the peeled and diced potatoes and cover with COLD water. Why cold? Because starting with cold results in more even cooking with the potatoes.

It's true! I don't make this shit up.

Get the water to a roiling boil over medium-high heat, then reduce and simmer potatoes until fork tender - about 13 minutes. If you can press the tines of a fork into the potato, it's done!

While the potatoes cook, measure our your spices and put into a small bowl and set nearby. Put the bit of butter on top of the spices in the side bowl.

Cut up your onion, put in a side bowl.

Cut up your garlic and ginger, put in a side bowl.

You want to DRAIN THE POTATOES BUT DON'T RINSE THEM before you proceed.

Drain the potatoes, put in a bowl.

Now heat the oil in a large, 12-inch non-stick skillet over medium-heat for 1 minute.

Throw in the spices. Cook 1 minute.


Throw in the onion with a dash of salt. Cook, cook, cook for 5 or 6 minutes. Try not to brown the onion.

Add the garlic and ginger; cook 2 minutes.

Now throw in those damn potatoes and cook them slowly until they start to brown. Most recipes I read said it takes 5 minutes. Yea, whatever. It took me, like, 20 to get them to show a nice caramel color. You want this for a tasty filling, so don't rush this. Cook until they are nicely browned.

Stir in your peas.

You did it!

You made Samosa filling!!

Now comes the totally annoying part (but it's worth it).

Cover the potatoes up and put in the fridge to cool at least 1 hour. If you can make the potatoes up to 2 days before you actually assemble them you will be SO much happier. Some sort of bizarre alchemy occurs when potatoes sit in the fridge for a few days. They become very very tasty.

Don't argue with me on this. I'm right. I'm Irish. I can cook potatoes in my sleep.

The next day, you are ready to assemble the Samosas

Let's cook!

For the dough -- mix the flour and the salt together in a large bowl. Drizzle in the oil. Either by hand or with six or seven pulses on a food processor, mix the flour/salt combo with the oil until it is a coarse cornmeal.

Now, add the yogurt or the buttermilk and mix until it's combined.

Working slowly, add one tablespoon at a time (max of 3) of COLD water (very important - must be cold) with the mixture until it comes together into a slightly moist large ball.

By hand, it takes about ten minutes. By food processor, keep the motor running with the flour mixture inside and add one tablespoon at a time to the funnel until it all comes together.

Now flatten out the dough into a round disc (like a giant hockey puck), wrap in plastic and refrigerate for one hour at least. I know, annoying, but it's WORTH IT.

After at least one hour, take out the potatoes and the dough. Put the potatoes aside.

Heat the oven to 425 degrees.

Spray a rimmed jelly-roll baking sheet with Pam Organic Extra Virgin Olive Oil spray and put aside.

Here is what you do - you separate the dough into six equal pieces.

Clear a space so you can roll out the dough. Flour your work surface and a rolling pin and roll out each piece of dough to FIVE INCHES WIDE.

It's very important you roll it out to five inches - why? Because you need it big enough to fit in all the potatoes!

Once you've rolled them out into five inch circles, cut them down the center so you a half-moon sided piece.

Now - wet the CUT SIDE OF THE HALF-MOON with a tiny bit of water from a wet fingertip.

Fold the dough over the other and crimp the edges of the dough so you make a small POCKET.

Handle the dough carefully since it will be a bit fragile. Now, fill with 1-2 tablespoons of the potato filling and fold over the top, wetting as you do and crimping the dough. Make sure all of the filling is inside and none is poking out.

Do this for the 12 pieces. This part makes me very happy.

Don't give up! You're almost there!

Now, most people fry them at this point. I'm trying to LOSE my belly, not gain more of it, so I refuse to fry them.

And to make these taste you really DON'T need to fry the suckers. Christ, their fattening enough!

Put them on the jelly-roll sheet, spray with a bit of the Pam spray, toss into the oven and cook for 15 minutes, turning once as you do to make sure they are not browning too quickly.

I served this with a rather bland Baingan Bhartha with microwaved eggplant I have yet to perfect. Once I figure that recipe out, I'll post it on this blog.

There endless possibilities with this meal. Whatever you decide to pair this with, make sure you always, always, ALWAYS hand out Major Grey Mango Chutney! It is a heavenly combination.


Until next time!

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Clint Eastwood Will Bitch Slap That Dry Pepper

This is the kind of meal I imagine Clint Eastwood would eat. You ever really looked at Clint's body? The man is diesel. He's 118 and has the body of a 50 year old guy on steroids. His arms and chest are amazing...I don't have a thing for the guy, but he's in great shape and is one hell of a good director, so he's aces in my book.

This is the kind of meal he'd eat. It's full of flavor, got some fun, sorta obscure chili's in it and low on calories and fat. I've said it before and I'll say it again - homemade Mexican food is great for you. You don't need piles of fat or cheese to make it taste great - you just need the right peppers and the right cheese (used sparingly) to have a great restaurant-quality home cooked meal.

A word on dried peppers - most home cooks don't use them. They seem to think they're weird and foreign. The truth is they're cheap and amazingly tasty. Once a home cook uses them they never, ever go back. But they are weird and they are new, so unless you don't know what to do with them, you'll get confused as all hell.

I've read countless books and blogs who tell you what to do with them. I have to be honest -- I can't follow most of them. It's true - the sublime (and very cute) Rick Bayless, the American king of Mexican food, is the dude to listen to. He's totally cute. He's so chill and has a healthy body weight (that tells you something - he doesn't cook with cheese and oil).

He uses fresh ingredients so his sauces taste like nothing you've ever had. Layers upon layers of taste and flavor. And all this mostly because he uses dried peppers.

I made a sauce the other day which was a combination of peppers. Guajillo and Ancho.

Guajillo's are one of the most common dried Spanish chili's on the market. You can find them in many, many stores. They are very mild and carry very little heat, but they add a sweet complexity to sauces which is hard to match. Ancho chili's are simply Poblano chili's dried. Poblano's are super popular in Mexico and almost always mild, but sometimes they can fool you and carry a bit of heat.

You can find dried chili's in a lot of supermarkets in the 'International section' or, sometimes, hanging on the shelves above the fresh vegetables. I buy mine from Penzey's Spices (I'm a whore for Penzey's - they could ask me to bend over and I'd say yes). A packet of 6 Guajillo chilis is $2.09 and a packet of 3 Ancho chili's is also $2.09. Very affordable. And I'm Mr. Cheap at the supermarket!

Bottom line -- dried chili's do NOT have to be soaked in hot water if you are going to chop them up and put them in a simple red sauce with tomatoes and spices. And the seeds in them do NOT have to be taken out, contrary to popular belief. BUT...they are much easier to work with if you DO soak them and they mix up much smoother in the sauce. So...if you have time, soak, if not don't worry and don't listen to anyone else about this. I've used tons of chili's so I know what I'm talking about.

This is a very simple sauce you can make in a jiffy. There is a surprise ingredient in this you won't expect. Get ready. It's weird but it works.

Today's meal:


This is Mr. Bayless. SO adorable and SO talented. And straight.

Oh, well.



(This makes a LOT of sauce - you can easily cut this in half and have some to freeze)
  • 1 package of dried Guajillo peppers (max of 8 pieces in bag)
  • 2 packages dried Ancho peppers (max of 7 total peppers)
  • 3 fresh jalapeno peppers, diced (if you must, take out the seeds from one pepper)
  • 2 tablespoons corn oil
  • 2 large white onions, diced medium
  • 5 cloves garlic, diced medium
  • 1 28 ounce can whole plumb tomatoes in sauce
  • 1 28 ounce can whole plumb tomatoes in puree, (yes, there is a big difference)
And, get ready...
  • 2 ounces of crème fraîche* (weird, I know, but it works)
  • 1-3 teaspoons of honey
  • Salt and pepper to taste
*Crème fraîche is the European equivalent to sour cream in the states. It is less sour and much thicker than sour cream and imparts a very clean, rich taste to foods. It has close to 30% milk fat and has no additives or artificial ingredients like sour cream. Avoid 'lite crème fraîchee' as it may curdle in sauces and is only suitable for dipping and cold creams. Lite only has up to 10% less milk fat, so you aren't saving that many calories.

  • 1 tablespoon corn oil
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon Mexican oregano, regular oregano is fine
  • 1/2 teaspoon
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 large white onion, diced small
  • 3 large garlic cloves, diced small
  • 2 canned chipotle chili's, plus 2 tablespoons sauce
  • 1 rotisserie chicken, meat shredded and no skin
  • 1 cup Monterey Jack or Pepper Jack cheese
  • 1 package Uncle Ben's 90 second brown rice
  • 1 cup salsa, see above recipe
  • 8 corn or flour tortillas

For the sauce...

Get out a large, non-stick skillet. Heat it up over medium-high heat until it's hot. Put half of the dry peppers into the hot skillet and using a spatula, press on the peppers for 1 minute, until you can smell them roasting.

Flip them over and do the same thing for 1 minute. Toasting the peppers brings out all the flavor without adding any calories or fat. Put the 1st batch of toasted peppers into a bowl.

Do this again with the remaining peppers. Put them in the bowl as well.

If you have time, soak the dry peppers. How? Pour boiling water over them for 30 minutes to soften. Drain the water and put them aside. If you do not have time, DON'T STRESS. This will still work.

Dice up the dry, roasted peppers into big pieces. You can keep the seeds if you want - it doesn't matter. Put aside in a large bowl.

Dice up the jalapenos. Put in 1/4 teaspoon of oil in the skillet, heat over medium-heat for 1 minute, throw in the jalapenos, cook for 2 minutes until browned, then add to the large bowl with the diced dry and roasted peppers.

Now add 3/4 teaspoon oil to the pan, heat, add the onions (with a tiny dash of salt to bring out the moisture). Cook for 5 minutes until translucent. Add your garlic and cook for 1 minute. One old trick in the kitchen - when you actually smell the food cooking, it's done! Garlic smells wonderful pretty fast, so that means you are done.

Turn the flame off and leave the skillet on the stove. Don't wipe it out!

Throw the onion and the garlic into the bowl with with the sauteed jalapenos, and the dry, roasted peppers.

Now - get out your blender. Add tomatoes and then add the bowl of peppers and onions. Puree for 30 seconds, or until smooth.

Carefully pour the puree into the skillet and cook over a medium-heat for 5 minutes. TASTE, TASTE, TASTE. You may need to add a bit of salt or pepper this point.

And get ready to make sure your lover or husband or wife leaves the rooms! The spices are strong and girl, they will make you cry!

Now, carefully add the crème fraîche. A dab does you. Add one tablespoon of honey. Don't be surprised if the sauce tastes a little bitter. Feel free to add up to 2 more tablespoons of honey and you're all set!

Put the cooked, thickened sauce aside.


Time for the Chicken Burritos!

LET'S COOK!Remove the meat from the chicken carcass (that word is so gross - 'carass'. ew and double ew).

Put the meat from the carcass (ew) into a large glass bowl.

Get out a clean 8 inch skillet. Heat up the oil for 1 minute over a medium heat.

Add the first 8 ingredients and cook for 5 minutes. Stir often, making sure it doesn't burn. This shit will make you tear up, so open a window or put on that fan. Andy hates this part. He coughs and coughs while my Mexican neighbors drool.

When it's done, throw it into the bowl with the chicken and mix in the cheese and mix. Heat up the rice in the microwave and throw into the bowl and mix.

Add ONE CUP OF THE SALSA. Mix, mix, mix.

TASTE, TASTE, TASTE. Add salt and pepper but watch that damn salt!

Now, get out a Pyrex dish - a large casserole version. Pour 1/2 cup of sauce on the bottom of the pan.

Heat up your oven to 325 degrees.

Roll up the chicken mixture into the tortillas and fill them tightly into the pan. I find it will hold 8 nicely. On this, you want a tight fit. Tight fit. No comment.

Drizzle some of the salsa over burritos, sprinkle on a bit of cheese and pop in the oven for 25-35 minutes. If the cheese or burritos are browning too quickly, spray a piece of aluminum foil with olive oil Pam and cover.


Mikey...Your Food Therapist!