Monday, December 31, 2007

Happy New Year!!!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Just to put it in perspective, Christmas for me is like Thanksgiving here-lots of food and even more drink. Those of you who read my Thanksgiving blog know what kind of feast I had so I'm on for a second round. We're off to Ireland tomorrow for the festivities for a few weeks. This is the first Christmas at home in a while so it should be good craic (pronounced crack.) I'm sure I'll have a few stories to tell as well as a few extra lbs. no doubt!
I want to wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and an excellent New Year!
Your Hopefully Still-Healthy Irishman

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Worst Foods in America

How good does that look! The Outback Steakhouse Aussie cheese fries w/ ranch dressing. With only 2,900 calories, 182 grams fat and 240 grams carbs - it's a meal the whole neighborhood should share. I came across this and more in this month's Men's Health Magazine. They listed the top 20 worst foods for any human to consume, which perked me right up. This by the way, was the winner (no shit sherlock.)
A lot of those featured are obvious, but some like the Ruby Tuesdays Bella turkey burger which passes itself off as being "healthy" has 1,145 calories and a mere 71 grams of fat. People just assume that eating something like that is good for them but with the portion sizes these restaurants are serving, joe public hasn't a clue. Just to put it into perspective, an average man should be consuming 2,500 calories approx. per day so by having this burger, without the fries, you're already almost half way through your daily allotment.
The article goes on to list their 'worst in' categories like worst drink, supermarket meal, kids meal, sandwich, steak, salad and more. This is a good one for all you Starbucks peeps. Voted worst coffee, the venti strawberries & creme frappucino blended creme. I know I'm not the only one who hasn't a clue what all that means and where's the coffee? Anyway it's got a cool 750 calories and ......120 grams sugar, more than 3 cans of soda. Enjoy that sugar crash.
It really boils down to making wise choices. The reason why the "healthy" burger isn't healthy is most likely from the sauces smothered on top. Eliminate these naughty additions (including mayo) and your burger becomes better.
I highly recommend checking out this article, "The First Annual 20 Worst Foods in America" for an eye-opener on how to make wiser choices in the big bad world of restaurants. Take it a step further and grab a copy of Eat This Not That, by David Zinczenko & Matt Goulding, who wrote the MH article. Featured on the Today Show, the book provides more healthy tips for all kinds of restaurant eating as well as wise supermarket shopping. After all 2008 is right around the bend...

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Mustard & Wine

My buddy Joe Jerome had us over for some wine and a bite to eat the other day, pretty casual. He's a member of a few wine clubs in the Santa Barbara area so when he needed some help "tasting" them we headed over. Not much tasting went on - we ploughed through six bottles between four of us! Not the reason for the blog, although if I remember what I drank and how it/they tasted I'll fill you in.
I didn't know Joe was into cooking but I was pleasantly surprised. Again it was supposed to be about the wine but he went all out with an array of food such as Irish smoked salmon, roasted red and golden beets (leaves and all in some olive oil and wine-damn good), pan seared scallops and silver snapper with white beans. It was all simple, tasty and unexpected.
Finally the reason I'm telling you all this, he brought out this bottle of mustard seed oil with some french bread. It turns out wine wasn't the only thing we were tasting. This oil was full of punch like I'd never tasted before, unless I shoveled in a spoonful of Dijon mixed with horseradish. Ok, maybe not that severe but it had kick, especially the after taste.
After the wine had worn off I decided to look into it more. Good mustard seed oil is pungent, very pungent almost to the extreme of bringing tears to your eyes when smelling it. It has the lowest saturated fat content of all edible oils at 5%. Primarily it's used in Indian cooking, particularly in Bengali cooking. Though this oil can be used as a dip like we had it, it's generally heated almost to smoking before used for cooking to eliminate toxins and is mainly used for flavouring a finished dish. It's great to finish off fish stews or curries. Worth noting though, the flavor and smell are really reduced when heated.
Besides cooking you can actually use it for massaging your body and hair. Though this is more prevalent in Northern India, you may notice a "for massage use only" label on the bottle. This is an FDA regulation. They've deemed mustard oil unfit for human consumption. Wikipedia explains why. Most people ignore this. It's the same in Canada where a "for external use only" disclaimer is on their labels.
Though I probably won't be using it to massage my head, I'm quite excited about trying it in my food. Now the trick is finding it....

Friday, December 7, 2007

Lavash pizza w/ blistered tomatoes, pesto and Italian cheese

So you're having a holiday shin-dig and need something quick and delicious for guests to nosh on, not to mention something to soak up the beer! Have no fear--The Healthy Irishman is here! (she made me do it). I'd love to be able to pass this idea off as my own but I'll no doubt be busted. My buddy, Trevor came up with this. We worked together in catering companies a few years back and now he's head honcho at his own company, deuceevents.com. The pizza is a great party idea--not only does it look good, it's simple, quick and people love it. Play around with the toppings to create your own signature version.

Recipe:
1 piece lavash (Trader Joe's)
2 baskets cherry tomatoes - washed
2 cups basil pesto - recipe below
1/2 cup 2% Italian cheese
1 tbsp. olive oil


Pre-heat oven 400 degrees
Brush the lavash with olive oil and par-bake for 5-6 mins. approx or until it begins to crisp. This can be done ahead of time and set aside until you're ready to make your pizzas. Drizzle some olive oil in pan and saute tomatoes on high heat until they begin to blister, 6 mins. approx. Season and set aside.
To make pesto:
2 cups fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 lemon- zested
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts

Blend basil, garlic, nuts and cheese in food processor for 20 secs. If you don't have one of these gadgets a blender works just fine, just use smaller quantities. With machine running, slowly add olive oil, season and taste. If making this ahead of time make be sure you cover tightly with plastic wrap to prevent it from oxidizing, which turns it brown.
To assemble pizza, simply spread pesto generously and carefully on the lavash. Layer the blistered tomatoes on top and sprinkle the cheese over. Don't do this too far ahead as the lavash will get soggy. Put in the oven for 5 mins. approx or till the cheese melts.
To serve, cut into bite size pieces, top with fresh chopped basil.
How easy is that, even an Irishman can do this!

Monday, December 3, 2007

HOLIDAY SURVIVAL TIPS

We all know the eating and drinking season is here. Christmas parties, office parties--whatever it is, it all revolves around food and drink. Not a bad thing by all accounts but we'll pay for it next month. So I came up with a few health and fitness tips to help make it a bit easier when the word "diet" comes around in a few weeks.
I know there's a lot of stuff on tv and in mags. about getting through the season and not putting on weight and all that crap so I'm going to keep this very basic. Nothing more boring than someone telling you what you should or shouldn't do. It's the holidays so do whatever you want but here's a few suggestions of what I'm going to do or try to do.
WATER:
This is probably the most important thing to consider especially during the holidays. Your body needs to stay hydrated and when we're out and about at whatever party it is, drinking a lot of water will definitely help with the recovery by flushing out the toxins. For those of you thinking hair of the dog, been there done that but be sure to drink water as well.
EXERCISE:
Usually not on the agenda for most people during the holidays, but think about it--if you can motivate yourself to get in some exercise it'll make it all the better having that extra beer or slice of pie. Anything helps. Get out and get some fresh air. Go for a walk, jog or hit the gym (for those not hungover). For walking a basic rule of thumb is to go for 30-60 mins. at 50-70% of your max. heart rate. Do what you can and try to enjoy it.
SNACK:
This is good for those who tend to starve themselves before they go to a party. We've all heard about it or even done it. Someone skipping lunch because they're going to a party 6 hours later. Bad idea. You'll be so ravenous by then you'll end up shoving anything and everything into your mouth. Especially once the booze kicks in. The key here is to EAT a snack before you go so you're not starving. You definitely want to enjoy the food at the party so don't go for dinner but have a bowl of soup maybe or a sandwich. You also don't want to drink on an empty stomach especially at an office do. Could be interesting though!
YOURSELF:
Christmas can be fairly stressful. You're running around shopping, trying to see everyone who's home for the holidays, parties, not to mention family. We all know that's work in itself. Not to get too yogalike here but it's important to make time for yourself. All you need is a few minutes each day to get away from everyone and take a breath. This will help you feel relaxed and less stressed.
There you have it. Nothing too deep or painful, right? We all know the build up is bigger than the actual event so enjoy the month and we'll deal with the rest of it in the new year.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

SIMPLE SEAFOOD PROVENCALE

When I started working as a chef in '92, I primarily worked in seafood restaurants. Although I grew up as a meat and potato man I've always loved all seafood. It was an obvious choice for me with the abundance of great seafood in Ireland. I like this recipe 'cause it's easy, healthy and damn tasty.


Recipe:
1 medium red onion - thinly sliced
1 medium red pepper - thinly sliced
1 medium yellow pepper - thinly sliced
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. fresh tomatoes - chopped (can use tinned if preferred)
1 lb. medium shrimp - peeled and deveined
10 fresh jumbo scallops
1 lb. little neck clams - washed
1 1/2 lb. mussels - washed
1 cup clam juice
1 cup white wine
1 cup veg. broth or water
2 tbsp. fresh basil - chopped
2 tbsp. garlic - minced

Begin by sauteing red pepper, onion and 1 tbsp. garlic in medium hot pan for 15 mins. Add chopped tomatoes and broth and simmer. In hot saute pan add mussels, 1/2 tbsp. chopped garlic, 1/2 cup wine, 1/2 cup clam juice and cover. Cook mussels till all shells have opened. Drain in a colander and keep all remaining liquid. Repeat process with clams. Once drained remove clams and mussels from shells and set aside. Throw away any unopened shells. Strain mussel and clam juice and add to tomato sauce along with lemon zest.
Season and sear scallops in hot pan for 30 secs. each side. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Once removed, season and sear shrimp in same hot pan for 2 mins. each side. Add all seafood to tomato sauce and simmer for 20 mins. on medium low heat. Stir all ingredients to coat with sauce. Add chopped basil and taste for seasoning.
This is a great recipe to make and serve family style with a few friends.
NOTE: Video demo on YouTube

Tip: When buying shellfish always make sure the shells are closed to make sure they're not only fresh but more importantly alive!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

THANKSGIVING FROM AN IRISHMAN

OK I get it. I see why it's all about eating, drinking and eating more and drinking more (if you've any room left) and of course family and all that. For me it's the same as Christmas. I usually work for Thanksgiving 'cause well, it's an American holiday but this year I finally got to enjoy the festivities instead of working them. And you'd better believe I had seconds!
I'm sure you already know the history behind it all, well if you're from here you do, so I won't go into it as I'll probably mess it up anyway. We got the nod to go to a killer feast at my friends Kelly and Van's house. What a spread. There was 27 of us and I'd say the majority were from from the South and these southerners meant business in the kitchen. Everything was made from scratch. BTW Kelly's also a chef.
Let me tell you what we had: a 35lb. smoked sucking pig, deep fried and roasted turkey, oyster and cornbread dressing (that's stuffing if you're not from here, new to me too), homemade green bean casserole, rice consomme, creamed corn, stuffed mirlitons, potato yeast rolls w/ honey butter, gravy, cranberry sauce and other bits and pieces like a grape salad thing with brown sugar, not sure about that one. A lot of this was new to me but man was it good. Even down to the desserts--homemade pecan pie, pumpkin gooey bars, pumpkin banana torte, pumpkin cheesecake, choc. chip bundt cake, ginger pumpkin cake and as Kelly pointed out, a dreamwhip pie which I apparently shovelled in my mouth.Won't see that everyday!

Myself and Kelly
Great day-lots of food and drink, hit the scratcher early (that's bed for you who don't speak Irish!) I'm going to try one of these recipes soon so keep checking back!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

FRESH BAKED APPLE TART

One of the best memories I have growing up was when we'd get a phone call from our neighbor asking us (myself and my older sister) in for some apple tart. She was an elderly lady, loved us, as her kids were all "growed up". We knew the routine and played it well. She made different tarts and crumbles every week. Apple, rhubarb, berries the lot. We could smell them in the oven from our house and would be casually hanging around the phone. The call always came and man you never saw two kids run faster. I was probably no more than 8 or 9 but can remember it vividly. I'm not really big into desserts but show me an apple tart and ice cream, gone.

There are so many recipes out there for various pies, tarts, crumbles that I decided to focus more on the filling than the pastry. You can buy good quality tart shells in most stores. I was in Wholefoods yesterday and got one. A lot of people don't want the hassle of making a pie crust so these are perfect.

1 9 inch pie crust
Pre-heat oven 375 degrees
Filling Recipe:
5 medium apples - sliced (Arkansas black, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith)
2 tbsp. unsalted butter
2 tbsp. honey/agave
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. allspice
I used the Arkansas Black apples which I came across at the farmers market the other day. Crisp and sweet. You should look for a firm variety such as those above so they don't break down too much when cooking and hold their shape better. The Granny smiths will need more sweetening than the others so taste them and decide for yourself.

If using a pre-made pie crust, par bake it for 20 mins. and let cool. Halve, core and slice your apples to 1/4 inch thickness. Place them in a bowl of lemon water to prevent them from turning brown. In large saute pan over medium-low heat melt the butter. Once it begins to foam add your honey and stir for 30 sec. Add the sliced apples, cinnamon and allspice and coat gently. Cook for 3-4 mins. till the apples begin to soften. Set aside to cool. Once ready lay filling gently into tart shell.
Press down the apples to as to fill the whole tart. Bake for 25 mins.
Once ready, let cool.
Serving suggestion: Fresh raspberry sauce.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Roast Turkey Breast w/ Cranberry Orange Relish

For most people the holidays are all about eating, drinking and usually lots of leftovers especially turkey. We end up having turkey sandwiches out the ying yang for days afterwards. I bet a lot of you are only interested in white or breast meat, or maybe you're only having a few people round so here's a recipe just for you.
Some stores offer just the turkey breasts so you don't have to buy the whole turkey. This is great for smaller portions and cuts the cooking time so you won't be up at the crack of dawn to get the bird in the oven. Regardless of meat size, I always brine my turkey the day before. Brining is soaking the meat in salted water which helps add flavor and keeps the meat moist during roasting. You can add a variety of other ingredients such as spices, herbs, bay leaves or even beer if you like to enhance the flavor. I find that a lot of people when cooking poultry, in particular cook the daylights out of it so they won't poison anyone. It always ends up dry and flaky, not good. Brining also provides a temperature cushion during cooking, so if this is your tendency, brining will help lock in the juices so it won't taste like rubber. Another note on brining is that brined meats tend to cook faster than unbrined meats so keep your eye on the internal temp about 2/3 of the way into your normal cooking time.

BRINING RECIPE:
11/2 lb. organic turkey breast
8 cups water (enough to cover)
1/3 cup kosher salt
3 bay leaves
1/2 tbsp. peppercorns
1 cup fresh herbs (thyme, marjoram, sage)
2 lemons-zested
Dissolve salt in the water. Add remaining ingredients and submerge turkey. Put in fridge overnight. When ready to cook, rinse and pat dry with paper towel.

TURKEY RECIPE:
11/2lb. brined turkey breast
1 lg.carrot-roughly chopped
1 lg.parsnip-roughly chopped
1 med. white onion-roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic- halved
2 tbsp. fresh ginger- roughly chopped

Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees
Mix all vegetables together and lay on roasting pan. These will be used as a base for roasting the turkey which not only prevents the meat from sticking to the pan but are used for the gravy. Lay the seasoned turkey on the vegetables and place in oven. After 15 mins. reduce heat to 350. When cooked internal temp. should be 160 degrees. It took 50 mins. in my oven so keep an eye on it. When done, let rest for 15 mins. before carving.

CRANBERRY ORANGE RELISH
Cranberries are quite bitter so the majority of recipes use sugar when making. It's usually 1:1 water:sugar. I try to avoid sugar as much as possible as there are so many great alternatives. I prefer to use agave nectar which although is a real sugar and has similar properties to many sugars its glycemic index is much lower which makes it less likely to raise blood sugar levels. Agave is 40% sweeter than sugar so you also use less. Check out http://www.allaboutagave.com/ for more info.
Recipe:
1 12 oz. bag cranberries
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup agave or honey
1 tbsp. fresh ginger-chopped
1 med. orange-zested
Place all above into sauce pan and bring to a boil. Once the cranberries start popping reduce the heat and stir until blended, 10 mins. approx. Taste for sweetness (add more agave if needed) and refrigerate. This can be made a day or so in advance.
Yields 3 cups.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

Here we go again. Turkey, mash potatoes, gravy, pies, the lot. A good time by all but we'll pay for it in January (a great time to own a gym with all those new members.) This is a healthy low-fat way to start your meal and will let you have that extra piece of pie.

Butternut squash is a more watery squash and tastes very much like sweet potatoes with a sweet nutty flavor. Typically butter and sugar are used to make this soup but if you know anything about my cooking these are two items rarely used. I prefer adding chopped apple to sweeten or even carrot as I've done today, which also enhances the color of the soup. If you want to vary the flavor you could add 1 tbsp. curry powder as you're sauteing the onions. I often make this for my clients and alter the flavor by adding the apple, curry, nutmeg or even sweet potatoes or parsnips. Don't be afraid to play around and see what you come up with.
Recipe:
4 cups roughly diced & peeled butternut squash
1/2 cup diced onion
1 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 carrot-roughly chopped
5 cups low-sodium chicken/vegetable broth
2 tbsp. olive oil
S&P to taste

Yields 6 cups

Saute the onions on medium heat for 5 mins, no color. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another minute. Add the squash and carrot and continue to cook for 10 mins stirring occasionally. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce to a simmer until vegetables are tender, 30 mins. approx. In a blender, puree until smooth and season to taste. Easy as that. To make it even easier you can purchase already peeled squash and then all you have to do is chop. This is great to make in advance and even freeze if need be.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

THE PEACOCK WENT GREEN

Unless you've been living under a rock you've probably noticed NBC went Green this past week. Every program was dedicated to being Eco-Conscious, from the Today Show to the soaps and into prime time. I consider myself a pretty active green guy. I recycle, I dry my clothes on the line, I've changed my light bulbs and I always try to turn off lights even in hotels. But I was amazed at all the stuff I didn't know. Where do you start?

Water. For washing dishes, hands and food we should be using a pencil thin trickle of water (easier said than done.) And for clothes, use cold water to wash both whites and darks, which won’t waste 35 gallons of hot water to do each load of laundry. Drink tap water if it won't kill you (literally) or invest in filter options. The less plastic bottles the better. That goes for soap as well. It makes sense that bar soaps are better for the environment than body washes and hand washes. It just took someone pointing it out for it to sink in! No pun intended.

Unplug. We should all know by now to unplug, meaning don't leave the plug in the power source when our cell phones, ipods & cameras are fully charged but what about computers? To quote iVillage.com, set your computer to go into sleep mode when it's not in use, and shut it off each night. Shutting down your system every night will help save energy and also prolong the life of your computer (it’s actually better for your computer than leaving it on). As a next step, adjust your settings so that your screen goes dark when you're not using your computer. Screen savers prevent your computer from going into sleep mode and (contrary to popular belief) are not needed to preserve your screen. You can find your computer's sleep settings and energy management settings in your System Preferences.

Food. Buy local for so many reasons. You've probably noticed I'm into going to farmers' markets which is a great resource for not only supporting local farmers and vendors but it's actually quite interesting speaking to them and finding out some info on their products. It's pretty good people watching too, especially around here. What about paper vs. plastic? The jury is still out on this one. Read the full article on msnbc's site but here's the short story: Trees make paper, oil barrels create plastic. To make paper bags creates 70% more air pollution than plastic, but plastic bags create 4x's the solid waste and can last up to a 1,000 years. So what's the right choice? Bring your own bags, cloth or canvas or reuse any bags. Here's a good question though...what is the best choice for picking up dog crap? Many of us reuse the plastic grocery bags for this purpose but if they end up in land fills for years and years, what's a green fingered man to do? Think I answered my own question with just a minute of Google: PoopBags.com and BioBagUSA.com. They've thought of everything!

Fitness. Kudos to The Biggest Loser advocating eating healthy organic food and for turning off the power to the gym machines. If you're lucky enough to live in a good climate, get your ass outdoors! This is a good one though--did you know you can recyle your athletic shoes? Nike will recycle any brand of athletic shoe through its Reuse-a-Shoe program. (Get details on the Nike Web site.) The company processes and recycles the footwear to make sports surfaces for basketball courts, tennis courts, running tracks and playgrounds. Right now they’re collecting shoes to make athletic surfaces for New Orleans to help bring youth sports back to the city as it rebuilds. To date, about 20 million pairs of athletic shoes worldwide have been recycled through the Reuse-A-Shoe program. It's an amazing program that needs a mention.

Just some food for thought but important none the less. Guess you could call me the Healthy-Tree hugging-Green Irishman.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

KETTLEBELLS

Ever since I got into sports and fitness I've been interested in looking at all types of exercise techniques. Along with all the fad diets that are on the market, most of which are quick fixes, there are a lot of trendy or "in" training techniques as well. Don't get me wrong if you need to dance around a pole for or go to a boot camp and have some guy scream at you to get you moving, I'm all for it. Whatever works as long as you're out doing something.
There are a lot of trainers out there who use a variety of methods to help you loose weight or build muscle. I was talking with one of my neighbors last night who's a personal trainer (there's a lot of them here in LA) who trains his clients using only kettlebells. I've seen these in my own gym but not too many people use them or probably know how to. Though it looks pretty easy it definitely takes some training.
A kettlebell is a cast iron weight which looks like a cannonball with a handle. It's an ancient Russian exercise tool that dates back to 1704. They're measured in 'poods'. A pood is an old Russian weight measure which equals 16kg or 35 lbs approx. Kettlebell training provides a great total body workout that improves strength as well as flexibility. It's a proven technique that's stood the test of time, not bad for a cannonball with a handle.

Friday, November 2, 2007

FISH 'N' CHIPS

After we got back from Ireland a couple months ago having had our fair share of fish 'n' chips, which I love by the way especially after a few beers, I had an idea. I wanted to come up with my healthy and tasty version of this classic. So I did.
When deciding what fish to use always go for a firm variety such as halibut, cod, or sea bass. In terms of the way you cook it, not only do I like the look of grilling but it's obviously the healthiest choice. You can bake it or even fry it if you want. If you choose the latter, I suggest shallow frying instead of deep frying for healthier results and use canola oil instead of vegetable oil in a shallow saute pan.

Grilled Fish'n'Chips:

1 x 4oz Wild Pacific Halibut
1 x medium sweet potato
2 x tbsp. olive oil
1/2 x tsp. garlic-minced
S&P to taste
lemon wedge
Condiments - ketchup, tarter sauce, malt vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees
Begin by cutting the sweet potato in half lenghtwise and then into quarters. In a bowl toss potatoes with 1 tbsp. olive oil, S&P, garlic and even chili flakes if desired. Once oven is hot bake on middle shelf, approx. 20 minutes or 'til tender. If you're not sure if they're ready, don't be afraid, taste it! Be sure you don't put them on the bottom shelf or it'll burn the underside and be raw inside. Once they're cooking, sear seasoned fish in hot pan 'til golden on both sides, approx. 2-3 mins. This not only gives it a nice look but will help keep the fish moist while it's cooking. Pop it in oven for about 6 mins or until firm to the touch.
Let the fish rest for a minute or so when it comes out so all the juices won't run out of it when you cut into it. You can serve this as is or have some broccoli or green beans with it, it's up to your inner chef. Of course if you just want a snack or have some friends coming over, make a batch of the fries and dig in! I think this is about as easy as it gets when it comes to cooking. Simple, fresh, delicious and healthy!

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Fitness and The Flash


When you read the title of this book, Fit and Sexy for Life: The hormone free plan for staying slim, strong and fabulous in your 40's, 50's, and beyond, I'm obviously the authority on the subject. Everybody knows you come to a 30 something guy for the insider info. I've all the answers, clearly...or maybe I just make a good salad!
Kathy and I worked together on the Body-for-LIFE program last year. She's well known in her field as one of the best authorities on health and fitness. When she told me she was writing another book and asked me for some recipes I was more than willing to oblige. Those featured include:
Ginger lime shrimp salad
Niscoise salad w/ seared ahi tuna
Grilled chicken & onion pizza
Homemade turkey burger w/ asian slaw
Cajun salmon salad w/ arugula mixed greens
Although Kathy's book deals with health and fitness related issues aimed primarily at menopausal women, diet is as important. I don't use the word 'diet' in terms of losing weight but as a lifestyle centered around eating healthy nutritious meals that fuel the body. Kathy and I agreed on this fundamental issue and that's how I ended up contributing to her book. The end result is great and the recipes are accessible to everyone.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

ANOTHER FRIDAY DINNER


HEIRLOOM TOMATOES
I got a comment from John who asked for suggestions for heirloom tomatoes, apart from eating them as they are. Since they're still in season right now, I wanted to find out a bit more about them so I headed over to another farmers market yesterday to get the scoop. Apparently there are over 4,000 varieties available worldwide from Greece to Italy to the US, New Zealand and on to Russia. I shit you not. I thought there was only around 400. Heirlooms are open-pollinated, which means the flowers are pollinated by wind or insects. This also means you can save the seeds and they'll produce the next year. Heirloom tomatoes are bred for taste not appearance, which you probably noticed if you've seen some of them. We see the first batch get to the markets around March when the season begins. I got some mixed opinions as to when the season's finished up but it's somewhere between November and January, either way we've got a couple more months to go. The main reason why the season is getting longer is because of global climate change, which as we know affects more than just our tomatoes, but that's a different story altogether.

I came up with a few suggestions other than the usual tomato, mozzarella and basil salad:
Homemade heirloom gazpacho (use different colored tomatoes)
Orzo w/ blistered grape heirlooms, fresh herbs (parsley, mint), mozzarella
BAKED COUS-COUS STUFFED HEIRLOOM
Recipe below Serving suggestion: Pair with grilled paprika dusted tofu and asparagus
4 servings
4 x medium heirloom tomatoes (not too ripe and vary colors for presentation)
2/3 x cup un-cooked cous-cous (2 cups cooked)
1 x cup water or broth (low sodium preferably) I like to control who much salt I use
1 x tsp. salt
1 x lemon, zested
1/2 x red onion, fine dice
1/2 x red pepper, fine dice
2 x tbsp. olive oil
1 x tbsp. fresh basil,chopped
1 x tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
1 x tbsp. kalamata olives,chopped
2 x tbsp. feta cheese
S&P to taste
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
Begin by bringing your salted broth or water to a boil and once ready add cous-cous, cover and remove from heat for allotted cooking time per instructions on box. Make sure you check it so it won't overcook. Saute the onion and peppers in olive oil on medium heat not getting too much color. Once ready set aside in mixing bowl.
Meanwhile, cut tops off your tomatoes and carefully scoop out the center. Keep the insides. Chop and add to your onion pepper mixture. TIP: You can do this ahead of time and keep them in the fridge. I suggest putting some paper towel in the cavity to soak up some of the juice.
Once everything is ready, carefully using a fork, mix your ingredients together. Taste and adjust seasoning as preferred. Gently fill each tomato with your mixture and bake covered for 20-30 minutes. Because all heirlooms are different, the cooking time may vary so when the tomato is soft to the touch you're ready.
You can serve this with any entree or even as an appetizer. Enjoy!

Monday, October 22, 2007

Spuds and lots of them!


Surprise, surprise an Irish guy talking about potatoes. Who'd have thought?
I was at the Santa Monica Farmers market yesterday and met a friend of mine, Denis who works for Weiser Farms. They produce some great sustainable root vegetables, potatoes, carrots, onions.
They have about 10 different varieties all of which have distinct qualities. If you're looking for a mashing potato for instance, the German Butterball is the best along with the French fingerling. A lot of the fingerling varieties are great for roasting as you can roast them whole and they look and taste great. The fingerling potatoes are generally more expensive though, as they have to be hand picked. Check out the Purple Peruvian fingerling and the All Blue for something a little different. Although not related they're similar in color and texture and look great. Sometimes when I do buffets I roast a few different varieties of fingerlings which look brilliant together. I like to keep it simple, especially with great ingredients, just olive oil, S&P and garlic and they're delicious.
The great thing about going to these farmers markets is that the vendors love to talk about their products and it's a great place to learn and see new varieties.
At least we don't have to worry about parking!

Friday, October 19, 2007

BURN BABY BURN!

After landing in the States I tried my luck in Santa Monica, where I joined a gym so I wouldn't look totally ridiculous in my speedos. Though I've since moved to a different gym, I kept in contact with a couple of the trainers.
Fast forward a couple of years.
Returning from a holiday in Ireland, where we ate and drank our way through the countryside, we headed home with bloated faces and spare tires. Knowing we are going to do it again for Christmas, the wife decided she needed help (and not my nagging loving kind) so I suggested she try fatburn.com, a program designed by one of the trainers I knew from the old gym. This is a website that shows the relationship between calorie intake and excercise. She took the reins and to my surprise, has become addicted to her computer, entering her food intake even a day in advance to see if she should have that extra glass o'wine. NUTS! It has been an eye opening experience for both of us---are you aware how many calories are in your Baja Fresh burrito?!
Last weekend we were on the 3rd St.Promenade in Santa Monica and noticed a large banner hanging above the McDonalds sign reading, BURN FITNESS. What the...? We connected the dots and decided to go in for a gander. This was the brainchild of Tom Williams, the creator of fatburn.com, who was one of the trainers at my old gym. It was shit-hot. Located on the 4th and 5th floors overlooking the Promenade, it has hardwood floors, top of the line equipment complete with cable televisions installed on all the cardio machines (my wife's favorite), computer access to check your email AND FREE subscription to fatburn.com. Impressive AND affordable! At least if you walk through these golden arches your speedos will fit!

FRIDAY DINNER

CHICKEN CACCIATORE
4-6 Servings

3x 8 oz skinless grass fed or organic chicken breasts
1x med red onion, thinly sliced
1x red pepper, thinly sliced
1x green pepper, thinly sliced
2x small garlic cloves, minced (smashed)
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (or as much as you can handle)
1x 28 oz. tin chopped tomatoes
1x lemon, zested or grated
32 oz. (aka 4 cups/1 qt) chicken broth
1x glass white wine (whatever you're drinking)
2x tbsp olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
1x bay leaf
1x bouquet garni of oregano & thyme
(fresh herbs stacked together, tied with string)

In large pot, saute onions and peppers in two tablespoons of olive oil over med-low heat for 5 minutes. Add minced garlic, sautee for 1 minute. Add chopped tomatoes, chili flakes, herbs, bay leaf and broth. Bring to a boil.
Meanwhile, cut chicken breast in half. Season with salt & pepper. Sear until golden in saute pan over high heat. Add to sauce. Once removed, add wine to same saute pan and cook for 30 seconds and add to sauce. Once liquid has come to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer. Partially cover with lid and cook until chicken is very tender (falling apart), approx. 1-1 1/4 hours. Stir in lemon zest and S&P to taste.

TIPS: If on a calorie controlled diet, omit wine.
For all of you veggies, I tried the recipe with seitan and to my surprise it worked, though I'd recommend cooking it for longer to absorb the flavor.

Whenever possible use Organic ingredients, particularly with meat and dairy products.

Body-for-LIFE Expo Featuring GAVAN MURPHY