5 Tricks to the Juiciest Turkey Ever!

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Tired of dry, tasteless holiday turkey? Follow the 5 Tricks for the Juiciest Turkey Ever video, and you’ll never eat dry turkey again. It’s so delicious, you won’t wait for a holiday to make it. It’s also high in protein and low in fat. Nope, you won’t need a stick of butter or even a pat of butter for this recipe.

When you choose your turkey at the market, be sure to look for organic and “air chilled”. You’ll pay more per pound for organic, if it’s been air chilled, you won’t be paying for water weight. Both chickens and turkeys are often stored in water, where they absorb water content. It’s much better to soak at home with salt water, where you know the water is clean. Plus the salt in your own brining water, will add to the flavor significantly. Pound for pound, you’ll end up paying about the same price for an air-chilled bird than a commercially produced, water-chilled bird. Choosing organic insures you will not be ingesting artificial hormones or antibiotics commercial birds are given and you’ll know the bird you are eating was raised more humanely.

These 5 tricks that guarantee a super moist, very tasty turkey are explained in the video, so enjoy!
Brine
Herb
Metal Insert
Water Bath
Higher Temperature for Shorter Cooking Time

Look for my Turkey Gravy Recipe video on YouTube.com/yogimarlon and please subscribe when you are there!

Crudités: A healthy party alternative

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By New Year’s, we often had our share of indulgences in fatty cheeses, the empty calories of most crackers and those awful, fried hors d’oeuvres we feel compelled to eat when they’re the only food available and we are imbibing. In support of our resolutions for the coming year, why not create a crudités? Each time I serve or bring one to a party, guests give a sigh of relief, I suppose because there’s something delicious and wholesome they won’t have to work off at the gym.

Now if you are thinking about those prepackaged crudités platters with baby carrots and stalks of celery with dry ends and broccoli that’s never touched, think again. Making your own is easy, naturally beautiful and inexpensive, too. The one pictured at the bottom of the post, cost only $8. (A quarter lb. of a fancy cheese can cost that much.)

Most of the work of creating a beautiful arrangement can be done the day before in about 15 minutes. Here are some tips to a great crudités!

1. Buy your fresh veggies at the farmer’s market if possible. Wash and refrigerate them until the day of the event.

2. Choose vegetables with a wide assortment of colors.

3. Use an extra sharp knife to cut vegetables into easy-to-handle shapes. Long shapes are more elegant. Get away from the kibbles and bits look. Put all cut veggies, especially celery and carrots, into baggies with a little water and a few drops of olive oil until it’s time to serve the platter.

4. Never use baby carrots. They’re essentially tasteless. Scrub full sized carrots with a toothbrush and cut into long spears. Don’t peel them or you’ll loose the most nutritious part. Orange carrots are fine, but look for the yellow, red and purple ones for their beautiful presentation.

4. Steam and chill vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, and zucchini.

5. Utilizing the crudité raw regulars such as celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes, is great.


6. Feel free to add some fresh berries. No apples slices, because they’ll discolor.

7. Skip the eggplant, potatoes and anything in the onion family for this one. Going for chlorophyl is best, not onion breath. Come on! It’s a party!

8. Do that cool 50′s housewife thing and carve radishes into rose blossoms. Just cut petals toward the center of the radish with a paring knife and soak in ice water so they open up.

9. Make a homemade thick dressing, so party guests won’t drip it everywhere. Vinaigrette won’t do. Consider using plain yogurt instead of mayo or sour cream and present it in a lovely glass instead of an ordinary bowl. My Russian dressing is super quick and easy, (See my video on 3 Salad Dressings for recipe . ) so there’s no excuse to use an awful & artificial bottled dressing. And please, don’t fuss over “double-dipping.” It’s not gonna kill anybody!

10. Keep it wrapped in plastic, so it stays moist until the moment of presentation. If it’s traveling, put a clean, moist dishtowel or paper towels under the plastic wrap. Serve well chilled and on a gorgeous platter.

I promise you, if you skip the step of par-cooking broccoli, cauliflower and zucchini, it will remain right where it started. Otherwise, if you look to your party platter among other party snacks well into the event, the crudités will be gobbled up and only your beautiful dish will be showing. Take notice around the room. It’s the skinny people who will be munching the most!

Wishing you good health and good times in the New Year!

Popcorn Cauliflower

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Hmm, you say you don’t like cauliflower or your family won’t eat it? Well, I trick my party guests and even kids into eating my Popcorn Cauliflower every time!

The cauliflower of yesteryear was over-cooked, which much like broccoli, releases a stinky sulphur odor. Batter dip and roast instead of boiling, and I’m betting you’ll love it, too. I make it for parties because it can be done ahead and reheated easily and frankly, I just get a little thrill out of people freaking when they realize they just ate cauliflower and loved it. I will say the chili-mayo dipping sauce is strictly for kids though. Its also very inexpensive, compared to other party foods like cheese and boxed crackers, which areladen with fat. (I’ll save my calories for a marguerite, if you don’t mind!)

I use dosa flour in mine, because I’m off wheat entirely and it’s made from lentils, which are ultra-high in protein. This recipe is easy-peasy. You might even get the kids in on this one. It’s easier than pancakes and much better for them.

Popcorn Cauliflower is great for parties!


Popcorn Cauliflower

½ T butter
1 large head cauliflower
2 eggs
1/2 T butter
1 head cauliflower
2 eggs
¼ cup flour
2 T dulse or flaked kelp
½ T sesame oil
1 t Dijon mustard
¼ t sea salt
¼ t black pepper
¼ t chili powder
¼ cup water (as needed)

Chili May Dipping Sauce:

½ cup canola mayonnaise
¼ finely chopped marinated green olives
2 T lemon juice
1 T horseradish
½ t chili powder

Preheat the oven to 375º.

Mix all the ingredients for the dipping sauce in a small bowl and place in the refrigerator to chill.

Using your fingers, snap off individual cauliflower florets or cut them off with the tip of a sharp knife from the core. Slice any of the florets in half that are 2” round or larger.

Place a buttered, glass, baking dish or cookie sheet in the oven to heat that will fit all the cauliflower in a single layer and allow for space in between the florets.

Beat the two eggs together with a fork, in a large, deep bowl. Add the remainder of the ingredients with only as much water needed to form a thick batter that will not quite pour.

Toss the cauliflower florets into the mixture and coat evenly. Then spread the battered cauliflower out on the hot baking dish, leaving space between each floret. Bake for 20 minutes or until the bottoms are crusty.

Using a thin metal spatula to preserve the coating, turn the cauliflower and bake for another 15-20 minutes or until crisp and lightly browned all over. Serve hot with the chilled chili mayo.

 

 

 

 

Cucumber Coconut Manna Hors’d Oeuvres

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Cucumber Coconut Manna Canapés

Organic, Persian or Kirby cucumbers
1 cup plain yogurt
1 cup  coconut manna
1 t dulse (optional)
½ t coarse salt
½ t pepper
¼ cup hemp seeds
1/2 oz red coconut oil

Choose cucumbers at the market according to best freshness and price.

Wash and cut chilled cucumbers on an extreme bias into thick, ½” oval shapes. Do not peel.

Heat coconut manna until liquefied. In a deep bowl, mix salt, pepper and dulse into yogurt to evenly blend. Pour in coconut manna and mix quickly and vigorously until it stiffens into a stiff cream, which takes only moments.

Pile 1/2 teaspoon of the mixture on to each cucumber slice. Sprinkle with hemp seeds and garnish with coarse salt and 1-2 drops red coconut oil. Serve immediately.

Nothing makes me happier than showing people superfoods are delicious and Nutiva certainly makes them. This recipe features 3 of their sensational products: coconut manna, hemp seeds, and their new responsibly harvested red palm oil! Party goers at Nutiva’s party during the Natural Product Expo gobbled up over 700 of these delicious, nutritious finger foods! Yum!

 

 

Crispy Asparagus with Lime Mayo

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Crispy Asparagus are coated in ground pumpkin seeds and spices!

10-12 thick asparagus spears
¼ cup raw pumpkin seeds
½ t ground coriander
½ t dulse or kelp flakes
¼ t ground fennel
¼ t kosher salt
¼ t black pepper

Sauce:
1 ½ T mayonnaise or Greek yogurt
1 ½ T fresh lime juice
zest of ½ lime
2 sprigs fresh thyme

Garnish Recommendations:
1 radish
2 springs parsley, basil, sage or cilantro

 

Rinse, trim the bottom ½” and remove the skin from the lower third of each asparagus spear with a vegetable peeler.

Evenly coat a baking sheet with 1 tablespoon of oil and place in an oven set to 350º.

Grind the pumpkin seeds into a fine powder in a coffee grinder. (Add coriander and fennel here, if spices are whole seeds.) Pour ground pumpkin seeds and the remaining spices into a rectangular baking dish at least as long as an asparagus spear and tap it to one of the longer sides. Roll each spear in the pumpkin seed and spice mixture and reserve at the empty side of the dish.

When all the spears are evenly coated, place them on the hot baking sheet and roast for 15 minutes before turning over each spear. Continue to bake for 10-15 more minutes or until the asparagus is tender and the coating is golden brown.

Zest ½ a lime in to a cup and stir in lime juice and mayo until smooth. Arrange the asparagus in a serving plate and pour a thin stream of the limo-mayo sauce over it. Sprinkle the white sauce decoratively with fresh thyme leaves and garnishes before serving.

Tip: For once, fat is better than thin!
Thin asparagus spears aren’t more tender than the big fat ones. It’s the insoluble fiber in asparagus’ skin that’s the tough part and overcooking it just makes it stringy and bitter,not more tender. Preferred are asparagus with a larger circumference. Then the ratio of tender soluble fiber beneath the skin is higher for a more chewable, flavorful experience. So go for the big ones!

 

Aloo Gobi

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Aloo Gobi & Wooden Ganesha

 

1 medium onion
3 T. sesame or safflower oil
2 T. curry powder
¼ t. cumin
¼ t. chili powder (optional)
2 cloves garlic
2 ½ t. salt
3 large thin-skinned white potatoes
1 large head cauliflower
1 cup vegetable stock
3 T. fresh cilantro
2 T. lemon juice

 

 

 

Peel and coarse-chop the onion. Heat the oil a large saucepan and sauté the dry spices in it, constantly stirring with a wooden spoon for 30 seconds on medium heat. Stir the chopped onions into the spiced oil. Press 2 cloves of garlic with the broad side of a knife to remove their skins and add to the pot with the onions. Stir thoroughly and cook for 3 minutes.

If you have bought thin-skinned white potatoes, keep the skins on. If they have thick, brown skins like an Idaho potato or red skins, peel the potatoes. Then cut the potatoes into 1” cubes, add them to the pot with half the salt, mixing thoroughly into the onion and spice mixture.

Discard the leaves from the cauliflower head and break off whole florets. Cut any florets in half that are larger than 1” around. Add the cauliflower to the pot 5-10 minutes after the potatoes with 1 cup of vegetable stock. Cover with a lid and continue to cook for 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Chop the cilantro and add to the pot with the lemon juice when the cauliflower can be pierced easily with a knife. Stir again, now being careful not to break the softened cauliflower. Cook 5 minutes longer.

Serve with papadums (Indian wafers) and prepared coriander chutney.

Chop the cilantro and add to the pot with the lemon juice, when the cauliflower can be pierced with a knife. Stir again, being careful not to break the softened cauliflower. Cook 5 minutes longer.

 

Serve with papadums (Indian wafers) and prepared coriander chutney.

 

Photo and text by Marlon Braccia © 2008

Super Bowl Chicken Wings

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With Super Bowl Sunday fast approaching, most are thinking about betting on the big game. I’m marinating instead. Here is an awesome recipe for Chicken Wings and the story that goes with them. Recipe more via India than Buffalo!

4 lb chicken wings
3 cups plain yogurt
3 oz beer
4 limes
1½” ginger root- coarse chopped
2 t dried thyme
1 t dried lavender (yes!)
1 t black pepper
¾ t sea salt
1 ½ T sesame oil

Rockin' Chicken Wings

 

Rinse and poke holes into the wings with a sharp knife, so marinade penetrates the flesh of the chicken. Juice 2 limes and mix with remaining ingredients, except the oil. Marinate refrigerated for 1-3 days, stirring the mixture occasionally.

Grill over indirect BBQ flame or oil a preheated, baking sheet and oven roasting wings at 475º. Flip wings after 30 minutes. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until crisp and golden brown. Serve with remaining limes cut into wedges and celery sticks.

Sauce Safety
It’s okay to brush additional sauce on the wings as they cook, but not after the halfway point because bacteria from the raw chicken is also in the sauce. Be sure to allow ample time for it to burn away to be safe to eat.  Dispose of left over marinade and serve with clean utensils.

The Wing Story

A dear friend, Vicent Grupi, told me in1983 that he had fabulous chicken wings at a Super Bowl party. He was told they were made with yogurt. It seemed a very strange combination, yet he claimed they were the best wings ever!

I wondered how anyone, especially Vinny, could get that excited about chicken wings. To me, chicken wings were greasy, bar food with little culinary merit, yet somehow the thought of developing a recipe from that one ingredient stuck in my mind for 20 years. By then, my cooking acumen heightened and I began saving original recipes that would eventually become my first, self-published book. I learned of India’s yogurt-marinating Tandoori tradition, so that became the basis of my recipe.

Two decades after Vinny’s rave, I looked down to discover super-plump chicken wings at the grocery meat counter. They were hormone/antibiotic-free and organic, but still very inexpensive––a great place to start! Combining an unusual blend of Eastern and Western spices, I marinated those wings for 3 days, before bringing them swimming in sauce, to Texas grill master Will’s Labor Day BBQ in Venice, CA. My rock star date (who’d prefer to go nameless) was licking his keyboard fingers with delight and our drummer friend was stomping his foot with speechless appreciation. Everyone at the party said they were the tastiest, most succulent wings they’d ever had, except Will. Unfortunately, the wings were all gobbled up before he got one.  Sorry, Will!

Long before the recipe was developed Vinny moved to Florida and then passed on, but every time Super Bowl Sunday rolls around, I thank him for his friendship and wish his beautiful twin sons, Peter and Ray, whom I’ve sadly lost track of, knew that Vinny inspired this fantastic recipe. I spent many an Italian Sunday dinner with that family of all boys, who embraced me as family, too.

Rockin’ Chicken Wings

Green Goddess Guacamole

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4 Haas avocados
3T fresh lemon juice
2T plain yogurt or mayo or sour cream
½ t sea salt
½ t chili powder
½ t cumin
fresh ground black pepper to taste

Split avocados in half lengthwise and remove the pit before scoring the avocado’s flesh in a grid pattern with a paring knife. Squeeze the skins and drop the avocado cubes into a glass or ceramic bowl. Add all the remaining ingredients and mash with a potato masher or fork to a lumpy consistency.

Refrigerating for several hours allows the spices to infuse more of their flavor, but the guacamole can also be eaten right away. To prevent discoloring from oxygenation, cover the guacamole with plastic wrap so that is making full contact with the bowl and the guacamole, with no air space in between.

Before serving, stir to reincorporate the ingredients. Serve with “baked not fried” tortilla chips to conserve calories.

Party Trick

Making this recipe for a party?  Make it a few hours ahead and put it in the freezer until serving time.  There’s so much oil content in avocados, it won’t harden, but it will stay cold and look fresh longer, which is a big plus.

Avocado by Choice

Rich in “good cholesterol”, ripe avocado slices are a nutritious substitute for mayonnaise in sandwiches or salads. Most flavorful are Haas or Bacon avocados, which have bumpy blackish skins, not smooth green ones.

Store-bought avocados usually need about a week in room temperature to ripen to supply their luxurious flavor and texture, so buy well ahead of time. A perfectly ripe avocado feels as firm as a banana that was some brown spotting.

Emergency tip:

If you need to make guacamole now and the avocados are still hard, add an extra tablespoon or two of mayonnaise, sour cream or plain yogurt for smoother consistency.

Get Really Real!  A friend, who regularly enjoys citrus juice in his cocktail, was surprised to know bottled lemon-lime juice he was using was is full of sulfites! It was this preservative that was giving him a headache and allergic skin reaction, not the gin! Give yourself the vitamin C benefit, which almost immediately vanishes when citrus juice is exposed to air, and wonderful tartness of those fresh squeezed lemons, limes, oranges and grapefruits on a weekly basis.  You can use an old-fashioned wooden pummel or an electric citrus juicer.

Call for recipe testers for Pulled Chicken Molé

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Pulled Chicken Molé cropped

Saucy, luscious Pulled Chicken Molé with secret ingredient, cocoa powder

Hello People,

I’m working hard on finishing the first volume of the Enlightened Cook: Entrees.  Here is one recipe on which I’d love some feedback. What I generally ask of my recipe tests to provide feedback on the clarity of  the directions, accuracy of the measurements (i.e. too much salt? enough oil?). In the case of this terrific recipe, what I need in addition is info on how accurate the timing of each step was:

How long did it take at the given temperature to initially cook the chicken breasts so that they were slightly pink inside?

Was 2 minutes enough to sufficiently break down the tomato at the end into a smooth sauce?

I am considering instead instructing readers to add the tomato and then add the cocoa powder a few minutes later.  It’s really important the cocoa powder is not scalded or truly it ruins the sauce. (I’ve tasted that overcooked taste soooo many times in Mexican restaurants.)

So here is the recipe and a note on brining that will appear on that page of the book. Pulled chicken Molé is a recipe I truly love for it’s utterly unique yet unidentifiable flavor.

Pulled Chicken with Mole Sauce

3 cups vegetable stock
1 pound boneless chicken breasts
2 T olive oil
1 cup minced onion
2 t crushed garlic
1 t coriander
1 t cumin
1 t chili powder
1 t cinnamon
¾ t sea salt
1 t powdered arrowroot or kudzu
2 T cocoa powder
1 cup extra-ripe fresh tomato

Simmer chicken cutlets in the vegetable stock in a 2-quart pot until only the center remains slightly pink, approximately 5 minutes. Reserve the stock in a bowl and place the chicken breasts on a cutting board.

Mince the onions and the garlic and sauté them in the olive oil in the same pot on a medium heat.  When the onions are translucent, but not brown, add all the spices and cook for 1 minute as you stir with a wooden spoon. Then add ½ cup of the reserved stock. Slowly sift in the flour to the rest of the stock, then stir the mixture into the pot a little at a time. Lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes to reduce the liquid, stirring occasionally.

While the sauce cooks down, tear the cooled chicken into shredded pieces about 1 ½” inches long and ½” thick with your fingers.

When sauce has thickened to consistency of heavy cream, remove it from the heat and puree with a pistol-style hand blender until it smooth (or puree in a blender.) Stir in the cocoa powder. Add the tomato, which has been cut into ½” cubes. Add the chicken and stir well to coat the chicken evenly. Gently reheat on a medium-low heat for  2 minutes to finish cooking the center of the chicken pieces. Do not boil or the cocoa will make the sauce bitter. Serve with soup spoons in deep bowls to savor every drop!

To brine or not to brine;
That is the question
By all means, if you have the prep time, brine! This technique adds moisture to all kinds of red meat and poultry. It’s especially great for lean protein such as turkey, which tends to dry out when cooking. To brine add a handful of salt to a bowl of water and stir to dissolve. Add spices, if you like. Submerge the flesh and cover the bowl before refrigerating. An hour has a good effect. A day is terrific. Three days seems to work fine, because the salt kills much of the bacteria , which deters spoilage. If you brine, be sure to use no additional salt directly on the flesh.

Call for Recipe Testers!

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As I promised, here’s a list of entrees from the first to be released, Enlightened Cook ebook.  If you’d like test any of these just send me the title of recipes at marlonbraccia@gmail.com.  I’ll send back the recipe and for many a photo of the finished dish. What I would value in return is your feedback with specifics about length of  preparation time you experienced, whether the measurements, especially the spices were accurate and the like.

Towering Chicken Burgers with Caramelized Onions

Shrimp Curry in a Hurry

Chicken korma

Aloo Gobi

Broiled Ahi Tuna with Tamari-Lemon Glaze

5-Minute Dover Sole Saute

Sautéed Whole Red Snapper with White Grape Sauce

Porterhouse Steak with Sautéed Onions and Portobello Mushrooms for Two

Gingered Snapper

Chicken Meatballs with Tomato Sauce

Maple Syrup -Poached Salmon

Osso Buco: Fall-off-the –Bone Veal Shank

Pistachio-Crusted Stuffed Chicken

Roast Duck

Soft Shell Crab Sandwiches

Oven-Baked Fish Cakes with Mango

Tilapia con Pepitos (Pumpkin Seeds)

Turkey Meatloaf

Vertical Roasted Chicken

Oven-poached Halibut for One

Fried Eggs Italian-Style

Simple Shitake & Arctic Char Sauté

Curried Steak

Many thanks to supporters of my upcoming cookbook, The Enlightened Cook; Think Like a Yogi, Eat Like a King.