What’s the Beef About Red Meat?

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Here’s an excerpt from my book, The Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees. In addition to recipes, you’ll become smart about choices at the market. It’s all designed to help you navigate your way though some pretty treacherous food choices out there to healthy proteins.

So what’s the beef about red meat?

It may be a surprise to some to find red meat in a health food cookbook, but it’s my contention that consuming animal products in moderation and eating the purest ones available are the factors that count most. For instance, though pricey, grass-fed, free-range beef is by far the healthiest beef available. These animals live the life nature intended before commerce stepped in and both they and we are far healthier for it. Roaming steer eat no grain or commercial feed, but instead consume only grass when they are provided with the physical space to graze for it. Their robust health doesn’t require the stream antibiotics that commercial livestock receive. Free-range animals in general also aren’t riddled with stress hormones that are a natural response to the inhumane living conditions most commercial livestock are forced to tolerate.
Then there is the much-discussed protein benefit of meat. Because nine of the twenty- two amino acids essential to a healthy body that must be derived from diet are present in red meat, it’s considered a “perfect protein.” Although those amino acids (histidine, lysine, threonine, methionine, isoleucine, leucine, valine, phenylalanine and tryptophan) can be derived from combinations of plant-based foods, only animal protein contains all nine.
In addition, the protein in red meat makes the healthy dose of iron it also delivers more absorbable. That’s especially important for menstruating women, because they need to replace lost iron each month. Blackstrap molasses is a fantastic source of iron, too, but a juicy steak is certainly more sumptuous!
True, red meat has saturated fat, but saturated fat is essential to the body and especially to brain function. Much data points to the understanding that cholesterol in the bloodstream has little or nothing to do with dietary cholesterol and heart disease. What’s more, coronary health’s relationship to cholesterol is suspiciously linked to pharmaceutical companies’ interest in marketing statin drugs. I recommend researching extensively on line and making your own assessment of data available, before viewing red meat as a compromise to health.

Porterhouse Steak with Portobello Mushrooms

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!

Vertical Roasted Chicken

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Here’s an incredibly flavorful way to make roast chicken that’s so fast, you can even make it in the middle of a busy work week. It’s my go to meal when up to 3 people are joining me for dinner. I use only organic chickens because I don’t want to ingest chickens raised with artificial hormones, antibiotics or even feed with GMO corn. The flavor of organic chicken is cleaner and sweeter. You can justify paying about three times the price, by using all the remains to make organic chicken stock that will serve as the base of great soups or sauces. Just boil the skin, bones, cartilage, etc for 2 hours, strain it, freeze it and skim off all the fat before using it. It’s many times more flavorful than store-bought chicken stock. It’s easy and it’s thrifty.

In the video below I use parsley, purple basil, lemon verbena all of which were growing on my terrace, plus fresh ginger, but the recipe in my book I use other herbs. That’s because I’ve made many, many variations on this fool-proof roasted chicken. So feel free to any herbs or spices you like, because its the method that makes if great. Enjoy!

3-5 lb hormone-free chicken
3 T olive oil
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 T minced rosemary
3” fresh ginger root
2 large cloves fresh garlic
2 T pink peppercorns
1T salt
1 ½ t black pepper
1 lemon
1 Bermuda onion

If the preparation time is available, brine the chicken in cold water with one handful of salt overnight in a large container or stockpot. Rinse the chicken before continuing the preparation.

Move an oven wrack to the lowest position and take the others out of the oven, before preheating to 475º. Select a baking dish longer than the chicken and a minimum of 2” deep to create a water bath in which the vertical roasting wrack will stand upright or be placed above.

With a mallet or poultry scissors, cut off the end of the wings up to the first joint and the knobs on the end of each drumstick. With your fingers, carefully separate the skin from the flesh of the bird.
In a cup, grate the ginger and garlic and combine with 3 tablespoons oil olive oil, ½ tablespoon salt (reduce to ½ teaspoon if chicken was brined) black pepper, finely chopped rosemary, parsley and cilantro. Spread 2/3 of the mixture both inside the cavity and between the skin and flesh of the bird, being sure to work it all the way into the legs and wings. Thinly slice the lemon and Bermuda onion and slide these under the skin, too.

Measure and cut 5 feet of cotton kitchen twine. Cross the drumsticks secure them upward as far as possible so they are above the water line if the chicken is placed in the water-filled pan. Continue trussing the bird by crossing the twine around the body and tucking the wings in tightly. Season the outside skin with the rest of the olive oil spice rub and the remaining ½ tablespoon salt. Place the bird and roaster vertically on the wrack above the water pan if possible. For smaller ovens place the vertical roaster in the pan of water or horizontally on the rack above the pan of water in the hot oven. The chicken will cook quickly so set a timer for only 25 minutes and check the bird!!

If the bird is horizontal, turn it over halfway through the roasting time.

To check for doneness, cut the chicken in the crease between the leg and the body. As soon as the liquid runs clear with no traces of blood, it is cooked!

10 Tips on Food Photography for Cookbook Authors

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If a cookbook author or food blogger wants to try and photograph their own dishes, I’d definitely encourage them to do so. Click on the link to see examples of my published work and read the 10 tips below to improve your own food photography.

Enlightened Cook Food Photos

Here are 10 tips I can offer to other cookbook authors and budding food photographers:

1. Rarely shoot directly overhead. It’s usually a dull angle and almost never works when plates are round, because photographs are rectangular or square.

2. Don’t use a flash camera. Use natural light and a few bounce cards if you need them. Flash produces a very flat shot and glaring highlights. If you absolutely have no other option, back way up creating distance from the subject and zoom the lens in. Then the light won’t be so hot. (This is much more flattering for people, too.)

3. Never, ever use a light box. This light is too even and looks fake. If you do use one, your food will not look real. It will look more like a Hallmark card circa 1970′s.

4. The other trick to making sure your images don’t look like Hallmark cards is to have some of image in sharp focus and allow that focus to soften toward the background. Photos where the entire image is in focus don’t look natural because if the dish were actually in front of your reader, their eye would not see it that way.

5. Make sure you look at everything in the frame and take all extraneous things from the background out, unless you specifically want them there.

6. Shoot so that your photographs have a very large file size that will equal at least 300dpi so that when it goes to print, the images will remain clear. There’s nothing more disappointing than a great photo that doesn’t have enough resolution to be printed.

7. If you don’t absolutely love the photograph of a particular dish, omit it. If there are poor photographs it very quickly lessons the perceived professionalism of the whole book.

8. Don’t ever grab photos off the web to use on your own material. You must have copyright for all images. If a publisher finds out one of your images isn’t being used legally, I can promise you they won’t work with you again. Their liability risk for being sued is too high and too costly.

9.Be sure to choose props that are unique to each shot. It’s important to have other things in the frame, not just your food. It should look like we just arrived a talented host’s home where everything was beautifully laid out. I shop thrift shops constantly for tablecloths, napkins, utensils, dish and bakeware. Make sure everything you use is laundered, polished and immaculately clean.

10. After a few attempts, if your work isn’t top shelf, find another photographer and negotiate a rate you can handle. I work with cookbook writers and food writers to quickly get food images on a budget. I’d be happy to find out what food images you need and work with you at a reasonable cost. My food photos are on 10 food blogs and in my book, The Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees.

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.

 

 

 

 

Easter Sunday Supper 2013

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Yesterday, a traditional holiday dinner for 5 people––not my usual 11 courses for 11 people–ha!-was enjoyed by Johnny, Leysa, Walter, Dave and I. We started with some bubbly at 3pm, then a version of my Aunt Muchie’s Antipasto Giardinaire, which is full of Italian delicacies. I’ll write up an ingredient list and post soon, but suffice it’s pungent and salty, and not for the faint of heart! I roasted red bell peppers and a whole head of garlic, rolled up proscuitto and salami, marinated mushrooms and tomatoes separately , added cured olives, truffle paté, celery hearts, anchovies and arranged it all on a bed of curly endive!  Yum!!

By the time we sat down to that we were already through a bottle of bubbly, so we started on the lovely La Crema Chardonnay that Walter brought. As Johnny prepared his Limey, I mean English peas, I broiled a crust on an herb stuffed, braised leg of lamb. Thank you, Walter for not one, but tow lovely bottles and a serenade on the guitar.

The main course was a braised leg of lamb. I had the butcher at Whole Foods de-bone it, but give me the bone. I cut it into a flat 3/4″ sheet, stuffed it with 40 fresh mint leaves, parsley and 3 cloves of minced garlic and bundled it in twine, after it had soaked in Cabernet Sauvignon for 24 hours. Then I braised it in a roasting pan with the wine marinade, some water and the bone, on 275 for 2 hours. Just before serving it finished it under a super-hot broiler to achieve  a nice crust. Cut  the twine off and slice into nice 1″-2″ rounds, it made a very nice presentation.

 

Yummy sides were Johhny’s English peas and my scalloped potatoes with goat gruyere and yogurt. Baked it for 2 hours on 425º until gooey inside and crisp on top. Johnny was fascinated with his peas and we played along all the way through my 3 layer banana pie: 5 fresh, sliced bananas with custard and a sweet ricotta and coconut milk layer on top, finished with chopped walnuts. This pie–as all my pies, had no white sugar! Maple syrup and a dollop of lemon curd were the only sweeteners.

Here’s Johnny ready to  take his own life when I smoked up the kitchen to get the perfect crust on the lamb with the broiler on high!!

 

 

Connected, the inspiring film I had to share…

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I found this film so insightful, that I just had to add it to my blog. Filmaker Tiffany Schlain explores the sociological impact of social media, both present and yet to come, while paying homage to her late father, brilliant social anthropological writer, Leonard Schlain.  Click here to watch it.

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!

 

 

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California’s Prop 37 requiring manufacturers to indicate on the label that genetically modified ingredients are contained in their products, was unfortunately failed defeated by a small margin of 53/47. Until it comes up for a vote again we can arm ourselves just a bit. Finally, those annoying, tiny, little stickers put in every piece of fruit actually have a code we can decipher to detect organic, conventional and GMOs. See the graphic and try to memorize it.