Tart Summer Tart!

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Quick Strawberry Rhubarb Tart

With very little added sugar and the tartness of rhubarb, this fruity tart exactly that––tart! Sweeten it up a la mode with vanilla ice cream or simply enjoy it’s snappy flavor.

1 t butter
6 -8 squares puff pastry
2 cups strawberries halved
2 cups rhubarb sliced
1 t tapioca starch
1 T turbinado
1 T black strap molasses
2 T lemon juice
¼ t nutmeg
¼ t. cinnamon
¼ t salt
¼ t black pepper
1 t vanilla extract

Lightly coat a baking dish with butter. Then cover the bottom of it with puff pastry. Bake at 350º until golden. Allow to cool a bit.

Cut rhubarb on diagonal into ½” slices. Add to pot with turbinado. Cover and cook on low heat for 10 minutes to soften. Stir occasionally.

Trim green ends of strawberries and cut in half or quarters to equal 2 cups. Add to softened rhubarb with remainder of ingredients. Mix thoroughly. Spread mixture evenly on top of crisp puffed pastry and top with remaining raw puff pastry squares. Fold seams into a decorative design and perforate with 3 or 4 holes with a paring knife to release steam.

Bake for 40 minutes at 350º or until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool thoroughly. Serve with a drizzle of pomegranate or vanilla ice cream.

3 Fool-Proof Steps to Moist Chicken Breast

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Part of the key to sticking to a diet, is that it has to satiate. Chicken breast is a great part of a diet designed to reduce weight, but they are so low in fat, they can be chalky and dry. Follow these 3 steps that add moisture, not fat. They guarantee moist, juicy chicken breasts every time!

1. Brine As soon as you get it home, rinse it and soak it in salt water until cooking.

2. Use a splash of white wine and fresh herbs to add lots of flavor. I used sprigs of mint, lemon verbena, tarragon and basil freshly clipped from my garden.

3. Cook on a very low temperature and with a lid to trap moisture. That means 250º in the oven or super low flame under your skillet. It will take longer at this temperature, but you can set it up and walk away. Cut with a sharp knife in the thickest part. As soon as the pink is gone, its done. Remember not to overcook it even at this low temperature and to remove it from the hot pan or baking dish or it will continue to cook. Cooking time will depend on your oven and thickness of the chicken breast, but expect about 60 minutes.

BBQ Tamarind Ribs

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Finger lickin' good BBQ Tamarind Ribs

BBQ Sauce:
1 cup tamarind sauce (alt: tamarind paste & water)
½ cup tomato paste
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
¼ cup brown sugar
2 T peanut butter
1 T black pepper
1 ½ t pink peppercorns
1 t salt

Crush pink peppercorns with a mallet or heavy-bottomed pan. Chop fresh basil. Combine with all other ingredients for the sauce. Slather the ribs liberally and place into a baking dish. Marinate overnight if possible.

Oven or Combination Oven/Grill Method
Cover and bake at 300º for 1 hour. Then reduce temperature to 175º and bake covered, for another 3-5 hours. This can be done the day before and refrigerated overnight. Uncover and broil for 3 min each side immediately before serving or place on a BBQ grille to thicken the coating and brown.

Grill Method:
Grill with indirect heat (coals on one side and ribs on the other side) with the lid down. For that fall-off the-bone tenderness, use few coals and replenished when necessary so temperature is very low over a prolonged period. Soaked wood chips make a nice extra touch of smoky flavor. Slather with additional coat of BBQ sauce and finish for 3 minutes each side over direct heat for that finger-lickin’, sticky goodness that says 4th of July!

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!

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

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.

Download the new ebook, The Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees

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New ebook! Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees

Just in time to re-inspire those fading New Year’s resolutions of eating a healthier diet, The Enlightened Cook: Protein Entrees is here!  Available now for just $3.99 as a PDF download, this ebook is full of the delicious protein you crave. (Use the Buy it for $3.99 button on the right column of this blog. You can use your Paypal account if you like or just let the Paypal’s secure on-line credit card processing  do a normal credit or debit card transaction.)
In Protein Entrées, you can choose from international favorites like creamy Chicken Korma and zesty Shrimp Curry in a Hurry. New tricks reinvent old favorites with Vertical Roasted Chicken and Porterhouse Steak with Caramelized Onions and Portobello Mushrooms. Confidently create perfectly moist, delicious salmon, tuna and halibut entrees to add those healthy omega 3 fatty acids to your diet. Step-by-step instructions inspire even the kitchen novice with the confidence to prepare the leanest Roast Duck or incredibly succulent Portuguese Whole Snapper with White Grape Sauce. Even Pork Loin Florentine is surprisingly lean and packed with nutrients.
Among the protein-rich recipes and tantalizing photos, Marlon informs with enlightening tips on technique, nutrition and holistic sensibilities. Every recipe is completely devoid of artificial ingredients, so there are no synthetic horomones, antibiotics, artificial preservatives or colorings–just pure, wholesome delicious food! You’ll effortlessly learn how to buy the purest, most fortified ingredients at the market, how to retain their freshness and nutrients, understand which food products and cookware to avoid. Creating nutrition-packed meals is easy — no more fad diets! Change your perception of health food forever!