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.

A Freelancer’s Lunch

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Those with office jobs or regular gigs all too often think freelancers are loafing at home, when we’re actually hard at work, though there are a few differences in our daily routines, to be sure. We race to our computers with a cup of morning caffeine and our office counterparts tout a cup-o-joe that’s probably cost them $4 and then crawl their way to work in their vehicles. Sure freelancers often don’t hit the shower until 3pm or 30 minutes before our first outside meeting, whichever comes first, but don’t let our bunny slippers convince we’re not as hard at it as gals in their pencil thin skirts and sensible pumps.

Now that I’ve defended freelancers’ work ethic, lets talk about the lunch time advantages! We break up the day by having lunch out once in a while, but for the most part, we eat when we are hungry and make it from home. It’s best of we can prepare something quickly so we can race back to work, but it can still be fabulous. Last Tuesday, I took a bowl of clams I soaking in water overnight and made a scrumptious noodle dish, you can concoct, too. I even tossed in leftover caramelized boc choy from last night’s supper.

Use this ingredient list strictly as inspiration, because when it comes to a noodle dish and fresh clams, it’s pretty hard to go wrong. The most important thing to remember is to get he broth going long before adding the clams to the pot, so those clams stay tender. Just cook ‘em until the shell pops and not a minute longer!

1 T coconut oil
2 cloves garlic
1/2″ fresh ginger root
1 whole leaf lemongrass
1 stalk celery
1 T coconut oil
8 oz clam brine
3 oz white wine
3 scallions
3 oz dry rice noodles
1 over-ripe tomato
2 baby boo choy heads
10 pink peppercorns
1 t dulse or kelp flakes
salt and pepper to taste
2 T hemp seeds

Freelancer's Clam 'n Noodle Lunch

Melt the coconut oil in a large saucepan set on medium-high. Toss in the garlic cloves, halved. Mince the ginger and add it. Slice the celery on the bias into 1/4″ slices and add to the pot to sauté for 3 minutes, stirring often. Add the briny water in which the clams have been soaking, lemongrass, pink peppercorns, salt and pepper and the dry noodles and push the heat to high until it boils. Toss the noodle around and remove them when they are almost tender enough to eat.

Chop the tomato. scallions, dulse or kelp and any left over cooked veggies on hand. Add the wine and stir. Add the clams and cover with a lid. In 3 minutes with the pot boiling, remove the lid add the noodles back in and wait for the clam shells to pop open. Remove one by one as they do. Pour the contents of the pot over the clams once the noodles are reheated through and soft. Garnish with hemp seeds for a great dash of amino acids and omega 3 fatty acids!

Note: Food continues to cook even after its removed from the heat, so pull it off the heat and out of a hot pot just a little before its perfectly done.

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.

 

 

 

 

Summer Travel and Healthy Portable Foods

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Christina and her family, who I’ve met through Start.ac, are embarking on a low budget, two month road trip called Blank Canvas Tour. She asked me to suggest some good options to eat on a budget. Finding healthy food on the road is a real challenge, but with a little prep and some guidelines, you can zoom past all those unhealthy, high-calorie, processed food burger ‘n fries fast food joints. So take heed, my friends and remember, it’s bikini season!

Hi Christina,
Right off I would say easy on the sandwiches, because white flour is almost like eating white sugar. It’s high glycemic index causes spikes in blood sugar and that could mean cranky passengers. I know you read labels, but remember, even bread labeled “whole wheat” or “rye” has primarily white flour. It’s lack of fiber and the immobility of driving long distances in a vehicle would slow elimination. That’s a nice was of saying people are apt to get constipated.

Instead I would advise a big bag of crudité. Stop at any market and stock up on unwaxed cucumbers, radishes, red bell peppers, celery, carrots, cherry tomatoes. You can put them in a big bag and pass them around. 

Fruits are great for travel, too. Their naturally occurring packaging makes them easy to handle. Fruits provide hydration because they are water dense. They seem like a treat because they are sweet, yet they are full of fiber, vitamins and nutrients. 

Most supermarket fruit is extremely under ripe, so think several days ahead. Whatever you leave in a brown paper bag in the car will naturally ripen. Putting a few apples in the bag is a great idea, because they expel a gas that helps other fruits and veggies ripen. Apples are also appetite suppressants, especially good when you have a long trip and don’t want to to stop a lot for meals or you feel you are ingesting more calories than you can burn on days when you need to mostly be in the car.
You wil save lots of money if you pack a cutting board and one big sharp knife to do the cutting up yourself. Pre-cut over-packaged fruits and veggies are tremendously more expensive. A jar of peanut butter from one of those machines that freshly grinds the peanuts is a good companion to the fruit, because it adds flavor and protein.Try not to eat regular processed peanut butter. Often a tremendous amount of sugar is added, plus hydrogenated fat, because manufacturers don’t want the peanut oil to separate. Get the natural one from the machine where you can and stir it when you need to. It’s good to get the kids accustomed to things that aren’t loaded with sugar. 

Additionally, I like raw nuts and sunflower and pumpkin seeds for travel. They pack a lot of energy. If nuts are “roasted”, there is a lot of bad, added fat and the naturally occurring fat changes in structure to be very unhealthy. Salted is ok because its plain table salt, not a sodium chemical compound, but do be sure the nuts and seeds are raw. 

Google ahead and find out where on your path the local farmer’s markets meet. Most urban areas have a market set up nearly every day. Its a good place to meet locals and shop for vine or tree ripened fruit that is organic and local. If you also bring a cooler, you can spring for a bag of ice a day (99cents) and keep the ripe stuff fresh, and things like milk and cheese fresh, too. 

You might also find some tuna with flip top lids to eat right out of the can. Every thrift store has old silverware. I recommend getting a cheap set for each passenger, that will be used again and again. If you spring once for Voss water, which is available in glass bottles that fit nicely in car cup holders, you can refill that same bottle again and again over the whole trip, which will be quite a savings. I’ve recently taken to putting a sprig of mint, basil or thyme in my water bottle. Just that little bit of flavor has me hydrating more. Maybe a lemon or a few cherries would do on the road.  Then you won’t be temped to drink sodas along the way and overall, the glass is a much better option than plastic. It doesn’t matter how hot it gets, you won’t be infusing petroleum into the water you drink. Particularly soft plastic bottles in summer are not recommended in hot cars. Just be sure to wash out the bottle every few days with soap water and fill it up for free everyplace you can.
Lastly, bring a big blanket and opt for setting out your own spread in a local park for a picnic. After long hours on the road, its good to get some fresh air and stretch out, instead of sitting in a restaurant.
I hope all of that helps you keep slim, perky and in a good emotional state. Happy travels!
If you want to donate to Christina and her family’s trip, please go to the Start.ac crowd funding site. The Enlightened Cook will have a project there very soon, too!

Start Cooking Classes with Marlon Braccia!

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Clams with Rice Noodles in a Spicy Seafood Broth

While I work on my cookbook, I’m offering cooking classes in Los Angeles. No experience required! All you need is the desire to create something wonderful in the kitchen (or on the BBQ grill), that tastes good and is good for you! Send a comment from the blog if you’d like to hone cooking skills. In just a few lessons, you’ll impress your friends and dazzle your palette!

First we’ll figure out if you’re at the how to boil water level or an experienced cook. Then we’ll figure out what kind of dishes you’d like to create. Focus on food for entertaining, increasing your low-fat, high protein intake, getting really creative with vegetables or fabulous desserts that won’t bust your calorie count. Group classes or private lessons welcome. Send a comment thru the blog for more information.

The best kind of calories!

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Did you know that the only food edible my man that has a negative calorie count is raw celery? (Ok, elephants can chomp thru all kinds of raw vegetation!) It burns more calories to ingest and digest it than it has.  That is because fiber takes a lot of power to break down, and particularly when celery is raw, its got lots of tough fiber.  My pal Stephen turned me on to one of my now fav juicing recipes: Celery, pear and ginger.  Fabulous!!