Happy New Year, happy new food

Resolute.

You just gotta be in 2018.

I am not talking about your list of practical and lofty resolutions.

In all honesty, you probably need to anchor your resolve to straighten up your act in a myriad of areas.  Skip the resolutions. You know what you need to do, so get busy and handle your business, be your best self and live your best life as a 2018 commitment to yourself (in my Oprah voice).

That pot of black-eyed peas is certainly an obligatory tradition  some believe is a lucky charm for each shiny new year. I would never, ever advocate that you toss tradition to the wind. That would be unthinkable. In fact, I subscribe to this annual rite of passage into the New Year and trust me, I did partake and they were – in a word – so good. Ok, that’s two words.  Get my recipe here.

Lucky black-eyed peas

No luck needed

Luck is great,  but it abdicates your participation. I want you to be more resolute about your food choices this year.

Yes its cliché – you are what you eat. And the often unspoken part of that adage is you are how much you eat too. (Ok I made that up, but the point has to be driven home).

If you don’t set your intentions to make better food choices in 2018, when will you?

I love food anthologist, activist and journalist Michael Pollan. In The Pollan Table Family Cookbook, Pollan makes many salient points in the introduction of this beautiful cookbook.

Pollan connects the increase in obesity to the advent and rise of the fast food industry. Pollan also reminds us that humans cook food; corporations manufacture it.

That’s worth a pause. Take a moment to digest that.

Let me cut to the quick and bottom line my intentions for you:

  • You need to take control of your food choices.
  • You need to be mindful about the food you allow in your everyday life and the life of your family.
  • You need to reduce your portion sizes; they are overall just too large.
  • You need to cut back on the number of meals you get passed to you from a drive through window and pick-up counter – yeah you do.

For heavens sake, for your own sake, get back to cooking your own food. I know it sounds so complex, time consuming and mind bending. But it doesn’t have to be. You can do it. Your health and the health of your family depends on this.

Keep it simple dear heart and:

  1. Use fresh ingredients when possible; they provide more nutrients.
  2. Bake, broil, and grill more often than not; take a break from fried foods.
  3. Add flavor with spices and herbs; cut back on added salt and fat.
  4. Read labels and understand typical serving sizes; portion control is not a myth.
  5. Cut back on carbs; you don’t have to have them every meal.
  6. Learn a few easy food preparation techniques and get inspired.

Follow me

If you follow me on Instagram @collardgreenscaviar (and you really should), you will quickly learn that I am a big home cooking advocate. I have put in a lot of sweat equity over a stove top, about 35 years contiguous if I dare do the math.

I am a journalist and food writer first and foremost. Writing about the significant role and value food plays in our lives has been my focus and my passion.

However, I do  post a lot of food pictures on Instagram,  many of which I prepare and actually eat at home. I am not perfect when it comes to what I eat, but I know perfectly well that I when I prepare my own meals more often than not, I make better choices.

Pan grilled chicken and roasted Brussels sprouts

In this post I feature one of my most requested Instagram recipes, well its not really a recipe but a method I use to prepare chicken breast. I make this often, especially after a workout. Its fast and easy to make, in just under 30 minutes. Its delicious, healthy and beautiful to look at.

The chicken breast is seasoned with a spice rub, then pan grilled and finished in the oven. And you probably noticed there are no carbs. Yup. I often skip them at dinner time and opt for pan roasted vegetables like Brussels sprouts or brocolli. But if you need or want carbs, I suggest serving this with a baked yam or confetti brown rice chalk full of your favorite sautéed vegetables.

Happy New Year! Bon Appétit.  Chin-chin. Salud.

I predict new food is in your future. Now get cooking.

Chicken so most, tender and flavorful.


Ingredients

2 boneless chicken breasts
Spice rub mix (Red Velvet Gourmet Spice Rub featured here)
Grapeseed oil

Directions

  1. Wash and pat dry chicken breast.
  2. Place on cutting board and slice in half.
  3. Rub a little Grapeseed oil on both sides of sliced breast and then generally season with spice rub.
  4. Pour about two tablespoon of Grapeseed oil in a grill pan set at medium heat.
  5. Once oil is heated, place breasts  in pan and cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes until medium brown in color.
  6. Remove from pan and place on a baking sheet.
  7. Cook remaining breasts and place in 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes.
  8. Remove and let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Wash and pat dry chicken breasts.

Place on cutting board and slice each breast in half.

Rub a little Grapeseed oil on both sides of sliced breast and then generally season with spice rub.

Add chicken breast to grill pan and cook about two minutes on each side.

Remove from pan, place on a baking sheet and place in 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10minutes.

Let rest 10 minutes before slicing.

Gifts That Give Hope

The holiday season is a scared time of giving and blessings. I hope you are inspired from this offering from Family Features to be a blessing to those less fortunate than us. Have a beautiful holiday season my foodie friends.

Photo credit: Family Features

Hope is a gift on every child’s wish list, especially those in parts of the world ravaged by natural disasters and poverty. Giving hope lets these children know that the world hasn’t forgotten them.

From UNICEF Market products to items available from partners, UNICEF USA is making it possible to give gifts that make a difference and deliver the greatest gift of all: hope.

Goods from around the globe

From jewelry to accessories to home decor, each item purchased through the UNICEF Market benefits programs that provide children with basic necessities such as nutrition, medicine, education, clean water and more. The UNICEF Market, market.unicefusa.org, is a partnership between UNICEF USA and Novica that offers unique items such as multicolored snowman ornaments made in India and an artisan leather tray handmade in Peru.

Inspired giving

Another option is UNICEF Inspired Gifts, which are lifesaving items that can be purchased in honor of a loved one and go directly to help children in need around the world. Examples include hygiene kits, mosquito nets and winter survival packs. Find more options at inspiredgifts.org.

Kid-friendly inspiration

Motivate kids, inspire philanthropy and help save the lives of malnourished children around the world with the Star Wars: Force for Change UNICEF Kid Power Band. Every movement made while wearing the activity band adds up to points that unlock lifesaving nutrition, which is sent to malnourished children around the world. Bands are available at Target or unicefkidpower.org.

Accessories with purpose

This holiday season, ALEX AND ANI is spreading a message of world peace with a jewelry collection that features the iconic peace symbol and benefits UNICEF’s work for children. The World Peace collection includes an online-exclusive sterling silver necklace with Swarovski crystals, a charm bracelet and a trend necklace. In addition, bracelets with a festive-themed snowman, daisy and a mother and child charm also support the cause. Until Aug. 31, 2018, ALEX AND ANI will donate 20 percent of the purchase price of all items sold through its retail stores, authorized retailers and on alexandani.com.

Comfort that keeps on giving

To help children around the world, L’Occitane will donate $4 from each Shea Butter Collection and Shea Butter Deluxe Collection Gift Sets to UNICEF, up to $120,000. The gift sets are available for purchase at boutiques throughout the United States and Canada, and online at usa.loccitane.com.

Giving a gift that inspires hope this holiday season can impact not only the person receiving the gift but also vulnerable children around the world.

Holiday cooking tips from Celebrity Chef Jamika Pessoa

Chef Jamika Pessoa. Photo credit: Chef Jamika.

Chef Jamika Pessoa is one of my favorite celebrity chefs.

This Atlanta resident built a wildly successful catering business and garnered the title “Chef to the Stars,” because of her  A-list of loyal clients in entertainment and sports.

Chef Jamika has serious culinary chops. She graduated from the International Culinary Schools at the Art Institute of Atlanta and studied in several European countries.

It was her appearance on season 5 of The Next Food Network Star that we saw her beauty, brilliance, creativity, talent and skilled execution as she competed down to the final rounds in the competition.

Chef Jamika in action. Photo credit: Chef Jamika.

Today this culinary entrepreneur makes regular appearances on shows like The Chew, The Today Show, the Cooking Channel, and the Food Network. She is among the bright lights in the culinary world and a leading subject matter expert in meal planning and entertaining at home.

Clash of the Grandama’s judges and host Cameron Mathison (top). Left to right: Lifestyle expert and POPSUGAR.com Reporter/Producer Brandi Milloy; former NFL player and Food Network star Eddie Jackson; and Food Network Star;Celebrity Chef and Television personality Jamika Pessoa. Photo credit: Chef Jamika.

I had the opportunity to meet Chef Jamika last year when I was contestant on the Food Network Show Clash of the Grandma’s.  She was as amazing judge filled with charm, personality, insightful and didactic critiques that not only elevated my culinary perspective but helped me become a more descriptive food writer.

Thanks chef!

Chef Jamika to the rescue

With the holiday season in full throttle, you undoubtedly are planning your holiday menu or soiree. If not, it has certainly crossed your mind a time or two. This can be overwhelming, even for fairly competent cooks like me.

I sent out an SOS to Chef Jamika and she was gracious enough to provide a few practical  planning and cooking tips to help allay this seasonal anxiety so you can enjoy the holiday season. She even shares an amazing recipe for a  Herb Crusted Prime Rib that the carnivores in your life are sure to love.  It’s at the end of the story.

Wait. I think I heard a somewhat inaudible “whew – thank you Ms. Collard Greens and Caviar.” And to that I say –  you are very welcome!

Make sure to visit her site at http://www.chefjamika.com/recipes/ for more mouth-watering  recipes and please follow her on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook  to keep up with her amazing culinary journey.

Without any futher yadda yadda and pithy prose, the following is offered courtesy of the illustrious Chef Jamika.

As families begin to plan holiday gatherings, the worry of preparing the food always seems to rest on the “head chef” of the family. With that in mind, here are some helpful tips designed to make the meal preparation a special and stress free one.

Plan ahead.   There are benefits to being prepared before a big meal. Organizing yourself will mean a smooth transition from start to finish. Purchase food items as far in advance as possible. Waiting until the last minute does not mean that you will get fresher produce or meats. This only means that you will get items that are picked over and of less quality and taste.

Prep dishes in advance by freezing casseroles and pre-seasoned meats. On the day of the meal, all you have to do is bake them. This will save time and storage space in the refrigerator.

Also, if you are serving hors d’ oeuvres, have them prepped  and as the guests arrive you simply pop them in the oven. Hot and fresh hors d’ oeuvres will buy you some time as the remainder of the meal is still cooking. You never want a room full of hungry guests.

Cook what you like. Who ever said that you have to serve turkey or ham for the holidays? Change things up a bit by preparing dishes that you and your family enjoy the most. Try debuting some of those recipes you have collected over the year, but never tried.

Here is a fun suggestion; before you go shopping, have the kids research recipes they want to see on the table. Make this year’s menu a contributive effort from each family member. Moreover, having family favorites on the table will pay off when it comes time to eating leftovers.

Get the whole family involved. Since the holidays are about family, make cooking time quality time. Create kitchen task lists for each person to complete. While you supervise the entire operation, have dad and the kids measure out ingredients, clean vegetables, or even wash dishes. Each person can proudly present his or her involvement in the meal at the table.

Do not be embarrassed to hire out. Take some of the pressure off of yourself by hiring a professional catering company or a personal chef for the day. The meal will have just as much meaning, without a lot of the hassle. Private companies and chefs book fast around this time, so make sure you place your order in time.

If private catering is not in your budget, your can still seek help outside of your kitchen. Instead of making everything from scratch, try purchasing your breads, side dishes, and desserts from the local bakery or specialty shop. The best way to enjoy a meal is to have someone else do the work.

Get creative with leftovers. There is more to leftovers than sandwiches and soups. Get creative! Take those candied yams, mash them and make a sweet potato soufflé. Try using the cranberry sauce to make cranberry muffins.

Check out her delicious recipe for Herb Crusted Prime Rib. Chef Jamika says your guests will go crazy when you bring this to the table.

Herb Crusted Prime Rib

  • Servings: 8 to 12
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe courtesy of Chef Jamika Pessoa

Ingredients

8 cloves of garlic
½ cup parsley leaves
¼ cup fresh thyme leaves, stem removed
¼ cup Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon Kosher salt
1 tablespoon ground black pepper
4-6 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
1 bone-in rib roast (prime rib), 8-10 pounds

Directions

  1. Position oven rack on the lowest level and preheat to 450 degrees. Place the garlic, parsley, thyme, mustard, Worcestershire sauce, salt, and pepper into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process into a coarse paste.
  2. Coat outside of rib roast generously with olive oil. Smear the paste over the top and sides of the rib roast. Place the roast bone-side down (fat side up) in a heavy roasting pan. Add cup of water to pan and place in the pre-heated oven.
  3. Roast at 450 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue roasting for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, or until a thermometer with the tip inserted to the center of the roast reaches 125 degrees.
  4. Transfer the roasted prime rib to a serving platter, and let rest for 15-20 minutes.

A special way to end the evening is to share your blessings with someone else and give leftover portions to those in the neighborhood or at your local church who are less fortunate.

Holidays should be a time of giving and spending time with family. Make this holiday an impressive one by being prepared. Plan down to the smallest detail so that the day is one filled with fond memories and not piles of dirty dishes.

Talkin’ Turkey Tips with the folks at Ralphs

The Thanksgiving turkey is the second best thing about Thanksgiving.

What’s the best thing about Thanksgiving? The long awaited gathering of family and friends around the holiday table laden with a cornucopia of food, including that glistening Thanksgiving bird.

Holiday roasted turkey. Photo credit: Ralphs

There are so many ways to prepare the hallowed bird from roasting it breast side up, stuffing herb butter under the skin, engulfing it in a cooking bag, deep frying to brining.

I’ve always been a big fan of brining, which is a form of marinating the turkey in a salt mixture with various herbs and other ingredients. But it can be quite a painstaking and time consuming production, steeped in mystery and intrigue. The time honored process is not always honored.

Chef Geoffrey Zakarian and I at Sur La Table during a recent signing of his book: My Perfect Pantry: 150 Easy Recipes from 50 Essential Ingredients

At a recent book signing in Los Angeles with Food Network Star and Iron Chef Geoffrey Zakarian, I asked the question, “to brine or not to brine?”

His answer: not to brine.  Chef GZ says he has a few fellow chefs and culinary colleagues that are big briners, but he is not. When it comes to cooking the bird, he keeps it simple and that way he gets simply delicious results.

This year I’ve decided to keep it simple. No brine, no lengthy 12 hour marinating time. But I wanted to make sure that my turkey was moist, flavorful and delicious because after all, I have a culinary reputation to uphold.

Kristin Livingston, Natural Food Manager, Ralphs, Westwood, CA.

I reached out to the experts at my favorite market Ralphs for a little advice on making an oven roasted, moist and juicy Thanksgiving turkey. They invited me to chat with Kristin Livingston, Natural Food Manager, at their Westwood store near the campus of UCLA. Here’s a mind-bending fact: it’s the busiest store in Southern California and generates $1.4 million in sales a week.

We had a great chat, I asked her lots of questions, and here are a few tips Kristen shared with me during the time we spent together.

What kind of turkey should I buy?

It depends on your budget and preference. There are whole turkey breasts, oven ready turkeys, natural, organic and frozen turkeys. Most frozen turkeys are flash frozen immediately after being butchered and are delicious. Some turkeys have a salt solution injected into them to make them very flavorful.  I prefer the free range, certified organic turkeys that are feed healthier fed and free of hormones and antibiotics.  I think they are tastier.

There are a variety of turkeys to chose from.

What size turkey should I buy?

A widely used general guideline is one pound of turkey per person. But if you are serving a lot of guests, I recommend preparing two smaller turkeys weighing 12 pounds or less.

What’s the best way to thaw a frozen turkey?

The best way to thaw your turkey is in the refrigerator. A general rule to follow when thawing a turkey is to allow 1 day of thawing for every 4 pounds. Make sure to keep the turkey unopened and thaw it breast side up.  It’s best to cook it within 4 days after thawing.

How should I season my turkey?

Here the possibilities are endless.  Make sure you wash and pat it dry first. Of course you need to generously salt the outside and cavity of the bird. Adding olive oil, vegetable oil or butter on the surface of the bird before adding the salt will help it brown.  There are a lot of traditional turkey seasoning mixes out there, but why not try something different like a Indian or Moroccan spice mix. There are many on the market or you can experiment with making your own.*

Should I stuff my turkey?

So many herbs, so many choices for your Thanksgiving turkey.

Stuffing a turkey is no longer recommended because of health reasons. If the bird is removed from the oven before the stuffing reaches 165°F, some bacteria from the stuffing or from the interior surface of the turkey’s cavity could remain alive in the stuffing.  To get the stuffing up to 165°F, you would risk overcooking the breast meat.  My recommendation is to cook your dressing or stuffing separately.

But do stuff the cavity of your turkey lot of aromatics like onions, garlic, thyme and rosemary. Those aromatics will cook and the flavors will permeate the turkey. Besides, those pan drippings make the best gravy.  Also, many stores stock a poultry bundle that can take the stress out of what herbs to buy. I would suggest trying that.

How long should I roast my turkey in the oven?

I recommend a temperature of  325°F from start to finish.  The  general cooking guideline for a fully defrosted or fresh bird is about 15 minutes per pound.

How will I know when the turkey is done?

A temperature of 180°F degrees is what you are looking for.

Your turkey is done when it reaches a temperature of 180°F degrees in the thigh and 170°F degrees in the breast. It’s best to use a meat thermometer to make sure you don’t overcook your turkey. Some turkeys come inserted with a plastic pop up button. But these buttons are set to pop up at 180°F to 185°F degrees and at that temperature, the turkey is overcooked and dry.

How long do I wait before I carve it?

Just like you let a steak rest after cooking so the juices can redistribute throughout the meat, you should let your turkey rest too. About 15 to 20 minutes is best. While its resting, why not use that time and make a gravy out of the those flavorful pan drippings.

Should I carve the turkey at table or not?

Turkey breasts removed and sliced for serving.

I love the presentation of a beautiful turkey at the table. Yet carving takes time. You can carve and plate the turkey right before serving to make it more convenient.  The best way to do this is to:

  • Remove the legs and thighs and cut through the bone that connects them.
  • Remove the wings and separate them at the joints.
  • Remove the wishbone and cut away to remove both breasts.
  • Slice the thigh meat.
  • Slice the breast meat, cutting it at an angle against the grain.
  • Arrange the turkey pieces and slices on a serving platter with fresh herbs and roasted vegetables for a great presentation.

My tip if you need more help

Since 1981 the folks at Butterball Turkey have staffed a Turkey Talk Line with food experts who can help answer any turkey question you might have. You can call them at 1-800-BUTTERBALL (800)288-8372 or visit their site at http://www.butterball.com/contact-us for information on their hours of operation and how you can chat, text or communicate with them about all your turkey questions via social media.

Time to make that turkey

*I like Kristin’s suggestion to make your own Indian or Moroccan inspired turkey seasoning. Here’s an easy mix I created you might want to give a try. Feel free to tweak this rustic blend and add additional ingredients if you like.  Double the recipe if you think you many need more seasoning mix. I recommend you rub the surface of the turkey with olive oil before you season your bird. In a bowl whisk together:
1 tablespoon sea salt
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon ground thyme
1 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon sugar

The folks at Ralphs have shared an easy recipe to help you make your turkey moist and delicious.  There are so many other great recipes on their site as well. Make sure to visit  them at https://www.ralphs.com/recipes and see what’s there. Have a Happy Thanksgiving my foodie friends. [Note: this is not a sponsored post]

Easy Thanksgiving Turkey

  • Servings: 10 to 14
  • Difficulty: easy
  • Print

Recipe courtesy of Ralphs.

Ingredients

1 turkey (14 lbs.)
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 clove garlic, peeled and minced
5 cloves garlic, peeled and whole
1 small onion, cut in quarters
salt
ground black pepper
1 poultry bundle (thyme, rosemary, sage, oregano, parsley)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 325°F.
  2. Rinse turkey and pat dry.
  3. Combine butter, 1 minced clove garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and ½ teaspoon pepper. Carefully spread the butter mixture between the skin and meat of the turkey, trying not to tear the skin. Sprinkle outside of the turkey and the cavity with additional salt and pepper.
  4. Stuff turkey cavity with onion, garlic cloves and poultry bundle.
  5. Truss the legs and place the turkey in a roasting pan.
  6. Roast for about 3 hours, basting with pan juices every 30 minutes. Cook until the internal temperature is about 170°F when thermometer is inserted into the meaty part of the breast.
  7. Remove from oven. Rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.