Love is a happy, healthy heart

Chicken breasts cooking on stove top grill pan.

I have no trepidation about Valentine’s Day.

While the arrow wielding, chubby little cherub has struck me with a few arrows that didn’t exactly stick, I am not jaded about love, nor do I have a myopic view of it either.

Love makes the heart happy

Me and my grandson. He makes my heart happy.

I have had the good fortune of experiencing deep, passionate love.

I’ve also been blessed with the honor and privilege of experiencing maternal love.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the sisterly love that remains wrapped around my life like a snug cocoon.

Love, oh love

The range of love I’ve experienced has led me to believe this one thing: the reciprocity of love is the essence of what makes love that splendid thing I do not want to live without.

I no longer  think of Valentine’s Day in term of flowers, cards or candy.  But I won’t turn them down.

I think of Valentine’s Day in terms of recognizing the people who continue to surround me with pillars of love.

Gee, I’m getting a little misty eyed.

The cost of Love

Valentine’s Day is just one of countless moments in our lives we pause to celebrate or proclaim those we love, those who bring value and beauty our lives.

That calendar celebration and proclamation is far too often a pricey exploit.

According to the National Retail Federation,” U.S. consumers are expected to spend an average $143.56 on Valentine’s Day. Total spending is expected to reach $19.6 billion, up from $18.2 billion last year.”

That’s a lot of clams, lavish dinners, sparkling jewels and premium roses.

I say go for it. Participate. Partake. Celebrate – responsibly of course.

But after the flowers have wilted and died, the box of Godiva chocolates is empty, the lavish dinner is forgotten,  the heart stirring card is tucked into a cabinet or deposited in the round file, why not make a proclamation to give an enduring gift of love – the gift a healthy heart.

Healthy Heart Month

Valentine’s Day is just a day, albeit a somewhat significant one.  But the entire month of February is observed as American Heart Month which seems to get completely overshadowed.

Since 1964, a Presidential proclamation has been issued to commemorate American Heart Month. Why? Because cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of deaths in America.  The National Heart Association says that every 38 seconds a person dies of cardiovascular disease (stroke, coronary artery disease, heart attack). That’s about 2,300 people a day, and 2,300 families who lives have abruptly shifted and changed. My family experienced the untimely death of a beloved and cherished member due to heart disease.

There is good news Dear Heart

Knowing your family history and making lifestyle changes (managing stress, losing weight, getting physically active, making healthy choices in what you eat, and cutting back on alcoholic beverages) can lower your risk of cardiovascular disease significantly, as much as 80%.

Healthy heart recipe – start here

Pan Grilled Chicken Breast with Chick Pea Sauce

Your assignment during American Heart Month is to eat more heart healthy meals as a declaration of the love you have for yourself, and as a declaration of the love you have for those you cherish.

My Pan Grilled Chicken Breast with Chick Pea Sauce is a heart healthy gift I give to you. The chicken is moist, tender and flavorful. The Chick Pea Sauce, made with fresh thyme and lemon juice, is savory and soul satisfying.  An option is to finish the plating with pan grilled corn cut from the cob. This is a meal that will make your heart happy and your lips part with a smile.

I’d like to thanks the great folks at Goya Foods for providing some of the ingredients used in making this recipe.

Talk about it

Have a heart to heart chat with yourself Dear Heart. There is no time like the present, and no better time than during American Heart Month to give yourself and those you love the gift of a healthy heart.

Now that’s real love my foodie friends. Time for you to get cooking!

Pan Grilled Chicken Breast with Chick Pea Sauce

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

A delicious, hearty healthy meal

Ingredients

2 boneless chicken breasts (Simple Truth Organic Chicken Breast featured here)
3 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon lemon juice for chicken marinade
½ teaspoon lemon juice for Chickpea Sauce
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme leaves
½ teaspoon garlic powder
1~ 15.5 ounce Goya Chick Peas, drained
2/3 cup chicken stock
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ear of corn, husk and silk removed

Directions

  1. Wash and pat dry chicken breasts. Place chicken breasts on a cutting board and slice each one in half to yield four pieces. Generously season chicken breast slice with salt and cracked pepper.
  2. To a small bowl add 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon chopped thyme leaves, and ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. Mix well and pour into a plastic zipper storage bag.  Add seasoned chicken breast slices to marinade, seal the bag and marinade 15 minutes. Massage and turn the bag a few times.
  3. While chicken is marinating, to a skillet or stove top grill pan set at medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of Grapeseed or corn oil and pan grill the ear of corn. Rotate the corn in pan until it is lightly browned on all sides. Remove from heat, set aside and let cool.
  4. Remove chicken breast from marinade after 15 minutes and place them in the same skillet or grill pan. Cook on each side for about 2-3 minutes until medium brown in color.
  5. When done, remove chicken breast from skillet or grill pan and place on a foil lined baking sheet. Place in a 400 degrees Fahrenheit oven for 10 minutes.
  6. While chicken is in the oven, to a blender add drained Chick Peas, ¼ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, ¼ teaspoon garlic powder, ¼ teaspoon salt, cracked pepper, 2/3 cup of chicken stock.
  7. Use the liquidfy setting and blend until creamy.
  8. Pour sauce into a small sauce pan. Place sauce pan on stove top and bring to a gentle boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer 5 minutes. When done, remove from heat, keep warm.
  9. Remove chicken from oven after 10 minutes. Let rest 5 minutes. While chicken is resting, cut the corn from the cob (video here).
  10. Place a chicken breast on a plate, spoon Chick Pea sauce over breast, top with grilled corn and fresh chopped thyme. (Note: as featured here, chicken breasts are sliced at a diagonal before plating. See “Happy New Year, happy new food,” for example.

 

Patriots, Eagles and a super Superbowl Chili

5 Bean and Beer Chili

My beloved Rams.

They gave it a good go this season.

Their second year in Los Angeles has given the City of the Angels hope that perhaps one day we will make our long awaited appearance in the Super Bowl.

Rams insider Myles Simmons said it best: “Los Angeles completed a historic turnaround in the 2017 regular season, not only winning the NFC West for the first time since 2003 but also going from worst to first in scoring.”

Thank you Myles.

The big game

So now we know the two teams that are poised to go helmet to helmet in the 52nd Super Bowl, set for Sunday, February 4th.

The New England Patriots will make their 10th Super Bowl appearance.

The Philadelphia Eagles will make their 3rd Super Bowl appearance.

The Patriots won the title in 2017 and 2015. Its not surprising that the odds makers have tossed up their odds and predict   the Patriots will win a back-to-back title this time around. Could this be a slam dunk for New England?

Enough about football

Let’s talk chili because its gotta be part of your Super Bowl menu and its gotta be something to talk about in case the game isn’t.

5 Bean and Beer Chili with toppings

My 5 Bean and Beer Chili is just the recipe you need to score a winning touchdown at your Super Bowl gathering. Here’s why:

  • Simple, modest ingredients.
  • Easy to prepare.
  • Cooks in an hour.
  • Rich, full bodied flavor.
  • Features Modelo Especial Beer, known for its orange blossom honey aroma.
  • Chock full of a variety of flavorful beans.
  • Great balance of ground turkey and smoked chicken sausage.
  • Thick, hearty and soul satisfying.

For this recipe, you will need a large Dutch Oven pot. This recipes features a 6 quart pot. After its done, make sure to gather a few  ramekins or small serving bowls and fill them with hand grated cheeses (cheddar, Parmesan, smoked Gouda), green onions, cilantro, sour cream, guacamole, olives, crushed tortilla chips, and chopped jalapenos. Your guests will love to customize their bowl of chili with their favorite toppings.

When planning any gathering, party or event, pace yourself and plan ahead. This chili can be made the day before your Super Bowl soirée.

One last thing football fans

I wouldn’t be too dismissive about the outcome of the big game. The City of Brotherly Love wants this title badly and they want it brought home on the wings of Eagles. I’m just relaying and saying.

Here’s the recipe.  Get cooking and go team!

5 Bean and Beer Chili

  • Servings: 8 to 10
  • Difficulty: intermediate
  • Print

A rich and hearty chili

Ingredients

Beans
1~ 15.5 ounce can red beans
1 ~15.5 ounce can black beans
1 ~15.5 ounce can pinto beans
1~ 15.5 ounce can dark kidney beans
1~ 15.5 ounce can garbanzo beans

Wet ingredients
1~ 14.5 ounce can Simple Truth Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes
1 small can tomato paste
3 ½  cups low sodium chicken stock
1 ½ cup Modelo Especial Beer

Vegetables
1 ½ cup bell pepper, chopped
1 ½ cup red onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 ear of corn, pan grilled and cut from cob

Meat
2 pounds ground turkey, cooked
1 pound Hillshire Chicken Smoked Sausage Roasted Garlic, cut

Herbs and spices
3 tablespoon cumin
3 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon Chipotle Chili
2 teaspoons salt
½ teaspoon cracked pepper
1 teaspoon fresh oregano, chopped
½ cup chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon granulated sugar

To thicken
12 -15 ground saltine crackers

Directions

  1. To a skillet set at medium heat, add two tablespoons of  olive oil. Once heated, add bell pepper, red onion and garlic.  Sauté until tender, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes. When done, remove from heat and place into a large Dutch oven.
  2. Cut smoked sausage in half, lengthwise. Then slice each lengthwise half into ½ inch slices. To that same skillet add the sausage and cook until lightly brown, stirring constantly. Add to Dutch oven.
  3. To that same skillet, add a little canola oil and pan grill the ear of corn. Rotate the  corn in pan until it is lightly browned.  Remove from heat, set aside and let cool.
  4. To that same skillet, add the ground turkey and cook until done, chopping and turning constantly. When done, drain, and add to Dutch oven.
  5. Open each can of beans, drain and add to Dutch oven. Add spices and herbs  (cumin, chili powder, Chipotle Chili, chopped oregano, cilantro, sugar, salt, pepper), liquids (Simple Truth Fire Roasted Diced Tomatoes, small can tomato paste, low sodium chicken stock and Modelo Beer) and grilled corn cut from cob.
  6. Stir well to incorporate all the ingredients.
  7. Bring pot to a gentle boil, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. While the chili is simmering, place 12-15 saltine crackers in a plastic zipper storage bag. With a rolling pin or  drinking glass, crush crackers until fine. You can use a food processor or mini grinder if you like.
  9. When chili is done simmering, taste and season with salt and pepper to your taste. Next, slowly stir crushed crackers into the chili until you achieve your desire thickness.
  10. Let stand 20 minutes and serve.

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.