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.

5 tips to keep you stewing

Stew in pot

Simmer ready Turkey Tenderloin Stew

It’s just a pot of stew, right?

Not so fast.

That pot of vegetables and meat that slowly simmers in a savory stock transforms itself into a masterpiece of humble beginnings and epic ends.

It is imbued with pomp and personality. It is comprised of creativity and resourcefulness.  And it is reflective of the composer’s emotions and experience, virtue and values.

Yes, a stew is more than a stew

A stew is an often a magical and sometimes imaginative concoction of ingredients that bond harmoniously.  Yet, a stew is always stalwart even in the presence of the most delicate ingredients. And no two are ever alike because each individual pot is a personification of the moment and the marrow in which it is made.

A pot of stew is like bushel of love in a bowl.  Pare that bowl of stew with a generous portion of homemade corn bread or a hearty artisan roll, and you may just fall in love or get someone to fall in love with you. It’s shamefully clear, I love waxing stewfully about stews. With all that said, lets get down to simmering business.

Tips for making your stew anew

With the fall of the year upon us, chances are you will be making a pot of stew or two or three before the daffodils bloom in spring.

In making a stew, there are no rules – let your imagination be your guide. However, from my years of stew making, I’d like to share a few “stew tips” with you.

  1. Get to first base. The first step in making any stew is to create a base packed with flavor. I like starting out with a combination of ingredients like onions, garlic, shallots, celery and bell pepper sautéed in some kind of oil or fat like  butter, olive oil, or Grapeseed oil. Sometimes I infuse extra richness by adding a little sesame oil or lard.
  2. Stock it up. Whether you use chicken, beef, vegetable or seafood stock, elevate the favor by adding a little wine, beer, pumpkin puree, vegetable juice, clam juice or even fruit juice to your taste. I often deglaze my sauté pan with wine (white or red) or beer (craft or flavored). Sometimes I pour a little directly in the stock as well. I recently made a tomato based Italian stew and added a little orange juice; it was a great flavor enhancer.
  3. Use a few unusual suspects. We know the usual suspect when it comes to making stews, but try a few unusual suspects like yams, white sweet potatoes, Brussels sprouts, turnips, rutabagas, roasted beets to mention a few. When the usual and unusual suspects cozy up in a simmering pot, they give your stew an amazing “one off” depth of richness that is surprisingly good.
  4. No naked proteins. Now that I have your attention, the point here is to always season then brown proteins like beef, pork, chicken and lamb in oil or fat before adding them to your pot.  If you are making an all root vegetable stew, the same rule applies. Color equals flavor and the more color you get on the meat, the more flavorful your stew will be. When you brown that seasoned protein, you sear that seasoning right into the flesh. For a quick seafood stew, I browned shrimp and rockfish at high heat in a little Grapeseed oil before I added them to the stew. The color and flavor was awesome.
  5. Get fresh with herbs. Using fresh herbs gives your stew a freshness and brightness that dried herbs don’t deliver. Sure you have to use more of them, but it is so worth the effort. Some herbs are great for simmer and some are good for finishing. Try finishing your chicken stew with a little fresh mint or simmer a little fresh tarragon in your next beef stew.

Easy Turkey Tenderloin Stew 

click on arrow below to view video

Ingredients
1 ½ – 2 pounds turkey tenderloin
1 pound baby Yukon potatoes cut in 1 inch pieces
2 medium white sweet potatoes cut in 1 inch pieces
2 medium zucchini cut in 1 inch pieces
2 medium carrots, sliced
1 cup chopped onion
3 cloves chopped garlic
½ cup white wine
1 – 2 tablespoons fresh thyme
7 cups chicken stock
1 ~ 15 ounce can fire roasted corn
Salt
Pepper
Red pepper flakes
Grapeseed oil
Flour

Method

  1. Cut your turkey tenderloin into chucks and generously season them with salt and pepper.
  2. Lightly coat the chunks in flour.
  3. Add a few tablespoon of Grapeseed oil to a skillet and heat. Add turkey tenderloin chunks and brown until almost done. Remove from heat and add to a stock pot.
  4. Add a little more Grapeseed oil to that same skillet if needed, heat to medium and sauté your onions and garlic about a minute then deglaze the pan with white wine and add to stock pot.
  5. To stock pot add cut white sweet potatoes, Yukon potatoes and zucchini , sliced carrots, fresh thyme leaves, 2 teaspoons of salt, ¼ teaspoon black and red pepper flakes, and canned corn.
  6. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer 1 hour. Serve with corn bread or dinner rolls.

Tip:  For added thickness, place 1 cup of stew stock and 2 tablespoons of corn starch in a blender. Place your hand on top of the blender lid to prevent it from dislodging. Mix well. Stir the thickened mixture into stew.