Saturday, March 29, 2008

Snack Attack: Bananas, Almonds & Dark Chocolate

Somewhere between 2 p.m. and 4 p.m. I hit an energy lull where my eyes glaze over and my movements become slow and lethargic. It's my own fault for (gasp!) not eating breakfast, or at least something with protein in it before noon. I've devised this tasty bag-and-go snack to quell that need for speed that hits mid-afternoon. Especially since I've learned caffeine won't fuel me through my 30s the way it did my 20s.

This snack mix is simple:
2 parts banana chips
1 part almonds (salted, toasted or raw)
1 part dark chocolate nibs

Bag it, tag it, call it a day. A few zip top bags of these in stashed in convenient places (the car, the desk, that ginormous purse) can save the day, especially when that waaaaay-to-hungry-lightheaded-bad-decision-making-feeling kicks in and you're tempted to reach for a candy bar or fatty fast food. My advice though, if you know your energy lull kicks in around 2 p.m. like mine, is to nosh on a bit of this mix sometime around 1 p.m. to hedge off the hunger attack.

How does it work?
Bananas are a source of quickly released energy with both simple and complex carbs, and a well-earned reputation for being a potassium bomb which helps to regulate carbohydrate metabolism (good news for diabetics).

Almonds offer protein and plant-based "good" fat (including heart-healthy Omega 3s) for slow-release energy, and calcium and magnesium to feed your brain. These tasty nuts have been credited for reducing cancer risk among other healthful properties.

Dark chocolate nibs give that instantly rewarding chocolate sensation (how else can you describe the affect of chocolate?) with the release of feel-good seratonin, while providing a bitter contrast to the sweetness of the banana chips. Consuming dark chocolate has been linked to a healthy cardiovascular system.

I like to use salted toasted almonds because I like the contrast of the slightly salty almonds with the sweetness of the crunchy banana chips and the bitterness of the dark chocolate. This snack mix is a hit with folks of all ages, but be forewarned as chocolate does melt in little hands and warm places.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Grilled Radicchio and Ancho Chilis

2 medium radicchio, quartered into wedges
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp light brown or turbinado sugar
salt and black pepper
1 poblano or ancho chili

Drizzle radicchio wedges and chili with olive oil, vinegar and season with salt, pepper and a light sprinkling of the sugar. Grill radicchio on cut side over medium-hot coals for about three minutes. Flip over to cook the other cut side of the radicchio and cover with foil. Continue grilling for about 5 minutes and carefully remove from the grill using a spatula to keep the wedges in tact. Grill the chili along with the radicchio turning occasionally. Allow to cool slightly and peel off the outer skin. Cut into strips for serving along with the radicchio.


Italian Cheese Salad with Tomato and Olives

1 ripe tomato, diced
3 Tbsp diced black olives
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
1 tsp fresh oregano leaves
2 oz crumbled aged Asiago cheese
2 oz crumbled ricotta salata cheese
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt and black pepper

Combine ingredients in a bowl and set aside or refrigerate for later use. Best served at room temperature or just slightly chilled.


Lamb Burgers * Italian Cheese Salad * Grilled Radicchio w Ancho Chilis

The weather here in Georgia is kind of hit or miss. One day we're in short sleeves, the next day I see snow flurries. Still when the sun is shining, whether it's balmy or chilly, we're prone to breaking out our grill.

Following the success of our mega huge fat burgers from the week before, we decided to make another meal out of grilled, ground meat. This time, lamb burgers fragrant with lots of fresh oregano and fresh thyme -- the few survivors of last years gardening attempt.This simple meal is a good example of the whole being more than the sum of its parts. Each component was quickly put together and infused with layers of flavor. Fresh herbs and thin lemon slices give an aromatic dimension to the burgers.

The cheeses in the Italian Cheese Salad with Tomatoes and Olives can be switched up for whatever you have on hand -- we just happened to have ricotta salata and asiago, both of which have a nice toothiness and saltiness that happen to compliment tomatoes and lamb. The salad serves as both a garnish and a condiment in this dish.

The grilled radicchio, which is notoriously bitter -- is mellowed by what is essentially a drizzling of balsamic vinaigrette sweetened with just a bit of sugar. When the balsamic vinegar and the sugar on the radicchio meet the heat of the grill, they aid in the caramelization of the radicchio as well as provide some more moisture for a steam-grill cooking method. Both the caramelization and the steaming help to mellow out the radicchio which, by the time it hits the plate, practically melts. The simple yet delicious adddition of a fire roasted poblano or ancho pepper acts as a condiment and gives the dish a little bite, much like the lemon slices on the grilled lamb burgers.

Although the ingredients are pretty common, when pulled together, these lamb burgers accented with grilled radicchio and a salad of cheese, tomato and olives were a delicious nod to the flavors of the Mediterranean, but with some home spun simplicity. On the plate it took on the look of an open faced gyro, and definitely made for some knife and fork eating. MMMMMMM!


2 lbs. ground lamb
2-3 scallions, sliced (greens and whites)
3 Tbsp fresh oregano leaves
2 Tbsp fresh thyme leaves
3 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp onion powder
1 Tbsp garlic powder
salt and black pepper
1 lemon, thinly sliced

Combine all ingredients except lemon, and form into patties about ½ inch thick and 3-4 inches wide. Makes about 8 patties. Top each patty with a lemon slice. Grill over medium-hot coals until desired doneness (medium rare to medium well), turning once.



Top each cooked burger with Italian cheese salad and serve with wedges of grilled radicchio and sliced grilled poblano pepper.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Got Green?

Here's a great link from Mighty Foods that lists a collection of wonderful recipes using all kinds of dark leafy greens.

In the article, food writer Rachel Cole writes:
Packed with calcium, folic acid, iron, potassium, vitamins A, C, and K - they are one of nature's multivitamins. And we love them all, from spinach to kale to chard, but sometimes it takes an inspirational recipe to get us back in the kitchen eating our greens and more than a few of those we've listed below do the trick.

What follows is a diverse collection of recipes that I'm sure you will definitely find inspirational.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Barley Tabbouleh with Tomatoes and Olives

This recipe uses the whole grain barley, but in a convenient quick cooking form (takes 10 minutes!) thanks to Quaker.

Barley Tabbouleh with Tomatoes & Olives
1 box quick cooking Barley, cooked and rinsed
2-3 lemons, juice only
1 large bunch flat leaf parsley, minced
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 can black olives*, quartered
2 scallions sliced
3 Tbps extra virgin olive oil (like Ybarra brand)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook barley according to package directions. Rinse and dress with half the lemon juice, olive oil, and salt and black pepper to taste. Add scallions, tomatoes and olives.

Finely chop parsley and stir into the barley. If needed add the rest of the lemon juice.

Serve as a side dish with grilled chicken, lamb or fish. For a complete vegetarian meal, top with goat cheese and pine nuts for added protein and calcium. Enjoy!

*Note: I used canned black olives b/c that's what I had on hand, however this dish would've flourished with the addition of Niciose or Kalamatta olives. Yum!

Strawberry Oat Crumble

This dessert is so easy that it can be made any night on its own, as a topping for cake, or even as a pie filling or as part of a parfait. Talk about flexible!

It's made with whole fruit and quick oats, and is totally adaptable to whatever fruit you have available or have a taste for.

Strawberry & Oat Crumble
1 lb (1 bag) frozen whole strawberries
1 Tbsp organic light brown sugar (less if your fruit is sweet)
2/3 cups quick cooking oats
2 Tbsp butter
pinch each : cinnamon and allspice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup organic light brown sugar

In a sauce pan with a lid heat strawberries and 1 Tbsp of organic light brown sugar, covered over medium heat until warm and bubbly.

Meanwhile melt 2 Tbsp butter. Combine oats, spices, and remaining light brown sugar in a bowl. Pour melted butter into the bowl and stir well.

Combine strawberries and oat crumble. Makes a great topping over ZERO FAT angel cake slices!

Recipe: Life Chef's Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic

This recipe was recently featured on March 13 at Henry County. I had to concoct a version on the spot using organic light brown sugar instead of honey, but those guys were game to try it. Here's a milder version of the tonic good for daily use.

Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic
2 tsp apple cider vinegar
2 tsp honey
6 oz filtered water
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)

Stir and drink daily.

For more information about organic, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar and it's curative properties visit the Bragg website which has an extensive Q&A on ACV, or the Earth Clinic's informative article about ACV.

Note: if you can see through your apple cider vinegar, its not the right stuff for the "tonic". The unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar is cloudy, or has sediment at the bottom, which is where all the "good stuff is." As with all "natural remedies" there are as many articles that support the health benefits of ACV as there are those that denounce the same benefits. You be the judge and share your thoughts.

*** Disclaimer: I am a chef, not a doctor.***

The Henry County Challenge

I want to thank the gang out at Henry County for being such a great group. On March 13 I had my second Healthy Cooking Demonstration there, and I can't WAIT to do the next one. What a fun (and funny) group of men and women who obviously love food and eagerly participate in the dialogue!

As you guys requested I'm going to post the recipes that we covered. The Curry Chickpeas with Tomatoes and Spinach in a Coconut Broth is about to be a Life Chef classic.

We also made great use of new Food Find of mine: quick cooking barley by Quaker. It's done in 10 minutes! Quaker also carries the brand Mother's who also makes a quick cooking barley. This whole grain lent a twist to the traditional Mediterranean parsley salad in Barley Tabbouleh with Tomatoes and Olives.

Then we made a simple and easy Strawberry & Oat Crumble -- a quick and healthy dessert that you can whip up any night.

Finally we made a modified version of the old fashioned Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic -- made from unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar, cayenne pepper, organic brown sugar and water -- that packed a SERIOUS punch. I admit, I made it strong but I figured if you guys can handle it at THAT potency, then making it at home will be a snap!

Read more about the pros and cons of Apple Cider Vinegar. Here's the basic recipe: Life Chef's Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic

*** Warning: vinegar is very acidic and can be uncomfortable on an empty stomach. If you have a history of irritation of your esophagus, stomach or digestive tract, eliminate the cayenne pepper. For your initial taste, sip the tonic to know how whether or not it is right for you and your stomach! And remember I'm a chef not a doctor and any health claims made by makers and promoters of Apple Cider Vinegar are just that "claims. ***

Now here comes the Henry County Challenge...
Enough participants were wowed by the tonic to want to try it for themselves. I'm a fan of it personally, but I'd love to try it for 30 days straight, and some of the Henry County group was game as well.

So here is the Henry County Challenge: Drink the Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic once a day for 30 days. Report your experience here on Life Chef's Food for Life in the "comments" section.

Let's see if this stuff is as good as it's reputation.

*** Disclaimer: I am a chef, not a doctor. If you have health issues (acid reflux, GERD, or are taking certain medications) please consult a physician. I am not posting the Apple Cider Vinegar Tonic as "cure" for anything (regardless of my own bias).***

I WELCOME your comments regarding the Henry County Challenge.

Chicks in the City Returns to Oakhurst

This Save the Date is from the Oakhurst Community Garden Project. They offer some of the coolest classes on home gardening and farming, right here in the heart of the city.

The next Chicks in the City Class has been scheduled for May 3rd from 10-noon. Please let me know if you want me to hold a spot for you, but please hold off on paying at this time. We may be tying this class into an afternoon chicken coop tour and a special price may be available for both. More details to follow...
Executive Director
(678) 642-4977

Unfortunately I think I'm booked that date, but if not I'll definitely try to attend this class because I would LOVE to have my own laying hens and my own hand-built coop! That's one of my big goals for 2008! See "A Few Words About Eggs" from December.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Help Save Georigia's Sustainable Agriculture Research

The following is a note from Georgia Organics. I encourage you all to be active in your eating by staying abreast of the politics that affect agriculture, thereby affecting the stuff that lands on your plate. Especially during this turbulent political climate where change is in the air, yet the machinations of the Old Guard are still running like a well oiled machine.

Funding at Risk for Georgia’s Sustainable Ag Research
March 10, 2008

In response to the fiscal year ‘09 budget, the Agricultural Research Service has proposed the closing of the J. Phil Campbell, Sr. Natural Resource Conservation Center located in Watkinsville, Georgia.

Scientists at the Campbell Center conduct critical research on management strategies for profitable and sustainable animal and crop production. Their work on cropping and grazing systems, water quality, and organic matter and nutrient management has been crucial to the success of sustainable producers in our region.

Letters from farmers and farm organizations are needed immediately urging the Senators and Representatives from Georgia to block the proposed elimination of this important program. In addition to the Center’s current funding level, representatives should be encouraged to increase funding for research on the organic and sustainable production practices needed to address the needs of the growing organic and sustainable community in Georgia.

Please respond by sending a letter to your representative and senators today, particularly those that serve on the House and Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittees (Representative Jack Kinsgton and Senator Saxby Chambliss).

Not sure who your Representative is? Click here and enter your zip code.


Address your letter to:

The Honorable Johnny Isakson, Senator ( Georgia)
United States Senate
120 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Tel: (202) 224-3643
Fax: (202) 228-0724

The Honorable Saxby Chambliss, Senator ( Georgia)
United States Senate
416 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Main: 202-224-3521
Fax: 202-224-0103

The Honorable Jack Kingston (Representing 1st District)
Ranking Minority Member, House Subcommittee on Appropriations - Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies
United States House of Representatives
2268 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington , DC 20510
Main: 202-2254-5831
Fax: 202-225-2269

The Honorable Sanford D. Bishop, (Representing 2 nd District)
United States House of Representatives
2429 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington DC 20515-1002
Phone- (202) 225-3631
Fax- (202) 225-2203

The Honorable Lynn A. Westmoreland (Representing 3rd District)
United States House of Representatives
1213 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202-225-5901
Fax: 202-225-2515

The Honorable Henry C. Johnson, (Representing 4th District)
United States House of Representatives
1133 Longworth House Office Bldg.
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: (202) 225-1605
Fax: (202) 226-0691

The Honorable John Lewis, (Representing 5th District)
United States House of Representatives
343 Cannon House Office Building
Washington , D.C. 20515
(202) 225-3801 Phone
(202) 225-0351 Fax

The Honorable Tom Price, (Representing 6th District)
United States House of Representatives
424 Cannon House Office Building
Phone: 202-225-4501
Fax: 202-225-4656

The Honorable John Linder, (Representing 7th District)
United States House of Representatives
1026 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1007
Main: 202-225-4272
Fax: 202-225-4696

The Honorable Jim Marshall, (Representing 8th District)
United States House of Representatives
504 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Phone: 202/225-6531
Fax: 202/225-3013

The Honorable Nathan Deal, (Representing 9th District)
United States House of Representatives
2133 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515-1009
Phone: (202) 225-5211
Fax: (202) 225-8272

The Honorable Paul C. Broun, (Representing 10th District)
United States House of Representatives
2104 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-4101
Fax: (202) 226-0776

The Honorable Phil Gingrey, ( Representing 11th District)
United States House of Representatives
119 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
202-225-2931 (phone)
202-225-2944 (fax)

The Honorable John Barrow, (Representing 12th District)
United States House of Representatives
213 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515
Phone: (202) 225-2823
Fax: (202) 226-3377

The Honorable David Scott, (Representing 13th District)
United States House of Representatives
417 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
ph: (202) 225-2939
fax: (202) 225-4628
Toll free: 1-877-762-8762


Georgia Organics is a member-supported, nonprofit organization working to integrate healthy, sustainable, and locally grown food into the lives of all Georgians. For more info, and to donate or become a member, visit

Georgia Organics, Inc., P.O. Box 8924, Atlanta, GA 31106, 678.702.0400

Saturday, March 1, 2008

Roasted Chicken & Melted Tomato Bruchetta

These bruchetta made with roasted chicken, melted tomatoes and a crusty baguette were very well received at the Healthy Cooking 101: Healthy Cooking Techniques class that I lead today at Saint Philips AME Church. I wanted to post the recipe for those who attended the class and for anyone else looking for great use of leftover chicken (a common conundrum in more than my house, apparently).

Bruchetta is typically some grilled or toasted bread, in one form or another, topped with tasty morsels like tomatoes, olive tapenade, pesto with shrimp, or leftover bits of this and that. I think back in the 1980s bruchetta was one of the original "tapas" (small plates) that became so popular in restaurants (along with hummus and fried calamari). As food trends evolved and tapas became all the rage and more sophisticated, bruchetta has become somewhat mundane to those on the cutting edge of fancy faire.

However, I maintain that bruchetta is a form of "soul food" and as a starter to a large meal, an accompaniment with wine or even the focus of a light meal, bruchetta is quick, easy and resourceful (see comment about leftover chicken) that has myriad incarnations and never gets old. Few foods work better for a party at home or a heavy appetizer event because ANY topping on ANY kind of bread could loosely be interpreted as "bruchetta" so you're only limited by your imaginative use of ingredients and creative descriptions.

Speacial thanks to Dr. Hogan (Happy Birthday) and the Health Ministry at Saint Philip AME Church.


This recipe makes enough bruchetta to for about 10 people as an appetizer or as part of a meal (perhaps with a salad) for about 5 people.

Roasted Chicken & Melted Tomato Bruchetta

1 baguette, cut into rounds
2 pints grape tomatoes, cut in half
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2 small onion, diced
1 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt & pepper to taste
4 chicken breast cutlets
1 pinch (or 1/8 tsp) each : ground cinnamon, cayenne pepper, onion powder, cumin
2 Tablespoons fresh oregano (or 1 Tbsp dried Italian blend)

1. Season chicken with cinnamon, cayenne pepper, onion powder and cumin. Bake in a 400 degree oven until done, about 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile combine tomatoes, olive oil, garlic, onion, salt and pepper in a sauce pan over medium heat. Poach the tomatoes in the olive oil until the tomatoes release their juices and form a sauce.
3. When chicken is cooked through, allow it to cool enough to handle then shred or thinly slice the chicken. Add it to the tomato mixture along with the oregano and continue to poach for 5 minutes.
4. Arrange baguette slices on an ovenproof platter. Brush with olive oil and toast quickly in the oven. Generously spoon tomato and chicken mixture over the bread slices. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil if desired and serve immediately.