Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Red Lentils with Cauliflower and Potatoes

Simple, satisfying, stick to your ribs dish. Especially when served with a blend of hearty wild rices on the side. Meat is strictly optional as is spice content.

Red Lentils with Cauliflower and Potatoes
1/2 medium onion, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2" piece of ginger, peeled and minced
4 cups of water
1 red potato, medium dice
1 medium carrot, medium dice
2 cups (or 2 hand fulls) cauliflower florets
1 cup red lentils, uncooked
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 bay leaves
salt and pepper to taste
2 Tbsp heavy cream (optional)

In a medium to large sauce pan, saute onion in 2 Tbsp of oil over medium heat until tender. Add the garlic and ginger and continue cooking until aromatic, stirring occasionally.

Add the water, potato and carrot. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and stir in the lentils, bay leaf and paprika. Season with salt and pepper, cover and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking for about 10 minutes , stirring occasionally to be sure the lentils are not sticking to the bottom of the pan.

Add the cauliflower and finish cooking the dish, covered, for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 Tbs of heavy cream.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Roasted Cornish Hens with Jasmine Rice, Cherries and Pepitas

Crispy skin, juicy meat, fragrant aromatic stuffing... what more could you want?

Roasted Cornish Hens with Jasmine Rice, Cherries and Pepitas
2 Cornish hens, trimmed of excess fat and rinsed
½ cup dried cherries
½ cup pepitas or pumpkin seeds
1 tsp vanilla
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
2 cups of COOKED jasmine rice
4 bay leaves
salt and pepper

Season hens with salt and pepper and place 2 bay leaves into the cavity of each hen. Drizzle with olive oil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Remove hens from oven and let cool slightly. Drain off the liquid from the hens and RESERVE about ¼-1/2 cup.

Meanwhile combine the cooked rice, cherries, pumpkin seeds, vanilla nd cinnamon stick with ¼ cup of the roasted hen juices.

Fill each bird with the rice mixture after the hen’s have cooled enough to handle. Put the remaining rice into the baking dish, with the stuffed hens on top.

Return to the oven and bake at 400 degrees another 20-30 minutes.

Fresh Mozzarella and Sun-dried Tomato “Fondue”

This dip-style-dish hit the pinnacle of flavor maybe 4 hours after it was composed. OK, well, really it was good after about 30 minutes after the garlic had a chance to soften, but it really held up well over time and got progressively gooey over time.

All of the ingredients, including a ton of black pepper and really good quality evoo went into a pot which melded together on “low” and eventually “warm.” After 4 hours we had a “fondue” of sorts, perfect for scooping with crusty sliced ciabatta bread.

Don’t get me wrong; prior to the six hour mark, it was a WONDERFUL appetizer with soft, gooey mozzarella balls infused with tons of flavor from the sun dried tomatoes, garlic, and thyme.

This is one dish where the quality of your ingredients will have an impact on the outcome of the dish. It would be just as good in one of those mini-crock pots too.

Fresh Mozzarella and Sun-dried Tomato “Fondue”
¼ cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, julienned
6 cloves of garlic, cut into thirds
2 Tbsp fresh thyme
2 cups fresh mozzarella balls (small) or cut large balls into 1-2” pieces
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly cracked black pepper to taste

Combine all ingredients except the cheese in a medium sauce pan. Heat over medium-high heat until oil begins to simmer. Reduce heat to “low” or “warm” and add the cheese. Allow to marinate for at least 20 minutes prior to serving. The longer it cooks the “gooier” the cheese will become.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Smoked Turkey

Sexy huh? Yeah you know you want it. This was super easy too. The hardest parts were watching the grill to make sure we didn't have flare-ups, and waiting for my mom to show up for dinner so we could tear into this bad bird.

This was a two part process. In part one, the day before we brined the turkey in a large pot. I combined 1 cup of sugar, 1 cup of salt, 1 head of garlic cut in half, a handfull of black pepper, and several sprigs of fresh tyme in a pot on the stove. Heated that up to combine the flavors, then dumped it in a huge pot that I have follwed by tons of ice to cool it down. Once it was cold, I submerged my whole, washed turkey, breast down (or head first) into the pot and set THAT into a cooler and set the whole shebang outside b/c it's freezing (literally out there). If you don't have a pot that big, you can use your cooler to brine. Just make sure it goes into a cool place (not necessarily freezing, but definitely not like 80 degrees and full sun, you know what I mean?).

That was about 9 p.m. on Wednesday. Around 11 a.m. on Thursday we fired up the grill with equal parts charcoal briquettes (to keep the fire burning) and hickory wood pieces soaked in water for about 10 minutes. The bird came out of the brine, was split in half and went skin side down onto the grill. We closed the top (but kept the air holes open) and if the fire got too hot, added more wet hickory, and if the fire got too cold, opened up the lid and let the fire breathe. We did this for about four hours and then pulled the bird off of the grill and let it sit... and sit... and sit some more unitil Mom showed up and then we got our serious grub on!

The turkey was outstanding. Smokey and delicious. And one thing about smoked meat is that it keeps well for a long time. So there's no shortage of smoked turkey and smoked turkey parts for greens, sandwiches and fritattas in the days to follow.

Peach-Cherry Crumble Pie

I've combined two of my favorite parts of dessert, the crumble and the crust and put them together in a low sugar dessert featuring ripe frozen fruits. This is the easiest dessert on the planet and it's bolstered by heart-healthy oats to boot.

Peach Cherry Crumble Pie1 pound frozen peaches
1/2 pound frozen cherries
3/4 cups 5 minute oats
2 frozen pie shells
1 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1 Tsp. ground ginger
1 Tsp. ground allspice
2 Tbsp. unbleached sugar, honey or agave nectar
pinch salt(optional)
butter (optional)

Combine peaches, cherries and oats in a bowl while they thaw.

Meanwhile heat oven to 350 degrees. Prick the bottom of one pie shell with a fork and bake at 350 for 5-10 minutes. While that's par-baking, cut the other pie shell into strips or chunks to cover the top of the other pie (the more hodge-podgey it is, the more it looks homemade).

Remove pie shell from the oven and let it cool slightly. Meanwhile, add the spices and sweetener to the fruit mixture and combine well. Pour fruit into the par-baked pie shell, top with the other pie shell strips and bake for 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven, and dot with butter if desired. Allow to set for 10 minutes before slicing.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes with Apples

In the south, where I'm from, sweet potatoes show up one way during the holidays: beneath a layer of bruleed marshmallows and swimming in butter. It's a wonderful tradition, but sometimes it's nice to take a fresher approach to sweet potatoes.

In this recipe we combine them with another fruit of the fall harvest: apples. Pick your favorite seasonal apples to go in this side dish. Sweet Gala apples work just as well as tart Granny Smiths, though their attributes do change the dish. Feel free to follow you bliss on this easy side dish that takes care of itself in the oven.

Notice I leave the peels on the sweet potatoes and apples. Keeps the nutrients in the dish and adds some fiber.

Both honey and agave nectar have a lower glycemic index rating than sugar, so the touch of sweetness that is added is safe for most people, including diabetics.

Turmeric, cinnamon, ginger and cayenne pepper all have wonderful health benefits for people battling diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and cancer. Learn more at the World's Healthiest Foods Website.

Spiced Sweet Potatoes with Apples
4 sweet potatoes, scrubbed and diced
4 apples, scrubbed and diced
1/2 curried pecan pieces (pecans toasted with curry powder)
1 Tbsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. turmeric
1/2 tsp. nutmeg
2" piece ginger, peeled and grated
2 Tbsp. unbleached sugar, honey or agave nectar
salt and pepper
(Butter is optional in this dish. It adds richness, but it also adds fat and calories.)

Combine all of the ingredient is a roasting pan or large baking dish.

Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, then turn the pan.

Cook for another 10 minutes and test for doneness by piercing a piece of sweet potato. It should give easily and not be crunchy, however, you do not want to cook this dish to mush. The sweet potatoes and apples should retain their textures and flavors.

Spice Rubbed Turkey Breast

During the holidays it's easy to got leftover overkill. One solution I've found is to cook turkey breast instead of the entire bird. With this delicous spice rub, which I've used in the past for grilling and on pork, turkey packs a lot of flavor that is still complimented by traditional holiday dishes such as cranberry sauce, sage dressing and green bean casserole. I've used the spice rub on boneless/skinless turkey breast (done in less than 20 minutes) and here on a split breast, bone in, skin on. Cooking meat on the bone helps to keep is juicy and the skin gets crispy and yummy, like turkey cracklin'! MMMMMM.

Spice Rubbed Turkey Breast
1 turkey breast, split, bone-in, skin on
1 tsp. Garam Masala
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Turmeric
1 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
1 tsp. Grround Garlic
1 tsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp. Ground Ginger
1 tsp. fresh Thyme
Salt and Black Pepper

Rinse and pat dry the turkey and set on a rack in a roasting pan.

Combine all of the spices except salt and pepper. Sprinkle liberally on all sides of the turkey, reserve any leftover rub for a future use. Season the turkey on all sides with salt and pepper.

Roast turken in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350 and continue cooking until the turkey is done (juices will run clear - or if you're lucky you'll have a pop up timer in one of the breast lobes!). Depending on the size of the turkey breast that could be another 10-20 minutes.

Remove from oven, cover with a foil tent and let sit for 10 minutes before slicing so that the meat stays juicy.

Hearty Whole Grain Stuffing/Dressing

Some people call it stuffing, some people call it dressing. I call it yummy, especially when loaded with gravy! This dressing is made with the heartiest whole grain bread you can find, and what I call "real" corn bread made from simple ingredients: corn meal, water, eggs, honey, touch of vegetable oil. From these two seemingly dry and hostile bread sources comes a wonderful dressing that is loaded with contrasting nutty, sweet, spicy flavors and fiber and heart-healthy whole grains. Can't beat that during the holidays!

Hearty Whole Grain Stuffing/Dressing

1 loaf of all natural hearty whole grain or multi-grain bread
1 loaf of cornbread
2 cups of chicken stock, water or vegetable stock
1/2 cup dried figs, sliced and reconstituted in 1 cup of hot water
3 apples diced (peeling is optional but you lose some nutritiants when you peel them)
1 tsp. ground cayenne pepper (or more to taste)
1 tsp. ground cinnamon (or more to taste)
1 tsp. all spice (or more to taste)
1 medium onion, diced
salt and pepper
1 Tbsp fresh thyme
Spiced Nuts (1/2 cup pecans or almonds, sliced or pieces, toasted with garam masala, cayenne pepper, cumin and salt)

In a large bowl, break up the breads (or cut into 1-2" cubes), season with salt and pepper and add onion, thyme and cayenne pepper.

In a separate medium sized bowl, combine figs, appples, cinnamon and all spice. Add the apple mixture to the bread mixture and gently stir ingredients together because you don't want to break up the bread too much.

Add stock or water until the bread is thoroughly moistened. There shouldn't really be excess liquid that the bread hasn't absorbed.

Bake in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Check about 10 minutes in to see if you need to add more liquid. The center of the dressing should be moist but not gooey when done. Top with toasted Spiced Nuts and serve.

You can add butter to the dressing as well for added richness.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

Lamb Stew with Smoked Paprika and Lemon

I finally got a hold of some Spanish smoked paprika. It’s been on my list for a while and either I’d forget to look for it when I went to the market, or it wasn’t there when I did remember to look for it. It’s the secret ingredient lending depth and character to this yummy lamb stew.

1.5-2 lbs lamb meat for stewing
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 medium carrots, diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 cup tomato sauce
3/4 cup red wine
3/4 cup chicken stock
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 tsp smoked paprika
2 Tbsp fresh thyme, minced
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, minced

In a pot heat 2 Tbsp oil over medium high heat. Season lamb with salt and pepper and brown on all sides in the pot. Remove the meat from the pot and set aside.

Drain off all but 2 Tbsp of fat in the pot and return the pot to the heat. Add the onions and carrots and sauté a few minutes until the onions start to become tender. Add the garlic and thyme and continue cooking until the garlic begins to brown.

Add the tomato sauce, wine and chicken stock, and stir in the paprika, more black pepper and chick peas.

Return the lamb to the pot being sure that the meat is covered by the broth. Add rosemary, cover and simmer on medium-low heat for 45 minutes or until the meat is tender and begins to fall off of the bones.

NOTE: The cooking time will be determined by the thickness of the meat, and whether or not you use mean on or off the bone.

Taste to correct seasoning before serving. Spoon stew into individual bowls, and op each bowl with a sprinkling of grated lemon zest. Serve with crusty bread.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Life Chef News and Dates

Happy Holidays everyone!

Hopefully by now you've had a chance to check out my audition video for the Next Food Network Star: Season 5. Here's the link: http://tinyurl.com/lifechef Please take a moment to view the video again and feel free to leave comments. I have a sneaking suspicion they are keeping an eye on the number of views the videos get, and I'd love to stay in the "Most Viewed" category. With that said, save the link to your favorites and please visit often, just to say "hi." Many of you have asked for an update, and as soon as I hear something new from the Food Network, I'll let you know. For now I'm excited and hopeful to still be considered for the show because I know I have what it takes to bring my Life Chef message of easy, delicious and healthful eating to the viewers of the Food Network. Not to mention, I'll have a fantastic time doing it... and you know this! So please spread my message of healthy eating to friends and family near and far and ask folks to check out this link to my audition video: http://tinyurl.com/lifechef Thanks again for all of the support, encouragement and prayers!
In other Life Chef News...

Catch me, your Life Chef Asata Reid at these upcoming dates:
Dec. 4, Worksite Wellness Healthy Cooking demo at Clayton County
Dec. 17, Healthy Holiday Hors D'oeuvres at the Atlanta Fulton Public Library
Jan. 13, Eating for a New Year at the Saturday Academy at the Hillcrest Church of Christ

The 2008 Calendar for Life Chef Classes at Saint Philip AME Church and Sevananda Natural Foods Market will be released soon so stay tuned...

Holiday Recipes
I was very busy with holiday recipe classes in October and November and try as I might, I was unable to get all of those yummy recipes and photos uploaded before Thanksgiving. However, make sure you visit www.lifechef.net in the days to come because I will definitely get those recipes from the classes and more up in time for your Christmas, Kwanzaa, New Years entertaining! I hope you have as much fun cooking and eating these tasty renditions of holiday classics (minus some of the fat and sodium).