Sunday, March 21, 2010

Not your grandmother's porridge

Just about everyone knows that a big part of eating properly is to start your day with a healthy breakfast. None the less it's still the meal that people seem to struggle with more than any other.

Hey, we're all busy.
For me mornings are usually about hitting the snooze button one or two too many times, rushing to get ready for work while answering phone calls & questions from my opening crew, purveyors & clients. Taking time out, even if it's only five minutes, to prepare breakfast just doesn't fit in to my typical morning "schedule".
Of course as I'm out buying food & supplies on my way into the kitchen I find myself wanting something to eat.

I'm one of those people for whom the mornings are when I crave something sweet the most. In the days when I used to work in hotels, the aroma wafting off the racks of fresh baked breakfast pastries coming up from the bakeshop would call to me like a siren's song. These days the temptations usually take the form of grab & go coffee shop pastries.

They are quick, convenient and seem to fill the void. However after a night's sleep and usually too much of a delay before eating at all, a bunch of empty calories, sugar & simple carbs is exactly what you do not want to eat.

What you need is solid food with a good, complex fibrous carbohydrate like ... OATMEAL!

Yeah I know, "Oatmeal? Yuck."
To be fair though, have you seen the way most people cook oatmeal? Boiling it in just water or milk and maybe topping it with a little sugar: bor-ing.
How many other grains do you tend to eat that plainly? How often do you sit down to a meal of just plain boiled white rice?

Oatmeal is so good for you though and gives you good, long burning source of energy to get your day going. Can't get yourself started with out that triple grande latte? Try switching to oatmeal for a week. Find yourself running out of gas by late afternoon? Fill your tank with some oatmeal in the morning and see what kind of mileage you get out of your body.

There are a lot of different ways I like to prepare my oatmeal to make a breakfast I really enjoy. A simple tricks is cooking it in apple juice instead of water with a touch of cinnamon and some fruit like diced apple & dried cranberries. Just be sure you use an good, natural, unsweetened apple juice rather than some sugary crap.
Of course I highly recommend adding a source of lean protein into your breakfast as well. Hard boiled eggs are a favorite accompaniment of mine.

As tasty as the apple juice trick is, I often like to jazz up my oatmeal a bit more. Let me show you one of my favorites. It's tasty, healthy, satisfies my need for sweet in morning and made ahead of time it's convenient enough to fit into my hectic mornings.

Chocolate Cherry Banana Oatmeal

Makes 3 to 5 servings

1 1/2 cups Regular Rolled Oats Don't use quick oats.
3 cups water
2 ripe bananas, sliced
1/3 cup dried tart cherries I like the Dried Monterey Cherries they sell at Trader Joes
6 scoops Chocolate whey protein powder This is where it gets a little tricky. All protein powders are not created equal, in fact they are all very different in flavor as well as quality. For this recipe I used 6 scoops (1 1/4 cups) EAS brand. It's sold commonly in a lot of stores from Walgreens to Costco. GNC's "100% Whey" brand is also a good choice.

Combine the oats, water, bananas & cherries in a medium sauce pot.
Put it over medium heat and bring to simmer stirring occasionally.
I like to mash some of the bananas while I'm stirring.
Continue to simmer for 4 to 5 minutes until thick & creamy.
Many recipes tell you to add the oats to boiling liquid but starting it cold & bringing it to a gentle simmer produces a smoother, creamier result.
Remove from heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
Stir in protein powder.

I like to do all this in the evening or on the weekend when I have time and then immediately divide into microwaveable containers that can be quickly zapped for a fast breakfast.

It's pretty rich and dividing this recipe into five gives you one cup portions that make a decent breakfast: 250 calories, 20 grams of protein, 40 grams of healthy carbs.

If you are particularly active & need a bigger boast in the morning if can be divided into 4 or even three portions.
At three portions it breaks down to 413 calories, 34 grams of protein & 69 grams of carbs. If you are working out regularly, that's a good choice for your morning meal.

I'm never going to claim that chocolate protein powder is as delicious as actual chocolate but with the added richness and sweetness of the fruit, this makes a very enjoyable morning meal.

Ten minutes of cooking yesterday and I have breakfast all set for the next few days and I'm ready to face the week.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

New Digs

I'm about to move my business to a new kitchen facility. Like any move I'm excited about the change but dreading the process. The next two weeks should be rather interesting for me.

I've been in my current kitchen since I started my business, 4 1/2 years ago. I'll always have a soft spot in my heart for that space but it has become increasing troublesome in recent months. It's time to move on.

The new place lacks some of the equipment the other kitchen has but it offers plenty of perks that more than make up for it. It has more space, a better layout and an office. Hallelujah!
My days of doing paperwork at my personal version of the Thanksgiving kids table are nearly over.

Here are a couple quick shots of what it looks like at the moment.



As you can see, I've hardly moved anything in yet and that coffee service stuff off to one side is something the former tenant's that they have yet to take out.

Can I get my company moved and settled in two weeks? We'll find out.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Taste of the Irish

How does an Irish American Chef cook his corned beef for St. Patrick's day?

Sure boiling it, as most people do, is fine but I like to put a little more pop into my corned beef.
My preference is to sear it and braise it with beer.

I cooked off 80 lbs for the holiday. This is one of the three big roasting pans that I used for them. I used my iPhone to take these pictures so apologies if the photo quality is not very good.

As you can see they have a good sear on them and a liberal sprinkling of pickling spice. What you can't see is that they are sitting on a bed of chopped onions and whole peeled garlic cloves.
Into that pot I poured two bottles of Red Hook Copper Ale and about a quart of tomato rich demi-glace. Then I covered it with foil and cooked in a low oven for six hours.

The result was fall apart tender corned beef that not only had the usual perfume-y saltiness but also had a rich, roasted caramel quality that was too delicious to hide with mustard.

Here is a where I cut of a few tasting slices just after it came out of the oven.

If I was doing it at home I would have added cabbage, carrots & potatoes to the pot for the last hour of the braise to allow all the flavors to blend. Working in professional quantities like I did, that wasn't practical.

The saddest part is that I didn't have leftovers as I was hoping to take home and enjoy. Those pesky customers ate it all up on me.
Oh well, I may have to make this again sometime soon just for my own pleasure.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Off I go

After a bit more delay than I had intended I've started the P90X program.

Right now I'm two days in and frankly, I'm sore.
This morning I did the Plyometrics workout, which is a jumping style of cardio. I hope my downstairs neighbors aren't too mad at me for that.
My legs are really feeling the effects this evening from the morning's workout. I wonder how stiff I'm going to be when I wake up tomorrow.
The first day's workout, chest & back, hasn't left me as sore. That's probably because this is closer to a style of exercise that my body is used to.

One of my first impressions is that, had I only been watching these exercise routines rather than actually doing them I'd think they were far easier than they actually are.
Push ups and pull ups seem so much easier than lifting heavy weights to the observer and jumping up & down in various ways in 30 second spurts doesn't look like lung heaving cardio but this system has me feeling worn out in the first ten minutes of the hour long sessions.

Sticking to the schedule is going to be tricky for me. I've lost my two lead cooks at work & I'm still working or hiring and training their replacements. While that is happening I'm about to move my business from the kitchen I've had since since I started, to a new facility.
In addition I have some non-work thing to take care of as well. All work and no play is not my idea of a healthy lifestyle.
I have a few interesting weeks ahead of me. However I'm going to make my best effort to stick to the P90X program in the midst of everything else.
If I'm really good I may even find time to do some cooking at home and hopefully work on my photography.

Let's see how I do with all this.

Speaking of food & photography, prevailing wisdom in the blogging world is that photos make your posts more interesting.
So turning away from the exercise topic, last weekend was Mobile Chowdown 3 here in Seattle. Below are a few pictures showing a couple of the dishes from the Marination Mobile folks: their wonderful tacos, spam sliders and the delightfully pleasant smile with which your food is served.
If you haven't tried their fare you are missing out.