Healthy Bytes

31 08 2009

Check the recipes!

We’ll be updating  our recipes to include a “healthy bytes”  bit to give you some health related info in addition to the approximate nutritional info supplied with all our recipes.

-Doc

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Grow Your Own

31 08 2009

I was recently in Canada for a weekend to participate in a martial arts seminar. It was a fantastic weekend full of great training with new and old friends. Traditionally, everyone gets together following the big training session for a feast of food and drink to relax, unwind and nurse a few bruises. Often, the hosts choose a Japanese venue. I suppose as the martial art we study has it roots in Japan, this is a logical extension of the activities of the day. But in Canada we got a treat. We went to a local area bistro. I got to speak with the Chef de cuisine. He convinced me to try the local Alberta beef steak.

The Alberta beef in Canada is unique. They can track every piece of meat from start to finish. All the beef is grain fed as well. There is a “raised right” campaign in place to assure the proper and ethical treatment of the animals. All this produced a lean and fantastically flavorful steak. Chef was spot on.

It also got me thinking a little bit about how we generally procure our rations here in the United States. While there definitely seems to be a movement to increasingly access local quality ingredients, we still seem to rely on mass production without a lot of verification. Let’s look at our beef, for example. Most people these days get their beef from supermarkets and even Wal-Mart type operations. Family run and local butcher shops are becoming scarcer than cooking show actually about cooking and not some corny gimmick. Most people know the meat is inspected, but have no idea what the grading system actually means. In fact, in speaking with folks, very few actually know what parts of the steer the actual cuts come from.

I have a great relationship with my local butcher. He can explain “new “cuts-like the “California” cut of Alberta beef I had in Canada. The “California” comes from the same part as the traditional New York strip, just cut differently. More importantly, he gets me hormone free grain or grass fed beef with knowledge about the how, when and where of production. I also have some other sources that supply similar meat when I need it. It may cost a little more but I think it is worth it for the taste and quality. I’d rather have something a little less often, and have a quality experience, than a whole lot of mediocre. Grow what you can, even if it’s just some fresh herbs in the windowsill. Try to source locally for freshness and quality. If we look at the locally produced or more artisanal methods of production, if they deliver on their promise of superior product, we should consider spending the bit extra. Supporting these endeavors helps us in the long run. And there are ways to be economical about it as well. For example, I prefer a free-range grain fed chicken. The meat actually has flavor. My butcher gets these for me and they cost more than a ghetto bird raised in one of those atrocious, stinky avian tenements. If you don’t have access to a butcher, with the internet you can access quality producers who can overnight these items. I get a whole bird, butcher it myself and in the end spend as much, if not less, than buying some breasts, thighs, etc. as separate parts. I use the bird beak to tail and nothing goes to waste. Any leftover carcass is used for stocks and such. Chickens are easy to butcher, and with a little practice it takes no more than 10 minutes-if that. Alton Brown has a great video out on how to accomplish just that task (I recommend you ask for Alton’s Good Eats videos for Xmas if you don’t have them. It’s like a complete culinary course!)

So next time you go out to shop, start shopping for quality over quantity. Learn, as much as you are able, about where your food comes from and show it a little respect. Remember, Cream Puff, what we shove in our pie-holes is what we are destined to become.





Another New Video from the TV show

30 08 2009

Please visit the Roasted Tomato Salad Recipe under Recipe Demos to see some clips from the TV show, local TV 35.

-Doc





New video!

27 08 2009

The new instructional video about the  pate a choux dough for the gougère is here. So check it out under the sidebar “Recipe Demos-Pate a Choux” to get it perfect! It’s got a great “theme song” written, arranged aperformed and produced for Doc by Mr. Kevin Millis. If you have a Facebook account clink the link below or go to http://www.facebook.com/pages/Whats-Cookin-with-Doc/128623902958?ref=ts and become a fan. That way you’ll be updated when there’s new videos, recipes or posts. You can also sign up on twitter, look for WCWD!





Why Wine?

26 08 2009

Wine has a long and storied past with the human race. In days where the water could be dangerous-even lethal- to drink, the natural antibiotic properties of wine provided a source of safe drink. The mildly pleasing psychotropic effects didn’t hurt, either. The human race has a long and ongoing story with mind-altering substances, but that brownie recipe is for another day. Today, I’d like to touch on just a few introductory thoughts about wine; as a complement and a component of a meal.

As a complement to a meal wine provides opportunity. Depending on what you are serving, wine can enforce certain flavors found in the food. For example, a wine with smoky characteristics can accentuate a very lightly smoked fish and highlight that particular flavor profile. Conversely, a sharply acidic, but balanced wine can offset the fat in a meal and act to balance the entire presentation as well as refresh the palate. The right wine can be another tool in your culinary toolbox when you plan your menu.

As a component of the meal, we can look at wine from a perspective of functionality. Wine served with a meal generally causes us to slow down the eating process. This gives the stomach time to signal the brain when we’re full. Along with some water (which should always be served with wine-unless you’re dining with Jesus as he clearly prefers to turn any lingering H2O into consumable vino. And if you’re dining with Him you are probably no longer concerned about health benefits) the additional liquid content again acts to help ding the satiety bell in our heads. Therefore, sipping some wine with a meal aids in helping us eat less, loosening the tongue, encouraging conversation and generally restoring the concept of pleasure in dining versus the super size me eat in 2 bites while driving I don’t even need a bun just give me two fried hunks of chicken alternative. By the way, the “Colonel’s Secret Sauce”, really? Do I really want to eat that in any form? What’s next, Jenna Jameson tuna tartar? As a total aside, and to bring us back on track, she has bought a vineyard in California and supposedly her wine is quite good.

Regardless, the inclusion of wine with a meal can not only be a source of gustatory pleasure, but serve an important function towards healthy, more enjoyable dining. Remember though, wine adds calories to a meal so plan accordingly-caveat emptor! In forthcoming recipes, we’ll leave some wine recommendations. These are a starting off point. Experiment and decide what you like. Wine is like food. Avoid the snobby pretense and consume what you like, not what somebody tells you you should be drinking.

In Vino Veritas!





Mise en Place

25 08 2009

I am often asked what is needed to get started cooking delicious food. Do we need posh gadgets, expensive chef’s knives and 12 pounds of foie gras? My first response is that to cook successfully we need to have good basics, good fundamentals and our technique must be sound. To that end, I respond that we need mise en place. Mise en place (meez ahn plahs) is the French term which literally means “everything in its place” or “to put in place”. When we get ready to a coronary intervention in the cardiac catheterization laboratory, we must first make sure we have mise en place. We must make sure that all the possible supplies we need are readily available. The ones that we know we are going to need are at hand and ready to go in an instant. That all the setting up that can be done in advance has been done. This is the same mentality I take into the kitchen. It means all my prep work that can be done ahead of time has been done. Items are properly weighed and measured. All the tools and equipment that I need to work with has been identified and laid out. Ovens are pre-heated. Ice baths are ready. The work space I am going to utilize is clean, clear and ready. This is done every time, the same way, the same basic checklist. I encourage you to take the time to prepare your mise en place. If you do this you will find your enjoyment level rise as your stress level decreases. That’s the first step to Happy Food.





Cumulative Damage

24 08 2009

I had interesting discussion with a friend of mine a few weeks ago. He was telling me about a colon cleansing/detoxification regimen he had recently undergone. He was singing the praises of this particular treatment. For those unfamiliar, colon cleansing is a form of detoxification and often referred to as internal cleansing. The theory, as I understand it, is that as the years go by we accumulate colonic sludge. This impairs our ability to absorb necessary nutrients and such and we generally feel crummy toting around our own personal cesspool. While the mainstream Western medical community has not weighed in on either side of the argument at present, testimonials abound. The idea of internally cleansing, whether through herbal preparations, fasting, teas or by other methods and combinations has been around for millennia. The most recent data I came across (I’m not a GI doctor, so my reference point is more general medicine in this arena) showed no demonstrable benefit. I am not sure what parameters were used to define “success”, but certainly no harm seemed to occur.

With that being said, in principle it seems to make some sense. There are many ways to look at illness. One way is to look at acute injuries and chronic injuries. An acute injury would be like spraining your ankle running or playing sports. Another type of injury is one due to a chronic accumulation. Coronary artery disease can be like this; a plaque continues to accumulate, slowly, insidiously over many years. Finally it reaches a point where the next growth phase in the arterial blockage results in complete occlusion of the artery and a heart attack.

A good analogy in looking how we treat these is car maintenance. Let’s say a sprained ankle (acute injury) is like running over a nail and getting a flat tire. The treatment is to change the tire. Now let’s look at changing the oil or antifreeze. This is a preventive maneuver to avoid sludge damaging the engine or the radiator. This would result in that equipment not functioning as it should. This is the principle, I believe, behind the colon cleanse detoxification.

What does that have to do with food? Well, we’re going to lengths to get fresh ingredients, in combinations that allow for great taste and nutritional benefit. If we can’t absorb the nutrients to rebuild our internal infrastructure then that part of our plan really isn’t working. So, if you are thinking about a “fresh start” and utilizing some of our recipes and concepts as a jumping off point; and are so inclined, this might be a good starting point. It may seem a bit Granola and New Age, but if it makes you feel better….