Monday, August 31, 2009

Sun Dried Tomatoes and Other Wonders

I have had to make lots of changes over the past three years. At first it was simply annoying that I felt I could no longer eat my favorite foods. Then, when I realized that Stevia and Xylitol could indulge my sweet tooth, I thought I might actually be able to stick with this new "Maximized" way of living and eating. Little by little, I found ways to alter traditional recipes. Now, at last, I can't imagine eating beef that is raised in a confinement lot or white bread that makes me crave other processed, unhealthy foods. And now, at last, I realize that I can change most, if not all, of my old favorite recipes so they look good, taste good, and are good for me.

One of the changes I have had to make is in condiments and dressings. Nearly all bottled or jarred salad dressings and condiments are packed in canola oil. So when I want to make my "Sundried Tomato Pesto," I have to start from scratch. I am happy to do it because I know I can enjoy it without worrying that it will make me ill. When it is ready, I can use it to spread on my Flax Seed Bread, or rolled in a flattened chicken breast, scewered with a sprig of rosemary and grilled on the bar-b-que. For those of you who follow the Core Nutrition Plan, this pesto is unbelievable thinned with pasta water and poured over whole grain Italian pasta. Do I have your attention?

Sundried Tomatoes in Oil

Once you prepare these, you can store them in the refrigerator for up to six weeks, if they last that long.

Buy dried sundried tomatoes. They are available in many grocery stores, and sometimes you can find them in bulk food markets.

To reconstitute the dried sundried tomatoes, cover them with boiling water, and let stand for two minutes.

Drain and let them "air out" for about ten minutes.

Place the reconstituted sundried tomatoes in a jar, and cover with oil and other seasonings. I like to add a clove of garlic, salt, pepper, and sometimes a bit of balsamic vinegar. As long as your ingredients are "Maximized," suit yourself.

Sundried Tomato Pesto

Into a food processor, add a jar (about 1 cup) of your made-to-order wonderful sundried tomatoes in olive oil, 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, and approximately 1 cup of fresh basil leaves. Blitz, adding a bit of oilive oil, if needed, and about 1/3 cup of freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese. Taste. Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.

Keep this spread at room temperature if using that day over whole grain Italian pasta, or refrigerate for up to two weeks.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Basil Vinaigrette

This time of year, I always have too much basil. Since July, I have harvested twice, and although I love pesto, I really dont want to make another batch of it. Even a delicious sauce like pesto can get boring if that's all you can think to do with the basil that's in such abundance in summer. In this vinaigrette, basil, roasted garlic and good Italian Parmesan cheese are paired with balsamic vinegar and fine quality olive oil. How's that for a scrumptious use of basil?!


1 cup fresh basil leaves
1/4 cup roasted garlic
2 tablespoons freshly grated Italian Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 1/2 to 2 cups extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and pepper to taste


Roast a head of garlic and let it cool.
Later in the day when the garlic has cooled: In a blender, combine the basil, garlic, cheese and vinegar. Slowly blend in the oil. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Choosing Hot Peppers at the Grocery Store

A few of the recipes in GOOD FOOD call for the use of a Serrano chili. Use a Jalepeno anytime you cannot find a Serrano in the grocery store. This tip may help you decide which pepper to choose.

"Ever take home a jalapeño chili pepper from the grocery store and have it either be so lacking in heat it may just as well be a bell pepper, or so hot a speck will create a raging inferno in your mouth? Here's a quick tip for choosing jalapeños that can help you decide which ones to pick. Jalapeño chilies progressively get hotter the older they get, eventually turning bright red. As they age, they develop white lines and flecks, like stretch marks running in the direction of the length of the pepper. The smoother the pepper, the younger, and milder it is. The more white lines, the older and hotter. Red jalapeños are the most hot, because they've been maturing the longest. "

"If you are trying to avoid the hottest jalapeños, pick the chilis without any striations. If you are looking for heat, find a red jalapeño, or a green one with plenty of white stretch marks. Note that this is just a guideline. There is still plenty of variation among individual peppers. You can find hotter-than-Hades peppers without any white lines. But your chances of picking a mild one are better if you go for smooth. Or if you are looking for heat, you will more likely find that in a pepper with lots of lines. "

"I would like to clarify here that this tip is based on absolutely NO scientific evidence. I have seen this approach mentioned by others (online), but who knows what is really going on? I do know that they are developing much milder variety of jalapeños these days. I also know that the capsaicin, the chemical that gives chilis their heat, is concentrated in the seeds and ribs. The flesh of the chili that is closer to the seeds will be hotter than the flesh near the tip. This is established fact. Perhaps chilis that are more mature have more of their capsaicin distributed throughout their flesh than the younger ones? Perhaps hotter varieties of jalapeños develop striations and milder ones do not. I have never eaten a mild red or striated jalapeño. But several times I have bought perfectly smooth, beautiful jalapeños only to be disappointed in their complete lack of flavor and punch. So, please take this tip with a grain of salt. Since using this approach I have not encountered a dull jalapeno."
To view the picture above, simply double click on it for a larger image. You will see the "stretch marks" or "striations" more clearly.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Cucumber Salad

Who doesn't love cucumbers, especially when they are locally available, and deliciously cold and crisp on a summer evening? Here's another recipe that is not included in GOOD FOOD, simply because it is so easy.

Cucumber Yogurt Salad Recipe

2 cucumbers, peeled, quartered lengthwise, then sliced
1 cup (approximately) Organic, full fat, Plain yogurt
1 teaspoon dried dill, or a couple of teaspoons of fresh dill
Sprinkling of kosher salt and pepper


First taste the cucumbers to make sure that they are not bitter. Depending on the variety of cucumber you are using, and many other factors, you may find a cucumber that is distinctly bitter in taste. If this happens, soak the cucumber slices in (kosher or sea) salted water for half an hour, or longer, until the bitterness is reduced, then rinse and drain before using.

To make the salad, simply gently mix together the ingredients.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Note: If you don't like dill: My mother used to prepare this summer cucumber salad using marjoram, and it was delicious. Thanks, mom.

Monday, August 17, 2009

McSmith's Farm and a Lemon Chicken recipe

I have been to McSmith's Farm twice in the past 5 weeks. What a lovely experience. This farm is the real deal. They sell fresh, organic, free range chickens every two weeks on a Saturday morning from around 10AM to 1PM. From the London area, going south on Wellington Road, the cutoff for McSmith's Farm is exactly 9 km south of Regina Mundi Highschool. Just follow the signs - believe me - it will be worth it.

McSmith's also has fresh and frozen organic, free range chicken pieces, such as boneless, skinless, chicken breasts, and bone-in chicken thighs (my favorites). They are pre-packaged in freezer safe storage pouches, so they could not be more convenient to have on hand. I was so delighted with the quality of the chicken that I went out and bought a separate small freezer. For more information on McSmith's, you can check their website at, but for now, I want to share a new lemon chicken recipe that I tried the last time I had the bone-in chicken thighs on hand. This recipe is not in my recipe book, GOOD FOOD, but I wanted to share it becauseI KNOW you will enjoy it. We sure did.


3-4 pounds chicken parts (thighs and legs recommended), skin-on, bone-in, trimmed of excess fat
2 Tbsp lemon zest
1/3 cup lemon juice
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2 Tbsp fresh chopped thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
1 Tbsp fresh chopped rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried) (optional)
1 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper

2-3 Tbsp melted butter
Lemon slices for garnish

1 Place lemon juice, lemon peel, garlic, thyme, rosemary, salt, and pepper in a small bowl, whisk to combine. With the tip of a sharp knife, cut into each chicken piece one or two times by about 1/2 an inch. (This will help the marinade penetrate.) Place the chicken pieces and the marinade in a gallon-sized freezer bag. Rotate the bag so that all chicken pieces are coated with the marinade. Seal the bag and place in a bowl in the refrigerator (in case of leakage). Let marinate for 2 hours.

2 Preheat oven to 425°F. Remove chicken from marinade and place in a single layer in a large baking dish, skin side up. Reserve the marinade. Use a pastry brush to brush a little melted butter on to each piece of chicken.

3 Bake for a total of 50 to 55 minutes, until the skins are crispy brown, and the chicken is cooked through, juices running clear (breasts have an internal temperature of 165°F and thighs 175°F). Half-way through the baking, at about the 25 minute mark, baste the chicken pieces generously with reserved marinade.
Depending on the size of the breasts, they may be ready before the thighs, so if you are cooking a mix of chicken parts, keep that in mind, you may have to take them out of the oven before the thighs.
Let rest, covered in foil, for 10 minutes before serving.

4 Pour the juices from the pan into a serving bowl. Use a tablespoon to skim the fat off the top (save the fat for cooking with later, or discard, but do not discard down the drain or it will solidify and clog your drain). Serve the chicken with the juices on the side or a little poured over the top of the chicken.
Serves 4-6. Serve alone or with steamed vegetables, or "Cauliflower Rice."


Since the first day I released "Good Food," I have wanted to create a blog for people who have bought or downloaded the book, as well as for those who have simply tried a few of the recipes I have shared through the Maximized Living Makeovers, newsletters, etc. I wanted to blog about the recipes, the processes, and the tricks and tools I have picked up over approximately 3 years of developing the recipes and the "Maximized" lifestyle for my family.

This has been a journey for me, as it may be for you. I want to hear your stories of overcoming the habits and pitfalls of the North American food supply, which, left unchecked, will have a devastating effect on your health, and the health of those you love. The happiest accident of the journey for me has been that I have discovered a world of what I like to call "Gourmet Good Food, Maximized." When I see a chef's beautifully prepared masterpiece, the first thing I want to do is "Maximize" it and enjoy eating it with my family. You can do the same. I hope you will then share your recipes, and the triumphs as well as the tragedies you encounter in your kitchen on your own journey to a "Maximized " lifestyle. And be sure to ask any questions you may have - they are usually questions for which LOTS of people need answers.

So, welcome, and, as one of my absolute favorite chefs, Jacques Pepin, always says, "Happy Cooking."