Thursday, June 18, 2009

Super Seasonings

Banish bland eats and enhance your health at the same time.  After the first two weeks of the Brentwood Diet, you can break out the seasonings and return flavor to your food. You'll also add some health benefits. Because, many of the items in your spice rack and pantry do double duty as "functional foods." That means they deliver health-promotion or disease-prevention in every sprinkle or dash. The following faves make the list of super seasonings: 

Cinnamon: May help control blood sugar and lower both triglycerides and LDL (bad) cholesterol 

Garlic: Boosts the immune system, lowers blood pressure, lowers cholesterol and fights against cancer and heart disease among other things--garlic is the super hero of seasonings

Ginger: An anti-inflammatory high in antioxidants, it may also lower cholesterol  

Olive Oil: Lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol without lowering HDL (good) cholesterol

Parsley: Chuck full of cancer-fighting antioxidants

Turmeric: Fights inflammation, lowers cholesterol and may help prevent Alzheimer's disease

Monday, June 1, 2009

Cardboard Chicken

Biting into a piece of chicken with its crispy, golden-brown skin is one of life's simple pleasures. According to the Brentwood Diet though, only skinless, white-meat chicken is allowed. Unfortunately, this lacks the flavor punch  that a chicken roasted whole delivers.  

What's a Brentwood Dieter to do? Get used to it. Chicken skin for all its goodness, packs in a lot of saturated fat and cholesterol--all things to avoid on the Brentwood Diet.  And dark-meat lovers just have to wait for Phase Two for the occasional drumstick or thigh. 

Also, make the best of things. Although bland, the nude-looking lozenges of boneless, skinless chicken breasts are ultra convenient. First, they cook up in no time. It takes just 25 minutes at 400˚F and wham, they're out of the oven. Chopped up, they're a great addition to soups, stews and stir fries (Phase One folks: instead of using your tablespoon of olive oil for salad, use it to stir fry vegetables and chicken.) Why not cook up a bunch of boneless, skinless chicken breasts and use them later? Chilled, they make great additions to salads. They're great to tote, too, because they're not messy and they're microwavable. 


Chunky Chicken Salad:

• 2 or 3 bell peppers diced generously
• 1 small sweet onion finely chopped (Vidalia, etc.)
• 1 regular cucumber or 4 Persian cucumbers
• 2 to 3 skinless breasts, pre-cooked and chilled and chopped into chunks
• 2 tablespoons extra version olive oil
• 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Mix together. Feeds 2. 

Phase Two: Add chucks of avocado and tomato,  finely chopped cilantro, a pinch of cumin and the juice of 1/2 to 1 lime instead of the vinegar for a Southwestern twist. For a once-in-a-blue-moon option, throw in a few cooked low-salt black beans and kernels sheared from a fresh ear of corn. Know that in addition to added carbs, the canned black beans come with sodium, which is a Brentwood Diet no-no.

Roasted Chicken & Cauliflower

• 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
• 1 head of cauliflower chopped into little pieces 
• Olive oil--1 tablespoon Phase One, lots Phase Two

Preheat oven to 425˚ F.  Lightly grease a large roasting pan with olive oil. Rinse chicken breasts in water and pat dry. Place in pan. Add cauliflower, preferably not onto on the chicken breasts, but in between them. Sprinkle the olive oil on top of everything--1 tablespoon for Phase One people, more for Phase Two Brentwood Dieters. Bake for 20 minutes until the chicken's golden brown. Test the chicken for doneness. You may have to remove the chicken breasts and let them rest and cook the cauliflower on its own for a while longer. The cauliflower should be toasty-looking and fork-tender. Feeds 3 to 4.

Forgo the cauliflower but add other vegetables to the bottom of the greased pan: chopped onions, chopped celery, chopped celery root, chopped summer squash, mushrooms--whatever. Place chicken on top and cook at 400˚F for around 30 minutes. Check for doneness at about 20 minutes. 

Skillet Chicken & Veggies

• 3 to 4 boneless chicken breasts chopped into chunks
• 2 or more cups of salt-free, homemade chicken stock/broth (recipe on blog) 
• 1 16-oz. bag of frozen bell pepper strips or 4 or 5 diced fresh bell peppers
• 2 large onions diced finely
• Herbs of your choice: eg: herbs de Provence, cumin, cilantro, parsley, paprika, thyme, etc.
• If you have a huge skillet, add in celery. From a few stalks to a whole bunch. 

Throw the vegetables, seasonings and the chicken stock/broth and cook covered for 15 minutes or so. Then throw in the chunks of chicken and cook covered for about 15 more minutes. Make sure that the broth doesn't all evaporate. Feeds 2 to 4 in Phase One.