Archive for January, 2008

Indian Giver

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

Sing it, Joey*:

When we want Indian food at home, we often get take-out.  Typically from Shalimar, because it’s close and cheap.  It’s not the same caliber as Karavalli, but hey, it’s our neighborhood Indian place.  It’s just-the-ticket for a Tuesday night craving.  Sometimes though, we go nuts and make Indian at home.  Here’s my gora-fide version of Indian food.  I found this recipe online, but don’t make it as the link indicates or it will be way too salty.  Modify it a bit and make it like this:

The marinade:

  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 4 teaspoons salt, or to taste (use 1 tsp)
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 long skewers 

In a large bowl (or better still, a Tupperware container), combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 1 teaspoon salt. Add chicken (or Turkey or whatever), shake and cover; refrigerate for 1 hour.
Preheat grill or use oven broiler to “grill” the chicken.  Lightly oil the grill grate. Place chicken chunks onto skewers, and discard marinade. Grill/broil until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.

The tikka masala:

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 3 teaspoons salt, or to taste (use 1 tsp here too)
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro  

From here follow the recipe in the link: “Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika, and 3 teaspoons salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.”

Make up some white rice, and enjoy with some naan.  See some photos of the process below:

The fixin’s

Grilling the marinated turkey

Chopping the turkey into pieces

Jalapeños and garlic

let simmer

You need to eat your greens, so I made a spinach side-dish.  Simple recipe with toasted pine nuts and raisins.

Prepared to meet its maker. mmmm

I especially like this recipe because you can buy all the ingredients at your local chain-grocery store.  I use turkey cutlets (from Misty Knoll Farms) instead of chicken, and it comes out great.  For you vegetarians out there; you can head to your local Indian grocery store and buy some paneer (in lieu of chicken or turkey).  Or I suppose you could marinate tofu and firm it up by roasting it under the broiler, but you’re on your own there.  Enjoy. 

*Joey Ramone died of lymphoma in 2001, just one month shy of his 50th birthday.  Apparently, near the end of his life, he really got into trading stocks on the internet.  While recording what would become his posthumously released solo album, he developed a small crush on CNBC’s Maria Bartiromo, and wrote a song about her (looking like a young Sophia Loren is never a bad thing, eh?).  Joey’s album was touchingly titled “Don’t Worry About Me.”  :(  

I am raising money for The Leukemia and Lymphoma Society to fund experimental new treatments for people who are afflicted with blood cancers, like lymphoma; treatments that are putting people’s cancer in full remission and saving/extending lives.  The LLS isn’t just a bunch of dreamy well-wishers; I have actually met people whose lives have been changed by their efforts.  I calculated how my fund-raising is going since I started.  See the data below:

Progress so far

I am super-thankful to all the generous folks who have already donated (you anonymous donors too).  At this rate though, I’ll fall short of my goal by June 1 (see above).  So, if you’ve been building suspense and waiting for the right time to contribute, now is that time.  Not only will you be helping cancer patients who need it, but you’ll be restoring the internet to the altruistic utopia that Al Gore intended when he invented it.  [wink

Click HERE to donate with reckless abandon. 

“Put your face up to the window”

Tuesday, January 22nd, 2008

Banana is good food.  If it’s made with bananas, odds are I will like it.  You name it: banana cream-pie, banana pudding (with vanilla wafers), frozen banana (chocolate-covered), banana splits, banana bread, banana pancakes, bananas on corn flakes, Bananarama; I could go all day.  When we go to the Spectrum for a movie, I often get a slice of banana bread and a coffee (btw, I recommend No Country For Old Men; it’s a fine film). 

A few nights back, I took another stab at Pad Thai, it came out meh (and that’s using meh loosely).  We were both underwhelmed with my attempt.  I was lacking some key ingredients and made some substitutions that didn’t work out so well.  I went too heavy on the dehydrated shrimp and the whole dish smelled like those dry fish flakes that you sprinkle in your aquarium; yeah, not good.  Anyway, I had to recover for my foible, so we threw caution to the wind and made Bananas Foster for dessert.  Yeah, it’s a bit indulgent, but you know, “practice all things in moderation; including moderation.” 

Find my personalized recipe below:

  • 4 tablespoons butter (1/2 stick)
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar (somewhat packed) 
  • 3-4 bananas (depending on their sizes) 
  • 1 oz. Coffee liqueur (e.g. Kahlua)
  • 2 oz. Rum (I used Bacardi 151). 
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon  (a big pinch)
  • Vanilla ice cream

The only thing unique here is the Kahlua.  It gives the dish a deeper flavor that goes well with the bananas and ice cream without interferring with the spicy rum flavor. 

Prep. first:  Prepare everything first so you aren’t running around the kitchen while making this time-sensitive dessert.  Peel and cut the bananas into quarters (half them in the middle, and then lengthwise).  In advance, pour a 1/2 shot-glass full of the coffee liqueur and a shot-glass full of rum and set them aside.  Be sure to put away the bottles; you don’t want to make a molotov cocktail out of the rum bottle, right?  Unless you’re protesting a G8 summit in your kitchen.  Scoop the ice cream into serving bowls and return them to the freezer.   

Now, on to the cooking:  Melt the butter in a frying pan using med heat (butter burns, so take it easy).  Once the butter is melted, add the brown sugar, cinnamon, and Kahlua.  Mix well.  The brown sugar will caramelize and you should have a nice thick sauce that is simmering.  Add the bananas flat side down and let cook for about 1 min.  Use tongs to gently roll the bananas over and let cook for another minute.  Or, you could just keep spooning the sauce over the bananas for ~2 min.  Cooking too long will turn the bananas into mush. 

Now, you’ll want to call your dinner guests into the kitchen for the show (and confirm the location of your fire extinguisher).  With the burner still on med, add the shot of 151 and carefully light with a match.  You’ll want to touch the match to the edge of the frying pan keeping your fingers out of the leaping flame; and leap it will.  Ideally this should be done at the table, but I don’t have a hot plate and can’t be bothered to set up a heatsource, etc.  For added flash (literally), throw the dash of cinnamon into the flame and watch the *poof* of light.  When the flame dies down completely, use a large spoon to scoop the bananas and sauce onto the vanilla ice cream and serve immediately.  It is so good. 

Please be careful if/when you try this dish.  It’s good, but it’s not THAT good; safety first, folks.  Always follow directions, er, starting tomorrow.  See below for some photos of the process:

The gear

Sweet mana from the gods

See, told you I liked butter.

You like-a the sauce?

Bananas cook for one minute.

Bananas cook for another minute.

Lights off.  Porno for pyros indeed.

The payoff.

What better music group to accompany this blog post than The Flaming Lips?  Get it?  Because the dessert is flami… ah nevermind, here’s the song (best results at max. volume):

Also, for those of you considering sponsoring me for the upcoming marathon with Team In Training, but can’t decide on how much to give, here are some helpful suggestions:

$26 –    A dollar per mile.
$62 –    A euro per kilometer (I’m an equal opportunity donation-acceptor).   
$100 –  Send a Ben Franklin to help out.  I’m sure he’d want you to. 
$210 –  A dollar per minute of race time (if I meet my goal).  That’s less than a plumber’s rate. 
$500 –  Someone’s been reading about the virtue of charity…YOU! 
Other – Don’t let these guidelines hold you back.  

Please donate here

“Yes, we’re going to a crowded party”

Wednesday, January 16th, 2008

January 17th marks the one-year anniversary of this blog.  It’s been fun doing this.  I hope that we can use this blog to actually do a little good.  If you’ve enjoyed this site over the past year and you feel compelled to express some appreciation, please make a donation to The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by donating via my fund-raising page HERE.  Please go there and check it out; it looks like this:

Click the link above to head on over there and donate. 

Please see the LLS mission statement below:

“The Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s mission: Cure leukemia, lymphoma, Hodgkin’s disease and myeloma, and improve the quality of life of patients and their families. The Society has dedicated itself to being one of the top-rated voluntary health agencies in terms of dollars that directly fund our mission.”

I have also added a link to my fund-raising page on the sidebar (where Jacques used to be).  I plan to race in the 2008 Rock n Roll Marathon in San Diego on June 1.  More than 75% of your donation goes directly to the LLS to be invested like this.  It’s a great cause, and I hope you want to help.  I decided to join Team in Training, because I knew I wanted to raise money for charity if I were to run a marathon.  I thought about raising money for a local organization by myself, but I know I wouldn’t be as disciplined about raising the dough.  Team in Training certainly provides an incentive for raising funds.  If I don’t make the $4000 goal, I don’t get to go to the marathon :( .  All that training fer nuthin’.  How’s that for motivation?  I actually appreciate the hard-and-fast deliverable and I will do my best to meet it, but I could really use some help from you.  

Also, oftentimes your company will match your charitable donations.  So remember to hit ’em up.  I ain’t too proud to beg

Fowl Play

Saturday, January 5th, 2008

We frequently buy ground turkey from Misty Knoll Farms (purchased at the coop).  Although we buy it on our own volition, a few days after purchase, we often find ourselves saying, “We have to eat that turkey in the fridge.”  We never say that about filet mignon, seafood, or cheese; yet for some reason, we regard fresh ground turkey as some sort of automatic-leftover that we have to eat out of principle.  We buy it because we like it, but I guess it’s hard to get excited about this austere meat. 

If you’ve ever felt this way, the following recipe might help.

The fixin’s

First, I make some tzatziki by modifying this recipe a bit:

  • 2 (8 ounce) containers plain yogurt (You’ll get the best results with Greek-style.  It’s sold at the coop and I’ve seen it at Hannaford.  We use the brand Fage).
  • 2 cucumbers – peeled, seeded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • salt and pepper to taste

Add everything, except the yogurt, to a blender/food-processor and mix.  Then fold the chopped/mixed contents into the yogurt with a spoon in a bowl.  Or, if you don’t feel like breaking out the appliances, grate the cucumber, press the garlic, and chop the dill separately; then mix into the yogurt with everything else.  If it’s too thin/runny for your liking, I’ve seen recipes that suggest thickening the yogurt by pouring into a cheesecloth and letting some water drain or squeezing the water from the cucumber after grating, but that seems like a lot of work for a dip, no?  If possible, make this on a Sunday for use during the week.  It’s better the next day.  Let it cool for at least an hour before serving.   

Cucumbers get peeled and seeded.

Breath mints of Spain. ;)


Next, make the meatballs:

  • ~1 lb ground Turkey
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 3-4 tablespoons chopped flat parsley
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled, pressed
  • salt/adobo to taste (I used ~1.5 teaspoons)

Thoroughly mix all ingredients above (excluding the tzatziki, of course) in a large bowl, and form small meatballs (~1.5″ diameter).  Pan fry the meatballs in ~ 0.25″ of olive oil heated to Med-Hi.  Brown the meatballs and use tongs to flip them in the oil while cooking. 

Get some nice pita bread (we like Joseph’s brand), chop some fresh tomato, add some hummus if you’d like, assemble and enjoy.  I was too lazy to make the hummus from scratch, so I bought some Cedar’s brand from the grocery store (hey, it was a weeknight).

 Parsely chopped coarsely.

Mix it all together.

fowl balls

Toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe


Cati and I had two bites of our turkey-meatball pitas and we both immediately collapsed onto the carpet into a deep slumber from the all the tryptophan (Trp).  I kid…to make a point.  Every Thanksgiving we hear people talk of the L-tryptophan (like it could be D-tryptophan…pfft) in turkey making us drowsy.   Is there that much Trp in turkey to make us sleepy?  My inner skeptic stirs; I smell a factoid.  The USDA has a nice National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference.  Check it out here; your tax dollars have already paid for it (note: applies to U.S. readers only).  A little searching will show you that although turkey has more than double the Trp of beef, it only has 33% more than chicken, about the same as pork, and 40% LESS THAN cheddar cheese. 

So, three bites of turkey has the same amount of Trp as four bites of chicken.  I’ve never seen people conked-out in the KFC parking lot, have you?  Imagine what a bacon cheddar-burger would do; induce a coma?  Yeah, it’s bunk, and here are some links that agree.  Below, find the amino acid composition (g/100g) of beef, chicken, turkey, pork, and cheddar cheese from the aforementioned database (tryptophan levels in red).  Feel free to bust this table out at your next turkey dinner when the inevitable Trp discussion begins; that should nip it in the bud. 

Chemists like tables, periodically. 

In God we trust; everyone else, bring data.  Right?

So where did this all this Trp-makes-you-drowsy business come from?  According to the “snopes” link, Trp was sold over the counter as a sleep aid in the 80’s.  But I did a little literature searching, and it doesn’t even seem particularly effective at that.   

Here’s an abstract from a review article on this subject from the Tufts University School of Medicine and Sleep Research (source):

Over the past 20 yr, 40 controlled studies have been described concerning the effects of L-tryptophan on human sleepiness and/or sleep. The weight of evidence indicates that L-tryptophan in doses of 1 g or more produces an increase in rated subjective sleepiness and a decrease in sleep latency (time to sleep). There are less firm data suggesting that L-tryptophan may have additional effects such as decrease in total wakefulness and/or increase in sleep time. Best results (in terms of positive effects on sleep or sleepiness) have been found in subjects with mild insomnia, or in normal subjects reporting a longer-than-average sleep latency. Mixed or negative results occur in entirely normal subjects—who are not appropriate subjects since there is “no room for improvement”. Mixed results are also reported in severe insomniacs and in patients with serious medical or psychiatric illness.” 

I especially like the part about “mixed or negative results” in normal subjects and “mixed results” for severe insomniacs.  Say what?  That means the Trp only leads to measurably increased sleepiness for special group of midrange-insomniacs.  This 1986 article confirms Trp’s efficacy for only “younger situational insomniacs” at doses of 1-15g (That would be 1.15 – 17.25 lbs of turkey for a single dose.)   Plus, according to some articles, Trp only enables sleep on an empty stomach. 

Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy nodding off on Turkey-day as much as the next guy.  I just can’t blame the Trp (or T, for all you succinct biochemists).  I think it’s more likely due to the 2 pounds of food I ate precluding me from doing anything that requires movement for a few hours.  That, and the glass or two of wine.  Also, a several-hour meal with my Costanza-esque parents would exhaust anyone.  ;)  I’m kidding, Ma.

An aside: here’s a fascinating 1999 article, where researchers report that L-tryptophan (6g/day) has a beneficial effect on subjects who suffer from premenstrual dysphoria (aka: PMS).  I’ve been using chocolate and flowers to treat the condition with “mixed or negative results”.  Maybe I should consider cheddar cheese.  [stroking chin]