Monday, December 29, 2008

Food is love in the form of Excess

I'm jumping on a plane in the morning to visit J's family in NJ for New Years. It's always fun to visit with them (although occasionally exhausting and chaotic) because they demonstrate, as many families do, their love with lots of food and affection.

Breakfast each day, consists of cakes, pies, cookies, baklava, rye breads and jam and coffee. If you find something of a savory nature to eat for breakfast, you've somehow managed to wake up in the wrong house.

We usually skip lunch because the waking hours in this family tend to be from 2pm until 5am. Breakfast is around 2, snacks in the late afternoon, and dinner happens around midnight. Even though I'm a night owl, it does take some getting used to at first, especially since both J and I work in the 8-5 world, but it's not as hard as you'd think. The hard part is attempting to go to bed 5 hours earlier when we get back home.

In Omi's house, you don't get the chance to feel even the slightest hunger pang. No sooner do you swallow the last bite of one delectable and they're asking you if you want them to make you something else. Saying "no thank you" is a guarantee way to ensure you have a schnitzel sandwich the size of a football or an enormous plate of fried potatoes, kielbasa and mustard heading in your direction. Over the years, I've learned to just say yes to their offers and at least this way I can control the size of my own 2nd or 3rd helping.

To aid digestion, bowls of various chocolates are strategically placed throughout the house. If Aunt H catches you not eating at least one while watching TV, she will come over and actually unwrap one and put it in your mouth. Time for bed? How about a cup of hot chocolate? Followed by lots of "kusse". The only vegetables I've seen in the house are pickled red cabbage and cauliflower and even those are rare (and when they appear they are doused in mayo).

When it's time to come home, I'll find that my bags are packed with jars of high-fat deliciousness like Nutella, my jeans are significantly tighter and I've developed a strong craving for large glasses of metamucil and big bowls of fiber one cereal.

It hurts a little to eat like that for days and days, but I now understand why they encourage us to do it. We usually only get to visit once a year so they're trying to squeeze all their love in on one trip. With every bite swallowed they feel a little closer to their family from NH. I've been eating a little extra the last few days to prepare my stomach for all the love that's coming . . .

All text and photographs © 2008, 2009 Food is to love / Andrea Quigley

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Thai Chicken Pizza

This is one of J's favorites. It's got healthy fats and is piled high with veggies but still falls into the comfort food category (without being loaded with tons of cheese). Here I use a store bought pizza crust and a premade peanut sauce (with some tweaking of course!) but you certainly can use raw pizza dough (just increase cooking time by 10-12 minutes) and can make your own peanut sauce with peanut butter, soy sauce, ginger and lime juice. I make enough stuff from scratch that on weeknights I'll swap out substitutions like this to get dinner on the table and into my belly faster.


1 whole wheat thin-style precooked pizza crust
2 tbsp olive oil
2 chicken breasts
1 1/2 to 2 cups rinsed pea pods, cut in half
1 large red bell pepper, cut into 2 inch strips
half of 1 small can bamboo shoots, drained
1-2 tbsp each
chopped garlic, ginger
1 - 2 tbsp tamari (wheat free soy sauce)
4 tbsp peanut sauce
2 - 3 tbsp sweet n' sour sauce
1/2 cup grated or 2 oz thin sliced smoked gouda cheese
red pepper flakes, basil, kosher salt and pepper to taste
optional: onion / mushrooms

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cover a cookie sheet with aluminum foil (I am not spoiled enough to own a pizza stone). Preheat a stovetop grill pan to medium - high heat. Trim fat from chicken breasts and pound slightly. I pound them just enough to ensure they cook evenly but try to keep most of the thickness as we want decent sized slices of chicken when we're done. Season with salt and pepper. When the grill is hot, lighty brush with olive oil and place chicken in pan. The chicken is ready to be flipped when it easily lifts off the pan, usually 4-5 minutes.

While the chicken is cooking, place the crust on cookie sheet and spread sweet n' sour sauce and peanut sauce on crust. Sprinkle red pepper flakes and basil on top of sauce. Once you've flipped over the chicken, toss pea pods, bell peppers, garlic, ginger (and onions and mushrooms if using) into the grill pan and let cook with the chicken. Sprinkle the tamari and a little salt and pepper over the veggies as the cook. Give the veggies a stir once or twice while cooking. They should be done cooking after 4 or 5 minutes (along with the chicken). Remove veggies and chicken to a plate to rest.

While veggies and chicken are cooling down, lay bamboo shoots across the pizza crust (on top of the sauce) and slice or grate your cheese. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, thinly slice at an angle and layer all across the pizza. Pile the veggies on top of the chicken. And then top with the smoked gouda and more red pepper flakes.

Bake for 10 minutes or until gouda is lightly browned. Cool slightly and cut into 4 triangles.

Don't be alarmed if the pizza seems like one huge pile of veggies. That's the way it should be! You will need a fork, knife and probably several napkins.
Serves 2-4 (depending on the how big your appetite is!)

© 2008, 2009 Food is to Love / Andrea Quigley

Saturday, December 27, 2008

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