Posts Tagged ‘BBQ’

Spices and the Inflammation Factor

June 16, 2012

Spicy Fish and Baked Potato

I decided this week when I went on my occasional detox for 2 weeks and 2 days to not only drop all wine but to completely modify my diet to see if I could reduce my aches and pains. I know I like what I eat and I have settled on a fairly healthy diet of whole grains, potatoes with the skins on, vegetables, fruits and fish and chicken. I also like spicy food. There is a cute tool over at Nutrition Data, which allows you to track, carbs protein, calories and the total Inflammation Factor for the days consumption.

Pretty much like most people, I eat what’s available and what I crave. I found my consumption of fruits and vegetables is fairly constant so my carbohydrate loading is 150 to 230 grams and I am not likely to change until next winter when fruit is less abundant. I intentionally eat a high protein diet as it is necessary to feed by brain and body for my manic lifestyle so that is not gonna change. The range is 73 to 127 because I like vegan foods once in awhile and that might actually be a little low. Hence, the only number I can focus on is the Inflammation Factor and I am doing pretty good at maximizing but prior to my detox, I was not consistent as I varied from about -300 which is bad to plus 2000.

The concept is that by avoiding foods that rise your Inflammation Factor level, your joints and body will ache less. This diet has not been well received because meats, dairy, fruits vegetables, whole grains and beans vary all over the place, sometimes in a counter intuitive fashion. The huge variation in my diet came not from what I ate but from the spices I used and this I found comforting.

In my heart I know that poor people will eat whatever is available on the prior list without being cave men or vegans and the biggest difference is that people in the poorer nations will use more spices. I tend too look at the foods we chose to eat  as those that heal us, those that are habits and those that are available. I believe that the use of spices and cooking evolved at about the same time and that spices were included in meals to solve some problem know by the Village Shaman.

I do suffer back pains and have suffered chronic pain in the past and the naturally chosen spices on my list seem to top the scale for positive Inflammation Factor and are allegedly helping me. So I did a search of Top Ten Spices for many nutritionists  and compiled a list of the 30 because there was little consensus in the area. After researching those spices and searching for the highest anti-inflammatory properties The following ones were the only ones that could counteract a day of bad eating with enough positive value to turn the whole day positive while using reasonable quantities.

Spice                             Quantity                          Inflammation Factor.

Fresh Ground Ginger    1 Tablespoon                             903
Hot Pepper                       1/2 tsp                                 740
Turmeric                       1 Teaspoon                              508
Crushed Garlic             1 Tablespoon                             500
Onion                             1 medium                               257

It amazed me that their was only one person, Dr. Jeremy Webster, had the most agreement with all the other experts and also got all five spices and herbs with the greatest anti-inflammatory properties correct. He had the best records of anyone for compiling a Top Ten List as most agreed with him in general more than they agreed with each other. Unfortunately, I already had these five items on my list of good stuff so got nothing else for my efforts except that Cinnamon with is almost neutral on the negative side for IF factor made everybody’s top ten list except mine. I rarely use it but I guess I’ll start.

Duck Rack and Fish placed on Grill with Baked Potatoes

The picture above is the setup for me grilling spicy fish on my duck rack because I forgot to show it last time and it is a easy way to grill fish fillets. The anti-inflammatory properties of the two Grilled Spicy Tilapia fillets is an incredible 1944 because I eat all the spices and always have. The first time I tried it because my daughter told me about a similar meal with fewer spices and I just liked the idea after adding a few more of my favorite spices.

I never knew that tasting good could be good for me, but I’m learning.

Grilled Spicy Fish and Grilled Bok Choy

June 15, 2012

Grilled Spicy Fish and Bok Choy

Seems my daughter called a few weeks ago with a recipe for Tandoori Salmon which she got from a magazine called Cooking Light which promised a whole bunch of recipes involving 5 ingredients and 15 minutes. This is one of those slick magazines by the checkout counter in grocery stores published by the people at Coastal Living and Southern Living. The spice list was basic involving Ginger, Turmeric and Cumin.

I laughed and told my daughter I was starting to like and become a fairly decent Indian cook and was sure I had never cooked Tandoori because I didn’t have all the spices and this was so basic that it probably bore no resemblance to real Tandoori. She said she was OK with that because there were limits to what her daughters would eat. I checked Tandoori and I was correct, I didn’t have the spices on hand to cook that style but I could bring this basic recipe up a notch with spices traditionally used in Tandoori cooking. As a matter of fact, these spices are fairly traditional in all Asian Cooking. I used the rub with tilapia which is a fairly bland fish but could see it working with much stronger fishes like tuna.

My Spicy Fish Rub


1 oz ginger grated about 2 Tablespoons
1 T crushed garlic
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
2 T Lemon Juice


1. The Ginger was grated and the spices and lemon juice mixed in a bowl.

Coated Bottom of Fish and Spice Mix

2. The spice mix was coated on one side of the fish.

Fish on Duck Rack with Both Sides Coated

3. The fish was placed on a duck rack for Grilling with the spicy side down. I use the duck rack because I don’t have to flip the fish or move it until it is over a platter. This prevents fish in the coals.

4. The spice mix was coated on the other side.

The Grill is set up for Bok Choy (top) and the Fish (bottom)

5. The grill is set up with areas to grill the Bok Choy and grill the fish.

Grilled Bok Choy

Grilling Bok Choy is simple and another nice and easy way to eat it. The Bok Choy is cut in half in the long direction, placed in a bowl and drizzled and tossed with Olive Oil.

The fish is placed on the grill and cooked for about 10 minutes. The Bok Choy is tossed on the vegetable area (top of grill picture) and cooked covered. Every couple of minutes toss it like stir frying. When done remove from grill and serve.

Grilled Pesto Stuffed Chicken Thighs

May 6, 2012

Grilled Pesto Stuffed Chicken ThighsIn St. Croix, the growing season is in the winter. It is cool for growing and there is usually ample rain. Not everything grows everywhere with all of the different soils and rain fall ranges on the islands. Still, you can get bumper crops of some vegetables. I have an abundance of Arugula, Bok Choy and Collard Greens. Like most gardeners, I have been giving excesses away, cooking new recipes for friends and just trying my best not to let anything go to waste.

On a calorie per calorie basis, arugula is not quite as healthy as spinach or even bok choy. However, it is a spicy green that adds a lot of flavor to a salad and is still fairly healthy for you with lots of vitamins and minerals. The biggest reason I cook it other than I like the taste, is with my combination of soil, water and sun it is growing like a weed in my yard. I was therefor fortunate to find a recipe for a small batch of arugula (also called rocket) pesto at Frugal Feeding

I have made and cooked with pesto before so I didn’t need a recipe. What I found useful was the suggestion to use arugula instead of basil and one of his commenters suggested almonds instead of pine nuts. Since arugula is abundant and I like almonds better than pine nuts, I jumped at the idea.

Arugula (Rocket) Pesto


2 cups fresh arugula leaves, packed
1/2 cup Parmesan or Romano cheese
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
2.6 ounce package of shredded almonds
1 T minced garlic (3 cloves)
1 T lemon juice
¼ tsp ground black pepper to taste
salt as desired


  1. Put everything except the oil and cheese into the blender or food processor and pulse it a few times.
  2. Slowly add the olive oil a little at a time while contuing to pulse the blender. When stopped, scrape down the walls and force the arugula into the blend.
  3. When uniform, add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended.
  4. Taste and add salt as needed.

This batch was quite good and I gave some to a friend who gave me some pine nuts that she had intended to use to make her own pesto. Since I also have an abundance of Basil, I will probably make a batch of that in the near future to see if I have a strong preference either way.

Grilled Stuffed Chicken Thighs

When I grill, I usually prepare a baked sweet or Irish potato so I don’t have a mess to clean in the kitchen. The chicken is prepared and in this case, I skinned, deboned and defatted the meat. Since I didn’t add any salt to the pesto I washed the chicken in lime an sprinkled it with Adobo which is a Puerto Rican Seasoned Salt. Sometimes when you stuff the thighs, they will cooked closed and sometimes they open up. They are all good and if I really cared, I would hold them in place with a toothpick.

Friendship, Flowers and Food.

February 25, 2012

Flowers and Food

Gloria Powell ( is a event florist on St, Croix heavily involved in working with tourists who want to get married in a St. Croix celebration. This means she has to make the wedding couple, the wedding planner, the hotel and all of the guests happy. Well Gloria loves people and she loves making them happy. She also loves flowers and loves to work with them. This makes her great at what she does.

She always brings extra of everything and that’s where this story of the flowers begins. Seems as she was taking the extras back to her car, I told her if she had any that would go to waste, she could dump them on me. She said OK and kept walking to her car and when she returned she had that spectacular bouquet pictured above. I asked her what I owed her and she said nothing. I told her she could pick all the flowers in my yard that she wanted because most of mine go to waste, I consider her random act of kindness fantastic.

Now the meal has one unique part but in essence we are talking beach food and you would most likely see the combination on a plastic plate as it includes, Grilled chicken, Coleslaw and Green Banana Salad which is usually served cold. I had planned this meal a few days earlier when I prepared the Goya Pollo de Escabeche. And after finishing all the chicken and vegetables decided the marinade was too good to throw out so I rebuilt the entirely different yet traditional Banana Salad with capers, Spanish olives, thin sliced Onions, minced garlic and the cooked green banana.

Wedding Flowers

I derided to serve it on our Lennox China because the Wedding Bouquet deserved to be in good company. I even got out a Table cloth but drew the line at real silverware. Well Gloria, your flowers turned my ordinary dinner into a memorable event.

Coffeepot Pulled Chicken

January 22, 2012

Pulled Chicken Sandwich

While I don’t as a habit buy red meat, it is not really a major health issue with me and I will eat it if served, especially if well cooked. When I visit my Daughter and son-in-law, I tend to eat more meat in a week than I would at home in a month. My daughter Dagny is an excellent cook and she uses her crockpot to cut down on evening cooking time. When I visited, she had me make a pulled pork which was melt in your moth delicious and nothing could be easier. Essentially you slow cook the pork and onions then poor off the juices, shred the meat and add back a red sauce mixture of your choice.

Of course I liked the meal and decided to try the same concept with pulled chicken. Since I didn’t really remember what she had me do for the red sauce, I decided to use my home made BBQ sauce that I had used on the Sloppy Joe.


1 T olive oil

1 medium onion rough cut

4 cloves garlic minced

1 piece of chicken breast

1 oz. Rum, white wine or  water

½ cup Homemade BBQ sauce

Roll to serve it on


  1. Add oil, onions and garlic to the pot.

    Glazed onions and garlic

  2. Add Chicken breast and rum (Some liquid is necessary to promote heat distribution.)

    Add Chicken Breast and Rum

  3. Cook until tender about 4 to 8 hours. (Whatever is best for your schedule.)

    Cook until chicken can be shredded

  4. Remove chicken and shred with forks.

    Shredded Chicken

  5. Poor liquid off onions and garlic. Discard or save for soup base.
  6. Return chicken to pot, add BBQ sauce and stir until uniform.

    Mix Onions, Garlic, Chicken and BBQ Sauce.

  7. Place on hot plate and reheat.

I normally don’t eat bread, but for this meal, I purchased some delicious onion rolls and made this a treat as I ate two sandwiches.

Simply Delicious!!

You Have To Be Sick To Eat Spam!

January 21, 2011

Spam and Sweet Potato

I never can remember whether I am supposed to feed a fever and starve a cold or the opposite. As I write this, I did my little fact checking thing and was happy to find it’s the opposite, because I tend to eat when I get hungry and even though I have a miserable cold, I was hungry last night. Now the question arises as to what to eat and frankly this miserable cold has broken my desire to be creative in my kitchen.

Before the cold hit I had planned a few meals that I wanted to do but they all took some planning and focus which seemed to be lacking right now because of my cold. All of the ingredients on hand were for meals that should have been started much earlier in the day with a little planning and foresight. I had a sweet potato but no charcoal to cook out and nothing as the main dish until I remembered my Hurricane Supplies which are canned meats held for use during a disaster when food supplies are rapidly depleted because of damage to the infrastructure.

For no particular reason, I chose a can of spam and cut off two slices and froze the rest. I am not particularly a fan of Spam, but in an emergency, I will eat whatever was at hand and I am not sure why my sick body was craving spam. I am sure it wasn’t because my four ounce portion only had 360 calories with 83 percent of those calories coming from the fat content. Unbelievably, the four ounce portion had two thirds of my salt need for the day and one quarter of my cholesterol need if there is such a thing.

Well, I set about cooking it in the healthiest way I could think of which was putting it on a duck rack and cooking out the fat at 350 Fahrenheit while baking the potato. Of course, after rendering out the fat, the remaining protein was light as a feather and sort of tasteless, so I put some barbecue sauce on and it tasted jut like a limp potato chip with barbecue sauce. Oh well it was food and it filled me up.

Thought for the day:

The concept of “Healthy Spam” has to be the supreme example of an oxymoron.

Barbecue – We Don’t Care How You Do It Up North

January 15, 2011

We Don't Care How You Do It Up North!

Technically speaking Barbecue refers to the method used in the cooking of the meat and has nothing to do with the rub or the sauce. Of course the method was developed in the Caribbean and comes from the Taino word baracoa which refers to the “sacred fire pit”. The Indians taught the Spanish and English how to do it and the art was carried back to the old world. The Carib Indians were so sophisticated in cooking that they cultivated hot peppers to spice up their foods 6000 years ago when Europeans were still hunter gatherers and not farming at all.

The barbecue process has spread all over the world, but the Caribbean people have a 6000 year head start so you have to accept that they have refined the art form. Now as funny as this may seem there is no fixed set of equipment and I have seen people barbecue conch in their own shell, drop live crabs into a hot bed of coals and remove them with a stick and use old stainless steel racks from refrigerators for cooking grills at beach camping.

Professionally the barbecue pit is a block structure or a movable galvanized enclosure. In a professional setup, the shaft is turned with a washing machine motor geared down to less then 10 revolutions per minute. The common factor except for the crabs is the indirect heat and the absence of flair-ups from fat dripping in the fire and burning the meat above it. But then crabs in the shell don’t have much fat to drip.

If you want to cook like a West Indian you must be frugal and use as little Charcoal as possible, all banked to one side of the barbecue pit or grill. Some cooks can cook a whole pig on a stick for 4 hours until done using only ½ bag of charcoal.

Banking the Charcoal

The frugality continues in the selection of equipment. In my case I am using an old Weber grill that would have been thrown out in New Jersey years ago. However, it seems that every time I go to a store to buy the replacement parts, they are still out, the order has not arrived or they store is so crowded that I would have to invest a day of my time to buy a new grill. I am very proud of the handle piece made from long bolts and nuts, fender washers, a piece of wood and a couple of short pieces of copper tubing. It actually works better than the original as it is far enough away from the lid not to burn your hand.

Fire Up the Well Seasoned Grill

However to insure that the meat does not fall into the fire, I need to add another old grill on top and a stone to balance the grill because of the missing rack holder on the opposite side which has rotted away.

Additional Grill and Balancing Stone

Of course the chicken has been washed with Lime Juice and seasoned with Goya Adobo and the chicken is located on the grill on the opposite side of the fire and the potato in a hotter area of the grill.

Strategically Placed Chicken and Potato

At this point the grill was covered and I went to the Palms resort for a couple of glasses of wine and did nothing but enjoy myself for an hour.

Cover and Walk Away

Take note that when I returned, everything was perfectly cooked and if you compare the cooked and uncooked pictures, you will note that nothing has been moved.

One Hour Later - Note, Nothing Has Been Moved

The second best part about barbecuing in my mind other than the fantastic food is the ease of cleaning up. In this case, I skipped the barbecue sauce and just added hot sauce at the table.

Dinner is Served

In general, Islanders don’t really care how things are done up north which is to say everything north of Cuba as they had hundreds and even thousands of years of isolation to figure out how to handle their own unique situations in life. And when it comes to barbecue, I tend to agree.

Puerto Rican or Caribbean Barbecued Chicken

January 11, 2011

Grilled Chicken with Honey Mustard Sauce and Grilled Potato

In cooking any barbecue meats, there are three elements which make it special,

  1. Preparation of the meat
  2. The Cooking Process
  3. The Barbecue Sauce

In St. Croix, regardless if from Hispanic Heritage or not the focus is on the first two steps and only rarely will anybody get totally competitive about the Barbecue Sauce because many don’t use it except as a dip on the side. Don’t get me wrong, Barbecued Chicken is extremely popular but the preparation of the meat and the slow cooking over a banked fire produce a chicken that has a very crisp skin and is extremely moist. Because everyone loves the crisp skin, we sprinkle hot sauce on it and eat it as is. Once we get to the meat, we either put more pepper sauce on it or dip it in a small 2 ounce cup of barbecue sauce for extra favoring on the very tender and moist chicken.

While my wife loved the locally prepared chicken she also loved her barbecue sauce and had a tendency to favor a honey, mustard, vinegar blend whereas I admit to having gone native. I simply love the slow cooking of the crisp skin and the juicy meat with a generous sprinkle of Caribbean Hot sauce, the hottest in the world.

Preparation of the meat is a simple process. The secrete ingredient is the soak in Lime Juice (or Lemon if necessary). This trick also works to make crispy skin on a pork roast but the topic today is Chicken and a 10-30 minute wash or soak is sufficient.

Wash the Chicken with Lime

Real purists would insist on making their own spice blends but look out salt is cheap so many blends contain too much. Other spices have variable flavor depending on freshness so should be prepared by taste and not by quantity. However, the most commonly used seasoned salt is Goya Adobo a Puerto Rican style seasoned salt made with garlic, oregano, black pepper and turmeric. Of course depending on the cook, many will sprinkle additional pepper, sage and thyme on the meat and trust me Adobo is a better starting point than a poorly made spice blend.

Season Generously

There is some debate about the best charcoal, but locally made charcoal is getting rare and expensive as a smokey charcoal kiln in the back yard is the fastest way to brink out the Fire Marshal, and local EPA. Still there are a few experts who are able to comply with modern standards and do a pretty good job of making smoke free charcoal and other vendors simply import it from countries with lower standards. This is the same as America’s save the nation hybrid cars being made with imported steal from countries with low standards of occupational safety and environmental protection. Oh well, when local charcoal is not available from vendors I know, I buy American to do my little bit to save the world.

After the meat has been picked clean of excess fat, washed with lime and seasoned the job is mostly done. A banked fire is made with the minimum amount of Charcoal and the chicken placed about 8-12 inches away from it on a grill or homemade rotisserie. Then you walk away and join your own party. The easiest way to understand this is to go to a local Barbecue shack in the Caribbean and closely observe the art form.

The Le Reine Chicken Shack in St. Croix

The picture is of a barbecue rack at The Le Reine Chicken Shack in St. Croix run by my friend Millin. On a busy day he can cook hundreds at a time and repeat the process almost continuously with the chicken remaining on the grill for an hour. Take note that no chicken is above the coals so there are no grease fire flare-ups on the chicken to scorch and blacken the chicken as it cooks.

For those who still want to try a mustard honey sauce this is the one we use at home. We cook all the chicken the same way and at the end use a paint brush to paint both sides of the piece with barbecue sauce and then let it dry out on the almost cold coals. Those who want honey mustard get this, those that want red sauce can have it and those who want it crisp for hot sauce can have it their way. To each their own!

Honey Mustard Barbecue Sauce


1 T Dijon Mustard

1 Tablespoon Honey (just poor an equal amount to the mustard into the mixing bowl)

2 T Balsamic Vinegar

1 T Brown Sugar

Mix the ingredients until uniform,. This should not be a thick paste but a rich liquid to paint on the finished leg and let dry so as not to destroy the crispness of the skin.

A slight tasty glaze on the leg pictured above shows the finished effect.

Grilling For the New Year

January 4, 2011
Pesto and Gorgonzola Stuffed Pork, Baked Beet and Coleslaw

Pesto and Gorgonzola Stuffed Pork, Baked Beet and Coleslaw

As regular readers know Dolores was very fond of Holiday Traditions and Food on New Years Day had a double impact. One old saying in St. Croix is to be careful of how you start the New Year because you will probably live the whole year the same way. So never argue or fight with anybody, avoid being tired or terribly hung over and get outside and do something healthy.

Another issue is what are the lucky foods to eat to start the year off correctly. One tradition from the states holds that eating cabbage and pork will bring you luck and prosperity. Another almost logical one is pork and collard greens. The better cuts of pork will have you living high on the hog all year long and the collard greens will bring green money to you. Another one is Lechon and Green Fig. The former is seasoned roasted pork and the latter is a tossed salad of boiled green bananas.

Stuffed Pork Loin

I couldn’t think of a single reason to break tradition and I had a frozen 5 oz piece of pork tenderloin and you cant get much higher on the hog than that. I brought a one pound piece and cut it in thirds right away so I decided to stuff one piece with a delightful yet simple blend of a Tablespoon of Pesto and a Tablespoon of Gorgonzola blended together with the back side of the fork.

I decided to grill it because I didn’t want to start the new years by creating and cleaning up after a mess in the kitchen so I built the entire meal around roasting my slab of meat on a piece of aluminum foil on the grill. Of course I slow cooked the meat on the colder side of the grill and folded up the edges to preserve the stuffing that leaked out as the meat cooked. This was cooked for a half hour turning once.

Baked Beat Before Pealing

Not to waste my fire I decided on a roasted beet because I had heard so much positive about the caramelized rich sugars and the bold earthy flavor so just had to try it since the heat was free and once again there was no cleanup. This was simple enough; put the beet on a piece of foil and lift up the edges. Pour some olive oil to coat the entire beet and close the foil. This was cooked on the hotter side of the banked fire for an hour.

The cabbage was coleslaw and simple to make. I used a cup of that per-shredded stuff that you get at the grocery store and mixed the following ingredients in the bowl prior to adding the cup of cabbage to the bowl and tossing it to coat all of the pieces.


2 T mayonnaise

1 T distilled white vinegar

1 T lemon or lime juice

1 tsp brown sugar

¼ tsp salt

Pepper to taste

Mix well and stir in 1 cup of shredded cabbage

The coleslaw and pork were fantastic and that is the extent of my traditions as outlined by Dolores.

Now the beet is a different story. If you love beets, this is just one more way to cook them and it is easy enough to do. I have learned to love borscht and pickled beets but this was your typical earthy tasting bland beet. The sprinkle of Gorgonzola didn’t help. I perked them up with my old standby, Balsamic Vinegar, and was able to say that they were good enough for me to eat it all up and start my year with a very healthy meal.

Well, I started my year with a great meal and a clean kitchen. Nothing could be finer so it must be Paradise or at least I’m grilling in January which is fine with me as I hate the cold.