Monthly Archives: September 2013

Hellbent Chicken – Chicken with Dried Chilies


ribs something

Part of my healthy eating habits is to eat high protein with vegetables and gluten-free carbs.  So this dish fits the bill perfectly.  I love Mexican food.  I like the spice and the flavors.  I like a burrito without the flour tortilla, all the rice, the cheese and the refried beans. Pretty much, it’s the chicken that has been braised in a flavorful, deep rich sauce that I love.  And that was my inspiration when I was looking for a way to cook chicken with vegetables, with good spice, deep flavoring, and be able to eat it with rice or tortillas.

entero chilis in bowl

Dried Calfiornia Entero chilies is the key ingredient in this dish.  I can get them in most supermarkets here in Northern California. If you cannot get them. you can use also known as Guaijillo chilies, which look very similar but are a bit spicier in flavor.  Or, you can find California Entero chilies online here.  The dried chilies are added whole – stem and all – and get reconstituted in the sauce which starts with peppers and onions and garlic sautéed in oil, then has chicken stock and canned tomatoes added with other seasoning.  I also add chili powder to the sauce. I use a red chili powder called California chili powder, also known as chili pequin molido, which is spicier than typical chili powder.

entero chilis

I use a mix of red bell peppers, Anaheim peppers and jalapeno peppers.  I like Anaheim peppers because they not as sweet as bell peppers and nit as spicy as the jalapenos, so they add a nice flavor.  The secret ingredient to this special sauce is cocoa powder. I add a little bit to smooth out the spiciness and of the chili peppers and balance the acidity from the tomatoes. This dish is petty spicy, if you prefer it less spicy, use fewer jalapeños and a darker (mild) chili powder.  You can also add a teaspoon of sour cream for serving.

HB chciekn inpot newWhen making chicken with dried chilies, pureeing the cooked chilies is the key to unleashing the flavor.  When the dish is about two-thirds done, I take out the peppers from the pot (often times they break into a couple of pieces), throw away the stems and puree them in a blender with a cup of the cooking liquid.  It becomes a nice thick sauce — almost like the consistency of tomatoe paste.  I then add this back to the main pot and stir it through. This turns the sauce into a rich deep hue with good flavor and consistency. I often eat it like a stoup, with tortillas on the side.

Hellbent Chicken

Serves 6.


12 chicken thighs, boneless and skinless

4 large red bell peppers, cored, seeded and sliced into ¼” strips

4 Anaheim peppers, cored, seeded and sliced into ¼” strips

3 jalapeno peppers, sliced, stem removed.  If you want to lessen the spice, seed them

1 large onion, halved and sliced

4 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tablespoons oil (I use EVOO)

1 28oz oz can of San Marzano tomatoes, sliced, or crushed tomatoes

2 cups of chicken stock

1 teaspoon cayenne powder

1.5 tablespoons of Californial chili powder (or chili pequin molido powder ) – or  regular chili powder, to lessen the spice

4 dried California Entero chili peppers

½ tablespoon of cocoa powder

salt and pepper to taste

sour cream – optional

Add the oil to a Dutch oven or heavy pot on the stovetop over medium-high heat. Salt and pepper the chicken and add half of chichen to pot to sear, 2 minutes on each side.  Repeat with remaining chicken and set onto plate.  Add the peppers, garlic and onion to the pot and sautee until they are semi soft, about 8-10 minutes.  Lower heat to medium/low, and add chicken, chichen stock, tomatoes, cayenne powder, chili powder and the dried California entero peppers, whole, stems in tact.  Cover pot and cook 40 minutes on a simmer.  Uncover pot and take out the California entero peppers (they might be in pieces).  Discard stems.  Add the peppers with 1 cup of cooking liquid to a blender and puree.  The paste will be pretty thick.  Add it back into the pot and mix it through.  Add the cocoa powder.  Cover post and cook 20 more minutes.  Serve with rice or tortillas.


Einkorn Flour Flatbreads

flatbreads 2

I first learned about Einkorn flour as being a non-glutinous flour in Wheat Belly – Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find your Path Back to Health, by William Davis, MD, (see blog post on Wheat Belly), I was intrigued to see what “original” wheat – the wheat of our grandparents – was like.  And since I eat gluten-free most of the time, I wanted something that I can put tuna or egg salad on, or to coat chicken before pan sautéing, that wasn’t gluten or contained sugar.  So I found the Einkorn flour and started to play around with making my own flatbreads. These flatbreads are so easy to make and the dough freezes really well that I often make a big batch and divide it into four balls and freeze 2-3 of them for fresh flatbreads each week.

flatbread before baking

Einkorn flour is not the easiest to find.  I was able to find it at some Whole Foods markets and organic markets, under the Jovial brand, and it is available on Amazon. It’s pricier than regular flour, because it’s not mass-produced. The Einkorn flour is not as elastic as regular flour so I add more yeast and time for the dough to rise really high to help the dough expand.  This makes the flatbreads not as jovialdense and the dough goes further. I also make them pretty small in size – about 3-4 inches in diameter — and I flatten them out with the heel of my hand.  I do not add any sugar or sweetener to my dough.  I flavor it with salt and olive oil and sometimes add a mix of seeds on top – typically a blend of sesame, cumin and poppy seeds.  I wrap them in the parchment paper that I bake them in overnight so they still crispy and then transfer to a plastic air-tight bag.

Einkorn Flour Flatbreads


4 cups Einkorn flour

1 tablespoon of Kosher salt

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon of olive oil (I use extra virgin)

2 packets Yeast

1½ cups of warm water

3-4 tablespoons of seeds – sesame, poppy, cumin, caraway (optional)

Makes about 40 small flatbreads.

To make the dough:

In a bowl I proof two packets of yeast with 1½ cups of warm water.  In my standing mixer with the dough blade attached I add 4 cups of Einkorn flour, 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt and then the yeast-water mixture, and ¼ cup of olive oil and beat on a slow speed until combined.  If you do not have a standing mixer, you can add all the ingredients into a bowl and mix by hand and then move to a floured wooden cutting board and kneed by hand for a few minutes.  I have made it this way and it works great. Grease a bowl with the remaining 1tablespoon of olive oil and add the dough to the bowl and turn it so the oil covers. Cover the bowl with a damp kitchen towel and leave it alone for 4 hours.  Punch down the dough and divide into 4 balls.  At this point you can freeze them separately wrapped in plastic wrap and then in a freezer-proof bag.

flatbread on spoon

To make the flatbreads:

Preheat the oven to 400.  Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.  Work with each ball separately.  Flour a surface (I use a wooden cutting board) with the Einkorn flour and pull a  piece of dough about 1 to 2 inches at a time and roll it into a ball (little less than golf ball size or bigger if you prefer), and repeat. You will get about 10 balls per quarter of dough, give or take.  On the floured surface, take one of the balls and with the heel of your hand spread out the dough from the center out.  Use the added flour if the dough is too sticky. Transfer the flattened dough to the cookie sheet.  I get 5 on a large sheet.  Sprinkle the flatbreads with seeds if you are using, or a little salt if you like.  And bake for 10-12 minutes, until the edges are a bit brown.  Cool on the sheets for 5 minutes and remove them to a plate to continue to cool.  Repeat with the rest of the dough if you are making them all.




Wheat Belly – Lose the Wheat, Lose the Belly

wheat belly

There is such a phenomenon around gluten-free these days.  It’s everywhere…new products are popping up in the grocery store, bakeries and pizzerias have gluten-free options.  And it’s more than celiac disease that is driving this trend.  According to Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly – Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight and Find your Path Back to Health, wheat is the cause of many health problems such as obesity, fatigue, arthritis, gastrointestinal distress, and cancer. My friend Candy, who has suffered from arthritis for most of her adult life, stopped eating gluten at the suggestion of her acupuncturist and now has no pain when she gets up in the morning.

Dr. Davis identifies the over processing of wheat that has been done for mass production as the root cause.  He says that the wheat of today is not the wheat our grandparents grew up on, as it has been genetically modified for mass production.  The end product of the modification results in elevated blood sugar which leas to fat, specifically around the abdominal area. He writes “the higher the blood glucose after consumption of food, the greater the insulin level, the more fat is deposited.”


The book goes into technical explanations about wheat and its effect on the body and it is quite interesting. It’s helped convince me to stay away from gluten most of the time. Dr. Davis mentions a wheat available today that is most similar to the wheat of generations ago, without the genetic modifications and therefore without the elevated blood sugar levels.  It is known as Einkorn wheat (see recipe for flatbreads) and it is perfectly fine for gluten-sensitive people, though those with Celiac disease should not eat it.

Stuffed Mushrooms

stuffed mushrooms beautifulThis is a recipe taken from my father.  He didn’t cook a ton, but there were a few dishes he made quite well.  This is one of them that I doctored up with additional herbs for added flavor. These stuffed mushrooms are healthy,  gluten free, no-carb and dairy-free.  They are made with a secret flavoring ingredient:  anchovies.   The anchovy filets pretty much disintegrate when they are sautéed with the chopped mushrooms – so those who get haunted by the sight of anchovies on their Caesar salad but are fine with their flavor in the dressing, will like this recipe and may never know they’re in there.   Their flavor adds a lot of seasoning and depth.

They key is to finely chop the mushrooms and open up the caps to hold enough filling.  I take a paring knife and slice around the mushroom cap and the gills and add them to the chopped mushroom mixture.  This leaves a bigger cap to fill.

The mushrooms can be cooked and then frozen for future servings.  Just thaw out the mushrooms before heating them up.

Stuffed Mushrooms


1 lb large sized white mushrooms

1/ 4pound small crimini mushrooms, chopped finely

1 1 oz can of anchovies packed in olive oil

1 garlic clove finely chopped or grated using microplane

¼ teaspoon ground pepper

3 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

Preheat oven to 375°.   Finely chop the stems from the pound of white mushrooms and the stems and caps of the crimini mushrooms. Add the can of anchovies with the oil, garlic, pepper, parsley and thyme, and sauté the mushrooms until the anchovies disintegrate. Line a baking pan with foil and place the mushroom caps on lined pan. Fill the mushroom caps with a teaspoon each of the filling.  And bake for about 30 minutes, until the mushroom caps are soft and cooked.


Serves 4-6 as appetizer.







Up and at ‘em.

up and at em

It’s hard getting up in the morning to go exercise.  And as the sun rises later, it’s gets even tougher.  Though I find I do better, more rigorous workouts in the morning than at the end of the day.   So when I struggle to get up in the morning to go the gym and think really hard about reaching for that snooze button, I think of these three things that I say to myself:  1) I know that when I work out especially with weights, I actually feel the endorphins working and start to feel good – more energetic, stronger – during the workout; 2) I know that once I’ve worked out and am starting my workday, I feel like I can take on the world – and life’s challenges – because I’ve already accomplished something for myself; and 3) I know that with working out, I fit into my clothes better, look better and feel stronger throughout the day.  I use this mantra to help me focus on my commitment to better workout routines. Try it and let me know if it works for you.

Leslie’s Holiday Brisket

brisket w honey

When I told my friend Jon that I was starting my blog, his first words out of his mouth were, “Are you going to post your brisket recipe”

I did try to explain that the blog was mostly healthy recipes and he did his best to explain the healthy side of brisket – which well, I didn’t quite buy.  However, since I do promise that this blog will have some splurges included, since that is part of the Hellbent Living way – 85% healthy 15% naughty I decided to include it as there is no better time to be naughty than the holidays.

Jon has been a guest at my table for Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) and Passover (Seder) for more than a dozen years and I’ve been making brisket for the celebration for most of those years.  Unlike most Jews, I didn’t have a brisket recipe that was handed down from generation to generation.  In fact my mother never made it.  My recollection of brisket from when I was a child, was my mother’s father’s version…which my mother never made because my father never liked brisket – neither my mother’s father’s version or his mother’s version.

brisket plate

When I started to make my own holidays, I tried various brisket recipes but non really stuck. Then, my sister found a recipe for brisket that calls for Marsala wine and Lipton Onion Soup…and it was really good so I made that for a couple of years and then as my holiday guests (most of whom have been celebrating with me or 12-17 years) put the order in for brisket for Passover.  Now I’m not kosher, but I do observe many of the diet restrictions fo Passover, due to coming form a more observant mother.  So I had to some doctoring to do to make this dish comply with the kosher dietary rules of Passover – lack of Lipton onion soup which is made with corn syrup and corn starch, and corn being one of the ingredients I stay away from during Passover.  What resulted has become my holiday brisket — the dish that my guests holiday after holiday, year after year, have cone to love, expect and request.

Marsala wine continues to be a key ingredient in my brisket.  And what I ended up doing was replacing the onion soup mix with a mixture of kosher salt, onion powder and potato starch.  I end up using more onion powder and salt than the original recipe and it works out really well.  The potato starch actually helps thicken sauce more so it coats the brisket and the higher levels of salt and onion powder flavors the meat.  I also heavy up on the ketchup more so than what the original recipe called for because the acid in the ketchup helps break down the protein (beef) and the higher quantity really helps soften the beef more. Lastly, I added a higher wine to water ratio.  This brisket has been a favorite for years and keeps my guests waiting for the next holiday to come back for more.  I hope it does the same for you.

brisket uncooked in pan cropped

Leslie’s Holiday Brisket


4-lb brisket, though I make the same amount of sauce for 8-10 lbs of brisket

4 onions, sliced

2 tablespoons oil

6 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2 inch pieces

3 tablespoons onion powder

3 tablespoons Kosher salt

3 tablespoons potato starch

6 tablespoons of ketchup

6 cloves of garlic

3 cups of Marsala wine

3 cups hot water

Kosher salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 360 degrees.  Trim fat off Brisket. Oil both sides of brisket, add salt and pepper to taste and sear brisket on both sides.  Add onions, carrots, garlic and add to roasting pan.  In a separate bowl add onion powder, salt and potato starch and mix through to blend then add to roasting pan.  Add 2 cups of Marsala wine and ketchup to roasting pan and mix to incorporate ketchup and potato starch mixture.  Add brisket to pan and 2 cups of hot tap water plus the remaining cup of Marsala. Cover brisket with onions and carrot.  Cover and bake for 3 hours, turning every hour.

brisket in pan cropped