Friday, December 20, 2013

Cranberry Crostini with Goat Cheese and Brie


As we approach Christmas day, I'd like to share with you one of my favorite recipes I've made in a while. Though I made these crostini for Thanksgiving, the sauce smelled just like Christmas! I thought it was the perfect way to celebrate Thanksgiving and look forward to putting up Christmas decorations the next day.

These crostini are wonderfully simple to make, but look and taste fancy. I think the blend of spices was pretty much perfect. No single flavor took over the dish, but instead created a symphony of sweet, spiced, tart, rich, creamy, and crunchy.


I made some of mine with goat cheese and some with Brie, and I can't decide which I liked better. If doing small, two-bite bread slices from a skinny baguette, you're probably good either way. If doing larger slices from a fatter loaf, Brie might be a bit rich.



This recipe is very portable and easy to make ahead. Toast the bread slices and, once they're cool, store in a large zip bag until ready to serve. The cranberry sauce can be made days in advance and stored in the fridge. Just warm it up a bit in the microwave right before serving. I traveled with all my components separate, and let people assemble their own crostini. That way each person could choose which cheese(s) they wanted, the bread didn't get soggy from sitting too long, and any leftovers were easy to take home.

Speaking of leftovers, they do well on crackers, leftover turkey, leftover dinner rolls, and pretty much anything else you can think of. One of my friends says the cranberry sauce is good on pancakes, and I may or may not have made french toast topped with leftover cheeses and cranberry sauce.


Cranberry Crostini with Goat Cheese and(or) Brie

Adapted slightly from Cookie and Kate
Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients
1 baguette or small loaf of artisan whole grain bread, sliced into 1/2-inch thick slices
Olive oil
Salt
12-oz. bag fresh cranberries
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup water
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cloves
1/4 tsp. allspice (or equal parts cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg)
Zest of 1/2 an orange
10 oz. (total) goat cheese, Brie, ricotta, or cream cheese, or some combination thereof - at room temperature

Directions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush both sides of bread slices with olive oil, and arrange them in a single layer on a baking sheet or two. Lightly sprinkle with salt. Toast the bread in the oven for 10-12 minutes or until golden on both sides, turning them halfway. Set aside to cool, and turn off the oven.

Rinse the cranberries and throw out any bad ones; set aside. In a saucepan, whisk together the honey, water, cinnamon, cloves, and allspice. Bring to a gentle boil over medium to medium-high heat, whisking often. Add the cranberries and cook, stirring frequently, until cranberries have popped and the sauce is the consistency you like. The longer you cook it, the more saucy and less chunky it will get. Beware that the cranberries may try to attack you while they're popping. Remove from heat and stir in the orange zest.

To assemble the crostini, spread each slice of bread with cheese, then top with cranberry sauce.

Friday, December 6, 2013

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Bourbon Glaze

I'm not going to write much about these because a) the recipe is really long with several notes at the end, and b) I think the title speaks for itself. But I will say this: these cinnamon rolls took a boatload of time, and they were worth EVERY second. They turned out sweet, gooey, super soft, and basically the same thing as happiness on a plate.

One quick matter of business before we get to the recipe. I opted to mix and knead the dough in my bread maker. So the dough-making directions below are taken almost word-for-word from The Pioneer Woman, and I cannot personally vouch for how the process works. This was a little too much dough for my bread machine (most of its recipes call for 3 cups flour, and this recipe has 4-1/2) so it overflowed a bit but thankfully didn't make too big a mess. If you go the bread machine route, make sure your machine can handle this much volume, or cut the recipe in half.


Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls with Maple Bourbon Glaze

Adapted from The Pioneer Woman 
Glaze adapted from my Pumpkin Monkey Bread recipe
Yield: 24 rolls

Dough 
1-1/2 cups milk (I used 2%; original recipe was for whole milk)
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup sugar
2-1/4 tsp. active dry yeast (1 envelope)
1 cup pumpkin puree
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/2 cup additional all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
Additional flour for kneading and rolling

Filling
3/4 cup butter, melted, divided
1/2 cup brown sugar (I used dark)
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
8 oz. cream cheese, very soft (I used reduced fat)
1 cup finely chopped pecans

Glaze
6 Tbsp. butter
3 Tbsp. maple syrup
2 Tbsp. brown sugar (I used dark)
2 Tbsp. rum or bourbon

Directions
Make the dough:* In a large saucepan, combine milk, vegetable oil, and sugar. Heat until hot but not boiling; remove from the stove and allow it to cool until it's warm to the touch but not too hot. Sprinkle the yeast over the surface of the liquid and allow it to sit for 5 minutes. Stir in pumpkin puree.

Combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. Sprinkle it into the saucepan and stir until it just comes together. Cover with a dish towel and set in a warm, draft-free place for 1 hour.

After an hour, the mixture should be very puffy and at least doubled in size. Whisk together the additional 1/2 cup flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Stir into the dough until fully combined.

Roll out the dough: Dust your countertop and hands with flour. Turn dough out onto the counter and form into a rectangle. If it's too sticky, work in additional flour until it's handleable, but don't work in too much extra flour.** Flour a rolling pin and roll the dough into a large rectangle, roughly 30 inches wide by 10 inches deep.

Add the fillings: Melt 3/4 cup butter and set aside to cool slightly. In a small bowl, combine sugar and filling spices. Dot the dough with globs of softened cream cheese, then use a dull butter knife (or the back of a spoon) to carefully spread it.*** It will not spread perfectly; that's okay. Pour about 1/4 cup of the melted butter over the dough and cream cheese, and use your fingers to spread it around evenly. Sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over the surface of the dough, followed by the pecans. Pour the remaining butter into two 9 x 13 x 2 inch pans, and swirl it around so it evenly coats the pans.

Roll, cut, and bake: For a more manageable rolling process, cut the dough in half, so you're left with two rectangles that are 15 inches wide by 10 inches deep. Starting at the top, roll each rectangle toward you into a large log, rolling as tightly as possible as you go. I frequently had to use a floured rubber spatula with a sharp edge to gently loosen the dough from the counter. End the rolling process the with seam down on the counter.

Use a sharp (floured) knife or dental floss to cut each of the two logs into 12 rolls (I find it's helpful to make hash marks before cutting). Nestle the rolls into the buttered pans. Cover each pan with a damp towel (one that's okay if it gets stained) and let rise in a warm, draft-free place for about 20 minutes. (Tip: Heat oven to 200, turn OFF, and place rolls in the warmed oven to rise.)

If rolls are rising in the oven, remove them. Preheat oven to 375. Bake for 15-25 minutes, or until golden brown around the edges, rotating the pans halfway through. Mine took exactly 20 minutes.

Make the glaze: Combine butter, maple syrup, brown sugar, and bourbon in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, for 3-5 minutes, until sugar is dissolved and browned, butter is nice and foamy, and some of the alcohol has cooked out. Drizzle glaze evenly over the cinnamon rolls. Let them cool for a few minutes before serving.

Notes
*Alternatively, if you have a bread machine that's big enough, put all dough ingredients into a bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer. Use the dough cycle to make the dough, knead it, and let it rise.

**At this point Ree said the dough should be really sticky, and you should work in just enough flour so you can handle the dough. At this point, mine was more like batter than dough, so I ended up working in at least another cup of flour before I could actually handle the dough. Perhaps I mis-measured the flour initially, or maybe the bread machine method made for a wetter dough.

***On all the fillings, leave a 1/2 inch edge along the bottom of the rectangle with no filling. This will help it seal better when you roll everything up.


Monday, November 25, 2013

Thanksgiving Week of Deliciousness (2013)


Last year, I started a new tradition which I later named my Thanksgiving Week of Deliciousness, in which I cooked a bounty of fall/harvest-themed foods using the abundance of free time available because of have five consecutive days off work. This year I've decided to carry on the tradition, though with a slightly less ambitious bucket list. Here are some things I plan to make this week:

Marinated Brussels Sprout Skewers with Ginger Barley Pilaf - I may also throw in some rutabaga, parsnip, or other autumn root vegetable I've never tried, and I plan to roast the veggies rather than skewer and grill them.

Roasted Acorn Squash with Wild Rice Pistachio Stuffing - Side note: If you're looking for some healthier, slightly out-of-the-box dishes to include on your Thanksgiving table, this site (A Couple Cooks) creates a Thanksgiving menu each year with some creative ideas.

Roasted Sweet Potato, Caramelized Onion, and Gorgonzola Quiche - I'll probably make it crustless, and sub pumpkin for sweet potato.

For Thanksgiving day, I am waiting to hear back about what kind of dish I should contribute to the feast, but I'm leaning toward Roasted Butternut Squash with Mustard Vinaigrette or something with sweet potatoes.

Also, while I won't be making either of these this week, I think you should! Cranberry Crostini and/or Baked Brie with Maple-Roasted Cranberries.

How about you? What yummy treats are you planning to make this week, either for Thanksgiving or purely for the fun of it?

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Coconut Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

I'm going to start with two apologies. Okay three. First, I'm sorry I haven't posted in so long. Let's blame surgery for that one. Lots of time prepping for surgery and dealing with insurance companies + having little energy after surgery = not so much time for cooking. Add to that awesome friends who brought me meals, and my kitchen has been lying fairly dormant the last few weeks.

Second, I know I've been overloading you with pumpkin lately (is there such a thing as too much pumpkin?), but bear with me for one more pumpkin recipe because this one is perfect for Thanksgiving. (Okay two more, because I have a pumpkin cinnamon rolls recipe that's begging to be shared.)

Third, forgive the lack of good photos. I made this pie for a Thanksgiving gathering of friends last night, and my focus was on spending time with my friends rather than bringing my nice camera and finding a spot with good lighting and yadda yadda yadda. So a quick camera phone snapshot will have to do. But the recipe is yummy enough to share even without mouthwatering photos to go with it.

Now that that's over with, let's move on. I'm always a fan of putting a fresh spin on a classic, and I'm always a fan of putting pumpkin and coconut together. So when I saw this Pumpkin Coconut Pie recipe in the latest Food Network Magazine, it wasn't a hard decision to make it for house church Thanksgiving.

Fun tidbit: This was my first time to make pumpkin pie. Ever.

I took the filling from the Pumpkin Coconut Pie recipe and swapped out the crust for a chocolate one based on this Pumpkin-Chocolate Chiffon Pie, also from Food Network Magazine. I thought the result was delightful, and I received several compliments on the pie. The texture was nice and creamy, and the flavor was not overly sweet or overly spiced. The coconut flavor came through nicely and played well with the chocolate and pumpkin.

So if you haven't nailed down your desserts yet for your Thanksgiving feast(s), I'd highly recommend including this pie in the dessert spread.


Coconut Chocolate Pumpkin Pie

Adapted from Food Network 
Yield: 1 pie, 8-10 servings

For the crust
5 oz. chocolate graham crackers (1/3 of a 15-oz. box)
1/4 cup sweetened shredded coconut
3 Tbsp. sugar
3 Tbsp. butter, melted

For the filling and topping
1 (15-oz.) can pumpkin puree
1 cup coconut milk
3/4 cup sugar
2 eggs, lightly beaten
1 Tbsp. rum or coconut rum (optional)
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
1/4 to 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut (for topping)

Directions
Make the crust: Spray a 9-inch pie plate and preheat the oven to 350. Pulse/process the graham crackers and coconut in a food processor until finely ground. Pour into a bowl and mix in the 3 Tbsp. sugar and melted butter. Stir with a fork and/or your fingers until well combined. Pour into prepared pie plate, pressing the crumb mixture along the bottom and up the sides. Bake 15-20 minutes, until set, and move to a rack to cool completely.

While the crust cooks then cools, make the filling: Reduce oven temp to 325. In a large bowl, gently whisk together all of the filling ingredients (except shredded coconut) until combined. Pour into cooled crust and place the pie on a rimmed cookie sheet. Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes, until the center of the pie is almost set but still jiggles a bit. Move to a rack to cool completely.

Meanwhile, toast the coconut: Heat a large skillet over medium-low heat. Spread out the shredded coconut in the pan and cook, stirring often, until toasted and fragrant. Remove to a plate to cool. When the pie comes out of the oven, sprinkle toasted coconut around the edges of the pie.

Notes

  • For the crust, the original recipe said to do everything in the food processor. However, I got sugar lodged in the crevices of my lid, so when I went to take the lid off in order to add the butter, I almost couldn't get the lid off because of the sugar granules stuck between the lid and the bowl. So as you can see above, I rewrote the directions above so the sugar wouldn't be in the food processor. I think it's good to have the coconut and graham crackers whirling around in there together, though, so the coconut gets chopped up a bit more. 
  • The original crust recipe also suggested adding 1/4 tsp. orange zest to the crust. I left that out because I already had a good trio of chocolate-coconut-pumpkin and didn't want to risk having too many flavors. If you try it with the orange zest, I'd love to hear how it turns out!
  • Be sure to allow plenty of time for the pie to cool. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Sugar and Spice Roasted Pumpkin Seeds


In one of my Penzeys orders, I got a jar of Tsardust Memories, which Penzeys describes as, "Warm and spicy-sweet, this blend is awesome with ground beef - burgers, meatloaf, meatballs, casseroles... Excellent in hearty soups and stews, and one of the best things ever on pork chops... Hand-mixed from: salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, marjoram."

Though I haven't yet managed to grace some pork chops with this Russian blend, Tsardust Memories came in quite handy when seasoning some pumpkin seeds for roasting. It's a great blend of sweet and savory flavors, and the cinnamon and nutmeg are perfect for cooler months! If you don't have any Tsardust Memories, it's okay--just use a combination of salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, and marjoram (or oregano).


Sugar and Spice Roasted Pumpkin Seeds
From me! I didn't measure a single ingredient, so these amounts are guesses I made afterward. 

Ingredients
Seeds from 1 pumpkin - strings removed, but NOT rinsed
Dark brown sugar - approx 1 Tbsp
Tsardust Memories - approx 1/2 to 1 tsp. (or use salt, garlic, cinnamon, pepper, nutmeg, and marjoram)
Cinnamon - small to medium sprinkle - maybe 1/4 tsp
Chipotle powder - small sprinkle

Directions
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper (or foil plus cooking spray--these will be sticky!).

In a small bowl, sprinkle seasonings over the pumpkin seeds, and stir well. Spread seeds in an even layer on the parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes; stir; bake for an additional 5-8 minutes, until toasted and crispy but not too dark.

Allow to cool before serving.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Pumpkin Cider


I promised lots of pumpkin, and I'm here to deliver! This is kind of a recipe, but perhaps it's more of a starting point for you to hopefully draw some inspiration and adapt to meet your own cider preferences.

I like my cider spiced but not overpoweringly spiced, because I want to be able to taste the apple and pumpkin. So I always go easy on the spices when I first put everything into the slow cooker, then taste about an hour before serving and add more spices if needed.

I've made this pumpkin cider several times, after stealing the idea and basic ingredients from one of my college friends, Olivia. Every time I've made it, it's been warm, cozy, well-received by my guests, and perfect for a cool autumn evening. I like the twist on normal spiced cider, and it's easy to throw everything in the slow cooker early in the day, and let it do its thing.

Pumpkin Apple Cider
Inspired by Olivia
Yield: 10 servings if using 12-oz. cups

Ingredients (all measurements are approximate)
1 gallon apple cider (more or less depending on the size of your slow cooker)
1 to 1-1/2 cups orange juice
1/2 of a 15-oz. can pumpkin puree
2-3 cinnamon sticks
1 orange
10ish whole cloves
Sprinkling of ground ginger, nutmeg, and cinnamon

Directions
Press the cloves into the orange. Pour all ingredients into a slow cooker, and stir with a whisk to distribute the pumpkin and spices evenly throughout the cider. Let simmer for several hours (I turned my slow cooker on high for the first hour to warm everything, then turned it down for the rest of the afternoon).

About an hour before time to serve, stir and taste. Add more spices if needed, and remove the orange if it's getting too clovey or too orangey. Continue to simmer. Stir before serving.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Pumpkin Snickerdoodles


All you non-pumpkin-lovers out there, I'm gonna need you to bear with me for the next few posts. Because there's been a LOT of pumpkin going through my kitchen lately. Pumpkin apple cider, sugar and spice roasted pumpkin seeds, another round of pumpquinoa, and hopefully soon some pumpkin soup. But first, some pumpkin snickerdoodles.

When you love pumpkin as outspokenly as I do, friends tend to think of you when they see amazing-sounding pumpkin recipes. Which is awesome, because not only am I finding delicious pumpkin recipes from around the interwebs, but I'm also receiving the best of the recipes that my friends are finding! Such was the case with this pumpkin snickerdoodle recipe. One of my friends sent me this recipe in late August when it was still regularly in the high 90s, and it sat there in my Facebook inbox torturing me for about a month before it got cool enough for me to justify making them.

They were worth the wait! They were lightly sweet, nicely spiced, and a wonderful excuse to use pumpkin! They were a little more cakey than I'd like, but I learned from another friend that leaving the egg out of pumpkin cookie recipes makes for a less cakey cookie. Apparently the pumpkin plays the role that the egg normally would, so having both is unnecessary.


Pumpkin Snickerdoodles

Adapted ever-so-slightly from Recipe Girl
Yield: 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients
1 cup butter, at room temperature
1 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg (omit for less cakey cookies)
2 tsp. vanilla extract
3-3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Rolling Sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. allspice

Directions
In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the butter until fluffy. Add white sugar, brown sugar, and pumpkin, and beat well. Mix in egg (if using) and vanilla, scraping the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the ingredients.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon. Working with a little bit at a time, mix dry ingredients into wet ingredients, just until incorporated.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill for at least an hour, until dough becomes slightly firm. Mix together the rolling sugar ingredients; set aside.

Preheat oven to 350, and line baking sheets with parchment paper.

Shape the cookie dough into balls, using about 1-1/2 Tbsp. of dough for each one. Roll each cookie dough ball in the sugar mixture, coating well. Place on cookie sheets and press slightly for taller cookies like mine, or press more for flatter cookies.

Bake for 10-15 minutes, until they are slightly firm to the touch. Let cool on the pan for about 5 minutes before removing to wire racks to finish cooling.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Maple Syrup


Here's a quick, easy way to make your own maple syrup at home. Four ingredients. Five to ten minutes. Done. I haven't crunched numbers, but I suspect it's significantly more cost-effective to make your own syrup. It tastes good and is super easy. And it's fun to say you made your own!

Here's the recipe directly from All Recipes. Some of the reviewers added butter and/or used vanilla extract or rum extract for part or all of the maple extract measurement. If you try any of those variations, I'd love to hear how they turn out!

My syrup was pretty thin/runny, which was fine for eating but slightly less photogenic since it soaked right into the pancakes instead of glistening and oozing down the sides. For a thicker syrup, you might add some honey or use less water.

Maple Syrup

From allrecipes.com
Yield: 2 cups

Ingredients
1 cup water
1 cup white sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp. maple flavored extract

Directions
Bring the water and sugars to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low, and stir in the maple extract. Simmer 3 minutes longer.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Pumpkin Coconut Pancakes


I'm officially declaring it fall in my household! I was going to try to hold off until either October 1 or until it was cool for several days in a row. But it was cool two days in a row, I was forced (using the term loosely) to order a pumpkin latte, Kelly brought molasses cookies to house church, and there were cute little pumpkins for sale in the produce section.


So I caved. Each sink in my house is adorned with autumn-scented hand soap. My table will soon have a centerpiece comprised of the aforementioned cute little pumpkins. And I made pumpkin pancakes for breakfast.


Pumpkin Coconut Pancakes

Adapted from Naturally Ella
Yield: 6 pancakes (2-3 servings)

Ingredients
1/3 cup pecan pieces (plus a couple pinches for garnish)
1/2 cup flaked coconut
2/3 cup whole wheat flour
1-1/2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
1 egg
2 Tbsp. canola oil
1 Tbsp. maple syrup
1/2 cup milk

Directions
In a dry skillet over medium to medium-low heat, toast pecans just until lightly toasted and fragrant. Shake the pan frequently to keep them from burning. Remove from skillet to cool. Return the same skillet to the stove and toast the coconut, again shaking to help the coconut toast evenly and keep from burning. Remove from skillet and cool.

Reserve a few pinches of coconut and pecans for garnish.

When pecans are cool, chop until pretty fine. (Or, for more of a flour texture, pulse in a small food processor until the pecans resemble a coarse flour. Don't process too much, or it will start to turn into pecan butter.)

In a medium bowl, whisk together the dry ingredients: pecans, coconut, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, and salt. In a small bowl or 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together the wet ingredients: pumpkin, egg, oil, syrup, and milk. Pour wet ingredients into the dry ingredients, and stir just until combined. If the batter seems too thick, add a bit more milk.

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, scoop out 1/4 cup batter and pour onto the skillet. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, until bubbles appear around the edges. Flip and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until nicely browned.

Topping ideas:
Maple syrup and/or honey
Butter
Toasted coconut
Toasted pecans
Sliced bananas and/or apples
Sprinkle of cinnamon, nutmeg, or pumpkin pie spice


Saturday, September 14, 2013

Mediterranean Orzo Salad





Before summer completely slips away, here's a recipe for a fresh, summery, easily adaptable pasta salad. Switch out any of the vegetables based on your preferences or whatever you may have bursting from your garden. Leave the chickpeas out for a less filling side dish, or keep them in for a more filling main dish.

Mediterranean Orzo Salad
Inspired by Real Simple
Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients
1 cup whole wheat orzo
1-2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1-2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/2 English cucumber, peeled if waxy, seeded if desired, and chopped
2 oz. (1/2 cup) Feta, crumbled
1-2 green onions, sliced
1 small can ripe black olives, sliced
2-3 handfuls cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 to 1 full can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1/8 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1-2 Tbsp. fresh dill, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste

Directions
Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain; rinse under cold water to cool, and shake well to remove excess water.

In a large bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Add all the rest of the ingredients, including orzo, and toss to combine. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired, or more of anything else. If it seems dry, add a bit more oil or lemon juice. Serve chilled or at room temperature.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Spiced Veggie Tacos with Avocado Tomatillo Salsa

Ever since childhood, I've been afraid of salsa verde. You see, any time we went to Taco Bell when I was a kid, my mom always requested green sauce on her burritos. Now, I never tasted her burritos or her green sauce, but since she likes spicy foods, the obvious assumption was that green sauce is spicier than red. (To this day, I don't actually know if that's true for Taco Bell sauces.)

Also, my favorite burrito place here in town has a habanero sauce which is green, so I feel like that supports my previous conclusion that green sauce = super spicy.


Come to find out, green salsa doesn't have to be spicy! When making this Kale, Black Bean, and Avocado Burrito Bowl with Avocado Salsa Verde recipe, I found some tomatillo salsa which was the only green salsa in the salsa aisle that didn't have jalapenos or other unidentified chilies that could potentially be spicy. I took a chance and am so glad I did, because this salsa is tangy and flavorful but not at all hot--and it's killer when you add in some avocado, cilantro, and lime!

Side note: the Kale, Black Bean, and Avocado Burrito Bowl recipe was amazing. I've made it twice now (rare for me) with quinoa instead of brown rice, but just haven't managed to photograph it either time. Leftovers are also good warmed in a skillet with a couple fried eggs on the side.

Complete with kitty cat ears in the background
So when I decided to make veggie tacos adapted from Naturally Ella, it was an easy choice to add some avocado salsa verde to the mix!

For these tacos I tried out some raw tortillas that I found at Walmart next to the Mexican cheeses. While they don't hold a candle to fresh HEB tortillas (what does?), they definitely tasted better than your basic tortillas from the bread and coffee aisle--and it's kinda fun to cook them at home on the skillet, watching them puff up into pillows!


Spiced Veggie Tacos with Avocado Tomatillo Salsa
Adapted from Naturally Ella and Cookie & Kate
Yield: 3-4 servings

For the Veggies
1 zucchini
1 yellow squash
1/2 small to medium onion
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. onion powder
1 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. garlic powder
1/2 tsp. chipotle powder (or 1/4 tsp. chipotle and 1/4 tsp. ancho)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. cumin powder
1 Tbsp. brown sugar

For the Salsa
1 avocado, cut into chunks
1/2 cup prepared tomatillo salsa
1/2 chopped cilantro leaves
Juice of 1 lime

For the Tacos
Tortillas (flour or corn)
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed, and seasoned with spices above
Additional toppings such as cheese, tomatoes, lettuce, sour cream, rice, etc. (optional)

Directions
Drain and rinse the black beans, and put into a microwave-safe bowl. Prep any cheese or veggies that will be taco toppings, and set aside.

Preheat oven to 375. Line a baking sheet with foil.

Wash zucchini and squash, and cut into strips about 2 inches long by 1/2 inch thick. Slice onion. In a medium bowl, toss vegetables with the olive oil and all the spices. As you measure each spice into the vegetables, also sprinkle some into the black beans. Spread vegetable mixture onto prepared pan, and bake 15-20 minutes, until vegetables are soft and browned, stirring halfway through.

While the veggies roast, prepare the salsa. In a mini food processor, combine avocado, tomatillo salsa, cilantro, and lime juice. Process until well combined but still a little chunky. If needed, add water or more lime juice to make it runnier. (Alternatively, put ingredients into a 1-pint mason jar and use an immersion blender.)

Warm tortillas using the stove or microwave. Warm black beans in the microwave. When all components are done, assemble tacos and serve.

Notes
  • These tacos were crazy good! I didn't do any of the "additional toppings" I listed above--partly because I didn't have most of them on hand, and partly because I didn't think the tacos needed them. The spiced veggies are definitely the star of this dish, with the black beans grounding the meal and the salsa adding the perfect finishing touch of tanginess and creaminess. 
  • Even with substituting ground ancho chili powder for half of the chipotle, these veggies were definitely kickin'. So if you're a spice wuss like me, you might use even less chipotle. If you're not a spice wuss, add a jalapeno to the salsa, or roast a jalapeno or two with the other veggies.
  • You could easily add meat to the tacos, and I think sweet potato would be a nice addition to the vegetable mixture.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pesto Turkey Meatballs with Marinara Magnifica

As you know, a lot of times I like to be adventurous with my cooking, trying out new techniques and ingredients. Other times, it's nice to make a classic like spaghetti and meatballs. And still other times, I enjoy making a classic with a special twist.

For instance, turkey meatballs with basil pesto mixed into them. Adding fresh pesto to meatballs is a fairly simple adjustment, and it takes the flavor up about eight notches. The basil in the pesto adds this kick of freshness that is delightfully tasty and pairs so well with the marinara!


Now, a few quick words on the marinara sauce. First, it looks like a lot of ingredients, but most of them are dried herbs and cans of stuff. The only things that have to be chopped are the onions and garlic. Second, for the best flavor, this is supposed to simmer for 3 hours. So be sure to plan ahead. Third, the recipe below makes a TON of sauce! I made a single batch of sauce, froze 10 cups of it, have already made two meals with this sauce, and still have probably two meals' worth left in the fridge.

The original meatball recipe from Elly Says Opa included a marinara sauce that sounded good--I simply wanted to try the Marinara Magnifica because a friend had recommended it. But if you want a smaller-scale recipe that doesn't require 3 hours of simmering, Elly's sauce recipe would be a good bet.

Without further ado, here's the Marinara Magnifica recipe, followed by the Pesto Turkey Meatball recipe. (Okay one more ado . . . neither of these recipes specifically mention cooking the spaghetti. So just be sure to do that! I started heating my water about the time I started rolling meatballs, and dropped the dried spaghetti into the pot after the meatballs were in the oven.)



Marinara Magnifica
Adapted slightly from Cooking Light
Yield: A ton!

Note: This is supposed to simmer for 3 hours, plus the onions need to cook for 30 minutes before adding everything else. So be sure to plan ahead!

Ingredients
1 Tbsp. olive oil
6 cups chopped onion (3-4 medium onions)
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dried oregano
1 tsp. dried basil
1 tsp. Sunny Paris seasoning mix (or Italian seasoning)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1/8 to 1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 (28-oz) cans crushed tomatoes
2 (14.5-oz) cans diced tomatoes
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
6 garlic cloves, minced

Directions
Heat oil in a large stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and sugar. Cook for 30 minutes until golden and slightly caramelized, stirring every so often. Stir in wine. Cook for 1 minute, scraping any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer for 3 hours, stirring occasionally.

Note 
If red wine isn't your thing, substitute beef broth, perhaps with some balsamic vinegar.


Pesto Turkey Meatballs
Adapted from Elly Says Opa
Yield: 4-5 servings (about 16 meatballs, depending on size)

Ingredients
1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/4 cup red wine (or milk)
4 tsp. olive oil, divided
1/3 cup finely diced onion
1-1/2 Tbsp. walnuts
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil
1 lb. ground turkey
1 tsp. salt
Pepper to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/4 cup shredded Parmesan or Parmesan blend

Directions
Place the breadcrumbs in a medium bowl and add the wine. Allow to soak while preparing the rest of the ingredients. Heat 2 tsp. oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until tender and translucent. Allow to cool.

Put walnuts, garlic, basil, and 2 tsp. oil into a small food processor. Pulse to combine, until the pesto is well combined and saucy, but not a puree. Add the pesto to the breadcrumb mixture, along with the onions, turkey, salt, pepper, egg, and Parmesan. Use your hands (disposable latex gloves are great for this!) to mix the ingredients just until combined, but don't over-mix.

Preheat oven to 375. Line two baking sheets with foil.

Form turkey mixture into roughly one-inch balls (a cookie dough scoop is great for this) and place on baking sheet. Bake for about 10 minutes. At this point, you could pull them out of the oven when they're not quite done, add them to the sauce, and simmer for a few minutes on the stove. Or you could cook them until they're done and serve them right away (particularly if you want to serve them separate from the sauce).

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Creamy Corn Risotto


First of all, let me apologize for going so long without posting. The first week of July I moved and started a class that has been the most labor-intensive class yet in this graduate program. So lately I've been doing much less cooking than normal, even less food photography, and still less writing down what I made and what I thought about it.

Now that that's out of the way, let's talk about risotto. And more specifically Creamy Corn Risotto. Corn is one of my favorite things about summer, and ever since I successfully made Roasted Cauliflower Risotto last winter, risotto no longer scares me. So when I saw this Creamy Corn Risotto in the August Cooking Light, it quickly went on my recipe bucket list.

While I enjoyed this dish and think the recipe is a good starting point, I wasn't utterly wowed by it. I expected it to be bursting with flavor, but the only flavor that was really bursting was black pepper. Also, when I'd used up all the milk and corn mixture, my rice was still a little crunchy, but I was out of liquid. Finally, I thought it needed a bit of cheese. So I'm including the recipe below as I made it, and adding some ideas for improvement below the recipe.


Creamy Corn Risotto
Slightly adapted from Cooking Light
Yield: 3 servings

Ingredients
1/2 large red bell pepper
2 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears)
3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp. milk (1%)
1 Tbsp. butter, divided
1-1/4 cups unsalted chicken stock
1/4 cup chopped onion
1 tsp. minced garlic
1/2 cup Arborio rice
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
1/8 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup sliced green onions

Directions
Discard the seeds and membrane from the bell pepper. If you have a gas stove, use tongs to hold the pepper over an open flame, until the skin is evenly blistered. (If you don't have a gas stove, preheat broiler to high, and place pepper skin side up on a foil-lined baking sheet. Broil 8 minutes or until blackened.) Wrap pepper in foil or a small paper bag; let stand for 5 minutes. Peel and chop.

Combine corn, milk, and 1/2 Tbsp. butter in a saucepan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Stir in stock and keep warm over low heat.

Melt 1/2 Tbsp. butter in a large saucepan over medium-high heat; swirl to coat. Add onion and garlic; saute 3 minutes. Stir in rice, salt, and black pepper; saute 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Stir in wine; cook 30 seconds or until almost all the liquid is evaporated, scraping the pan to loosen any browned bits. Reduce heat to medium.

Stir in 3/4 cup corn mixture and cook, stirring constantly, until almost all the liquid is absorbed. Add remaining corn mixture, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring constantly until each portion of corn mixture is absorbed before adding the next scoop. This process should take about 20 minutes. When you get to the last 1/2 cup of corn mixture, remove the risotto from heat and stir in the final scoop of corn mixture, plus bell pepper and green onions. Serve immediately.

Ideas for Improvement

  • Add half a poblano pepper, roasting it along with the red pepper.
  • Stir in a bit of grated cheese right at the end. I think even 1/8 or 1/4 cup would make a huge difference. And I think Parmesan, pepper jack, Monterrey jack, or queso fresco would be excellent choices.
  • Use about half as much black pepper.
  • Have an extra cup or so of warmed milk and/or chicken stock, so that if your rice is still crunchy when you reach the end, you'll still have some cooking liquid left.
  • Sprinkle some fresh basil on top right before serving. I'm not sure how basil would go with poblano, so maybe do one addition or the other.


Saturday, July 20, 2013

Orange and Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Scones

There are two things I'd like to leave you with today.

First, make these Orange and Dark Chocolate Buttermilk Scones from Naturally Ella. I took these to work not too long ago, and my friend described them as triumphant. This may be my favorite food compliment I've ever received.

Second, try out a time-saving tip I learned from Cooking Light. Instead of cutting the butter into the dry ingredients, melt the butter and pour it into very cold buttermilk while stirring constantly. The butter will start to solidify as you stir it around in the cold buttermilk. When it's fairly lumpy, dump it into your combined dry ingredients and mix up your dough. That way, you still end up with tiny bits of butter incorporated throughout the dough, but it takes much less time than using a pastry blender or knives, and doesn't require getting the food processor dirty.

Cooking Light also indicated that using this method allowed them to cut the butter measurement in half (!) for the buttermilk biscuits they were making over. I wanted to test the method and the scones recipe before doing something as drastic as cutting the butter in half. But next time I think I'll give it a shot, saving a whole lot of calories and sat fat!

Happy baking!

photo from naturallyella.com

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

What's Cookin'?

Despite my obsession with photographing my food, I do sometimes leave the camera out of the picture (pun fully intended), usually just for the sake of time. Or because I just want to eat the food without waiting! Or because I just moved and haven't found my camera yet.

So here are some recipes I tried recently and liked, but didn't take the time to photograph and therefore am not going to spend a whole blog post on. I'm borrowing photos from the site where I got each recipe.


Avocado Tuna Salad from Prevention RD - This salad is simple, cool, refreshing, and perfect for a quick summer meal. AND it uses avocado, rather than tons of mayo, to make it creamy and full of good nutrients. I followed the recipe pretty exactly, except I omitted the red onion and using garlic salt (sometimes I'm weird about raw onion and garlic). This was great on Wheat Thins, and I imagine it would also be good on a sandwich, in a wrap (maybe with some spinach?), or with pita chips.


Hummus "Cheesesteak" Hoagies from Cooking Light - These were pretty good! I used a homemade hummus rather than store-bought, but otherwise followed the recipe fairly closely. If you're like me and don't have a gas stove, you can roast your poblano pepper in the oven. Just beware that if your smoke detector is anything like mine, it will go a little crazy with the poblano-roasting process.


Banana Chocolate Chip French Toast Casserole from Foodie Crush - This was a tasty treat, but not as amazing as I had anticipated. To Foodie Crush's credit, I think the modifications I made (using honey oat bread instead of cinnamon swirl, and using coconut milk instead of cow's milk) were not great choices.


Spiced Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Apples from Cooking Light - This dish was absolutely amazing! I seem to remember that I used red onion instead of shallots, and added a splash of cider vinegar and a splash of red wine. The spice combination on the pork was pure heaven, and went perfectly with the sweet apples, tangy vinegar, and red onions. Do yourself a favor and make this!


Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Upside Down Cake from the Green Mango Cafe & Bakery Cookbook, as seen on Pinch of Yum - If we didn't have enough pure heaven from the spiced pork tenderloin, here's an extra dose from this dessert. I made this for house church, substituting a brownie mix for the chocolate cake layer, and it was out of this world. Whatever you do, don't skip out on the sauce that you drizzle on at the very end.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Stuffed Summer Squash


My friend Amber is quite the gardener, and she was kind enough to share some yellow squash from her garden. Now, farmers markets aren't big where I live, and I myself have no gardening abilities whatsoever, so when someone shares fresh fruits or vegetables that they grew, I feel like it needs to be treated with honor--not just thrown into any old recipe.

Making Green Eggs and Potatoes the other day whet my appetite for creating my own dish, so to use Amber's gorgeous yellow squash, I decided to be inventive rather than follow a recipe. This actually ended up being a "use whatever's on hand" kind of meal, but I feel good about keeping the yellow squash in the spotlight.

Now, what you're going to find below is what I'm calling a pseudo-recipe. I'm sharing some cooking methods and ideas for ingredients. But I believe that a dish like this is so versatile, with so many interchangeable elements, that it seems a bit silly to me to meticulously measure ingredients and follow a strict ingredients list.

So feel free to use my pseudo-recipe as a guide or a point of inspiration . . . and be creative! Get in the kitchen and play around with ingredients that you like and have on hand! If you end up with too much filling, just nibble on it while the squash cooks, or save it for another use. If the flavors don't taste quite right, add some more herbs or salt/pepper. If the filling seems dry and crumbly, add some more cheese, or even an egg yolk (just be sure it fully cooks). This is a very forgiving kind of dish, so just have fun with it!


Stuffed Summer Squash
a pseudo-recipe by HercheyK

Cook the squash: Pierce a large yellow squash (or multiple smaller ones) all over with a fork. Microwave for 4 minutes. Let sit in microwave for 5 minutes. Remove and cut in half (to make two long halves). Scoop out the insides and add to your filling, discard, or save for another use. Alternatively, you could do bell peppers (probably boil them rather than microwave) or tomatoes (I'm not sure what cooking method you'd do here, as I've never done stuffed tomatoes).

Now make your filling by sauteing some chopped vegetables, grains/beans/ground meat, herbs, and cheese over medium to medium high heat. I used carrot, celery, green onion, frozen corn, tomato, fresh parsley, and garlic; some cooked quinoa; some dried basil, thyme, salt, and pepper; a splash of chardonnay; and a bit of feta cheese. Things like garlic, tomatoes, and feta should go in near the end. The goal in this step is to begin cooking the vegetables and warm anything that started out cold (like quinoa you cooked the night before). If you have pepper jack cheese in your fridge, use it in this! The feta was good, but I think pepper jack would have been killer with the vegetables I used.

Taste your filling and adjust herbs, salt/pepper, etc., if needed. When you're happy with it, spoon the filling into your squash/vegetable boats. You'll probably make a mess. If you don't, please teach me how you did it!

If you want, do a crumb topping. I used a bit of panko bread crumbs, some Penzeys Rocky Mountain spice/cheese blend, and a bit of olive oil. Parmesan would also be a great option, with any combination of herbs. If you don't have panko, you could use crushed up crackers or regular bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top.

Bake in a preheated oven (350ish) for 10-15 minutes--just long enough to brown the crumb topping and finish cooking the vegetables.

Garnish with any additional herbs--fresh basil, green onions, thyme . . . you get the idea. Dig in!

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Green Eggs and Potatoes


I feel like it's been weeks since I actually cooked something, and even longer since I cooked something that was my own creation. So it felt good to get back in the kitchen this morning. It felt good to work at the stove again instead of zap something in the microwave, and to envision each element of this dish, playing around with the spices and flavors to create something that I thought would be good.


Green Eggs and Potatoes
Yield: 1 serving (with enough chimichurri for 2-3 servings)

5-6 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, stems removed
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
1/8 cup olive oil
1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp. salt
1 red potato, sliced thick
Spices and herbs of choice
2 eggs
Black pepper
Dried chives

First, make the chimichurri: Put green onions, parsley, garlic, oil, vinegar, and salt in a mini food processor. Pulse and process until smooth.

Preheat a skillet over medium heat; spray with olive oil. Slice the potatoes and season on both sides with whatever herbs and spices strike your fancy. I used Mural of Flavor and a hint of chipotle powder. Cook several minutes on each side, until potatoes are tender and nicely browned.

Whisk together the eggs, pepper, and chives. Scramble the eggs in a preheated skillet over medium heat.

To serve, stir some chimichurri into the scrambled eggs. If desired, spread some chimichurri over the potatoes as well.

Notes: The chimichurri is adapted from A Couple Cooks and Naturally Ella. Though the pictures don't reflect this, I highly recommend spreading chimichurri over the potatoes as well as the eggs.


Monday, June 17, 2013

Beautiful Things

Lately I've been reflecting a lot on the past year.

This time last year was the beginning of the end for my friend and boss. After a triumphant month of May when Charles stuck it to his cancer and made it back into the classroom after almost dying a few months earlier, he almost immediately began declining again. Drastically. He spent the month of June in and out of the hospital, went into hospice care in early July, and died a week later.

At the time, it felt like my world was crashing down. And in some ways, it was. This was the first time I'd lost a close friend, so there was all this grief to deal with, with little to no experience with or knowledge of how to grieve. On top of the grief was a whole lot of uncertainty about my job—who would my new boss(es) be? how well would we get along? would I even still have a job?

Some friends at house church introduced me to Gungor’s song Beautiful Things, and it's kind of been my anthem these last 18 months.

All this pain
I wonder if I’ll ever find my way
I wonder if my life could really change at all

All this earth
Could all that is lost ever be found?
Could a garden come up from this ground at all?

(chorus)
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of the dust
You make beautiful things
You make beautiful things out of us

All around
Hope is springing up from this old ground
Out of chaos life is being found in You

Chorus

You make me new, You are making me new
You make me new, You are making me new

Chorus

For months I sang this song, resonating so much with the pain and uncertainty of the first part of the song, and clinging desperately to the hope of the later two-thirds of it—the promise that God does make beautiful things out of the dust—that hope does spring up from dry, cracked ground.

And you know what? Beautiful things have come out of all this pain. Hope has sprung, and life has grown out of the chaos.

The last year has been filled with sweet, refreshing newness. With hope budding up out of desolate ground. Countless friends have surrounded me with tender support and encouragement. My new boss is pretty great, and I’ve found dear friends in him and his family. I got promoted into a position that didn’t exist before now. And in a couple weeks I’ll be moving into a new house.

At times like this, when I’m surrounded by beauty and feel like I’m getting a fresh start, I sing this song in praise of the beauty God has made from this mess. I sing it to remember the pain and the desperation, and I sing it to rejoice in the beautiful things that have come from it.

And during seasons like mid-June to mid-July, when I miss Charles like crazy and can’t help but think of all how awful this time was last year, I sing this song to remind myself afresh that God already has brought beautiful things from this hurt, and to cling to the hope that there is more beauty yet to come.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Cambodian Curry - and Green Mango Cafe Cookbook

Within the last year or so, I began following the blog A Couple Cooks. Not only do I want to eat nearly every recipe that Sonja and Alex share, but I also appreciate their focus on global issues--particularly women in poverty or abusive situations.

They're invovled with an organization called Center for Global Impact, which founded a culinary training program and restaurant/bakery in Cambodia, which trains at-risk women in the culinary industry, equipping them to earn a living without having to sell their bodies or compromise their well-being. Cool, huh?


So Alex and Sonja visited the Green Mango Cafe and Bakery and have created a cookbook with many recipes from the cafe. My parents gave me the cookbook for Christmas, and I am loving it! Not only does it include a variety of cuisines (Cambodian, French, Italian, American, and Mexican), but they also do a great job of introducing unfamiliar ingredients--like galangal, lemongrass, and rice paper--in an approachable, non-scary way. And all the proceeds go to CGI's programs for at-risk women.

I think it's cool that, even though Sonja and Alex aren't necessarily gifted at founding programs like the Green Mango Cafe--or even moving across the world to work at one--they are gifted in photography and food, and they do have a voice and an audience through their blog. I appreciate that they're using the gifts and resources they have to support these women in Cambodia.


I must sheepishly confess that, though my parents gave me the Green Mango Cafe cookbook for Christmas (as in almost six months ago!), and though I instantly wanted to make the vast majority of the recipes inside, I only just recently made my first recipe from the cookbook, a delicious Cambodian curry.

This curry involved some new ingredients for me--canned bamboo shoots, yellow curry paste, and fish sauce--as well as some I wasn't able to find--kaffir lime leaves and fresh lemongrass. The recipe felt a little time-consuming, mostly because of all the different ingredients that need to be prepped and ready to go before you start cooking. But the end results was this amazing dish with layer upon layer of flavor. Absolutely worth the effort! Mine didn't come out as soupy/saucy-looking as the picture in the cookbook, so I'll probably add a bit more broth and coconut milk next time.


Cambodian Curry
Adapted slightly from Green Mango Cafe and Bakery: Cooking for a Better Tomorrow
Yield: 6-8 servings

Ingredients
1 lb. chopped chicken, shrimp, beef, or tofu
4 Tbsp. vegetable oil (divided)
3 cloves garlic, minced
15-oz. can bamboo shoots, drained, rinsed, and finely chopped
1 sweet potato or cassava, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 small white onion, diced
3 kaffir lime leaves
2 lemongrass stalks
1/2 bird's eye chili, thinly sliced (more or less to taste)
1 tablespoon curry powder or Thai red curry paste (see note below)
1/4 cup roasted peanuts
2-1/2 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 Tbsp. fish sauce (or soy sauce)
1 tsp. sugar
1/4 cup coconut milk
1 tsp. kosher salt (or to taste)
2 green onions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil, chopped
Cooked rice or coconut rice (for serving)

Directions
If using tofu, drain it, then place on a plate covered with a paper towel. Cover it with another towel, then squeeze gently to drain excess liquid.

Prep all the vegetables and meat. Get all your ingredients ready to go. Heat oil in a wok or skillet over medium-high heat.

  • Saute the meat (or tofu) until browned; remove from the skillet and set aside.
  • Add the garlic to the wok or skillet and saute for about 30 seconds, just until fragrant. 
  • Add the bamboo shoots and sweet potato; saute for 5 minutes. 
  • Add the carrot, onion, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass, chili, curry powder/paste, and peanuts. Saute for 3 minutes. 
  • Add broth and bring to a boil. 
  • Add the fish sauce, sugar, and coconut milk and return to a boil. Boil about 5-8 minutes, until vegetables are softened and liquid has reduced slightly. 
  • Taste, add kosher salt
  • Add the meat. Note: If using chicken or beef, add the meat when you add the fish sauce, sugar, and coconut milk--the flavors will permeate the meat better. 
Serve over rice, and garnish with green onions, cilantro, and Thai basil.

Notes

  • Sonja and Alex offer this tip: "Curry powder used in Cambodia is most similar to Vietnamese curry powder, which cannot be substituted by an Indian-style or Madras curry powder. If you cannot locate Vietnamese curry powder, substitute Thai red curry paste, or try mixing half red and half yellow curry powder." I used equal parts Thai red curry paste and yellow curry paste.
  • I couldn't find fresh lemongrass (though one of my friends has since educated me on where to get it) so I used a bottled lemongrass paste. I'm sure the real deal would have been better, as there were all sorts of preservatives and extra ingredients in the bottled paste.
  • For the kaffir lime leaves, I substituted a little extra lemongrass plus the juice from 1/4 to 1/2 of a lime.
  • I forgot to look for Thai basil, so I just left it out.
  • This is great over coconut rice: Cook jasmine or basmati rice according to package directions, but use (light) coconut milk for about half the liquid measurement, and omit salt and butter.
  • I found it helpful to line up all my ingredients on the counter, in the order that I'd need them. That way, once the skillet was going, I didn't have to think about what was supposed to be added at each step.
  • Alex gave me permission to share this recipe, but they aren't giving me any sort of reward or incentive to promote their cookbook. I'm sharing it purely because I think it's a delicious recipe, a great cookbook, and an even better cause!

This is not at all what I expected to find when I opened the container of yellow curry paste:



Monday, May 27, 2013

Spinach Hummus


The school cafeteria.

For many of us, it conjures up images of tater tots and nacho "cheese" at best and unidentifiable "mystery casserole" slop at worst. In high school, my friends and I avoided the cafeteria as much as possible, preferring to eat our brought-from-home lunches outside even when there was snow on the ground.

Most of us would probably not look to a school cafeteria for recipe inspiration, but that's exactly where this Spinach Hummus recipe came from. After eating this hummus one day at my school/work cafeteria, I liked it so much that I went back the next day to ask what was in it! Because I'm like that.

At first when I asked, "What was in the spinach hummus yesterday?" the cafeteria lady got a little politely defensive: "Was there something wrong with it?" When I assured her that I had loved it and wanted to recreate it at home, her face lit up, and she offered, "Well, I've got the recipe right back here. Do you want to take a picture of it?" So I did. And I made it. And it was delicious.

Let me tell you some awesome things about this recipe:

  1. It's full of healthy, tasty things--spinach, chickpeas, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice . . . it's a snack you can feel good about eating.
  2. It doesn't call for tahini. So if you don't have any, no worries! 
  3. It's so very easy and quick to make. Open a can, peel some garlic, and throw everything in a food processor. Bam. 
  4. I'm not sure why Blogger is putting so much space before and after this numbered list. It's legitimately bothering me. My sincerest apologies to anyone else OCD enough to be bothered by this.

So here's to you, cafeteria lady. Thanks for introducing me to this hummus and being willing to share the recipe!




Spinach Hummus

1 (15-oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1-2 cloves garlic, peeled and smashed
1-1/2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (1-2 lemons)
1-1/2 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup packed fresh spinach
Ground coriander, to taste (optional)

Put all ingredients in a food processor; pulse to combine. Process until mixture is smooth and creamy, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides. If it's too thick, add more olive oil or lemon juice, or a bit of water. Serve with pita chips, sliced vegetables, or spread on a sandwich or wrap.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Chopped Thai Chicken Salad


Well, friends. My obsession with Asian food continues. This salad was light and summery, with a pleasant blend of flavors and textures. I didn't like it quite as well as the Asian Chicken Salad with Homemade Peanut Dressing, but I really liked the peanut dressing one. This Thai salad has fewer ingredients, which makes for a faster prep, but also less complex layers of flavor. To make this meal into a side dish, omit the chicken.


For those of us who don't live in the tropics with access to green papayas, Lindsay at Pinch of Yum recommends green mango for a similar flavor profile, or any crunchy veggie for a similar texture. I intended to use cucumber but forgot to buy one, so I ended up just using a little more cabbage and carrots.


While we're on the topic of cabbage and carrots, I absolutely cheated and bought pre-shredded slaw and pre-shredded carrots. Some day I will buy a grating/shredding blade for my food processor, but until that day comes I will sometimes do things like buy pre-shredded vegetables.



Chopped Thai Chicken Salad
Slightly adapted from Pinch of Yum
Yield: 2-3 servings

Salad
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1/2 small head green or white cabbage (1 cup shredded)
1/2 large carrot (3/4 cup shredded)
1/2 green papaya (3/4 cup shredded)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro
1/4 cup green onions
1/4 cup chopped peanuts

Dressing
1 clove garlic, minced
1-1/2 bird’s eye chili peppers, minced (optional)
1 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. white wine vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/2 Tbsp. oil
1/4 teaspoon fish sauce
2 Tbsp. peanut butter
2 Tbsp. water

Directions
Cook chicken using your desired method. Let cool, and shred with two forks or chop. In a large bowl, toss the cabbage, carrot, papaya (or substitute), and chicken.

To make the dressing, put all dressing ingredients into a mini food processor and give it a whir. If you don't have a mini food processor, mince the garlic and chili peppers, and whisk them together with the soy saucevinegarsugarlime juiceoil, and fish sauce until smooth. Then whisk in the peanut butter and water until smooth.

Pour the dressing over the salad; toss to combine. Add the cilantro, green onions, and chopped peanuts. Serve chilled. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge for up to one day. For best results, keep the leftover salad and dressing separate until ready to serve.

Nutrition Information (per serving, from Pinch of Yum)
284 calories; 15 g fat; 25 g carbs; 17 g protein