Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Peanut Butter Bars (Gluten Free)

Peanut Butter Bars are always a hit.  I've been making them since I was in high school, and there's never been a time when they weren't VERY well received.

This time around, I made them gluten-free so that I wouldn't leave out the gluten-free people that they would be shared with.  My recipe usually includes graham cracker crumbs.  I subbed in cashew meal and coconut flour instead.  If you want to make them the regular way, just replace the same amount of graham cracker crumbs back in.

What you need:

1 cup peanut butter
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks), softened
scant cup EACH cashew meal (or almond) and coconut flour
2+ cups powdered sugar

Ganache Topping:
8 ounces chocolate chips or bittersweet chocolate *see note
4 ounces heavy cream

Mix together peanut butter and butter until smooth.  Stir in the cashew meal and coconut flour.  Add the powdered sugar and stir until the mixture becomes a thick mass.  It WILL be very crumbly at first, but stick with it and it will form a dough-like mass.  Pat this into a deep-sided container (I actually used two smaller Pyrex containers this time, but a 11 x 7 inch pan works perfectly.  I've also done 13 x 9, but you will have thinner bars).

Now, for the ganache topping:  Melt the chocolate and the heavy cream together over a double broiler (place a metal bowl on top of a sauce pan with water in it to make your own double broiler).  Once smoothly mixed, pour over the top of the peanut butter mixture.  Refrigerate for an hour or two before cutting into bars.  Keep refrigerated.


*I usually get Ghirardelli bittersweet chocolate chips- cheaper than the bars of bittersweet, but nicer quality than regular chocolate chips.  I was stuck with Tollhouse this time around, which works fine.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Chocolate Chip (M&M) Blondies

It's already the 19th of December and I had yet to do any holiday baking until today.  Various factors involved there, but one of the big ones is the size of my kitchen here in New York.  And the size of the oven, which does not accommodate the baking sheet I brought with me.  But I bought a smaller one yesterday, and came up with a plan to tackle the rest of the size issue: bar cookies!  I love doing fancier cookies at Christmas, but with a kitchen my size (and the fact that I didn't bring my cookie press or cookie cutters to Brooklyn) making them seemed like more of a hassle than it was worth.  Bar cookies are super easy and a time saver.  Mix it up, spread it out, bake, and done!  No rolling or shaping, or even plopping drops down.  I added Christmas M&Ms and a ganache drizzle to make them a little more festive.

What you need:

1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 coconut oil, melted (or just use more butter)
2 cups brown sugar (I used the natural brown sugar that is more granular, but regular would be fine)
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
1/4 Frangelico( hazelnut liquor) or amaretto (or omit and add a little less flour)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups flour (I used white whole wheat flour)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup chocolate chips or mini M&Ms

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  In a large mixing bowl, mix together the butter, coconut oil, and brown sugar.  Add the eggs and egg yolk.  Mix well.  Stir in the Frangelico and vanilla.  Add the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Stir until the flour is mixed in.  Add the M&Ms or chocolate chips and stir.  Spread in a nonstick or greased baking sheet with low sides (mine was 10"x15"... you can use a 13"x9" pan or 11"x14" pan... increase the baking time for the 13"x9" pan).  Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until lightly golden.

Cut into bars and serve!  If you want, drizzle ganache on top to spiff it up (recipe below).

Ganache (optional):
1/2 cup chocolate chips
1/4 heavy cream

Melt the chocolate chips and cream together in a double boiler (place a metal or pyrex bowl on top of a pan filled with water... bring water to a boil.  Chocolate chips and cream go in the top bowl).  That's it!

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Baked Chicken Legs with Indian Spices

Chicken can get- let's face it- rather boring.  It's also economical, healthy, and versatile, so it makes sense to make it a weeknight staple.  Which results in lots of people very tired of eating plain old boring chicken.

That's where this recipe comes in.  When I saw the chicken legs in the store's natural section, I couldn't resist buying them.  So much more exciting than the tenderloin pieces I had in mind!  Something about chicken legs just seems festive to me... maybe because they are reminiscent of hit wings or the legs off of the turkey at holidays... I don't know.  They do have more fat than a lot of other pieces of chicken, but if you take off the skin, it's not too bad.  I do keep the skin on for baking, as it makes it bake more tastily and is there for the people who want it.

And this recipe is VERY easy and relatively quick.  You can change up the spice mixture to anything that complements the rest of your dinner.  I went with this because I was serving it alongside an eggplant curry.  You can also cut the recipe in half- I always make extra so I don't have to cook dinner the next night, and also have leftovers for lunch.

What you need:

3.5 pounds chicken legs (two 1.75 pound packets)
1.5-2 teaspoons salt
2-3 teaspoons garam masala
1 teaspoon ginger
0.5 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon black pepper
1.5 teaspoons onion powder
1.5 teaspoons cumin
1-2 tablespoons brown sugar (I used the Truvia Brown Sugar Blend to cut down on sugar)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix together all of the spices.  Rub spice mixture on each chicken leg, making sure to go under the skin as well (especially if you aren't going to eat the skin!).  Place on a baking sheet, making sure that the legs are not touching each other.  Bake for about 35-40 minutes, turning halfway through.  They should be a nice dark brown and juices should run clear.


Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Tomatillo and Poblano Green Salsa

Salsa is a wonderful thing.  Super flavorful, fresh, spicy, and healthy!  Obviously it's great with chips, but its possibilities do not end there.  Salsa also adds great flavor as a topping on all sorts of meat, chicken, or fish, is a great substitute for dressing on a salad, and can be used as a dip for fresh vegetables (try jicama slices or cucumber!).  This time around, mine accompanied a carne asada salad with a sprinkling of queso fresco.

We're fans of all sorts of salsa varieties around here, but lately have been on a big green salsa steak.  Sadly, most of the best ones we've tried can get pretty expensive (especially when you go through a jar in one sitting).  The good news: making your own is surprisingly simple and just (if not more) tasty.   It turns out a beautiful vibrant green color that definitely outshines store bought salsas.

This recipe is modified from the one I found here on the Food Network site.

What you need:
~7-8 small to medium tomatillos (around 1.25 pounds probably)
2 poblano peppers
1-2 cloves of garlic
1-2 tablespoons lime juice
large handful of cilantro (about packed 1/2 cup)
salt to taste
water (possibly)

Start by roasting the tomatillos and the peppers.  This can be done a couple different ways.  Either way, you want to leave them long enough that they get splotchy black blisters on both (or multiple) sides.

The first method is to place the tomatillos and peppers on a baking sheet and broil on high for about 5 minutes, flip over, and then broil another 5 minutes on the other side.  Probably the method I'd usually use, but my oven was otherwise occupied.

The second method is to char them on the stovetop.  This worked really well for me on my gas stove- I'm not positive it would work as well on electric since they don't seem to get as hot.  Simply heat a large frying pan over high heat and add the whole tomatillos and peppers.  Stir/flip every couple minutes, allowing them time to get a little char on the downside.  Once they are spotted with black blisters everywhere, they're good to go.

After charring, you can put the peppers in a brown bag to steam for 10-15 minutes so that you can peel the skin off.  I skipped this.

The next step is to puree everything together- the tomatillos, peppers, garlic, lime juice, cilantro, and salt.  I did this is batches in my new tiny blender since I had to leave my Vitamix behind for a little while :-( .  You could use an immersion blender, food processor, or regular blender.  I had to add 1/3-1/2 water, but if you're using a Vitamix or immersion blender, you might be able to skip that and have a bit thicker salsa.

And done!  Enjoy with everything. :-)

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Roasted Beets and Butternut Squash with Rosemary and Sage

This is a great fall or winter side dish.  Perfect for Thanksgiving next week too!  It is comforting and warm, hearty yet healthy, and just so delicious.  You can add in other hardy vegetables too- parsnips, sweet potatoes, carrots, rutabaga all work well.  And you can certainly omit the rosemary and sage if you want, but I had some already and thought that they'd be a nice change of pace from my usual more basic roasted vegetables.  They add a subtle earthy "herbiness" and fall flavor.  I also added a couple jalapenos for some kick, and, boy, did they add a kick.  We like spicy around here, but you'll probably want to leave those out if you don't. :-)

I served this with seared tuna steaks.  The leftovers would make a great topping for a salad with goat cheese, nuts, and a light vinaigrette.

What you need:

I medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1 1/2 inch chunks

1 1/2 pounds beets (I think I used 7 medium/small ones), ends cut off and cut into 1 inch chunks

2 jalapenos, stems removed, cut into 3-4 pieces
Olive Oil

1-2 teaspoons cumin

A few sprigs of fresh rosemary and a few sage leaves

Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.  Place your cut up beets, squash, and jalapenos in a large bowl.  Your squash pieces should definitely be larger than the beet pieces!  They cook faster.  Drizzle with olive oil (I try to keep it light, using about 2 tablespoons).  Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt and cumin.  Add the rosemary and sage.  Toss everything around to make sure the oil and salt are evenly dispersed.  Spread this on a 13 by 9 inch sheet pan.  Roast for about an hour, mixing halfway through.  If you want a little extra crisp on them, leave them a little longer and turn the heat up to 425.

Remove rosemary stems. Season with salt and pepper to taste.


Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Braised Chicken Thighs with Apples and Cumin

This is a pretty quick recipe braising recipe and all stove-top.  You could certainly finish in the oven if you are using a Dutch oven, but I don't have one here, so I went stove-top all the way.  Still delicious.

If you want to perfect your braising method, take a look at this link to Bon Appetit.  It's basically a list of rules that should be followed for anything that you want to braise.  I didn't really follow their rules too well, but I'm sure if you took the time to, you'd really have a prize-worthy dish.  My recipe simplifies braising for the perfect stress-free weeknight dinner.

I made this to accompany leftover vegetables from the night before.  (and then I didn't finish this post yesterday... so we just had the now leftover chicken tonight and it was even better!  I love making plenty for leftovers. :-))

What you need:

1 1/2 boneless and skinless chicken thighs, extra fat trimmed (if you have bone-in, up the cooking time)
2 teaspoons coconut oil or olive oil
1 cup chicken broth
2-3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 medium onion, cut into small pieces
2 small/medium apples, cut into chunks (core removed, of course.  but I left the skin on)
dash of cayenne
2-3 teaspoons (or more) cumin
salt and black pepper to taste (I don't think I ended up adding any salt-the chicken broth was enough)

Heat oil on medium-high in a large pot or high-walled saucepan.  Place chicken thighs evenly in pan, so that they all have a full side on the bottom (if there is not enough room, do batches).  Let sear for 3-5 minutes and flip.  Sear on that side for another 3-5 minutes.  The chicken should get a nice deep brown on it.

At this point, you can do this more properly and remove the chicken from the pan- I didn't do this.  Either way, next, add your apples and onion.  Saute for 4-6 minutes to achieve a little browning.  Add a splash or two of the vinegar if things are sticking too much at any point.  Add your chicken back in if you removed it.  Add the rest of the vinegar and add the chicken broth.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and let simmer for 20 minutes.  I left my lid just a TINY bit cracked to let steam out.  Remove the lid and let the sauce cook down a little more for about 5 minutes.  Add the cumin, cayenne, and black pepper (and salt if it needs it).

This would probably be fitting to serve over rice or quinoa if you want. We had it as is though.


Monday, November 17, 2014

Simple Roasted Cauliflower

This is a super simple recipe and my favorite way to make cauliflower.  Even people who think they don't like cauliflower will most likely like it.  Like most things, you just need to know how to make it right.

I made it to accompany some stewed eggplant curry and beef that was stewed with ginger and garam marsala, which is why I did a "curry" version.  I often make it with just salt and pepper.  You can add whatever spices you like- garlic powder, cumin, and paprika are in my rotation.

What you need:

1 head cauliflower, cut into small florets
Olive oil or oil oil spray
Salt and pepper
Curry Powder (or sub whatever spices you want)

Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Spray or lightly grease a 13" x 9" pan with olive oil. Spread cauliflower florets across the pan.  Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and curry powder.  Lightly drizzle or spray with olive oil.  Toss everything around and make sure that it is evenly spread across the pan.  Roast in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, stirring halfway through.  If you leave it a little longer, it gets awesomely crispy (I couldn't do that this time because my apartment's smoke alarm is stupid sensitive, which is a bummer).  You should get at least a little brown on it- much tastier that way!


Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Spaghetti Squash with Meat and Veggie Sauce

I'm not a pasta/grains person anyway, and used to just eat things that were supposed to go over pasta/rice/quinoa over lettuce or spinach or nothing instead.  Yeah, I know the lettuce is a little weird, but adds nice volume and tricks you into thinking you have a huge plateful of food (awesome trick for an Indian restaurant buffet- skip the rice!).

But then I added spaghetti squash into my lettuce/spinach/nothing rotation, and I'll tell you, it's much more "other people" friendly.  It is a little strange to serve yourself a plate of lettuce and then dump meat sauce over the top when everyone else is having pasta or whatever with their sauce.  Spaghetti squash doesn't get so many strange looks and everyone I've ever introduced it to likes it.  You could even mix it half and half with real pasta for those suspicious eaters.  

It's perfect for anyone trying to eat less carbs, going gluten-free, or just trying to avoid processed foods. Or anyone who just plain doesn't like pasta.  It doesn't really have much flavor of its own, but has a nice crisp texture.

The sauce I made this time is pretty simple and quick.  I added ground beef to it, but added plenty of vegetables so that the beef would stretch a little further and we'd eat a little less of it.  You can add whatever other vegetables you have on hand (eggplant, zucchini, peppers) and leave out the mushrooms if you want.  Add a splash of red wine if you have a bottle open. :-)

This will make 4-6 servings, depending on appetite and if you have any sort of side dish.

What you need:

1 spaghetti squash (medium-sized, I guess?)

1 pound of ground beef (mine was 96/4... if you use something much fattier, make sure to drain it!)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small/medium onion, diced
8-9 cloves garlic, minced (or less if you aren't a garlic fiend)
1-2 stalks celery, diced
1 teaspoon salt
1 large carrot, diced or thinly sliced
12 ounces mushrooms, cut into small pieces
1 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

Seasonings: (mix these up as much as you want, depending on what you have)
     Italian seasoning, oregano, basil, rosemary, sage, crushed red pepper, thyme...

     This time I used: Italian seasoning, fresh rosemary and fresh sage... because that's what I happened to have.  I often just go heavy handed with the dried oregano and thyme because those are often what I have on hand.

Roast the Squash:

Start by roasting your squash.  I did it in a 350 degree oven for about an hour this time.  Whole, with a couple of fork pokes.  This does mean that you have to deal with the seeds and pulpy stuff after it cooks... which is a little more of a pain.  But you don't have to saw through it at least.  

You can also cut in in half first, remove the seeds, spray the cut side with oil, and roast it for 30-40 minutes.  Or you can microwave it (google that... I never do it that way).  It's hard to overcook it, but very possible- apparently.  I did it last time I made spaghetti squash, but before that I would have said it was nearly impossible.  But I guess it is- it will turn to mush and become decidedly un-spaghetti like.  When it's done, it should be slightly soft and easy to cut into.  If you run a fork through it, the strands will appear.

Make the Sauce:

While your squash is roasting, make your sauce.  Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the ground beef and let it brown.  Add the onion, garlic, celery, carrot, and salt.  Sauce for about 5 minutes.  Add the mushrooms and saute for another 3-5 minutes.  Add both cans of tomatoes and your seasonings.  Bring to a simmer, and reduce heat to medium-low.  Let simmer for at least 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.  If you have more time, let it simmer longer, but keep the pot mostly covered.  After it has simmered, season to taste with salt and pepper.

Shred the spaghetti squash and serve with the meat and veggie sauce on top.  Sprinkle with a little Parmesan if you'd like.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Roasted Rack of Lamb Crusted with Pistachio, Rosemary, and Parsley Pesto

I haven't cooked a rack of lamb for A WHILE- it's little too expensive to earn a spot on my general rotation of proteins to buy, and then I forget about it completely.  But my mother-in-law bought extra and I got to take a rack home with me!  This was one rack, which serves 2-3 people, depending on their appetites.  My mother-in-law also gave me fresh parsley and rosemary from her garden (which is still going a little, even in November!), so I made a pesto with those and some pistachios I already had in the cupboard.  I just roasted it in the oven to save washing extra pans, but I think it technically would have been best to sear it, then add the pesto, and then roast.  But this was delicious, and I don't have a saucepan to wash.  I served it with Caesar salad with homemade dressing.  ...And french bread and a little red wine for a treat.

The pesto I made is more than enough for the lamb.  I only had a Vitamix to blend with and a smaller amount wasn't going to blend.  So reduce the ingredients if you don't want extra pesto, or make the whole amount and use the pesto for something else.  

What you need:

One rack of lamb

Pesto Ingredients:
1 1/2 packed cups fresh Italian parsley 
1 sprig of rosemary, leaves only
1 cup fresh baby spinach (this only got added because I needed more bulk in my Vitamix and had some to use up anyway)
1/4-1/3 cup pistachios
2 large cloves of garlic
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

Blend all ingredients in a food processor or Vitamix until coarsely chopped. 

Place lamb in a small roasting pan (7" by 11" is pretty good). Trim excess fat from rack of lamb.  Spread the pesto on top of the meaty side of the lamb.  You should have a nice thick layer.  Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.  Let the lamb sit for about 20 minutes to come to room temperature while the oven heats up.  

Place the lamb in the oven and roast for 25-30 minutes.  Mine was in for 25 and it was on the rare side of medium-rare.  Remove from oven and let sit 5-10 minutes before carving between the ribs.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Whole Rabbit Stew

We have a friend who saw that Whole Foods had whole rabbits and bought one on a whim.  When he was over carving pumpkins with us, it came up. (I mean, it stayed in the freezer, still dead.  The topic came up).  And we agreed that I should cook it to prevent a twice killed rabbit disaster.

I've never cooked rabbit before at all, let alone a whole one, so I did some Googling to get me started.  All of the recipes that I found looked incredibly delicious, but also like more work than I felt like putting into it.  They had you removing things from the pot, and adding things to the pot, and putting things back into the pot, and straining things (which I really hate- especially since I don't have a strainer here).

Oh, and they had you break the rabbit down into pieces.  No thanks.  I'm not particularly squeamish about such things, but I also don't think it'd be fun to wrestle with a dead rabbit as I chop it apart (my knives here are not very sharp).

So after getting a few ideas from various recipes, I did things my way, which is what I tend to like to do.  And this is what I came up with.

I served it with arugula dressed in a tangy homemade vinaigrette and roasted potatoes, carrots, and parsnips.

What you need:

1 (3 pound) rabbit
1 1/2 tablespoons butter (mine was salted)
3-4 celery stalks, diced
1 medium onion, diced
6-7 garlic cloves, peeled and cut in half (or minced, but I like the larger chunks of garlic in a slow cooked stew like this)
3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 red wine
2 cups water
1  teaspoon salt (and maybe more, to taste)
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, larger ones cut in half, small kept whole
4 strips bacon
2-3 tablespoons flour

Remove giblets from chest cavity if yours came with them.  Chop them finely.

Heat butter in a large pot over medium-high heat.  Place rabbit in the pot and let sear for 3-4 minutes,  Flip the rabbit over and let the other side sear for another 3-4 minutes.  Make sure that the rabbit has achieved a nice dark brown sear before adding the next ingredients.

Add the celery, onion, garlic, and chopped giblets (if you have them).  Saute for 4-6 minutes, or until they have a little brown on them.  (If you want, you can take the rabbit out of the pot for a few minutes as the vegetables saute.  I left it in there though, you just have to stir around on it to saute the veggies.)  Add the wine and deglaze the pan, making sure to scrape up any brown from the bottom of the pan.

Add the rosemary sprigs, water, and salt.  Push the rabbit down so that as much of it is submerged as possible.  It's fine if some of it is sticking up above the liquid.  Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover.  Let simmer for about an hour, flipping it halfway through.

Add the mushrooms.  Let simmer for about another hour.  The rabbit should be starting to fall apart when it is done.  Remove the rosemary sprigs (or stems if the leaves have fallen off).

Once the rabbit is basically done, fry up the bacon in a saucepan.  Once the bacon is cooked, drain on a paper towel.  Dispose of about half of the grease, keeping the rest in the frying pan.  Add a little (about a 1/4 or 1/3 cup) of the rabbit broth to the bacon grease.  Over low heat, whisk the flour into this.

Remove the rabbit from the pot and place into a shallow serving dish.  Add the flour/bacon grease/broth mixture into the rest of the vegetables and broth.  Stir and let simmer for a few minutes, or until thickened.  Pour over the rabbit in the serving dish.


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Roasted Green Tomatoes

I still had a few green tomatoes left from those that my sister gave me almost two weeks ago... meaning I had to get cooking them!  I made Stewed Green Tomatoes last week and wanted to try something different this time around.  I do love experimenting. :-)  Part of me was tempted to go ahead and fry 'em up because I knew that would be delicious, but I persuaded myself to go the healthy route because I knew that could be delicious too.

I've made roasted regular (ripe) tomatoes many times and figured that the green ones could be roasted too.  In fact, I had a couple red tomatoes lying around today so I went ahead and added them in with my green ones.

Roasted tomatoes make an excellent side dish (tonight mine paired with leftover chicken), but can also be used as a bruschetta topping on some lightly toasted baguette.  And sprinkled with goat cheese or parm... yum!

What you need:

Green tomatoes (or use some standard ripe ones, same method works)
Olive oil 
Peeled Garlic Cloves
Salt and Pepper

Heat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit.  Or higher and reduce cooking time... I've actually done this at all different temperatures, going as low as 225 and as high as 425.  If you plan ahead and do the 225, that's actually probably ideal, but it takes awhile (maybe 4 hours or more?).  I think I did them properly once, but the rest of the time I haven't started early enough.  I most often start around 325 and often end up increasing the temperature near the end when I run out of time or get impatient.  

Lightly spray or drizzle oil olive on a baking sheet or shallow glass baking dish. Slice tomatoes into 3/4 inch thick slices.  Lay out on baking sheet.  Sprinkle garlic cloves around tomatoes.  Drizzle lightly with olive oil or spray with olive oil (honestly, more is tastier, but I try to keep this to a minimum to keep the dish on the light side).  Sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Freshly ground is tastiest. 

Roast for about 2 1/2 hours.  If you run out of time, increase the temperature a bit.  It won't hurt anything.  Mine actually could have gone a little longer this time, but they were still plenty good after two hours, but that included turning up the temperature to 400 for the last half hour. The tomatoes should get slightly caramelized and shrunken.  If you are patient and leave them longer, they will get more caramelized and the flavor becomes sweeter and richer.  So try to be patient if you have the time. :-)

You can also add chopped onion before roasting.  It gets nice and crispy on top of the tomatoes.  Or drizzle with a balsamic reduction after roasting.  I've also added slabs of fresh mozzarella right after it comes out of the oven and sprinkled with fresh basil leaves.


Thai Curry Chicken with Butternut Squash

This is an easy recipe to put together on a weeknight... especially since I used a store-bought jar of Thai Red Curry Sauce from Trader Joe's.  You can sub in a different sauce if you want, or play around with making your own- coconut milk and a lot of curry powder would probably do the trick.

Lately, I've been making a lot of chicken in the oven while I do some sort of vegetable on the stove. Super easy, and you don't have to monitor two frying pans at once. A two and a half pound bag of chicken tenderloins lasts us for three or four dinners, and I just make new vegetables to go with the leftovers to mix it up.

I had leftover cooked butternut squash from last week when I made Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup.  Some of it got used up over the weekend when I made some nachos and added chunks of cooked squash to them (give it a try!), but I still had a over a quarter of my large squash.  And I had this jar of sauce that I bought on a whim sometime earlier.

So I went with it.  You could leave out the butternut squash if you want, but it really added to the dish.  In fact, next time I'll be adding more.  Because I had a lot of chicken, I added a few spices.  But if you had less chicken, there'd be no need and you could just stick with the jar of sauce.  You could also jazz it up with some onion, fresh ginger, and/or jalapenos if you have the time or inclination.

What you need:

2 1/2 pounds of chicken tenderloins
I (11 ounce) jar of Thai Red Curry Sauce
1-2 teaspoons curry powder
1-2 teaspoons garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
~2 cups cubed cooked butternut squash (or more, but that's all I had on hand.  Next time I'll be adding more)

Heat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Mix everything but the squash together in a 13 x 9 inch baking pan or casserole dish.  Bake for 20 minutes.  Add squash and mix it in.  Bake for another 10-15 minutes, or until chicken is cooked through (internal temp registers 165 F if you use a thermometer).  Or cut into a couple and make sure the juices run clear.  Enjoy!

Monday, October 20, 2014

Broccoli, Radish, and Mushroom Stir Fry

While this is a tasty and simple side dish, I normally wouldn't be posting it as a recipe.  Stir-fries are basic and, well, don't really require recipes.  BUT, I've realized that a lot of people have never heard of cooking radishes!  Which I'd like to change.

You can definitely cook radishes- in a variety of ways. I usually stir fry them really quickly, but I've also broiled them (laid out sliced on a sheet pan and sprayed with cooking spray), and added them to slow-cooked stews.  Also, if you don't like raw radishes, you may very well like them cooked.  Their flavor mellows out quite a bit.

This is an Asian-flavored stir fry that I made to accompany Thai Curry Chicken with Butternut Squash.  My stir-fries usually come together as a result of what I have in the fridge.  That's what's awesome about stir-fries- you can really make all sorts of combinations depending on what you have on hand.  Today, I had broccoli, mushrooms, fresh ginger, and the radishes, so I just went with that.  I cooked them in sesame oil and added a little soy sauce to complement my curry chicken dish.   You could just do the radishes, or do the radishes with the mushrooms, or with the broccoli.  Whatever ya feel like.  This combination worked well though.

What you need:

2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 inch piece fresh ginger, minced
1 pound of broccoli, cut into ~2 inch pieces
6-7 radishes, thinly sliced
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
Pinch of salt
Soy sauce
Chili-garlic sauce

Heat the sesame oil in a large sauce pan over medium-high heat.  Add the ginger and saute for a minute or two.  Add the radishes, Saute for about a minute, then add the broccoli.  Stir that around for a minute, then add the mushrooms.  Sprinkle in a pinch of salt to draw a little water out.  Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, or until the vegetables have a little brown on them and are cooked to your liking.  You want them to retain a little crunch.  Turn off of the heat and add the green onions.  Season with soy sauce, black pepper, and chili-garlic sauce.


Thursday, October 16, 2014

Quick Sauteed Seafood

I made this to accompany some Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup, but it would be awesome on top of a salad, pasta, quinoa, or just by itself.  Or dipped in spicy mayo/greek yogurt.

It is really easy and quick, and very healthy.  I bought this mixed seafood bag from Trader Joe's.

It is frozen, so you do need to make sure to thaw it.  If you forget until kind of on the late side, run some cool water over it to speed up the process.

I kept these really plain this time, because I was adding them to the soup that already had some nice flavor.  It also lets the flavor of the seafood shine through.  But you could definitely spice them up... maybe try with some garlic, oregano, crushed red pepper, and lemon juice.

What you need:

1 pound of mixed seafood (shrimp, scallops, and squid/calamari)
1 teaspoon coconut oil (or use olive oil)
sea salt and black pepper

After seafood has thawed, make sure to drain the extra liquid.  Then dump it into a paper towel lined bowl and try to get some extra moisture out.  I usually grab a couple more paper towels and blot from the top too.  Your seafood should NOT be really cold.  Let it sit out for a little longer if it has barely thawed.  If you didn't have frozen to begin with, it should sit out of the fridge for about 20 minutes before cooking.  

Heat oil in a medium/large saucepan over high heat.  Add seafood and saute until shrimp are opaque (they will be the last ones to get cooked).  Depending on how much extra liquid was left, your seafood might not have had a chance to get brown while cooking... that did happen to me this time and I just left them a little longer so that the extra liquid evaporated and that could get their brown in.  
Once cooked, season with a little sea salt and pepper. (Don't add the salt while they are cooking, it will only draw more moisture out).


Coconut Curry Butternut Squash Soup

It was a rainy fall day- perfect for soup!  This soup is easy to make and delicious.  I made sauteed mushrooms and some Quick Sauteed Seafood to top it.

What you need:

1 medium butternut squash (I actually had a pretty big one, but only used a little over half of it in the soup)
1 teaspoon coconut oil (or oil olive or butter)
1 medium-large onion, chopped
4-5 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 inches of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
~3 tablespoons curry powder (or a red curry paste would be better... but I didn't have any!)
4 cups chicken broth
1 can (15 ounces) light coconut milk (or 1/2 of a can of regular.  Trader Joe's only had light, but I usually get the regular and use half.  The light stuff is just watered down regular anyway)

Start by roasting the squash:
      You can do this a few different ways.  I always bake/roast it.  This time I did it whole.  Heat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit (no need to preheat).  Poke your squash a few times with a fork.  Bake for about an hour and a half, two hours if you have a large squash.  The squash should be tender.

Now, for the rest:
      Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add in the onion, ginger, and garlic.  Saute for 3-5 minutes.  Add in the curry powder.  Stir that around for a minute or two and let it get nice and fragrant.  Add a little chicken broth and deglaze the pan.  Add the rest of the chicken broth and the roasted squash and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and let simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Add in the coconut milk.  Puree with an immersion blender or regular blender (just be careful if using a regular one... might want to let it cool a bit!).

Top with green onions, some crushed red pepper, greek yogurt, or whatever else you feel like.  Or this Sauteed Seafood recipe.  Or leave it plain, 'cause that's tasty too.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Chocolate Chip PUMPKIN Cookies

It's Fall and everyone is obsessing over pumpkin.  Every time I walk into Trader Joe's, I'm bombarded by the displays of delicious pumpkin everything.  Now that it's mid-October, I'm was being to feel left out of the fun since I had yet to bake/make anything pumpkin.

Luckily, I have a little niece in need of a Halloween care package.   So I'm making these, making a card, and I got some Halloween stickers to send her.  Working on achieving favorite aunt status. ;-)

These cookies have a whole can of pumpkin in them!  So you don't have to worry about using the remainder of the can, which is neat and tidy.  I didn't want them to be super cakey though, which is why I used the egg yolks instead of only whole eggs (Full disclosure: I actually had planned on using ONLY yolks, but forgot and dropped the whole first egg in.  These turned out well, so it works.  Feel free to try with just three yolks though and see how that turns out!)

I wanted to make these as "real"/natural as possible but didn't really care about skimping on fat and sugar.  You can definitely sub in regular sugar and all-purpose flour.  If you don't have coconut oil, I think some sort of shortening would be best, texture wise, but you can also just use another 1/2 butter.

What you need:

1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1 egg
2 egg yolks
1 teaspoon vanilla (or amaretto or whatever sweet liquor you have hanging around... that's what I do when I don't have vanilla or just want to mix up the flavor.  Today was triple sec because I had no other options in the apartment
1 (15 ounce) can pumpkin 
3 cups white whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Cream the butter, coconut oil, and sugar together in a mixing bowl.  Add the egg, egg yolks, vanilla, and pumpkin.  Mix well. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Mix and then add the chocolate chips.  Drop by large tablespoons on a lightly greased baking sheet.  Bake for 10-12 minutes.  The very middle of the top should still be slightly wet looking.  It'll dry out as it cools.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Marinated Seared Tuna Steak

Old post that I never quite finished/published from Saba days.  I can still vouch for the tuna!

I absolutely love tuna.  Not the canned variety (though that has its uses at times), but a deliciously rare, barely seared pink steak of it.  I used to order it every time I saw it on a menu, but then I realized that it was one of those things I can easily make on my own at a fraction of the cost.  The steaks I buy here on Saba are still not cheap (then again, nothing is cheap here but rum) at 4-5 bucks a serving, but are definitely a bargain compared to restaurant prices.  

I never tried marinating the tuna until the last two times I made it.  Usually I'm just making it for myself anyway, and I like it fine when I just sear it with salt and pepper.  The first time I marinated it, I was making dinner for my parents and Rob as well, and wanted to make sure it was well received all around.  Especially since Rob isn't really a huge fan of tuna and I was making him eat it since I thought my parents would like it.  They all loved it- even Rob!  

You can serve this as a salad, as pictured below, or sliced into Asian tacos, or simply served with a vegetable on the side (something like a cabbage slaw or cucumbers marinated in a dressing similar to that below would be good).  Enjoy!

Here, I served the tuna with bacon, feta, and cherry tomatoes with a rice vinegar based vinaigrette in this salad

What you need:

1 4-6 ounce tuna steak per person
Sesame oil or coconut oil for searing (I usually use about 1 teaspoon per steak, but some pan materials might force you to use more so that the tuna doesn't  stick)

2 parts soy sauce
4 parts rice vinegar
Minced fresh ginger and fresh garlic
1 part sesame oil
1 part chili-garlic sauce

Mix together the marinade ingredients.  Add the tuna steaks, making sure that there is enough marinade to cover them.  Let sit for 30 minutes.

Heat the oil in a skillet over high heat.  Add the tuna steaks and sear on each flat side for 1-3 minutes per side, depending on how rare you want the steak.  Use tongs to stand each steak on end to very briefly sear the other sides.


*I often cut each steak into 3-4 pieces before marinading.  This allows the flavors of the marinade to permeate more and creates more seared edges, so it's a good thing to try if you are serving this to someone who is hesitant about trying seared tuna.  When I do it this way, I use a spatula to flip the pieces around in the pan.  They really just need a quick (~20 sec per side) sear on each side.

*I usually serve this with Spicy Mayo/Greek Yogurt.  Just mix chili-garlic sauce with either mayo, Greek yogurt, or a combination, depending on how healthy you feel like being.  You control the spiciness depending on your preference.  I usually do 1 part chili-garlic to 3-4 parts mayo/yogurt.

Stewed Eggplant

I love eggplant.  In the summer, my favorite way to cook it is just to grill it.  Now that it's getting colder, though, I love to put it into all sorts of stews.  This recipe focuses on the eggplant- there are not a ton of other ingredients to get in the way.  I used cardamon and ginger as my predominant seasonings in this recipe, but you could definitely go with a more Italian-y flavor profile by omitting those and subbing in some basil and oregano.

What you need:

1-2 teaspoons olive oil (or more if you want something richer.  Eggplant and lots of olive oil are delicious, but I wanted to keep this lighter)
1 medium onion, diced
1 inch cube of peeled ginger, diced
3-4 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
1 jalapeno, seeds removed and diced
1 LARGE eggplant (or two medium), cut into 1 inch chunks
1/3 cup red wine or broth
1 medium/large tomato, cut into 3/4 inch chunks
Salt, pepper, and cardamon to taste

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat.  Add the onion, ginger, garlic, and jalapeno.  Saute for a couple minutes (I cut up the eggplant while these were in the pan).  Add the eggplant and a pinch of salt.  Saute for a few minutes, then add the wine/broth and scrape up any brown bits. Reduce heat to medium or medium-low, and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for 20-30 minutes. The eggplant needs to cook through and should start to fall apart.  Add the tomato, salt, pepper, and cardamon.  Cook for another 5-10 minutes, or until tomato has cooked through.

I left this as is this time, but it would be great topped with a little goat cheese or a full-fat Greek yogurt.  Or try serving with pita chips or as a bruschetta on top of pieces of toasted pita bread.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Broiled Chicken Tenderloins with Indian Spices

This is an incredibly easy and quick recipe that is a perfect method for cooking chicken tenderloins.  You can vary the spice mixture however you want so that it fits with whatever else you're cooking.  This is a fairly large recipe, which means you can use the leftovers for lunches, because they'd be perfect for topping a salad or putting in a wrap.

What You Need:

Spice Mix: 

2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2-3 teaspoons cumin
2-3 teaspoons garlic powder
2-3 teaspoons garam masala or curry powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 1/2 pounds chicken tenderloins
Olive oil spray

Mix together spices.  Place tenderloin pieces in a large bowl.  Rub all over chicken tenderloin pieces. Cover.  Let sit in refrigerator for 2 hours if possible.  Take out of the fridge 20 minutes before cooking.  Preheat oven to broil on high.  Lightly spray a large sheet pan or two smaller baking pans with olive oil.  Arrange chicken on pan(s) so that the pieces are barely touching each other.  Broil for 5-6 minutes and then flip to opposite side.  Broil for another 5 minutes, or until cooked through.

Serve with tzatziki sauce if desired.

Stewed Green Tomatoes

I've actually never used green tomatoes before until today!  I've had fried ones, which are delicious, but I wanted to make something a little healthier.  So I decided to just cook them up and see what happened...

The result: delicious!  This recipe is pretty basic, but it could definitely be jazzed up depending on your flavor mood.

I served them with chicken tenderloins and stewed eggplant. I probably should have gone for more variety in texture, but I guess I had a craving for stewed food.  Maybe it's the crisp Fall air.

What you need:

2 teaspoons oil or butter 
1 small onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, peeled and diced
~2 pounds green tomatoes, cut into 1/2-3/4 inch chunks
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
1-2 teaspoons cumin
pinch of brown sugar (I used Truvia brown sugar blend because I didn't have regular)
1/2 can green chiles

Heat the oil/butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat.  Add the onion and garlic and saute for 2 minutes.  Add the tomatoes, apple cider vinegar, brown sugar, and a pinch of salt.  Let cook, stirring frequently, for 20-30 minutes.  Add the green chiles and let cook for another 5-10 minutes.  The tomatoes chunks should mostly fall apart and be cooked through.  Season with cumin, salt, and pepper.  Enjoy!

Lamb Stew with Winter Squash, Ginger, and Spinach

Wow!  It's been a while since I posted.  After moving back to the States from Saba, I got so caught up on just being able to DRIVE places and see family that I completely forgot about doing any blogging.  Now we're moving around while Rob does his clinical rotations and I am spending a lot of time by myself again.

This recipe is for a lamb stew that uses boneless leg of lamb.  Leg of lamb is fairly expensive, but I add a lot of vegetables, which both ups the healthiness and stretches it a lot farther.  I cut the leg of lamb in half, trim the fat from both pieces, and plop one of them in the freezer for next time.   Just the half leg is enough for about 6 hearty servings.

This is a very easy method and can be used to inspire lots of variations.  I vary the vegetables pretty much every time I make it, but this version is what I made last.

I was going away for a few days and leaving Rob home all alone, so I made a pot of this to last him for a few dinners (and a perfect post driving all day meal for me when I got back home).

Not the most appealing looking, but I promise it's super tasty!

What you need:

Half of a boneless leg of lamb (~ 2-2.5 pounds)
1-2 teaspoons coconut oil or oil olive
1 two inch piece of ginger, peeled and chopped (I prefer roughly for this recipe)
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 large onion, chopped
3-4 celery stalks, sliced
1 red bell pepper, chopped roughly
1-2 jalapenos, sliced
1 medium kabocha squash, cut in half and seeds removed
1/2 cup red wine or beef broth
5 ounces spinach (fresh or frozen)
Cardamon, salt, and pepper to taste

Heat coconut oil in a large pot over high heat.  Sear the lamb on all sides, about 4-5 minutes per side. It should develop a nice brown color, almost to the point of looking black in spots.  Then add in the ginger, onion, celery, red bell pepper, and jalapenos.  Stir and saute this for a few minutes, allowing the vegetables to get a little color on them.  Then add in the wine or broth, scraping up any brown bits from the bottom of the pot.  Turn the heat down to medium-low, cover, and let simmer for about 3 hours.  The lamb should become very tender and fall apart.

While the lamb cooks, roast the squash:  Place cut side down on a baking sheet and roast in a 375 degree Fahrenheit oven until tender, about 30-45 minutes.  Once cooled, remove the skin.

Add the roasted squash and the spinach to the pot about 20 minutes before lamb is cooked to completion.  Add in cardamon, salt, and pepper to taste.  Let simmer for 20 minutes.

Serve garnished with Greek yogurt and siracha if desired.  This stuff gets better after it sits for a day, so feel free to make it a day ahead if you have those kind of planning skills!