Month: July 2012

Spicy Coconut Curry Stir Fry with Tropical Quinoa

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In the ever constant search for something new and exciting in the kitchen, I’ve decided to start making that which I crave from restaurants. The below recipe is very similar in flavor to P.F.Chang’s/Pei Wei’s Thai Coconut Curry sauce. I made this with a teaspoon of red pepper flakes and a teaspoon of chip oil and the heat is barely noticeable, just a hint, which is nice. And my heat tolerance is not very hot at all. Filled with veggies, lean protein, and quinoa instead of rice, this is a flavorful, healthy dinner that comes together relatively quickly and is super tasty! This makes enough for 4 people. You can also use shrimp instead of chicken for extra awesomeness.

Sauce

1 TBSP Sharwood’s Mild Curry Powder (That’s what I used because it was easily found in my local grocery store, but you can use whatever you like or can find.)

1 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp chili oil

2 tsp ginger

juice of one lime

1 cup coconut milk (You can use Lite if you’d prefer)

1 tsp black pepper

1 tsp salt

Mix the sauce ingredients in a bowl, whisk together, and let sit for flavors to marry. Set it aside.

Stir Fry

1 20oz. can pineapple chunks, drained (reserve some liquid for the quinoa if making as below). You want to slice up a pineapple fresh? Go nuts.

1 red bell pepper cut into 1 inch pieces

1 small or 1/2 large white onion, diced

1 1/2 cups snow peas

1 8oz. can baby corn, cut or whole

6 oz. boneless skinless chicken breast

2 TBSP coconut milk

3 cloves minced garlic

In a large sauté pan, caramelize or brown the pineapple chunks over medium high heat, about 10-12 minutes. Remove pineapple from pan and set aside in a bowl for later. Add a TBSP vegetable or olive oil in the same pan without cleaning the yummy residue left over from the pineapple. Add the chicken and brown, just cooking through, about 4 minutes per side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside. In the same pan add another TBSP of oil and toss in the onion and red bell pepper. After about 2 minutes, turn the heat down to medium.

Quinoa

1 1/2 cup uncooked quinoa

1 cup chicken broth/stock

1 cup + 2 TBSP coconut milk

2 TBSP pineapple juice (bottled or from the can of pineapple chunks)

Place the quinoa and liquids into a sauce pan. Heat to a boil, cover, and then turn the heat down to a simmer and for 10 minutes. Remove from heat and leave covered for an additional 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and try not to immediately start gorging yourself on this. It’s super tasty, slightly sweet, and a little nutty. The perfect compliment to the Stir Fry.

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Homemade Fruit Roll-Ups

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I like snacking. I like fruit. And I hate spending money.

At the tail end of the season (now) strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are hanging out in your grocery produce section at clearance level prices. With a dash of lemon, a pinch of sugar, and some dry heat, those peaked berries can reach their full potential.

And, yes, you can make this with you kids. I don’t have kids. It’s a recession, pay hasn’t nearly caught up with inflation, and there’s no way in hell I can afford spawn. So, I’m making fruit snacks for me and me alone.

Homemade Fruit Leather/Rollups

4 cups fruit, roughly chopped. I used a mix of berries, but you can also use apple and pear. If using apples and pear, be sure to peal them and omit the orange marmalade and vinegar.

3 TBSP water

1 TBSP balsamic vinegar (Optional, but it intensifies the flavor of the berries. If you leave this out use an extra TBSP of water or substitute with a TBSP of orange juice.)

2 – 3 TBSP sugar. I’m into flavor, not “sweet”. As the fruit dries their natural sugar is going to intensify, so add what you think is best, taste your fruit mixture prior to drying it, and add sugar as necessary.

1 1/2 TBSP orange marmalade

1 TBSP lemon juice

1 TBSP freshly chopped mint.

If you don’t have a dehydrator (I don’t) preheat your oven to 125-150. My oven starts at 200 with a “Warm” setting just beneath it. I set it to “Warm” and stuck a spoon in the door to keep the oven cracked. Your not cooking the fruit mixture; you just want to dry it out. In a sauce pan mix the fruit, water, and balsamic if using over medium high heat. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the berries soften significantly and thicken slightly. Turn off the heat. Add the marmalade and sugar, mixing until incorporated. Add the mint and blend the entire mixture in a food processor or with an immersion hand blender until mostly smooth. Cover a cookie sheet in wax paper or plastic wrap. I wanted a thicker fruit leather so I covered a large Pyrex dish in plastic wrap. If you want to roll them up for lunches, use a cookie sheet. You’ll be able to roll up the fruit leather with wax or parchment paper to snack on later and what kid wouldn’t think that it’s totally awesome to have a fruit rollup at lunch time that they themselves made?! Pour the fruit mixture into the cookie sheet or pan using a spatula to make sure it’s even. Your mixture should be 1/4-1/2 inches thick.

Place on the top shelf of your oven and forget about it. It’s going to have to dry out for at least 6 hours, but it will probably take closer to 8-12 hours. You’ll know when it’s done because the top won’t be sticky. Let cool and the cut (it was easier with scissors than with a knife) into the size you’d like you snacks to be. The edges may be a little crispy; just cut those off and sprinkle over a salad later. You can roll them up with wax paper to snack on throughout the week. Next time I make these I’m going to substitute the water with a red wine. If anyone does this, let me know how it turns out.

Spicy Beer Poached Pulled Chicken Tacos & Crispy Baked Veggies!

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We’ll start with dinner’s side, crispy un-fried “fries”.

I am not a huge fan of potato chips. I’m really not, can’t remember the last time I bought a bag, and will take a scoop of dressing-free coleslaw over them any day (I don’t like creamy coleslaw, either). I do occasionally like fries, though, especially sweet potato fries. Actually frying the perfect fries, though, is a multi-step process and a messy pain in the ass. Oh, and they’re SUPER unhealthy. Luckily, veggies can be easily manipulated to become something else.

Baked Veggie Fries

Carrots, zucchini, parsnips cut into wedged sticks. Figure 1-2 vegetables per person.

2 TBSP olive oil

2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

2 tsp garlic powder

2 tsp red pepper flakes, optional

sprinkling of dried parsly

I took carrots, zucchini, and parsnips, but you can seriously do this with any fruit or veg. Halved Roma tomatoes would be bad ass done the same way. But I was searching for a fried sweet potato alternative. I cut the root veggies and the zucchini into somewhat evenly sized wedged sticks, equaling what was probably 4-5 cups of “fries”. It’s hard to measure sticks in bowl form. I used 1 zucchini, 2 large carrots, and 1 parsnip, and it was more than enough for 3 people.

Preheat the oven to 450 and spray a cookie sheet with Pam (or whatever cooking spray ya got). Toss the “fries” in olive oil and then toss them in the panko. The panko isn’t meant to completely coat the veggies; it’s just meant to make up for a little bit of the crunch missed from deep fried anything. Spread the sticks out on the cookie sheet and sprinkle evenly with salt, pepper, garlic powder, and red pepper flakes if going for spicy fries. Roast at 450 for 20-25 minutes. The baked carrots are exactly like fried sweet potato. You know how people say Coke Zero tastes just like regular Coke, when, in fact, it tastes gross, plasticy, diety? Well, these actually taste JUST like sweet potato fries! You’ll be searching for ranch or honey mustard to dip them into. And they’re baked and delicious and a little crispy, too. I’m not going to say they’re “healthy” because I’m at a point where I feel like just eating at all is unhealthy (fat complex, leave it be), but they are a great alternative when you’re craving something that is truly not great for your system.

Entree Time…

The chicken was a no-brainer dinner – I wanted flavorful, moist chicken tacos! Poaching is a great way to keep chicken breast tender and juicy, but visually it ain’t pretty. Everything looks delicious when it’s in a taco, though! So, I went for it, and it’s something I’m going to add to my usual weeknight dinner line up. This recipe is more than enough for two people.

Spicy Beer Poached Chicken Tacos

6 oz. boneless chicken breast or tenderloins

1 bottle beer (I used a brown ale)

2 TBSP Franks Hot Wing Sauce

3 large garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp chili oil or red pepper flakes, optional

1 tsp kosher salt

2 TBSP brown sugar

1/4 cup orange or grapefruit juice

Dump everything, but the brown sugar and OJ into a saucepan together, stir, and bring to a simmer. You want the chicken to be mostly covered with liquid, so use a smaller sauce pan with tall sides. Once simmering, poach the chicken for about 10-15 minutes, or until cooked through. Remove the chicken breast with a slotted spoon and let rest five minutes. While the chicken is resting, add the brown sugar and orange juice to the poaching liquid in the sauce pan and bring to a boil, reducing the liquid by 1/3 to 1/2. You can add the orange juice right at the beginning, but adding it at the end and then reducing keeps its flavor bright. “Pull” the chicken apart using 2 forks, go with the grain, making it a very easy process. Once the liquid has reduced, turn off the heat and return the now pulled chicken to the sauce. Let the chicken absorb the liquid for about 5 minutes or so before making into tacos.

I topped my tacos with a little spring mix, diced tomatoes and onion, freshly cracked black pepper, and a squeeze of lime. A little sour cream  goes perfect to quell the sweet heat as well. Served with the veggie fries this was a filling dinner on the lighter side of the usual American taco meal!

Pop It Up Now: The Hobbit, Ace Power, & So Much More

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* First of all: Horse Riding Fitness ACE POOOOOOOOOOWER!!!!!

Okay. I feel better now. Super fit…or at least super something.

* Netflix added the next season of Breaking Bad to Watch Instantly this past weekend. Naturally, my marriage has been put on the back burner until all episodes can be watched.

* Wired interviewed Neil Gaiman and his wife, Amanda Palmer. It’s all fine and good and funny and interesting. Whatever. All I really got out of it was that I am not Neil Gaiman’s wife, and I should be. At least I’ve believed I should be since the age of 13. [Wired]

* If you haven’t heard by now, you should know: There’s a guy in the hills of Utah dressing and behaving as a goat. Some are speculating that he’s a hunter. I am speculating he’s a man dressed as a goat with 99 problems and hunting ain’t one of them. [WebProNews]

* Every time you start to think you’re cool, just remind yourself that you’re not Patrick Stewart. You are not Patrick Stewart, and you never will be. You’ve never had the accolades he’s earned from doing Shakespeare while simultaneously doing voices for Seth McFarlaine and being the Captain of the Enterprise. And you won’t run the olympic torch across London while looking super awesome doing it. [Blastr]

* And, finally, Peter Jackson debuted the newest Hobbit journal at Comic Con. Whoot!

Whale of a Fear

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I’m horrible to watch Antiques Roadshow with. I find myself shouting at the screen a la Indian Jones, “That belongs in a museum!”

And this really is the core of my being: I am excited by old things, find them amazing, fascinating, want them to be accessible to all, and want to get others excited about these objects as well. To learn is to better one’s self and I’d love to write and educate, to spread enthusiasm for something in my daily career.

There are 2 things I want to do with my life. To the average person, they’re very mundane. But to me, however, they’re the equivalent of becoming a rock star.

I want to:

1. Write lesson plans in accordance to state regulations for historical societies and museums in order to entice local schools to take field trips to such establishments.

Or

2. Work and write for Cook’s Country/America’s Test Kitchen, working as an Ethno-Foodologist or, even better, a Food Archeologist.

When I was in junior high and high school I would skip class about once a month or so. None of my friends would ever want to join me and my parents were always very supportive of these escapades. You’d think I had egghead friends and that’s why they wouldn’t skip, or that I had hippy dippy parents that would allow me to be so flagrant about my education, but neither was the case. Well, my mom could kinda be hippy dippy, but that’s a different story. When I decided to skip school I would get a ride to the train station and take Metro North to Grand Central Station. Exciting, right? Who wouldn’t want to skip school to hang out in The City all day?! I would then walk up Park Ave. to The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Or I would head west across the park to the American Museum of Natural History (or what’s know as the Museum of Mother Fucking Awesomeness by its fans) and I would spend hours and hours reading in silence, smiling over beauty…with the periodic stop off at the Central Park Zoo to finish the trip. I did this over and over and over again.  In high school I was fairly popular, I was certainly no prude, and the most epic parties were normally hosted by my brother or I. But when it came to what I really wanted, it was historical solitude. I would have shared that time with others, allowing them to tag along, but who cared for those things but me?

Photo Credit Jessica Hische

I’m extremely fortunate in the sense that I’ve been to the museums of NYC so frequently that I can’t even count the days spent in their ancient and loving embrace. Dozens of times? Definitely. Hundreds? Very possible. I’ve moved away from that area a couple of times since graduating high school and being unable to take advantage of those museums is always the number one issue that I have when living more than a train ride away. I guess I miss my family, too, but I really  miss those museums. In fact, when I visit my family, a jaunt to a museum in NYC is always one of the first afternoons planned. I am not so ego maniacal to ever think I could work at the Museum of Natural History or the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In order to do something like that I would have had to make all the right moves, and absolutely no mistakes, in the professional decisions of my life. The employees and curators of those establishments are my heros, my Steven Tylers and Brad Pitts. Unfortunately, it seems I’ve done the opposite of not making professional blunders thus far in my life. I’ve created quite the resume and educational experience with not one, but two degrees under my belt. They’re just as far from the museum and/or food path as humanly possible. Awesome.

The first time in memory of going to a museum, I was about three years old and with my parents and brother. We headed out to the Museum of Natural History. My brother and I never really got along very well, and on trips like this we were more simply in the same place at the same time rather than actually experiencing something together. We walked passed the dinosaur skeleton in the entry hall and made our way around the mammoths and the naked, hairy neanderthals with the droopy boobs. This was prior to the Rose Center, otherwise we would have probably made a bee line for the giant glass box of Space. The favorite at this time, however, was the Great Hall. The Great Hall is massive, primarily so it can fit the life-sized model of a blue whale. It’s romantically lit, and by that I mean, that it’s somewhat dark, like the depths of the ocean. It consists of two levels with marine life exhibits lining the walls and a large open area in the center, from which one can admire the whale.

Photo credit Linden78. That bitch’ll crush yo’ ass.

I say “admire”.

There are two things I remember from this day, one of my earliest trips to the AMNH:

1. Being horrified in the Great Hall by this massive whale that was going to crush and/or eat me at any moment while…2. George Michael’s Careless Whisper played over the loud speaker. I mean, yeah, technically it was a Wham! song, but, c’mon, it was all George Michael and that damned whale. My mother said she heard “teeny, tiny pounding feet” and turned to see me flying toward her staring over my shoulder at the whale, horrified. And what self respecting toddler wouldn’t be? Even at that young age I knew anything from above could crush you below, both literally and figuratively.

It’s a hazy memory, but it’s very real, and it didn’t just end with that day.

I then proceded to carry around a fear of being in an ocean for years. Playing in the surf = good. Playing far enough out where water could go over your head and therefore allow you to be crushed from above by a whale = bad. It wasn’t until I was in my twenties that I could picture myself getting out of a boat and into open waters. I wasn’t afraid of whales, so much as being in water with them. I grew up along the north eastern seaboard, so going whale watching was a common activity. I respected their beauty and their power. And their ability to crush me in real life in the ocean or as a giant model in a museum.

Soul inhibited experience or no, I knew to differentiate my fear from what actually caused it and not where the experience occurred. Loosely translated: I didn’t blame the museum for this silly fear that followed me around for a couple of decades.

And to this day I want to be apart of some historical and educational organization that learns from and loves the past, whale or no.

Wood Grain

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I want to be standing on the end of a dock on a still lake,

A dock I watched my dog run off of only to sink like a stone.

I want to stand there, toes on the edge,

And dive into crystal clear solitude.

But when I look over my shoulder,

There are a hundred people and responsibilities personified,

Decisions I’ve made and questioned turned into demanding strangers,

Charging up to me,

Foaming at the mouth.

And there I am frozen.

Even my imagination is broken.

Photo Credit Gerry Church. Willow Lake, Prescott, AZ

Watermelon & Feta Summer Salad

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Kick cole slaw to the curb with the healthy, tasty, and refreshing summer salad. It’s also super easy and can come together in minutes.

Vegetables were very important in my family when I was a child and, as a result, vegetables are very important in my life as an adult. No meal is complete without them, which means you have to be pretty creative to keep from getting into a veggie rut. There were a number of salads in my youth that I continue to make today. While this one wasn’t prevalent in the past, it is a mainstay during the summers now.

Watermelon & Feta Summer Salad

4-5 cups watermelon, cut or broken into rough 1 1/2 inch pieces

1/3 cup feta cheese

1/2 cup arugula, optional

1 1/2 TBSP fresh mint leaves, chiffoned.

1 TBSP olive oil

1/2 TBSP balsamic vinegar

1 TBSP champagne vinegar (You can use all Balsamic if you prefer)

1 tsp honey

Fresh cracked black pepper

I generally buy those freaky, genetically modified “personal sized” watermelons and crack it, like a giant egg, on the edge of my counter. This allows me to let the watermelon drain a little bit before dicing. After about an hour of draining, I broke and cut the watermelon into 1-2 inch chunks. You can use a melon baller, too. I dumped the watermelon and above ingredients into a bowl and gentle tossed. The watermelon will absorb the vinegar nicely, so generally once everything is mixed, I will let the salad sit for about 10 minutes and then move the mixture to a strainer over a bowl, just to help get rid of extra water. It only needs to sit in the strainer a couple of minutes.

If I’m having this as a brunch or mid-day thing, or if feeding it to picky eaters, I will sometimes omit the arugula. It’s just so delicious, that slightly bitter pepperiness with the sweet refreshing nature of the watermelon, honey, and mint. Not to mention the salty tang of the Feta! Oh, it comes together ever so nicely!

Just as beautiful to eat with your eyes as with your mouth!

Skip the arugula and add a croissant for brunch.