Tag Archive: carrot


Spaghetti with ShrimpIt’s finally Spring, at least, I think. With the sudden rush of sunshine and warm weather, I find myself feeling like something fresh and flavorful. Spring is my favorite season by far and I always almost forget how wonderful it is – every year, until it happens again 🙂 This season is proving to be warmer by the day, and perhaps even more delightful is the fact that a lot of fruit and veggies seem to be in season suddenly as well. Ahh Spring, how did I forget you? And how I remember you now that you’re actually here.

I find people underrating seafood these days, so it’s only fitting this post involve the fresh, salty cuisine. Other than being devastatingly delicious, shrimp tend to pack enough flavor that you don’t need a huge amount. I found this recipe in a “quick & easy”-themed Fine Cooking magazine. Quick? Shrimp cooks in like 3 minutes, so check. Easy? Definitely. Other than some chopping at the beginning and a lot of stirring in between, this was easy enough. I did up the veggie content and mix a few things up recipe-wise, but here’s my version. The best part? The cream sauce. The recipe was titled ‘shrimp & pasta with a “light” curry cream sauce’ so I took this to mean light in content, but rich in taste; I accomplished this by quadrupling the amount of curry I added (I’m pretty sure moCreamst people do this too…)

Okay, I’ll admit it. I have a problem. My problem is with cream. Seriously, WHY did we make the stuff? Oh yeah because it’s amazing, because it takes things like sauce, dip, dessert, or a cup of iced coffee and makes it simply spectacular, I’d go so far as to say divine. I love to hate cream because it keeps adding to the comfortable layer already around my waist 😉 but thank god they make low-fat versions of the sinful stuff and sell it in little itty bitty containers, otherwise I might be a little rounder about now. My secret ingredient? That’s right, the cream. No lie. Because what IS sauce without it? I’ll tell you: it’s runny , it’s grim, it’s lacking in texture and depth – but WITH cream? Ahh, then we’ve hit culinary nirvana, again. Remember that a little goes a long way and for this sauce, it’s more than enough.

Pasta + veggies = boring … Pasta + veggies + shrimp? Mmm … pasta + veggies + shrimp … + cream sauce? Now we’re talking 😀

Spiced Shrimp with Soy Beans, Basil, and Mushrooms in a Light Curry Cream Sauce

Ingredients

(for pasta)

1 package spaghetti or linguinicurry-powder

1 package frozen & shelled edamame (soybeans), defrosted

1 package mushrooms (any), stemmed & sliced

1 package frozen mixed veggies (like peppers, or a wok mix with corn, carrots, snap peas, etc.)

4 garlic cloves, sliced

1 package large shrimp, peeled & deveinedChiffonade-Basil

2 Tbs. sesame seeds

1 Tbs. chili flakes

olive oil

coarse sea salt

(for sauce)

1/3 cup chicken broth

1/2 cup dry vermouth (or white wine)

1 cup creamEdamame

4 Tbs. yellow curry powder (sub any other curry powder)

1 lime

cooking oil

sea salt & chili flakes

fresh Basil leaves for serving, chiffonade

(1) Fill a large pot with water. Add a pinch of salt and a spoonful of olive oil. Cover and set over medium-high heat until at a rolling boil. (2) In a large saute pan or skillet, heat 2 Tbs. cooking oil over medium-high heat. When hot (and oil is shimmering), add the garlic and mushrooms, stirring occasionally until browned, about 8 minutes. (3) In a medium bowl, season shrimp with the sesame seeds, sea salt, and chili flakes. (4) Add the frozen veggie mix and endamame to the skillet and cook another 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon, push the veggie ingredients to the side of the skillet and add shrimp and cook, stirring often until semi-pink but not completely cooked through (3 minutes max). (5) Add broth and vermouth, lowering the heat to maintain a simmer and, stirring occasionally, let the liquid reduce by half. (6) Once the large pot of water is boiling, add pasta and cook according to package instructions until al dente. Drain and return to the pot. Juice the lime over the pasta and stir until moistened. Cover to keep warm and set aside (7) Add the curry powder and cream to the skillet, mixing well, and let the mixture bubble another 2-3 minutes, until sauce is thickened. (8) Pour curry sauce with shrimp and veggies over thShrimpe pasta and stir to combine. Season to taste with sea salt and chili flakes. Serve steamin’ in bowl garnished with a generous pile of fresh Basil leaves.

Serves 4

Well, it looks so time-consuming here when I spell it out step-by-step, but just re-thinking making this recipe gives me this strange desire to cook similar things… involving seafood + cream… hmm like seared scallops with creamy pea puree, or something like that (!)

My question: What is your favorite dish with cream in it?

Seriously, I want to know.

Yes, ice cream counts.

5.6.2014

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Duck Fried Rice (!?)

Duck fried rice. Yes, I made it up. I’m sure it exists but still – tada! It sounds more glamorous than it actually ischopsticks, but duck legs are relatively inexpensive here, especially when bought frozen (and somehow always on sale…) This was a sudden idea I had, finding myself with some leftover “Japanese dipping sauce” from a steak recipe that I really had to use for something other than marinating.

This recipe is 100% mine (I am original every once in a while 😉 ) and it used different ingredients from our kitchen, but the emphasis is on the easy. Fried rice cooks up quickly in a wok or skillet and thank god for parboiled rice. Sometimes, it’s the little things that make dinner come together that much faster. I had the duck legs already cooked but I included steps for roasting duck legs in the recipe below just to make things even easier (and for next time!)Roast-Duck

My secret ingredient is the duck, er, the eggs, okay maybe both. Sometimes I think the best part of fried rice is the eggs because it’s just like scrambled eggs, in rice. It’s ingenious. Duck legs definitely elevate the dish because duck is flavorful enough that you don’t need a lot and it goes great with the salty soy, savory flavors already in fried rice. I’ll admit, if I could go back and do it again (which I will…) I would fry my rice a little bit more, “brown” it better, but no regrets as far as the results.

Have a wok in your kitchen? Use it! This dish is the perfect excuse and fried rice can be made with any number of veggies and different meats (or minus the meat altogether). There’s something special about chicken fried rice, and now? Duck fried rice! Could it get any better?!

Duck Fried Rice with Shitake Mushrooms and Garlicky Onions

Ingredientscooking-asian-wok

2 cups rice (parboiled, if possible)

4 onions, coarsely chopped

6 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

2 carrots, thinly sliced

1 bag frozen vegetables of your choice (like bean threads, peas, or a wok mix)

1/2 cup dried shitake mushroomsFried-Rice

2 duck legs, trimmed

4 eggs

1/2 cup milk

3 Tbs. soy sauce

1/3 cup beer (or wine)

1 Tbs. fish sauce

1 Tbs. vinegar

salt & cracked pepper

vegetable or roasted sesame oil

(1) Preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (about 370 degrees Fahrenheit). Wash the duck legs and pat dry, season with salt & cracked pepper. Line an oven dish with foil and arrange the duck legs snugly in it. (2) When the oven is preheated, put duck legs on the middle rack and roast for 20 minutes. Turn the oven down to 170 Celsius (about 340 Fahrenheit) for 30 minutes. Carefully drain off any fat that collects in the bottom of the oven pan. Turn the oven up to 200 Celsius (390 Fahrenheit) for a final 10 minutes to crisp the skin. (3) Remove the duck from the oven and transfer to a plate, let them cool, covered in foil 10 – 15 minutes. Separate cooked duck meat from the bones, keeping the skin, and coarsely chop pieces on a cutting board, taking care to remove any bones or fibers. Set aside (duck can be cooked up to 3 days ahead and stored until ready). (4) Put dried shitake mushrooms in a bowl and add boiling water, cover, and let soak until soft 20 -25 minutes. Remove stems and cut shitakes into thin slices. (5) Cook the rice according to package instructions and set aside too, covered so it won’t dry out. Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a large wok (or skillet) over medium-high heat. When hot, add the carrots, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender and translucent, 10-12 minutes. (6) In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs, shitake mushrooms, and milk with some cracked pepper, set aside. (7) Add frozen veggies to the wok and, stirring often, cook another 5 – 7 minutes. (8) Next add the rice, duck meat, fish sauce, beer, and vinegar. Stir to combine and cook until liquid has cooked off, 5 minutes max. (9) Using a wooden spoon or spatula, push the veggie mixture to the side of the wok and pour the egg mixture on the bottom. Let it cook until browned and slightly sticking, another 4 – 5 minutes. Break up the eggs into chunks before stirring in with the rest of the veggies. (10) Remove the wok from the heat and stir in soy sauce, seasoning with salt & pepper. Serve immediately (leftovers can be reheated at 150 degrees Celsius for 7 minutes in the oven 🙂 ).

Serves 4

My question: What is your favducorite ingredient to find in Asian dishes?

Mine is shitakes, no soy sauce, no bean sprouts, no…

Well, I kind of wish the fried rice had lasted longer! But I always end up saying that, don’t I? All the more excuse to try again. There’s something supremely wonderful about the salty, spicy flavors in Asian food. Anyways, the next challenge? How to make more comfort food (like fried rice) in less time because shopping and doing the dishes is about all I have the energy for these days 😉

3.20.2014

Rise of the Nachos

chips_paintingI can’t believe it’s 2014 – already! I have no excuse for not having a recent post, other than my Master’s thesis being due very soon. Just imagine all the celebratory food cooking and related cacophony of posts I could do after THAT 😀 For now, I wanted to post this simple & sweet blurb on nachos. Ahh, cheese. Where would food be without you? One of my favorite foods is cheese. One of my other favorites? Salsa. I am also a carnivore by nature and can’t help but like eating meat from time to time too. Where do these three meet? Cue in – nachos. This undervalued dish isn’t necessarily unhealthy, just watch the cheese! Nachos are on the rise and if you’ve a bad or nonplussed experience of the dish before, it’s time to make new memories, I mean nachos. We are lucky to be in the era of limitless culinary diversity and the sheer amount of different things you can put on cheesy nachos is kind of mind-boggling.

From what I remember of my restaurant experience with nachos, it’s a little slimy, a little soggy, and kind of anticlimactic. But I do also remember from my bar-tending days that nachos was the one dish that people would NEVER finish. Why? Because there’s too much if it! Granted, there’s nothing better when you’re really hungry than a steaming pile of chips & cheese, but it’s important to transcend the baseline comfort elements in this recipe to reach something better. The 3 recipes or versions I have here I read in last year’s Cooking Light. So easy! So simple! So tasty! I should write ads for this magazine 😉

When it comes to nachos, here’s 3 tips to remember: 1. It’s quality, not quantity. Gourmet ingredients cheese_nachosgive you some deluxe nachos and no matter what, you will be full by the time you’re done (and there will be some left). Spread a baking sheet onto the oven pan and one layer of chips, no need to make mountains – I know tortilla chips are cheap but please refrain, for the sake of your stomach 2. Don’t skimp on the cheese. Broiled chips aren’t very tasty by themselves, but add the right amount of cheese and viola, irresistible goodness. The best part? Broiling this dish takes 1-2 minutes MAX. You put it in and you’re eating moments later, it’s like magic 🙂 3. Be creative. Try making what you’d consider you’re “dream nachos.” Then m???????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????????ake a Greek version, a Caribbean version, and/or good ol’ Tex-Mex. Mix it up and have all-veggie nachos or use some crazy ingredients like toasted sesame seeds or capers.. No need to restrain yourself, this dish is messy and sloppy and will turn out del-ish once covered in warm, melted cheese. Have fun, because you have TIME for that when making dinner only takes 15 minutes!

My star ingredient? Greek yogurt. Greek what?! You don’t need sour cream or creme fraiche, they’re merely nice condiments that should be used in moderation. But, you get some low-fat Greek yogurt and put a big dollop in the center of your nachos? It’s practically the same thing, only better (for your body, I mean). I love sour cream as much as the next American 😉 but hey, there are alternatives to watch the calorie count and Greek yogurt is just as yummy. Below are 3 versions of simple nacho recipes you can make, enjoy and WARNING: you will need napkins 😀

Nachos – 3 Ways

(1) Pork & Bean Nachos with Tomatoes, Onions, and Fresh Herbs

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsalted

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded cheddar cheese

1 yellow onion, thinly slicednacho-combos

3 tomatoes, chopped

1 can black or red kidney beans, drained & rinsed

1 pork tenderloin, trimmed

1 bunch fresh cilantro, minced

1 bunch fresh basil (or mint)

1/2 bunch fresh parsley, minced

4-5 pickled or preserved jalapenos, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

baking paper

vegetable oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Season the pork tenderloin generously with salt and pepper. Heat 1 Tbs. oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, brown the tenderloin on all sides, turning every 4 minutes or so and cook until tenderloin is firm, about 15 minutes total. Remove from heat, cover with foil, and let sit 10 minutes. When cool, slice the cooked pork into chunks and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in an even (or not so even layer) across the baking sheet and top with meat and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add beans, tomatoes, and onion. Top with minced herbs, pickled jalapenos, and a dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(2) Spicy Shrimp Nachos with Salsa, fresh Jalapenos, and Avocado

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedfresh-salsa

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded mozzarella cheese

1 bag (around 1/2 kg) frozen small shrimp, peeled & de-veined

1 jalapeno, seeded & sliced

3 Tbs. coconut flakes

4 Tbs. seafood seasoning or market spice

2 ripe avocados, slicednachos_02

1 bunch fresh Cilantro, minced

1 cup salsa of your choice or pico de gallo, for serving

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for serving

vegetable oil

baking paper

(1) Defrost shrimp, drain, and rinse thoroughly. Place in a bowl with seafood seasoning and 1 Tbs. oil and stir until well-coated. Heat another Tablespoon of oil in a saute pan over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the shrimp and cook, 1 -2 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and can be easily cut in half with a fork. Put cooked shrimp in a bowl and set aside. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips and coconut flakes in a layer across the baking sheet and top with shrimp and cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from the oven and add spoonfuls of salsa, slices of avocado, and jalapenos. Top with minced cilantro and a big dollop of Greek yogurt. Serve immediately.

Serves 4

(3) BBQ Chicken Nachos with Green Onions, Jack Cheese, and Honey-Mustard Coleslaw

Ingredients

1 bag of tortilla chips, unsaltedbbq-chix

1 bag (or 2 cups) of shredded Jack cheese

2 cups of cooked barbecued chicken, shredded or cubed

1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

1/2 cup low fat Greek yogurt, for servingColeslaw

(for slaw🙂

2 Tbs. honey

1/4 cup Greek yogurt

2 Tbs. mustard

1 tsp. paprika

sea salt & cracked pepper

1/2 head of red cabbage, thinly sliced

1 head of fennel, thinly sliced

2 carrots, peeled & grated

3 Tbs. fresh dill fronds

baking paper

(1) To make slaw, put honey, paprika, 1/4 cup Greek yogurt, and mustard in a jar or container with a tight-fitting lid. Seal the container and shake until ingredients have combined. Season dressing to taste with salt & pepper and chill at least 20 minutes for flavors to meld. Mix thinly sliced cabbage, fennel, and carrots in a large bowl and add dressing. Stir until combined and chill slaw until ready. (2) Spread a piece of baking paper across the bottom of a large oven pan. Preheat your broiler. Spread tortilla chips in a layer across the baking sheet and topnachos_painting with barbecued chicken pieces and Jack cheese. (3) When the broiler is preheated, put the oven pan in and broil just until cheese is melted, 1 – 2 minutes. Remove from oven and add green onions and spoonfuls of coleslaw. Top with a big dollop of Greek yogurt and serve immediately.

Serves 4

My question: what are the craziest (as in crazy delicious) things you can think of to put on nachos?

Come on, I’d love to hear what that could be – I want to make MORE of this cheesy deliciousness and I need some fresh ideas…

1.31.2014

Mussels 4 Ways

musselsAhh, mussels. It’s hard to describe precisely why I like these crusty, salty bivalves. Once in a while I get a little piece of shell as I’m eating, and I think to myself: why do I do this? Simply speaking: mussels are delicious. Labor-intensive, yes. Delicate and high maintenance, a little. Dirty and fishy, often enough. So what’s the big deal? Again, mussels are delicious – and good for you to boot. Plus, making mussels (avec le bouillon) is an art form that I have a lot of respect for – the art of broth-making.

There’s something salivating about a big pot of mussels on the table, filled with dark shells submerged in a broth that smells something of butter and wine. Furthermore, mussels are one of those magical foods that become heavenly when cooked with/in alcohol. The catch? You have to take care when making them, or at least pay some attention. I used to buy the poor creatures alive, keep them padded with damp paper towels in my fridge for 24 hours while I got my act together to go ahead and steam them for dinner. A quarter of the little guys would die as I was trying to de-beard them between the sink and the hot stove. I’ll agree, that’s way to much work… My solution? The seafood section at the grocery store is huge, have you checked it out? There’s all sorts of stuff there, including — mussels, in the shell, beautiful and ready to go. I buy a huge, flash-frozen batch for around $9.00 and keep it in the freezer until I’m ready. The best part? No defrosting, you get to concentrate on the broth and as soon as that’s ready you crank up the heat, add frozen mussels, and five minutes later (less, really) you’re ready to dig in.

strained-mussels-judy-mercer

Mussels seem like a poor man’s food but when you’re eating the poached and pinkened sea creatures between pieces of a baguette and some roasted garlic, it’s close to heaven 😉 My advice is to make mussels in any form — and experiment a little with your favorite seafood spices and sauces. Get the mussels frozen and save them in your freezer for a rainy day. I’ve been playing around with mussel recipes and these particular 4 I made up from looking over the various versions in existence (and my own taste and favorite ingredients). Belonions1ow are what I think are the best ways to serve these sweet & salty little things. As always, when making a big pot of mussels, remember to serve them in bowls with big spoons; and other than the mussels + steaming broth, all you really need is a lot of bread and, oh yeah, napkins.

My star ingredient? The onion family. In every one of these mussel recipes, one of the onion family is used; and thank god it’s a big family. Cooking the onions/garlic is how this dish begins and the finished product would not taste the same without this aromatic group of ingredients. The super hero ingredient? Vegetable bullion allows you to make broth with some hot water in seconds, and it can sit in your spice drawer until needed for months. Just be aware it packs a salty taste. But broth is what makes mussels such a sensational dish, so be sure NOT to water down the both any more than is needed, or maybe just water it down with wine instead 😀

Mussels – 4 Ways (!)

(1) American – Beer Mussels with Bacon, Red Beans, Roasted Garlic, & Fresh Thyme

2 lbs. frozen musselsbeer_mussels

Broth: 1 bottle (light) beer, 5 pieces of bacon, 5 shallots (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can kidney beans (drained & rinsed),

Season with: fresh Thyme (minced)

Serve with: whole wheat baguette (sliced), 4 heads of garlic (roasted), & aged Parmesan (shredded)

(1) To roast garlic: preheat the oven to 190 degrees Celsius (375 Fahrenheit). Cut the top off 4 heads of garlic with a serrated knife. Season lightly with oil, salt, & pepper and wrap OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtightly in foil. Bake for 60-65 minutes until cloves are golden and sweet. Let cool and remove from foil before serving. (2) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add shallots and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (3) Add bacon sliced and cook until fat had rendered and the pieces have browned slightly, 4-5 minutes more. Remove bacon from pot and chop (or chop in the pot with a pair of scissors). (4) Return bacon to the pot. Add broth, beans, and a Tablespoon of fresh Thyme. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and beer. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and fresh Thyme. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by bread, roasted garlic, & cheese.

Serves 4

(2) Asian – Spicy Mussels with Saki, Thai Chilies, Mushrooms, & Sesame Seeds

2 lbs. frozen musselsmussels_asian

Broth: 1 cup saki, 1 bunch green onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 cups mushrooms (sliced), 1 small can bamboo shoots (drained & rinsed), 1 small can water chestnuts (drained, rinsed, & sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 2 Thai chilies (sliced), 1 piece fresh ginger (peeled & sliced), 1/2 Tbs. soy sauce.

Season with: sesame seeds (toasted) & chili flakes

Serve with: garlic bread or steamed rice

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add green onions and cook about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. (2) Add mushrooms and 1/2 Tbs. sesame seeds, stirring occasionally until slightly browned.  (3) Add ginger, bamboo shoots, chili-flakesand Thai chilies, stirring often until fragrant, another 5-6 minutes. (4) Add the broth, soy sauce, and water chestnuts. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and saki. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, chili flakes, and sesame seeds. Serve immediately in bowls accompanied by rice and/or bread.

Serves 4

(3) French – Provencal Mussels with White Wine, White Beans, Dill, & Fresh Tomatoes

2 lbs. frozen musselsMUSSELS-PROVENCAL

Broth: 1 cup white wine, 2 red onions (sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 tomatoes (chopped), 1 can white beans (drained & rinsed), 1 celery stalk (sliced), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1 can artichoke hearts (drained, rinsed & chopped), 1 Tbs. dried Dill, 2 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: sea salt, cracked pepper, & lemon juice

Serve with: buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurtwhite_beans

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add red onions, celery, and garlic. Cook about 3-4 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)  Add tomato, dried dill, and artichoke hearts, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth, and white beans. Bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and white wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered bread & dollops of Greek yogurt 🙂

Serves 4

(4) Indian – Curry Mussels with Chickpeas, Red Wine, Leeks, & Cashews

2 lbs. frozen musselsCurry-Mussels

Broth: 1 cup red wine (sub Indian beer), 1 bunch leeks (washed & sliced), 3 Tbs. butter, 2 celery stalks (chopped), 2 carrots (peeled & chopped), 3 Tbs. curry powder (any), 1 can chickpeas (drained & rinsed), 3 cups vegetable broth, 1/2 cup cashews (salted), 1/2 cup milk (or cream), 3 garlic cloves (sliced).

Season with: roasted paprika & fresh cilantro (minced)

Serve with: garlic naan & seared veggies

(1) Melt butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. When hot, add leeks, celery, carrot, OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand garlic. Cook about 10-12 minutes until softened, stirring occasionally. (2)  Add cashews, curry powder, and chickpeas, stirring often until fragrant, another 5 minutes. (4) Add the broth and bring the mixture to a boil and then lower the heat; simmer, covered until reduced by 1/3, 10-15 minutes. (5) Return heat to high and add frozen mussels and red wine. Cook covered, stirring occasionally until mussels are pink and fragrant, 5 -6 minutes. (6) Season the broth to taste with milk (adding more if needed), salt, roasted paprika, and fresh cilantro. Serve immediately accompanied with buttered naan or seared veggies of your choice.

Serves 4

painting_musselMy “trick,” if you will, is that I only add the wine/saki/beer to the pot of broth when I throw the mussels in, that way the little critters basically poach in alcohol, versus it just burning off in all the boiling… Steaming hot and wreaking of herbs and butter, it’s hard not to get a little messy devouring dishes like these 😛

My question: what is your all-time favorite seafood dish to eat ? – something you wouldn’t make for yourself, but might treat yourself to? Mine would still have to be lobster tail, mmm… 🙂

9.4.13

The Best of the Season

Now that we’re in the full swing of Summer, there’s plenty of tasty things in season – apples, apricots, avocados, basil, bell peppers, berries, melon, carrots, cherries, chilies, cilantro, eggplant, fennel, figs, grapes, garlic, green beans, green onions, lettuce, limes – veggies that are relatively inexpensive and arriving at the local markets in abundance. The last two weeks I’ve had my best friend here from the U.S. I cooked up a storm, really couldn’t help myself and we probably ate 90% of what’s on that in-season list. Granted we drank a lot of Sangria too, so I think it’s all a balance 🙂

In this post I’ve sketched out a complete day’s menu. I tried to make it a colorful, tasty spread with a good mix of both rich and fresh, spicy and sweet flavors. The menu is divided into the day’s meals: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert. If I had to categorize it, I’d call the breakfast Danish, the lunch Hawaiian, and the dinner just plain European…I’d be lying if I said the dessert wasn’t Italian 😀

Probably one of this menu’s more bombastic contributions, the breakfast pâté I found in last month’s Bon Appétit. I just happened to have frozen pâté in my freezer, made in the last month of my pregnancy. A container of frozen pâté is one of the best things I’ve ‘lost’ and found again in my freezer. The steak, carrot, and chicken salad recipes I read in Cooking Light a couple years ago (and pineapple dressing for salad – genius!) The dessert is from Cucina La Italiana, still one of my favorite cooking magazines 😀 (nope..no endorsement yet, but a girl can dream).

On a random side note, I have switched from using olive oil to sunflower oil in all of my recipes that involve cooking at high temperatures. I recently read in an email sent from a very helpful friend of mine that when you cook certain oils (most oils, actually) to a certain high temperature, they burn and consequently go rancid. Rancid oils are carcinogenic, which are bad no matter what form they come in. So – as delicious as olive oil is – I guess it’s best to be served with dishes that aren’t cooked. Perhaps I should have known this but hey, I thought olive oil was delicious in any form I used it.

The star ingredient in this menu is citrus, I used mostly oranges but lemons and limes too. I’ve made the case for this fruit time and time again and I never seem to tire of it. I have a tupperware full of citrus slices sitting in the fridge for my water, juice, wine, etc. and I throw orange peels into stir-fries, zest copious amounts of lemons for batches of strawberry lemonade, and am making lime simple syrup for what I think might be the perfect mohito. This family of fruits can sit in the fruit bowl on the counter long after all other fruits there have molded and bruised, all the while giving off verbena aromas in the kitchen. I put unripe fruit in a bag with oranges or other citrus for a day to make them soft and ready to eat. Since I get a lot of my citrus from Spain, I’ve now gotten into the habit of scrubbing the outer rinds with soap and warm water before I zest or peel for cooking. At first what I thought was a pregnancy craving, turns out to be a lifelong addiction to Vitamin C, perhaps? Or maybe I’m just wanting some extra energy 😉 Either way, there’s something wonderfully refreshing about these sweet and sour fruits. If I had to pick a favorite – and it would be hard – I would have to say lemons. When life gives you lemons, you can make just about a million things to eat..

Breakfast

Liver Pâté Crostini with Savory Berry Salad

Ingredients

2 1/2 cups chilled liver pâté (can be chicken, duck, or beef)

1 baguette, sliced

(for the salad)

1 container of fresh blackberries

1 container of fresh blueberries

1 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. fresh chives, minced

2 Tbs. fresh Parsley, minced

1 lemon, juiced

salt & cracked pepper

(1) To make the salad, combine all ingredients – blackberries through lemon juice – in a sealable container. Season with salt & pepper and chill until ready to serve. Turn the oven on to a low broil. (2) In a large metal or glass oven pan, lay out the baguette slices and season both sides lightly with olive oil and pepper. (3) Put pan into the oven about 10 cm from the top and broil, turning once, until both sides are browned, 3-4 minutes total. (4) Serve each of the toasted bread slices with a layer of chilled pâté and a spoonful of the berry salad on individual plates, or set it all in the center of the table and let everyone make their own.

Serves 4

Lunch

Blackened Chicken Spinach Salad with Spicy Pineapple Dressing

Ingredients

(for the chicken)

1 lb. (or 1/2 kg) chicken breasts

1 Tbs. ground coriander

1 tsp. chili flakes

1 Tbs. garam masala

1/2 Tbs. curry powder

1 /2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 Tbs. cajun seasoning

1 Tbs. paprika

sunflower oil

(for the salad)

1 bag of baby spinach, washed & stemmed

1 package of baby bean sprouts, washed

1 red bell pepper, seeded & thinly sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, seeded & thinly sliced

2 red onions, peeled & thinly sliced

3 carrots, peeled & cut into matchsticks

1/2 of a ripe pineapple, peeled & cubed

(for the vinaigrette)

1/4 cup beer

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup cubed pineapple

2 Thai chilies, coarsely chopped

1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, stemmed & chopped

1/2 bunch of fresh chives, chopped

2 oranges, juiced

3 Tbs. honey

3 Tbs. yogurt

1 Tbs. rice vinegar

3 garlic cloves, chopped

(1) First, make the vinaigrette: combine all ingredients (beer through garlic) in a blender and puree until smooth. Season to taste with honey and cracked pepper, cover, and chill in the fridge. (2) Second, for the salad, make sure all veggies are washed and the greens are dry. In a large bowl, toss all veggies for the salad together, spinach through pineapple pieces. Cover with a damp paper towel and refrigerate until ready to eat. (3) Third, make the chicken: combine all spices for the chicken- coriander through paprika – in a small bowl. Wash and trim chicken breasts, dry, and then rub with 1 Tbs. sunflower oil. Rub the spice mix on both sides of chicken. (4) Heat 2 Tbs. of sunflower oil over medium-high heat in a skillet. When hot, add the chicken and cook, turning once until both sides are browned and the meat is cooked through, 10-12 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and cover with foil; let rest 5 minutes. (5) When ready to serve, lightly toss salad with the chilled vinaigrette. Slice blackened chicken lengthwise and top each salad bowl with 4-5 pieces. To make the salad as a weekly snack, keep vinaigrette on the side and separate salad into sealable containers, covering with damp paper towels; close and seal the containers and refrigerate until needed, adding the vinaigrette just before eating. Salad goes well with garlic bread or toasted pita triangles 🙂

Serves 4

Dinner

Beef Tenderloin Steaks with Pomegranate-Pinot Noir Sauce

Ingredients

4 beef tenderloin steaks

1 1/2 cups Pinot Noir (or Cabernet-Merlot blend)

4 shallots, peeled & minced

2 oranges, juiced

2 pomegranates, seeded

1 cup of beef broth

2 Tbs. butter

sunflower oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Season both sides of steak with salt and pepper. Let meat stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before cooking. (2) Heat 2 Tbs. of oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the steaks and cook 3 minutes per side, until  seared on the outside and medium-rare when cut into. Remove steaks from the skillet and cover with foil. (3) Pour 1 Tbs. of oil into the skillet, add shallots and cook about 3 minutes until slightly golden. Add all of the red wine, beef broth, and orange juice next, bringing the sauce to a boil. (4) Stirring occasionally, cook until the liquid has been reduced by half. Lower heat and stir in the butter; season to taste with salt & pepper. (5) Serve the steaks with a generous spoonful of red wine sauce and 1/4 cup pomegranate seeds per plate, cracking black pepper across the top.

Serves 4

Steamed Carrots with Garlic-Ginger Butter

Ingredients

1 lb. (or 1/2 kg) carrots, peeled & quartered

4 cloves of garlic

5 Tbs. fresh grated ginger

3 Tbs. butter

5 limes, zested & juiced

sunflower oil

Sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Mince all of the garlic and mix with the fresh ginger and lime zest; set aside. Fill the bottom of a large pot with 3 cm of salted water; cover and bring to a boil over high heat. (2) Put the carrots in a colander and then into the pot; cover and steam veggies until tender and easily pierced with a fork, 10-15 minutes. (3) In a large skillet, heat 2 Tbs. sunflower oil and add the garlic-ginger mixture, cooking 1 minute or until fragrant. (4) Lower the heat to medium and add carrots and lime juice, mixing well. Cover the skillet and cook, stirring often, until carrots have absorbed liquid, about 4-5 minutes. (5) Stir in the butter until melted and serve immediately with cracked pepper.
Serves 4

and Dessert..

Honey-Citrus Gelatin with Cream & Cracked Pepper

Ingredients

1 packet unflavored gelatin

3 oranges

1 lemon

4 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. brown sugar

1/2 cup cream

cracked pepper

(1) Zest and juice all 3 oranges. In a medium saucepan, add orange juice, zest, honey, and brown sugar; bring to a boil over medium heat and simmer until thickened and reduced by half. (2) Juice the lemon and add to saucepan, add the gelatin powder and cook for 1 minute more. (3) Remove from heat and cover, letting stand a minimum of 30 minutes. Once cool, put in the fridge (keeps 3 weeks chilled). (4) When ready to serve, put spoonfuls of the warm (or chilled) gelatin into small bowls and pour cream over the top, garnishing with 1/2 tsp. cracked pepper.

Serves 4

So, my Summer menu has turned out to be both long and filling. Det er både lang og godt fyldende 🙂

My question: What is the best sauce to serve with a steak?

Red wine sauce is still one of my reigning favorites…

8.1.12

Menu for A Cool Summer Day

Hello and happy summer 🙂 The sun has proven worth waiting all these months and as I’m getting to enjoy the cool summer breezes I’ve also been making lots of different dishes too numerous to post. I have however, combined three of my latest edibles into a summertime menu with plenty of homemade flair and the sublime simplicity of fresh summer produce.

The crunchy, briny pickles are from a recipe I found in last month’s Cooking Network magazine and are a genius idea because first, it’s so easy to make, second, the veggies stay crispy and fresh without sitting in boiling water for forty minutes, and third, they last 3 months in the fridge and only become more marinated with time. Pickles are a pretty versatile ingredient too, I recommend having them with cheese & crackers for breakfast, with garlic bread for Lunch, or coarsely chopped and served as a salad alongside grilled meat 😀 The peppercorns and other seeds soften significantly enough to be chewable, granted you love the robust flavors involved in the pickling brine.

The Quinoa Recipe is from an old Cooking Light and well worth the 15 minutes it takes to cook the grain to fluffy completion. There are different types of quinoa and while we ordinarily eat the white, quinoa also can be black and red; I used the red version here which was a much warmer color among the sticky peach pieces. The sandwiches are very Danish (at least that’s what I’m going to claim;)) with a savory spread, and both crunchy and smooth veggies. This particular recipe I saw in Gourmet, adding some of my own embellishments in the form of full flavors. Everything in this menu can be served chilled (and only gets better with the cold). I think the sandwiches make for a perfect picnic dish, if the weather is sunny enough 😀

The star ingredient in this menu is black pepper. Now I may be an overzealous fan of this spicy staple, but it’s cheap, potent, and in every kitchen 🙂 Pepper goes with sweet and salty tastes alike and is apparently full of anti-oxidant vitamins and minerals. At one point in time I’d assumed pepper was a seed like coriander or cumin, but it’s actually the fruit of a tropical evergreen tree, which is far more interesting. Cracked pepper will remain the unsung hero in most of my dishes, partly due to the fact that I often double (or okay, triple..) my pepper seasoning – which seems to bestow the right degree of tasteful spiciness every time.

Carrot-Cucumber-Cauliflower Pickles with Fennel, Mustard Seeds, & Coriander

Ingredients

4 carrots, peeled & thickly sliced

3 red onions, thickly sliced

1/2 head cauliflower, divided into florets

10 green beans, trimmed

5 small cucumbers, quartered

1 bunch fresh Dill

2 Tbs. coriander seeds

2 Tbs. fennel seeds

1 Tbs. mustard seeds

1 Tbs. black peppercorns

1/2 Tbs. salt

2 cups white wine vinegar

4 cups water

5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

5-6 glass jars with seal-able lids

(1) Put 2-3 dill sprigs in each jar and pack (as tightly as possible) a mixture among all the jars. Stir together the peppercorns, fennel, coriander, and mustard seeds and divide evenly among the jars, spooning atop the veggies. (2) Put the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the vinegar, garlic, and salt; reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. (3) Carefully pour the hot brine into each of the jars, filling to the top. Seal the jars tightly with lids and let cool before refrigerating. Keeps chilled 3 months, ready to eat 3 hours after refrigerating.

Serves 6-8

Red Quinoa with Peaches, Black Pepper, & Honey

Ingredients

1 bag of red quinoa, rinsed

8 peaches, thickly sliced

4 lemons, juiced

6 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. olive oil

2 Tbs. cracked pepper

(1) Cook the quinoa according to package instructions (usually 1 part water to 3 parts quinoa), until the grain has absorbed all water and can be fluffed with a fork. Uncover and set aside, letting cool 10 minutes. (2) Stir in the honey, cracked pepper, and lemon juice. Serve at room temperature or chilled, as dessert or side dish.

Serves 4

Bacon, Avocado, & Sprout Sandwiches with Dill-Chive Spread

Ingredients

(for sandwiches)

3 ripe avocados, thinly sliced

1 loaf of sourdough bread, sliced

8 bacon strips

1 cup fresh bean sprouts

3-5 slices of Havarti cheese

(for spread)

3 Tbs. mayonnaise

4 Tbs. yogurt

1 orange, juiced

4 Tbs. fresh Dill, minced

4 Tbs. fresh Chives, minced

salt & cracked pepper

(1) To make the spread, combine all ingredients from the mayonnaise through fresh chives in a small tupperware. Season to taste with salt and cracked pepper. Can be chilled up to a week ahead. (2) Sprinkle cracked pepper over the bacon before cooking in a skillet at medium-high heat. Remove when crispy but not burnt, 6-8 minutes and let cool. (3) Layer both sides of bread thickly with the herb spread. On one piece put the bacon and then sliced avocado. On the other, layer sprouts and cheese, putting atop the bottom layer. Cut in half before serving. Best with light beer or chilled white wine 😀

Serves 4

So as the weather continues to warm up a bit I’ll probably keep thinking of cold food in all its refreshing versions. Salsa, salad, sandwiches, sangria – it sure seems like I have a lot of options – if only Summer was forever 😉

My question: What spice do you think is underrated in the kitchen?

6.30.12

Fish Tacos Night :)

There comes a time (right around now..) when you’re so anxious for Spring you feel like making equally zesty dishes to remind you it’s the season of sunshine, freshness, and bloom. Maybe I’ve just been cramped up in winter for too long that the sight of all these flowers makes me feel more energetic and adventurous 🙂

Last weekend we had some company over for dinner, both of whom are talented foodies in their own right. My friend cooks authentic Mexican food and she was wonderful enough to bring roasted tomato and pepper salsa — Salsa Roja — which sounds just as awesome as it actually is, as well as fresh homemade tortillas that went wonderfully with the blackened fish.

The actual recipe I used for the fish tacos ended up being a culmination of a few different recipes I found that served my purposes. For the blackened part, I used a recipe from Cooking Light (March 2011) and substituted the spices I had at home for the ones I wasn’t going to go out and buy, namely I used ground coriander, chili powder, and lots of cumin. The idea for the tacos came from allrecipes.com where they paired slaw with fish and chipotle mayo in tacos (but who needs mayo when you have fresh salsa!) For the slaw, I found a recipe made by the brilliant ‘Southwest’ chef Bobby Flay for cumin-lime cabbage coleslaw. I modified it by adding honey because it just sounds like something slaw is missing 😀

The star ingredient in this menu was fresh limes (I know I’m loving/craving citrus these days so I may be a little bias, but still). Limes have this wonderfully sour and acidic flavor that compliments spicy and sweet dishes alike, not to mention it just looks colorful and fresh sitting on a plate. I even served our coca-cola with little lime wedges to stick with the theme :v There is something nice about the flavor combination of blackened fish, spicy salsa, sliced avocado, creme fraiche, and warmed tortillas all cut with a squeeze of lime that makes you appreciate the messy act of devouring tacos all over again!

Spicy Blackened Fish Tacos served with Creme Fraiche, Lime, Fresh Salsa, & Avocado

Ingredients

1/2 kg (or 1 lb) boneless fresh white fish, like Tilapia or Halibut

(for blackened seasoning)

1 1/2 Tbs. ground coriander

1 Tbs. chili powder

1 Tbs. dried oregano

1 tsp. brown sugar

1 Tbs. ground Cumin

1/2 Tbs. ground black pepper

1 tsp. salt

(for the tacos)

3 ripe avocados

3 limes

1 package small flour (or corn) tortillas

2 cups fresh salsa

1 cup creme fraiche

(1) Mix all of the spices together for the blackened seasoning (coriander through salt) in a small bowl. Spread evenly over both sides of the fish until all the seasoning has been used. (2) Heat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius (or 300 Fahrenheit). Wrap the tortillas in foil and put in the oven to warm. (3) In a large frying pan or skillet, heat 1 Tablespoon of olive oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the fish and cook 3-4 minutes per side, adding more oil if necessary to prevent sticking. Keep the fish centered in the pan so it cooks evenly and just until it begins to fall apart. Remove from the pan and cover with foil. (4) Slice the limes into wedges. Put the salsa, shredded cheese, and creme fraiche into separate bowls and set out for serving. Halve and thinly slice the avocado; squeeze a lime wedge over it to prevent browning. (5) To assemble the tacos, take a warmed tortilla and first put some of the blackened fish, then salsa, cheese, and a spoonful of creme fraiche, top with sliced avocado. Serve plates with a couple of lime wedges on the side 🙂

Serves 4

Honey-Cumin Cabbage Slaw with Red Onion, Carrots, & Bell Peppers

Ingredients

(for the vinaigrette)

3 Tbs. olive oil

1 Tbs. red wine vinegar

3 Tbs. honey

2 Tbs. ground Cumin

(for the slaw)

1 head of red cabbage, stemmed & cut into ribbons

2 carrots, peeled & grated

2 bell peppers (red & yellow) seeded & thinly sliced

2 medium red onions, thinly sliced

(1) Make the vinaigrette first, whisking together the olive oil, honey, vinegar, and cumin in a small bowl until blended. (2) In a large bowl put all of the chopped vegetable ingredients (cabbage through red onions). Add the vinaigrette and mix well. (3) Refrigerate the slaw until ready to serve, at least 30 minutes.

Serves 4

Sadly, taco night is over but that craving for fresh food has not gone away yet so, much like Spring I suppose, my meal plans will hopefully blossom into more colorfully fresh and vibrant dishes 🙂

My question:

What is the best-tasting fresh fish to use for tacos?

3.24.12

Chilled, Cheap, Cheerful Chicken Salad

Turns out I need to be adding a bit more protein to my diet than I originally thought. Luckily for me, protein is easy to come by and includes some of my more favorite foods: cheese, yogurt, eggs, and–you guessed it–chicken! I love chicken because it’s simple (me and my simplicity :-), inexpensive to buy, easy to cook, low in fat, and there’s SO many possibilities in how you can choose to prepare it. My first thought in reveling on chicken-centered student meals: some kind of savory, spicy chicken salad mmm…

So this week I’m sharing meals with a couple of friends and I wanted to bring something we could eat that would travel well in my backpack, still taste delicious when I whip it out, and fit into this tasty, light brunch/lunch category. And what’s one ingredient that enhances in flavor as it sits in the fridge? Curry. And god bless it!

I like this particular version of chicken salad because it contains a lot of healthy raw fruits and vegetables (but isn’t every salad supposed to, in some form or the other?) I softened the raisins in hot water, baked the chicken with lemon juice, salt & pepper, and used 5 green little pears I picked off the tree myself (I’m telling you, this picking fresh fruit yourself stuff does not get old). Mix it all together and you get a wonderfully fresh medley of flavors–the crunchiness of raw onion and carrot, smoothness of crème fraîche, savoriness of cubed peppery chicken–and all with plenty of zing in using mint, curry powder, and mustard. My only advice (ha) would be to make sure you chop everything, especially the crunchy counterparts, into finer bits;  yeah, a blender would have definitely saved me some time and energy here…

And no, there is no mayo in this chicken salad recipe, unlike the more common versions out there. I went for low-fat crème fraîche and a little bit of milk to make it creamy. All in all, it turned out seriously delicious and I’m really not ready for it to be over :[ Any type of bread will do for making the sandwiches, whole grain especially (you know, something with nuttiness:-) and it’s best layered on thickly with slices of a good white cheese and a few strips of lettuce.

The star ingredient in this recipe would have to be the crème fraîche, which I guess is the ‘french’ version of sour cream (and here I’m thinking they’re 2 totally different things…and I call myself culinary!) This dairy goodness adds a creaminess that’s hard to substitute; and since the combination of all these ingredients in the salad is so full of substance, I think it’s necessary to add an entire container of the stuff just to smooth it all out–at least you’ll have plenty of extra for other, later sandwiches. It’s also good to note that in using ‘lite’ crème fraîche there’s no need to feel bad about the fat content (remember, it’s NOT mayo;-). Curry powder is a close second star ingredient in this recipe because the salad would simply not be as tasty without it. I think that for such a fine, yellow pile of powder, this spice lends the most flavor to the salad and is pretty inexpensive so curry away! I used Madras curry powder but any other substitute, like yellow, red, or brown curry powder would give the same delicious effect.

Curried Chicken Salad Sandwiches with Pears, Raisins, and Fresh Mint

Ingredients

(for the salad)

3 lbs. chicken breast, trimmed

3 carrots, peeled & grated

1 bag/box of raisins

5 pears, finely chopped

2 yellow onions, finely chopped

1 bunch fresh mint, minced

1 tub lite crème fraîche (3-5%)

1/3 cup milk

4 Tbs. Dijon mustard

5 Tbs. Madras curry powder

1 Tbs. allspice

3 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar

1 Tbs. sugar

lemon juice

olive oil

sea salt & cracked pepper

(for the sandwiches)

12 slices thickly sliced bread, pref. whole grain

lettuce (or spinach) leaves

6 thick slices of Gouda cheese (sub Havarti or white cheddar)

(1) Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (or 190 degrees Celsius). Put all the chicken breasts in a large oven-proof dish and sprinkle with a little lemon juice, seasoning both sides with salt and pepper. (2) When oven has preheated, bake the chicken 20-25 minutes until cooked through. Remove from oven and set aside to cool. (3) Put the raisins in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water, letting sit until softened, about 5 minutes. (4) In a large (and I mean large) mixing bowl, add the shredded carrot, fresh mint, allspice, chopped onions & pears. Next, cube the cooked chicken, drain the softened raisins and add both to the bowl; mix everything together very well. (5) Moisten the salad with all the remaining ingredients: vinegar, crème fraîche, Dijon mustard, milk, and 2-3 Tbs. of lemon juice, stirring all the while. Season with salt and pepper and finally add the curry powder before trying a spoonful, adding 1-2 tablespoons more depending on your taste. (6) Let the chicken salad chill in the fridge 1 hour (or overnight) before serving. To make the sandwiches, put a thick piece of Gouda cheese on bottom slice of bread, top with a generous layer of chicken salad, a lettuce leaf, and another slice of bread. Cut sandwich in half, accompany with a cold beverage, and enjoy :]

Serves 6

Sandwiches are the ideal student snack. Lately I’ve been forced to watch my fellow colleagues munching away on them so I’m glad to have made some of my own; I’ll be eating them ravenously all week };-) Sure chicken salad is a little messy, but it’s tasty and that’s all that really matters (to me at least!!) My next culinary attempt will have to be something equally savory, if not a little more spicy 🙂

My question: What is your favorite type of curry powder/paste?

I should know more variations of this delicious spice…

9.28.11

Dipping Madness }:-)

Lately, (in the wake of all this on-campus studying) I’ve been trying to think of a good type of snack food to bring along with me to school–something super low-maintenance that doesn’t need to be heated up (since microwaves are so few and far between) and has the potential to be both healthy and inexpensive. The answer? Dip.

I think the culinary concept of the “dip” gets a bad rap these days, often being portrayed as unhealthy or deceptively fattening but when looking at some of the classic dip recipes out there, I can see why. I’ve been flipping through some Taste of Home recipes for appetizers, which included a plethora of dips but very few that actually appealed to me. I suppose it’d be better if I got down to the basis of my complaints with these recipes: Okay first of all, there is never, ever any need to put mayonnaise in dip; just thinking about it gets me feeling gross; seriously, it’s mayonnaise, leave that goopy stuff to the sandwiches. If you’re looking for healthy (yet tasty) things to substitute, I got plenty of better recommendations like lite sour cream, cottage cheese, creme fraiche, and my favorite–Greek yogurt; now that kind of protein is actually good for you, so why not make a dip using yogurt as the base? That’s what I did and it’s cheap, nutritious, and delicious 🙂

Second of all, many of the dip recipes I looked at called for seasoning packets. Well, seasoning packets are boring and far too uncreative if I may say so myself 😉 Being in Denmark, I can’t make a lot of the dips in these recipes because they call for ‘Italian seasoning’ packets or ‘ranch dressing’ packets. Yeah, they’ll be no ranch seasonings over here. But why do we need seasoning packets anyway? Because it’s easy, too easy if you ask me (ha). But seasoning packets contain way too much salt anyway (ridiculous amounts, actually) and it’s better to get the hang of making your own spice or seasoning mixes–that way you can come up with unique, flavorful combinations yourself–all the while making use of the spice pantry.

And third (finally, right?), why are dips always served with carbohydrates? Chips, tortillas, bread–as if poor humans didn’t already have to feel bad about eating some of the lusciously fattening dips out there. The best ‘dippers’ are the obvious ones: vegetables! And there are so many to choose from–carrots, snow peas, celery, broccoli, cucumber, cauliflower, bell peppers, jicama, endive, sugar snap peas, radishes–the list goes on and on 🙂 Vegetables don’t have any of the fat or carbs that bread and chips do and in some instances they’re cheaper too (but always healthier so that’s good). I don’t see why a few whole-grain crackers now and then aren’t a good idea either. Ahhh, so now that I’ve listed my complaints with the dip concept I can get on to good stuff, namely the concoction I came up with }:-]

I made my dip mainly with Greek yogurt (1%) and added substance with a can of mashed beans (whatever is cheapest) and another can of artichoke hearts I chopped finely. The spice mix I used to season the dip with was New Orleans style, a blend that would normally be used in roasted chicken dishes (what can I say? I wanted to taste it!) I’ve delineated the exact measurements of the spices below to make this practical. If I had my spice cupboard with me, I’d have been even more creative but I am still quite satisfied with the result. As for dippers, I went for cheap and cheerful: carrots (they are exceptionally good in Denmark) and steamed broccoli for my veggies with a handful of crackers. The crackers I actually baked this week with a friend and, thanks to her marvelous expertise, they were surprisingly easy to make and included much healthier ingredients than those found in the crackers you’d buy at the supermarket. Our batch included rough oats, flax, pumpkin and sunflower seeds; how’s that for fiber? They are flippin’ delicious too 🙂

The star ingredient in this recipe would have to be the garlic powder just because it packs so much flavor. Guaranteed this dip would not be so tasty without it. Not only is garlic powder incredibly flavorful, it packs its own health benefits too (like lowering cholesterol, the exact opposite of what using mayonnaise would do to this dip). Anyway, if you ever find yourself wanting more flavor–use garlic powder–it’s savory, salty, and best of all, garlicky!

Spicy Yogurt Dip with Artichoke Hearts, Green Onions, and Kidney Beans

Ingredients

(for the dip🙂

1 large tub 1% Greek Yogurt

1 bunch green onions, chopped

1 can red kidney beans, drained

1 can artichoke hearts, drained

2 Tbs. olive oil

1/4 cup milk

(for the seasoning🙂

3 Tbs. paprika

2 Tbs. chili powder

2 tsp. Cayenne pepper

3 Tbs. garlic powder

2 Tbs. onion powder

3 Tbs. black pepper

2 Tbs. salt

1 Tbs. dried Thyme

2 Tbs. dried Oregano

2 Tbs. dried Basil

1 tsp. Nutmeg

(for the dippers🙂

1 head of broccoli

1 lb. carrots

1 bundle of crackers

(1) Wash the head of broccoli and cut florets into bite size pieces; peel the stem and coarsely chop. Steam the florets and stem pieces for 4-6 minutes until tender enough to be pierced easily with a fork (this is done by placing all the broccoli pieces in a metal/plastic strainer which is then put in a pot with 2 inches of boiling salted water at the bottom; use the pot lid to cover the veggies until they are cooked). When steamed, rinse the broccoli thoroughly with cold water and set aside. (2) In a large bowl, combine Greek yogurt with all the spices (paprika through nutmeg) and stir well. (3) Put the kidney beans, green onions, broccoli stem pieces, and artichoke hearts into a blender, pulsing until smooth. (4) Add the blended mixture to the dip using a spatula. Next stir in the milk and olive oil, mixing everything together very well. (5) For the dippers, line a large plastic container with paper towels. Wash and peel the carrots, then halve them. Put the steamed broccoli florets and carrot pieces in the plastic container and refrigerate until ready to use. (6) Let the dip chill in the fridge at least 30 minutes. Serve with veggies and/or crackers, garnishing the dip with a sprig of oregano or dash of pepper if desired.

Serves 6

I am happy to have this cooled treat to munch on in my many hours spent sitting in the library. It was a little bit of work prepping all the veggies, but absolutely worth it…now at least I don’t have to listen to the grumblings of my stomach all day. I think the dip’s so good I almost don’t need the dippers, would eat this stuff with a spoon }:-)

My question: what are your favorite vegetables to use as dippers in appetizer recipes?

I feel like I may be missing some awesome ones…

09.21.11

Green Fields and Sunny Skies

Hello everybody! Well, I have landed in a country of spacious green fields and blooming lilac bushes 🙂 it’s very pretty here and I just love being by the sea again. Just now, we are having a few days of sun and the skies are very blue. I’m afraid that my present circumstances don’t allow a lot of time for some of the more imaginative cooking I like to partake in, but I am trying as much as I can of Danish food, which is admittedly delightful }:)

I haven’t had the chance to cook much of anything myself, but I did manage to get my hands on some Danish carrots (ha) which looked crisply wonderful upon being spotted in the produce section of the local grocery store. And while I cannot read any of the labels, it’s almost more fun to guess what things are and go for the good-looking things 😉 I can tell you it involves a lot of pate (no bummer there), bread, and cheese!!

For this recipe I had to come up with something creative, but still simple so I used curry powder (seriously, don’t be shy), dried basil, and plenty of Danish beer =) which is definitely my favorite part of being in Denmark so far. The meal was served with toasted dark bread and again, more beer. I’ve been reading carrots are good for your complexion, eyes, and stomach with plenty of cancer-fighting goodness, so I thought to try to incorporate some of the fresh spring harvest that’s here. So…at last, my first culinary posting in Denmark 🙂

Sautéed Onion & Carrots with Curry Powder, Basil, and Beer

Ingredients

1 lb. fresh carrots, trimmed & halved

2 small yellow onions, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 Tbs. butter

1 Tbs. curry powder

1/2 cup Carlsberg Pilsner beer (or sub Heineken)

1 Tbs. dried basil

1 tsp. basil oil

3 Tbs. creme fraiche

sea salt & cracked pepper

(1) Wash and scrub the carrots well, they tend to be a little dirty in the Springtime 😉 Meanwhile, melt the butter over medium heat in a saute pan; add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. (2) Next, add the carrots, curry, and beer; cover with lid and let the carrots steam until soft, 5-8 minutes. (3) Remove the lid and let the liquid reduce until thickened; season with salt, pepper, and basil oil, mixing thoroughly. (4) Serve the carrots with a dollop of creme fraiche sprinkled with dried basil 🙂

Serves 4

So, while my adventures in Danish kitchens continue, I am excited to try more of the delicious recipes. Mikkel and I were thinking of a making a roast }:] that involves tea leaves, pork neck chops, and veal broth, but we will see…

My question: What is one of the best tasting vegetables that can be sautéed on the stove? I’m dying for some suggestions…

6.4.11