Friday, March 7, 2014

Recommended Recipe: Curried Coconut Soup w/ Chicken

Curried Coconut Soup with Chicken Recipe
image:  Cooking Light
I don't cook from recipes, but I do love Cooking Light magazine.  I just like to browse the pages and get inspired.

On Monday, when we were iced in, I made curried coconut soup with chicken for lunch.  Well, it was almost this recipe.  I deviated a little:  I added a bit of fresh ginger, used vegetable broth instead of chicken, and used cilantro and green onions in place of basil.  Also, I used brown rice noodles.

It was the perfect healthy, warming thing for a snow day, and it only took about 25 min start to finish.  If you are vegetarian/vegan or don't have any roasted chicken on hand, this soup would be just as tasty with some veggies like bell pepper and sugar snap peas.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Shrimp Lettuce Wraps w/ Creamy Sriracha Sauce

This has become one of my super quick go-tos on busy nights.  It's easy to keep the ingredients on hand and it's really healthy.  I love tacos, and lettuce wraps are basically just Asian flavored tacos.  They are a great main dish, but would also make a nice appetizer to a multi-course meal.  Another bonus with this dish, is that is just as easy to make 10 servings as it is 1 serving; it all depends on how much shrimp you thaw/buy.

Shrimp Lettuce Wraps
peeled deveined shrimp (I suggest 1/3 lb per person and I like 31-40 size for this)
lettuce leaves, green leaf or bibb/Boston works best (2-3 per person)
garlic teriyaki stir-fry sauce (1 Tbsp per serving; save some time and just use a good a bottled sauce)
radishes, bean sprouts, cucumbers, carrots, lime wedges, etc.

   Salt and pepper shrimp.  Saute over med-high heat in a little bit of oil (I like to use coconut or avocado) for about 2 minutes per side.  Toss with sauce and cook another minute so sauce glazes the shrimp and shrimp is cooked through.
   *I have also done this with strips of crispy tofu.  Also seriously delicious.

Creamy Sriracha Sauce
2 Tbsp fat free Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp mayo (any fat content, I use olive oil mayo)
2 tsp sriracha

Combine.  Makes 2 servings.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Butternut Squash & Kale Mac 'n' Cheese

I guess this was my last hoorah of cheese for a some time.  The hubs has a small scale IBJJF (International Brazilian Jui Jistu Federation) competition on Saturday in Atlanta and then the PanAms (large scale) in early March, and he needs to drop like 6-8 lbs for that.  I volunteered to be in an X-Men costume group for DragonCon Labor Day weekend, so I am trying to get in superhero shape in the next 6 months.

This macaroni and cheese is probably as healthy as you can get while still being 100% indulgent.  I still used full fat cheese and a little bacon (it needed to be used up), but I made some adjustments so there is no need to feel guilty about eating this delicious concoction.

Butternut Squash & Kale Mac 'n' Cheese
12 oz whole wheat penne, cooked ~1 min shy of being done
2 1/2 C peeled and cubed butternut squash
3 C chopped kale or baby kale
3 center cut bacon slices, chopped (or regular bacon, extra fat removed)
1/2 C diced onion
1 tsp minced garlic
2 tsp butter
1 Tbsp flour
1 3/4 C low sodium veg broth (or water + 1 tsp vegetable base or bouillon cube)
1/3 C fat free Greek Yogurt
1/2 C shredded cheddar
1/2 C shredded smoked Gouda
1/2 tsp red pepper flake (optional)
salt and pepper

   Toss squash with a little oil, salt and pepper.  Roast at 375 deg F for 15-20 min, until cooked but still firm.
   Render bacon until almost crisp.  Add chopped onion; cook 5-7 minutes until soft.  Add garlic, cook 1 min.
   Melt butter into bacon mixture, then whisk in flour to create the roux.  Slowly pour in vegetable broth, whisking the whole time so there are no lumps.  Bring to bubble, cook 3-4 minutes until it starts to thicken.  Remove from the heat and stir in yogurt.  Salt and pepper to taste, and add red pepper flake.
   Fold in cheese, cooked pasta, roasted squash, and kale.  Pour into a lightly greased 9 x 13 baking dish.
   Bake at 350 for ~20 minutes, until bubbly and slightly golden on top.
   Serves 6-8.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Roasted Garlic & Feta Ranch

For the cauliflower "wings" we had this past Sunday, I wanted bleu cheese dip because 1) match made in heaven and 2) bleu cheese is probably from heaven.  Well, Louis isn't too keen on it; a little bit in something is ok, but that's it.  So I decided to make a ranch.  I still wanted cheese and feta seemed like a nice salty foil to the tangy spice of the cauliflower.

Roasted Garlic & Feta Ranch
2 Tbsp mayo
1/2 small container plain Greek yogurt (~2 oz)
1/4 C buttermilk*
1/4 C crumbled feta
1 Tbsp freshly chopped dill
2 tsp roasted garlic
1/4 tsp onion powder
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients.
Makes about 1 C.

*Use more or less buttermilk to get the constancy you would like.  This is a relatively thick dressing as is; for a salad, I would add another splash to make pouring/drizzling easier.
Note:  It is perfectly acceptable to use lowfat versions of all these things.  I used olive oil mayo, fat free greek yogurt (I wanted 2%, but the store was out of small containers), lowfat buttermilk, and full fat feta... I don't cut corners with cheese.  But feta is one of the cheese that is ok as lowfat, just please, don't use fat-free cheese.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

"Super Bowl" Sunday Menu

We don't like football.  I actually kind of hate it; I have my whole life.  I would rather watch 24 hours of Billy Mays infomercials than watch a football game.  I've always been like this, I can't help it.

I do love a "game day" menu though.  A few weeks ago, when all the TV specials about game day food were on, and the internet started spewing food lists, I began to craaaave junk foods.  I wanted all the fried mozzerella, wings, and dips my body could handle.  Well, I decided to take a bit of a healthier approach, and try some recipes I'd been eyeing for a while for a Firefly marathon.  It was entirely vegetarian, with several vegan dishes, but it was so hearty and delicious you couldn't possibly miss the meat.

BBQ Tofu Nachos--I didn't follow this recipe exactly, because I didn't feel like making another trip to the grocery story. (vegan if you don't add cheese)

Better Jalapeno Poppers-- Again, improvised with what I had, so my version wasn't this exact recipe.

Cauliflower "Wings" w/ Roasted Garlic & Feta Ranch--  I may start eating all my vegetables buffalo style.  I was leery about the ketchup addition to the wing sauce, but it somehow worked and is delicious.  I don't think I broke my califlower into large enough pieces.  They were really good, but a little overcooked following this recipe.  I wanted some crunch left.  Next time, I will probably do ten minutes and ten minutes (instead of 20 and 10.)  Depending on your wing sauce, the cauliflower is vegan.  (Ranch recipe tomorrow.)

Baked Veggie Eggrolls--Super simple and easy, vegan as long as your wrappers don't have egg.  (The ones I can find at my store all have egg, so it's just vegetarian.)  Recipe later this week.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Slow Cooker BBQ Baked Beans

In the same meal that I served the caramel pecan bars, we had BBQ baked beans.  Baked beans may just be this dude's favorite food ever.  The rest of us aren't too keen on the strangely sweet, mushy canned beans. I decided to make my own and combine several styles of baked beans into one masterpiece.  They are a little sweet, a little tangy, and tiny bit spicy.  And this recipe is literally a crowd-pleaser for everyone.  Leave out the bacon and it becomes vegan!  If you are serving a mixed-diet group of people, just have the bacon on the side as a topper.

Slow Cooker BBQ Baked Beans
1 1/2 C pinto beans, soaked overnight (or 2 14oz cans, drained and rinsed)
3 slices thick cut bacon, chopped, cooked, drained
1/2 C chopped onion
1/2 C chopped green bell pepper
1/4 C barbecue sauce
1/4 C ketchup
1/4 C brown mustard
1/4 C water
1/4 C loosely packed brown sugar
2 Tbsp maple syrup (optional)
2 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/2 tsp hot sauce, more or less to taste
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt

   Combine all the ingredients in a slow cooker.  Cook on high 4-5 hours or low 7-8 hours, until beans are tender.  Adjust seasoning to taste
   If you are using canned beans: combine ingredients and cook on high for 1 1/2-2 hours.  I also suggest sauteing the onion and bell pepper for about 5 minutes first; they may still be on the crunchy side if you don't.
   Serves 4-6

Note:  I used a little crock pot (like 2 or 1.5 qt) that doesn't have an temp control.  It is literally, plugged in=on, not plugged in=off.  So the cooking time for the dried bean version may not be totally accurate.  But it's a slow cooker... they are very forgiving in cooking times.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Caramel Pecan Bars

If you like pecan pie, you will love these!  Think pecan pie cookie... with caramel.  After the holidays, I didn't want to make pie.  Also, I hate making pie crust.  But it was a friend's birthday dinner and he loves pecan pie.  I had just watched an episode of Barefoot Contessa where she made these raspberry streusel bars that looked delicious.  The shortbread-esque cookie base was really easy; you could top it with just about anything.  These are also great because you can easily cut them into any size you want: giant, indulgent squares or petite, bite-sized treats.  You can easily make these the day before (insert event).

Caramel Pecan Bars
1 stick softened unsalted butter
1/3 C sugar
1 1/4 C AP flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 C (heaping) chopped pecans
1 egg
2 Tbsp corn syrup
1 Tbsp maple syrup (can be subbed with another Tbsp of corn syrup)
2 Tbsp loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt
2 Tbsp caramel, mine were probably generous Tbsp (plus more for after it is baked, optional)
Streusel (optional):
2 Tbsp quick oats
2 Tbsp flour
2 Tbsp loosely packed brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp salt (I suggest sea salt)
1 Tbsp melted butter or vegetable oil

   Beat the butter and sugar together.  Add vanilla and salt, combine.  Add flour, incorporate.  It probably will not form a solid mass of dough., but it will stick together when pressed.
   Line a 9x9 baking dish with foil or parchment paper.  Lightly spray.  Press dough into pan and form a very small lip around the edge to keep in the filling.
   Combine all the filling ingredients, except caramel.  Spread over dough, but don't go all the way to the edge.  Drizzle caramel over the filling.
   Combine streusel ingredients.  Sprinkle evenly over the top.
   Bake at 350 deg F for 40-45 minutes.  Allow to cool in pan.  Remove from pan and cut.  Drizzle with more caramel right before serving.
   Serves 9-16.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Venison Pierogies

A couple weeks ago, my mom and I went on a pierogi making spree.  We made 4 different kinds and more than 150: dill havarti, pork and sauerkraut, bacon and cheddar, and venison.  They were all definite winners.  It's hard to pick a favorite because they are all unique.  If I had a food truck, it might be a pierogi truck.  Nashville would benefit from it.
5 C flour
16 oz sour cream*
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
3 Tbsp butter, melted 
1 tsp salt

   Combine everything except flour.  Add 4 1/2 C flour.  Incorporate.  (The dough probably will not form a ball on its own.)  Sprinkle 1/4 C flour on surface.  Turn out dough.  Sprinkle the last 1/4 C over the dough.  Knead dough until it comes together and is smooth (~3 minutes).  Add more flour if needed.  Divide dough into easily managed pieces (2-4).  Let rest at least 10 min. in refrigerator.
   On floured surface.  Carefully roll out dough to 1/4 inch thick.  Cut into 3 inch circles.  
   *Reduced fat sour cream works, but do not use fat free.

Venison Filling
~3/4 lb ground venison, cooked and seasoned with salt and pepper
8 oz porcini or button mushrooms, chopped
1/2 C diced onion
2 tsp minced garlic
~1 1/4 C stiff mashed potatoes
6 oz crumbled blue cheese

   Saute onion and mushrooms until onions are translucent, 5-7 minutes.  Combine all the filling ingredients.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.
   Fill pierogies with about 2 Tbsp of mixture.  Seal into half moons.
   Boil until they float.  (At this point, you can freeze them.)
   Makes about 4 dozen.  (Serving size=4)
Finishing (for every 2 servings):
   1 medium onion, sliced.  Saute in butter or oil until soft and sweet, about 10-12 minutes.  Add pierogies, lightly brown on both sides and heat through.  Add about 1/4 C water and 2 Tbsp sour cream to make a sauce.  Sprinkle with parsley.   

Use this post as a more detailed reference. 

Monday, January 20, 2014


Hey Guys!

I'm not even sure if I ever mentioned this.... you should follow me on Instagram!  If you like pictures of food, animals, and other super important things like costumes, concerts, and my hair, it would be worth a couple seconds of your day to add me to your feed.  @passiondiver

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Beet Hummus w/ Ras El Hanout

Last weekend, I saw Jeff Mauro make mint and beet hummus on The Sandwich King.  At first it seemed odd, then it seemed like a really good idea!  I have a huge jar of beets from my aunt's garden, and I am always on the lookout for different ways to use them.  Well, the grocery store was out of mint, which forced me to redirect 3 of my planned recipes.  While staring at my overly crowded spice/condiment cabinet, I realized I had ras el hanout.  The earthy blend sounded like the perfect compliment to beets.  I was right, beets and ras el hanout are an utterly dreamy pairing!

Beet Hummus w/ Ras el Hanout
1 14oz can drained and rinsed chick peas
1/2 14oz can drained and rinsed white beans (optional, I added them for extra creaminess)
1 C roughly chopped roasted (and peeled) beets (~2 med beets)
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp tahini
2 tsp ras el hanout
zest of 1/2 a large lemon
juice of 1 large lemon (~2 Tbsp)
1 large clove garlic
salt to taste

   Blend everything together:  food processor, good blender, immersion blender.  Salt to taste, the amount will you need to add with vary depending on your spice blend.  I need about 1/4 tsp.  (Add extra olive oil if you prefer a thinner hummus.)
   Makes about 3 C.