Tag Archives: Main Course

Venison Stroganoff – Beating Off the Last of Winter’s Chill

Venison Stroganoff 5Is it just me, or is Spring the biggest tease of all the seasons?  I don’t know how the weather looks in your neck of the woods, but here in the D.C. area a day or two of beautiful, sunshine-y, warmish days are followed by sometimes 20 degree drops in temperature with rains and crazy winds.  For example, just a week ago I went for a lovely seven mile run in shorts and a tank-top.  That evening I packed up my winter sweaters…only to pull one out the next morning to shield myself from the wintry chill that arrived overnight.  Brrrrr!  On these early days of spring, when a shiver or two lingers in the air, we can find ourselves still craving a bowl of something warm and comforting.  However,  by this time I am chili and stew tired out.  Time for something new, right? Now last we spoke, I promised to share my new experiences with you.  Well, to break out of the season transition doldrums, I ventured into the “new” territory of…venison!

It is no surprise that I work with a number of hunters and overall outdoors men Venison Stroganoff 1(and women); it’s the military after all.  Monday mornings during hunting season, I’d often hear of  miserable hours of sitting in cold drizzle with no game, see video clips of foraging bears, and lend an ear to the venting of the bad “etiquette” of late-starting hunters scoping out for spots and scaring away the deer.  As the weeks passed on, it  appeared to me that this past season was un-plentiful.  It wasn’t until nearly the very end that one of my friends stopped by super excited to share his catch (as promised) and presented me with a neatly butcher wrapped package of  venison chops.  The catch to the promise, of course, was to share what I thought about my first experience with venison.

Venison Stroganoff_prepping chopsI followed my friend’s recommendation to prepare a small piece of venison in order to just taste the flavor of the meat itself.  “Just a bit of olive oil, salt, and pepper, ” he said, “sear it in a pan then finish it in the oven like you would a nice steak.” Roger that!  Upon opening the package that weekend, I noticed the deep, rich color of the meat.  Meat doesn’t look that nice even from the higher end grocery stores!  I added checking out the downtown butcher shop to my to-do list so that I could make a comparison some day.   Then I removed a piece of venison from the package, froze the rest for later, and followed my friend’s recommended preparation.  Below is how it turned out.  Now doesn’t that look tasty?

Venison Stroganoff_ready to taste Venison Stroganoff_ready to taste 2

My first thoughts as I chewed that initial bite of venison was, “What’s this “gamey” flavor everyone keeps talking about?”  To me, the venison tasted almost identical to beef, albeit drier and a bit tougher than a piece of beef prepared in the same manner.   My second bite, I took it slower.  I went ahead and chewed and chewed allowing every bit of my mouth to have contact with the venison as I tried to discern that distinct flavor.  Still, I did not notice much of a difference, only this time I did discover a mild, earthy after-taste that reminded me of mushrooms.

Venison Stroganoff 3That slight earthiness of the venison inspired me to use the remaining meat in a Stroganoff, a creamy dish of sauteed beef and mushrooms simmered in sour-cream.  I’d been dying to make some for the longest time (I grew up on Hamburger Helper’s Potato Stroganoff!).  The venison and the incoming spring provided me the perfect excuse and opportunity to bust out of that muddy spring rut I mentioned earlier.  To fight the lingering chill, the venison Stroganoff provided warm and creamy comfort without the heaviness of a fall or winter stews,  while the earthy notes of from the venison and mushrooms gave hint to the coming freshness of spring.

Now c’mon already Spring.  We’re ready for you!

Venison Stroganoff

Ingredients

Venison Stroganoff_packaged chops 1

  • 1 pound venison
  • 6 ounce package cremini mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 tablespoons butter, divided in half
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • ¾ cup beef or chicken stock
  • 1 large bay leave
  • 1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
  • 1 cup full fat sour-cream
  • 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, plus more for garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • Cooked rice or egg noodles
Directions
  1. Pat venison dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.Venison Stroganoff_pat salt pepper
  2. Melt 3 tablespoons of butter in a large pan over medium-high heat.
  3. Sear venison in pan.  Use Emilie’s guide to cook venison to desired doneness. Remove venison from pan, setting aside to rest.
     Venison Stroganoff_butter sear      Venison Stroganoff_remove venison
  4. Reduce heat to medium and melt remaining butter in pan and pour in olive oil.  Add shallots and mushrooms, slowly sauteing until soft, about 7-10 minutes.Venison Stroganoff_shallots and mushrooms
  5. Add minced garlic to the mushrooms and cook one minute more.
  6. Pour in stock and add mustard and bay leaf to pan.  Stir, scraping up any bits left over from searing the venison.Venison Stroganoff_mustard and bayleaf
  7. Raise heat back to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and allow the sauce to simmer 5 minutes.
  8. While sauce simmers, slice the venison.Venison Stroganoff_slice venison
  9. Stir sour-cream into the mushroom sauce and let sauce warm through.  Be careful not to let the sauce come to a boil or the sour-cream may break.Venison Stroganoff_add sour cream
  10. Fold in venison and parsley and remove from heat.
    Venison Stroganoff_fold venison into sour cream  Venison Stroganoff_ready to serve
  11. Serve Venison Stroganoff over rice or egg noodles.Venison Stroganoff 4

Grilled Salmon Cakes – Saying Good-bye to Grandma

Grilled Salmon Cakes 1Just a smidgen over a week ago our neighborhoods were haunted by the cutest little gremlins in search of a sugar rush.  Like many of the major holiday’s in western society, Halloween is grounded in Christian tradition (sans Sexy Pizza Slice of course) and is the vigil to All Souls Day, a feast day of the Catholic church dedicated to the souls of those who have gone before us.  I’ll be the first to admit that my catechism is horrible and that my faith’s dogma often rubs me the wrong way, but All Souls Day is a feast I find comforting and beautiful. In my parish, the church hangs a ceiling to floor scroll on which the names of those who died in the past 12 months are listed.  Although not on the list, my paternal grandmother, a stalwart Baptist (over 200 years of ministers in her family!) who left us on 27 February, was in my prayers as the mass was celebrated.

Salmon Cakes internmentAs I said, my grandmother died in February.  However, we were unable to bury her until the end of May.  I’ll spare you the family drama that ensued, but on that lovely spring weekend my parents and I loaded up for the eight hour drive to the family cemetery in south eastern Kentucky where my father’s maternal ancestors have been placed to rest for the past 200+  years (My grandmother’s line has several original families that migrated from Virginia and North Carolina to settle Kentucky. One was even BFFs with Daniel Boone. Crazy!)

I don’t think its a surprise that my dad and his middle sister reminisced over theirSalmon Cakes reminiscing favorite dishes their mom used to make them.  My youngest cousin (a vegetarian) and I cringed at some of them…I mean I love bacon, but my arteries (and hips) can only take some much bacon grease lol.   Apparently Grandma cooked everything in the stuff.  However, this is one dish that I swear causes everyone a foodgasm: Grandma’s salmon cakes.

Grilled Salmon Cakes 2Ever since I was little, these salmon cakes always came up when we talked about Grandma, especially during holiday meals since, as a Marine family, we were always far away from either of my parents’ families.    I think I was 10 years old the first time I had these. We were in between over-seas tours, where you have to return state-side even if just for a little bit, and we spent it in Indianapolis with my dad’s family.  Canned pink salmon (my dad actually pronounces the “l”, arg!) patted together in mayonnaise to form the cakes, fried in bacon grease, and served over buttermilk biscuits and smothered in a bacon grease based gravy…and of course crumbled bacon. Oh dear me, they are sooooo soooo good.

GMP_Grandma w Dale Sherry Dixie 1But like I said, I can only take so much bacon grease…and my parents’, with their blood pressure and cholesterol issues…yeah, no, no, no!

That’s how I came up with this salmon cake recipe.  Loaded with smokey, grilled flavor and topped with a creamy, but light coleslaw (I prefer Greek yogurt, but since I made these for my dad, I used an olive oil based mayo)…it is satisfying enough for even my very picky, picky dad (and mom) in between treat times where I’ll cave and give them the bacon grease…not too often now…they have grandchildren to watch grow up!

Salmon Cakes Grilling

 

Grilled Salmon Cakes

makes 10-12 slider sized cakes

Ingredients

  • ½ pound grilled salmon
  • 1/3 cup green onion whites, finely sliced
  • ¼ cup Greek yogurt or mayonnaise
  • ¼ cup sour cream
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon Cajun or seafood blackening seasoning
  • 1 egg beaten
  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped parsley
  • 1 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons or more vegetable oil as needed for frying pan

Directions

  • With a fork, flake the grilled salmon once it has cooled enough for safe handling.  Add the flaked salmon to a large mixing bowl.
    Salmon Cakes grill 1     Salmon Cakes flaking fish
  • Into the same bowl, add the onions, mayonnaise, sour cream, Dijon mustard, seasoning, egg, and parsley. Use your hands or a flat spatula to mix the ingredients together.
    Salmon Cakes everything in the bowl
  • Add panko bread crumbs to the salmon mixture and fold gently.
  • Take 1/4 – 1/3 cup of salmon mixture and shape into ball.  Carefully press ball into a flattened cake.  Repeat with remaining salmon.Salmon Cakes forming 1 Salmon Cakes forming 2
  • Heat 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a frying pan or cast iron skillet over medium high heat.
  • Cook salmon cakes until golden, about 3 minutes on each side.Salmon Cakes frying pan
  • Place cooked salmon cakes on a paper towel lined plate to drain excess oil.
  • Serve on slider potato rolls with your favorite coleslaw recipe.Grilled Salmon Cakes 3

 

Roasted Vegetable “Stir-Fry” with Chicken and Quinoa

Roast Veg Stir 5I can’t believe race day is almost here!  A few weeks out and I have so many butterflies in my stomach it’s not even funny. Eeep! It’s not helping that with the most intense part of my training now complete, the shorter distances and lower intensity cross training have my thoughts wandering a bit too much.  One minute I’m rocking chatarunga push-ups with all sorts of “strong” mantras singing in my brain, but as I rest in down-dog and my mind goes quiet, suddenly it shouts, “Not 13 miles, 13 point one miles! WHAT WERE YOU THINKING?!”  Before full scale panic mode can ensue, however, I have been able to talk myself off the ledge. “Ruth,” I say, “You were thinking you can handle anything life throws at you. ” Or now, “Hellloooo, Ruth, you ran 13 point TWO miles just a few days ago. Obviously you can do it.” Obviously…

Roast Veg Stir 2Thankfully I’m not doing this alone! Sue and I are running this half-marathon together. Originally it was us and my sister…until my sister found out she was pregnant.   By that time she had already set up a private Facebook page for all our runner friends where we’ve been posting our runs and workouts to motivate each other.  After I started posting articles on running, race training, and fitness in general, I became the go-to person for information.  Our forum’s hottest topic?  Food!  

In all honesty, although I have my race day “fuel plan” ready, I have beenRoast Veg Stir 3 horrible with fueling my overall health.  This is my usual conundrum, if you’ve read Emilie’s and my About page.  Of course, as a consequence, for nearly half of my training I have felt fatigued and sluggish in between runs and workouts.   It got really bad, actually, but my resilient nature kicked in just in time with the help of a little inspiration.  I saw this recipe in Self magazine for Kung Pao salmon with sweet potatoes and broccoli and really liked the idea of roasting the vegetables. So I gave the technique a try with my favorite stir-fry combo: broccoli and bell peppers. 

Roast Veg Stir 1This is a winning runner’s combination! Not only is it full of delicious Asian flavor, it is packed with some key nutrients that help keep your body ready to lace up, such as anti-oxidants, beta carotene, Vitamin C, potassium, and protein.  I am so grateful I was able to break out of my nutrition rut, because with dishes like this I am so going to ROCK THIS RACE!

 

Roasted Vegetable “Stir-Fry” with Chicken and Quinoa

INGREDIENTS
serves about 4

Roast Veg Stir Ingredients

• 1 large head of broccoli, chopped into florets
• 1 red bell pepper, diced large
• 1 yellow bell pepper, diced large
• 1 large chicken breast, sliced thin
• 3-4 tablespoons olive oil, divided
• Sea salt and ground black pepper
• 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
• 1/4 cup rice vinegar
• 1 tablespoon agave syrup
• 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
• 1/2 teaspoon minced ginger
• 1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
• 1 cup uncooked quinoa

PREPARATION
  1. Prepare quinoa according to package directions.
  2. Pre-heat oven to 375°.
  3. On a baking sheet, toss broccoli and bell peppers with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Season the vegetables with a pinch of salt and pepper, toss again, and then arrange in a single layer. Bake 10-15 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, but al dente. Set aside.Roast Veg Stir Prep
  4. While the quinoa and vegetables cook, whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, agave, garlic, ginger, and Sriracha in a bowl and set aside.Roast Veg Stir Sauce
  5.  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large pan over high heat.  Stir fry sliced chicken cook salmon until browned.  Transfer chicken to a plate and set aside.Roast Veg Stir Chicken
  6.  Lower heat to medium high heat and add soy sauce mixture to pan.  Simmer until slightly thickened, 2 to 4 minutes.Roast Veg Stir Cook Sauce
  7. Reduce heat to medium.  Add chicken back into the pan along with the roasted vegetables.  Toss gently so that everything is coated in the sauce.  Taste and season with salt and pepper as desired and cook for another 3 minutes.Roast Veg Stir Final Pot
  8. Serve hot over quinoa.

Roast Veg Stir 4

Back to Basics : Thai Red Curry

basic curry 2

Late last summer, Emilie came up with a fabulous idea for a Cork and Spoon post series: Back to Basics.  Even in late August, our friends were already sending us text messages and e-mails about holiday recipes and plans and asking pretty basic questions: what’s the best way to cook a turkey, what wine goes with this dish, how do I…and so on and so forth.  So, Emilie concluded, why not write a series of posts about the cooking topics our friends ask us about the most?  Couldn’t argue there!

I often get questions about Asian dishes from my friends, not exactly surprising since I am Asian and grew up in Asia, and the most popular basic curry 8request is how to make a Thai-style curry.  I’ve already shared a few recipes with you, but today, it’s Back to Basics!

So what are the basic ingredients of a Thai-style curry? My basics are:

  •  red or green curry paste (homemade or store-bought)
  •  a can or two of coconut milk
  • fish sauce (a must!)
  • garlic
  • basil (Thai or Sweet)
  • veggies
  • steamed white rice (jasmine)

I also like a protein, but that is, of course, optional.

basic curry 5Like many Asian dishes, Thai-curry comes in a plethora of forms because it is very much regionally and family based.  I have been to quite a few Thai restaurants and Thai homes in my life and not one has served the exact same dish.  So what does that mean? That means that once you have the basics down you really can’t go wrong.

Now for some more curry basics to keep in mind while cooking.

  • As I’ve stated in other posts, do not allow the coconut milk to boil. Bubbles=bad. Your curry will curdle. Now, I often step away a tad too long from the stove and end up with curdled curry.  It will taste just fine, but it won’t look very pretty.
  • Asian food is about balance. Thai food may have a spicy  reputation, but notice that despite the heat (for your daring, basic curry 6Teflon tongued souls), it is still balanced by the other flavors in the dish.  Spicy, sour, sweet, and salty flavors should complement each other.  My usual conundrum is not enough sweet and an overpowering sour (I love my lime!).  The cure? Sugar.  Palm sugar is best for Thai cuisine, but it’s also pricey.  Regular granulated sugar will work just fine. Don’t be afraid to add sugar.
  • Use as much fresh herbs and spices (vice dried herbs and spices) as possible.  This is a key difference between Thai curry and other Asian curries.  Fresh basil, fresh ginger, fresh chilies, fresh lemongrass, etc.
  • Cut your vegetables and proteins small and thin.  This will help ensure quick cooking since everything is poached in the curried coconut milk.
  • When poaching the ingredients of your curry, add in phases to prevent overcooking. For my own typical curry, chicken goes in first.  After about five (5) minutes, I follow with any frozen vegetables.  Once the coconut milk has re-heated, I add fleshy vegetables like eggplant and zucchini followed by “steamers” such as green beans and broccoli.  The last to go in are the more delicate vegetables that breakdown if cooked too long, such as bell peppers and tomatoes.basic curry 4

Thai Red Curry Basic Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon red curry paste (add more for more heat if you like)
  • 1 can [lite] coconut milk
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 small scallions, whites and greens sliced
  • 2 tablespoon fish sauce (add more for saltiness if you like)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped basil (Thai basil if you can find it)
  • 1-2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

Building on the Basics

Protein:

-1 chicken breast, thinly sliced

Vegetables:

– 1 cup frozen peas
– 1 medium Ichiban eggplant, sliced into half moons
–  Appx. 1 cup bell peppers sliced thinly (go for color!)

 Directions

  1. Pour oil into a large pan, add garlic and scallions and turn heat to medium high.basic curry aromatics
  2. When garlic and scallions become fragrant add curry paste. Cook curry paste until it begins to break down.  Be careful not to let the garlic burn. Lower heat to medium.
    basic curry cook curry paste 1 basic curry cook curry paste 2
  3. Slowly add coconut milk to the pan and fish sauce, stirring to blend the curry paste. Taste and add more curry paste and/or salt if desired.basic curry cook add coconut milk
  4. Allow coconut milk to break a low simmer, but do not allow it to boil or the coconut milk will separate.basic curry cook simmering coconut milk
  5. Add sliced chicken to hot liquid and poach for approximately 10 minutes. If using shrimp as your protein, add later at step 10.basic curry poach chicken 1 basic curry poach chicken 2
  6. Add frozen peas and egg plant to curry. Allow to return to a simmer and cook 3-5 minutes.  At this step, add vegetables that take longer to cook, such as squashes and root vegetables, as well as frozen vegetables.basic curry peas and eggplant
  7. Add sliced bell peppers.  At this step, add vegetables that cook in a few minutes, such as the bell peppers, green beans, and broccoli.basic curry bell peppers
  8. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about another 5-8 minutes.basic curry cover and simmer
  9. Taste and season as desired.  For more heat, had a dash of cayenne or chili powder. For saltiness, more fish sauce. Good old salt and pepper is completely allowable, too!basic curry simmering
  10. During the last 3-5 minutes, add half of the basil and stir in. If using shrimp as your protein add now.basic curry adding herbs
  11. Serve over rice.basic curry 1

Zucchini Mac and Cheese

zucchinimac2It’s inevitable. It snows and I almost lose a finger. Last year I had the little incident with a mandolin. The year before my espresso machine attacked me. This year destiny upped the ante with my garage door opener throwing a tantrum. At first I thought the polar vortex had frozen everything. Nope, it was mechanical. I will probably have a fear of ladders and springs for the near future, but thankfully all extremities are accounted for and no broken bones.

Bandaged and bruised, something comforting was in order after that ordeal. Of course, I still had to keep in mind my year’s plan to get my ripped abs back. Whatever I was going to make was sure to pack in thezucchinimac5 calories, but to assuage a potential guilt trap, I needed to make sure I added some more nutritious calories to the mix. After rummaging through my crisper and throwing out the rotten cauliflower and broccoli, I came up with one, sad zucchini on it’s last leg. Then I remembered the zucchini twist I had made on my Poogan’s Porch mac and cheese over the summer following a fun Farmer’s Market morning. Mac and cheese – it was fate!

My favorite thing about this particular mac and cheese is the color. How pretty are all those green specks from the zucchini and chopped herbs? zucchinimac3You can’t even taste the squash if you’re worried about losing the essence of the gooey, creamy dish. See how easy it is to add a healthy twist to your favorite comfort food? When I get my next craving, I’m hoping to substitute some of the pasta for cauliflower to help lower the calorie count. I’m not giving up on my abs yet!

Zucchini Mac and Cheese

serves 4-6

Ingredients
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cup shredded Gruyere, Emmental, or Cheddar cheese (or a combination of)
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4-5 tablespoons butter
  • 3-4 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 a sweet onion small dice, appx 1/2 cup
  • 1 large zucchini, shredded (if you want it packed with veggies, use 2 zucchini!)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ground nutmeg
  • salt and pepper
  • 6 ounces small pasta, such as shells or elbow, aapx half a box
  • 3-4 tablespoons bread crumbs
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
Directions
  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 Fahrenheit and cook pasta to al dente according to package directions
  2. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. When melted, add onions and cook until soften.zucchinimac_cooking onions
  3. Sprinkle flour over onions and stir to coat. Cook 2-3 minutes to cook out the raw flour flavor.zucchinimac_roux
  4. Stir in milk, breaking up any the four clumps. Bring to a simmer.zucchinimac_bechemel base
  5. Add bayleaf the reduce heat to medium. Let mixture simmer until thickened, about 7-10 minutes.
  6. Stir in shredded cheese about 2 tablespoons at a time to create a thick cheese sauce.zucchinimac_add cheese
  7. Fold shredded zucchini into the cheese sauce. Taste sauce and season with nutmeg, salt, and pepper.zucchinimac_squash time
  8. Allow sauce to come to a bubble again, then remove from heat.zucchinimac_simmering cheese sauce
  9. Add pasta to the cheese sauce mixture and stir to coat. Pour into a casserole dish. Set aside.zucchinimac_mac time
  10. In a small bowl, stir breadcrumbs and olive oil together. If using plain breadcrumbs, season as desired.
  11. Sprinkle mac and cheese with breadcrumbs and bake 15-20 minutes until bubbly.
    zucchinimac_crumb topping zucchinimac_oven hot

zucchinimac1

It’s a Beautiful Morning Pancakes – Gluten-free Coconut-Flax Pancakes

coconut flax pancake 9

Oh, what a beautiful morning, my friends! Ever wake up feeling the blue bird of happiness is chirping just for you? Yeah, not very often for me either, but by some miracle God decided to put a little sunshine in my heart…and it feels absolutely fabulous!  So I thought I’d share an equally fabulous recipe with you.

You see, I’ve been stuck for a very long time.  I thought it was the whole trying to get into business school these past twelve months, but when it coconut flax pancake 6came to being completely honest with myself I couldn’t keep hiding that I’ve been stuck for years.   So what a lovely and refreshing gift to wake up to!  How better to celebrate than to channel all that positive energy into creating an equally beautiful and delicious breakfast?

On days when we’re not so lucky with Mr. Bluebird, these pancakes will sure do the trick. On the inside they’re pillowy-fluffy, yet rich from all the coconut flavor. The exterior has this delicate crisp that reminds me of that very thin layer of the caramelized sugar atop a creme brulee. To top it all off, they’re gluten-free and full of fiber and anti-oxidants. Nutritious and delicious, hard to beat, don’t cha think?

coconut flax pancake 2

Coconut-Flax Pancakes

makes 10-12 pancakes, inspired by Elisabeth Prueitt
Ingredients

coconut flax pancake ingredients

  • 1 cup gluten free flour mix
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
  • 2 tablespoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil, melted plus 1-2 tablespoons for pan
  • optional: fresh fruit, maple syrup, and shredded coconut to top
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, mix together gluten free flour mix,  sugar, coconut flour, flaxseed meal, baking powder and salt.  Set aside. coconut flax pancake dry ingredients
  2. In a medium bowl,  whisk  together eggs, milk with the 1/4 cup of melted coconut oil.coconut flax pancake wet ingredients
  3. Stir wet ingredients into dry ingredients until batter is moistened.coconut flax pancake making batter coconut flax pancake mixed batter
  4. Heat a frying pan or griddle over medium heat. Add about a teaspoon of coconut oil and melt to grease pan.  Through out cooking process, add additional coconut oil as needed to keep pan greased. coconut flax pancake coconut oil in pan
  5. Pour 1/4 cup of batter onto hot pan and cook until bubbles appear on the surface and sides begin to try, about 2-3 minutes. Flip and cool the opposite side until golden, about another 2 minutes.coconut flax pancake batter bubbling         coconut flax pancake golden
  6. Serve warm with desired toppings.coconut flax pancake 1
Note: Freeze leftovers.  The best re-heating method is to use the “frozen” setting on your toaster (like an Eggo!).  This will preserve the yummy, crispy exterior.

Gluten Free Pizza Dough

GF Pizza Crust 5When my sister mentioned a week before Thanksgiving she was going completely gluten free I wanted to reach through the phone and slap her silly.  Power to her for the life-style change, but I’m the one in charge of  all the holiday family meals.  I’m the one that had to figure it all out!  How about more than a week’s notice, please?  Luckily for both of us  my curious and experimental nature had already lead me to some dabbling in gluten free recipes.

Now I’m not much of a fad person myself, but I do respect the will-power of those who chose restrictive life-styles (for whatever reasons).  I also GF Pizza Crust 4empathize with those living with food allergies.  However, what is often left out of the conversation are those, like me, that do not have these restrictions, but find themselves thrust suddenly into that world. Emilie and I were discussing this not too long ago just after the New Year.

Who doesn’t love to accommodate their friends and family, but can you imagine how bad your host(ess) might feel if they didn’t know of your GF Pizza Crust 3recent vegan conversion and watched you pick at your bacon wrapped  steak and butter topped asparagus all evening?  Forewarned is forearmed!  Don’t feel bad about giving someone a heads up about your allergies or special diet. When Emilie and I were visiting a friend in San Francisco one Spring Break, I made sure to mentioned that it was Lent, which, after receiving a family dinner invite on a Friday night, allowed enough notice for a Lent friendly meal that everyone could enjoy.  When my friend Sue is in town, I know to keep a container of soy milk on hand for her coffee since she is allergic to dairy.  Now that my sister is gluten-free, I have engineered gluten-free versions of our favorite family GF Pizza Crust 6holiday recipes.  However,  there are still folks that might feel uncomfortable at the potential inconvenience.  Emilie has a great tactic for that.  She offers to bring a dish! This tactic not only ensures there will be at least one thing you can eat, but provides an easy opening to mention what you are not able to eat as well as eases any feeling of inconvenience, because you’re bringing the dish.  Not a bad idea huh?

With that said, many of you are like Emilie and me: food lovers.  We like to eat and cook new things, unfamiliar things.   Our friends are lucky, because we’re the most likely to have that paleo vegan, gluten-soy-nut free recipe in our back pocket.  We’re always experimenting.  My favorite food “fad” to experiment is, as I’ve mentioned, gluten-free substitutions.  So, without further adieu,  for your back-pocket I present this gluten free, thin crust pizza dough!

GF Pizza Dough Pizza 2 cu 2

Gluten Free Pizza Dough

makes 2 9″x 9″ personal pizza crusts
Ingredients

GF Pizza Dough Ingredients

  • 2 ½  cups Gluten-Free Flour (see recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons dried milk powder or dairy-free creamer
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon corn starch
  • 1 tablespoon honey or granulated sugar
  • 1 5/16 ounce package of instant yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil (for dough)
  • olive oil for pan
  • 1 tablespoon cornmeal for dusting
Directions
  1. In a large bowl, blend together the gluten free flour mix, dried milk, baking powder, and corn starch.  Set aside.
  2. In another bowl, add yeast, olive oil, and warm water along with ½ cup of the dry ingredients.GF Pizza Dough Yeast Mixture
  3. Stir to combine and set aside for about 30 minutes.  Mixture should be bubbly and smell yeasty.GF Pizza Dough Yeast Ready
  4. When yeast is ready, add to the remaining dry ingredients.GF Pizza Dough Adding Yeast and Flour
  5. Using a stand or hand mixer, mix at medium-high speed until dough forms. It will not be like the pizza dough you’ve probably made in the past. Instead it will be sticky, like spackling.GF Pizza Dough Sticky Stuff
  6. Cover the bowl, and let the dough rest for 30 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, pre-heat the oven to 425° Fahrenheit .
  8. Divide dough in half.  If not using right away, grease two sheets of plastic wrap and wrap the two halves separately.GF Pizza Dough Dividing
  9. For a single personal pizza, grease a 9” x 13” baking sheet with olive oil and dust with cornmeal.
  10. Place one of the pizza halves on the baking sheet. Wet your fingers and begin working the dough outwards beginning from the center.  You should be able to get a 9″ x 9″ crust.GF Pizza Dough Forming Crust
  11. Let the dough rest for 10-15 minutes before baking the crust in the oven for 8-10 minutes.GF Pizza Dough Crust Resting
  12. Your crust is now ready to become a pizza. After adding desired toppings, bake pizza for about another 10 minutes.GF Pizza Dough Starting to Make Pizza

GF Pizza Dough Topping Pizza    GF Pizza Dough Pizza 2 in the oven

Mussels with an Asian Fusion Twist

Asian Fusion Mussels 6Is it Christmas already? I don’t remember 2o12 going by this fast and I honestly can’t believe 2013 is almost over.  Maybe it’s because I’ve been so busy this year preparing to apply for grad school.  For that reason, I thought I’d take a break from my essays and wish all of you a very, merry Christmas  with this tasty and super easy seafood dish before the holidays passes me by!

For those that have been following Emilie and I for awhile, you may recall last Christmas where I gave my family’s traditional Christmas dinner an Asian twist to honor my mother’s heritage.  I also shared my seafood risotto for an Italian Christmas Eve tradition known as the Feast of the Seven Fishes.  This mussel dish combines both of those concepts into one pot! Multi-tasking…love it!

So I have always wanted to make mussels, but for some reason found them intimidating.  It must have been the debearding.  Debearding, Asian Fusion Mussels 4what’s that?  How much work is this? Am I going to get sick or die if I debeard these things wrong? Eeep!  I was relaying this fear to Tom one evening after having a delicious pot of mussels at Dupont Circle’s  Bistrot Du Coin.  In typical Tom fashion, he told me to just do it already.

So I did!

Preparing the mussels  took a little time and the debearding was waaaay wierd,  but easy peasy over all.   I’m sure it will go faster the next time around now that I’ve gotten over my fear.  Just yank that hairy, stringy sucker from the shell.   If you need a better grip on the beard, I recommend using a paper towel.

Merry Christmas, everyone!  Have a delicious holiday!

Asian Fusion Mussels 7

Asian Fusion Mussels

serves appx 4

Ingredients

Asian Mussels Ingredients

  • 2 pounds fresh mussels
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 3-4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾  cup dry white wine
  • 2 Chinese eggplant (approximately 2 cups prepped*)
  • 1  14.5 ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 Thai chili, sliced lengthwise
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil, seperated
  • ¼ cup fresh Thai basil leaves, chopped (appx 2 tablespoons, chopped)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cooked spaghetti or linguine

Directions

  1. Rinse and debeard your mussels if they are not so already.Mussels Beard 2
  2. Be sure to discard any mussels with broken shells or any that do not close when tapped. Set aside.Mussels Broken Shell
  3. Pre-heat oven to 425° Fahrenheit
  4. Cut eggplant* into 1 inch cubes or rounds depending on thickness. Lay eggplant out on a baking sheet. Drizzle 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the eggplant and sprinkle with salt and pepper.  Toss eggplant together so that all the pieces are lightly coated with the olive oil and seasonings.Asian Mussels Prepping Eggplant
  5. Bake eggplant for 10 minutes. Remove from oven. With a heat resistant spoon or spatula, give the eggplant cubes a toss to help the eggplant cook evenly. Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until the eggplant is tender and caramelized. Remove from oven and set aside.
  6. While eggplant is baking, begin preparing the mussels.
  7. In a large, lidded pot (I used my dutch oven), heat remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the butter over medium, to medium high heat.
  8. When butter has melted, sauté shallots until soft and translucent, then add the minced garlic.Asian Mussels Cooking Shallots
  9. Pour wine into the pot and add the Thai chili pepper and bring to a boil.Asian Mussels Wine
  10.  Add diced tomatoes along with the juices.
  11. Return to boil.  Lower heat to medium.  Cover and simmer  2-3 minutes.Asian Mussels Adding Tomato
  12. Add mussels to the pot in a single layer along with half of the Thai basil. Cover and steam the mussels for 3 minutes.Asian Mussels Layering Shellfish
  13. After 3 minutes, check to see if mussels have begun to open. Most open within 3-4 minutes.Asian Mussels Steamed and Ready
  14. Once most of the mussels have opened, use a slotted spoon to remove mussels from the juices they were steamed in and place in a large bowl. Discard mussels that remain closed.Asian Mussels Removing Mussels
  15. To serve spoon tomatoes and juices over the cooked pasta along with the baked eggplant cubes. Toss together. Add desired mussels. Spoon additional juices as desired over the mussels, and sprinkle with remaining chopped Thai basil.

Asian Fusion Mussels 1

Filipino Adobo – National Dish of the Philippines

Filipino Adobo 4First, I want to say thank-you to everyone’s concern about my family in the Philippines in the aftermath of typhoon Haiyan.  My family is fine.  Most of mother’s side of the  family lives in and around the capital, Manila, about 500 miles north of the devastation you have seen in Tacloban.  I grew up in that region of the world and experienced many typhoons, but nothing like Haiyan.  The closest comparison to the American experience is probably Hurricane Katrina.  Please continue to pray for the country and its people.  They have a long and hard journey ahead to recovery.

In honor of my mother’s homeland, I thought I’d share the [unofficial] national dish of the Philippines: adobo.  Unlike other popular Filipino dishes, such as lumpia or pancit, Filipino adobo is indigenous to the archipelago.  When the Spanish arrived in the 16th century, they made mention in their records of the natives preparing food in vinegar and Filipino Adobo 2salt.  Why? Food preservation.  Pinterest has enlightened many of us to vinegar’s antibacterial qualities.  Combine vinegar with salt and heat and you have one serious cootie kicking combination.  Later on, soy sauce eventually replaced salt as Chinese influences entered into the Philippine islands .  The term adobo itself means a seasoning or marinade in Spanish.  This is why you will find a vast amount of completely different dishes originating in Latin and South America that share the name adobo.

Filipino adobo is typically made with either pork or chicken.  Growing up, my mother used both, but we definitely had a preference for chicken.  I find that  bone-in, dark meat is best, as it stands up to the stewing process and intense flavors of the vinegar and soy sauce.  In the past 10 Filipino Adobo 5years, my mother has actually switched to using chicken wings for her adobo, which has made it a frequent request for parties.  I also prefer to make my adobo to the consistency of a stew, because I love pouring the vinegary “broth” over jasmine rice and letting it soak up all that yummy flavor.   Another version is to cook the adobo until the cooking liquid has reduced to a thick, glaze like consistency.  If you like my mother’s chicken wing idea, I’d recommend using this latter style (use less cooking liquid).

“Aaaah, Ruth! You did so good!” my mother declared the first time she tasted my adobo.  There’s nothing like receiving praises from your mother when it comes to the dishes she used to make for you when you were a child.

Filipino Adobo 1

Notes:
To add some green to this very brown dish, add petite baby bok choy during the last 5-8 minutes of cooking time so that they steam in the pot with the adobo liquid.

Filipino Chicken Adobo

Ingredients

Chicken Adobo Ingredients

  • 3-3 ½  bone in, skin on dark meat
  • ¾ cup soy sauce
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • ½ cup apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ cup to 1 cup water
  • 1 teaspoon whole peppercorns
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 5 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
Directions
  1. Optional: Heat oil in large, heavy pot over medium high. When oil is hot, brown the chicken lightly, but no more than 5 minutes.  You’re only browning, not cooking the chicken.
  2. Add all remaining ingredients into the pot over the chicken.Filipino Adobo All in the Pot
  3. Over medium high heat, bring liquid to a boil.Filipino Adobo Boil
  4. Cover and reduce heat so that the liquid comes to a simmer.  Cook for 30-45 minutes until chicken is tender.Filipino Adobo Simmer
  5. Serve hot over steamed rice.Filipino Adobo 3

Low Country Boil, Summer Entertaining Southern

LCB 7

Ah, how bitter sweet it is.  Today marks the end of the summer “season”.  Sadly, this summer just did not feel like summer. Barring the handful of 100°+ days, the season was uncannily cool and horrendously wet.  The constant rain often precluded my friends and me from enjoying our favorite summer outings, like boating on the Potomac and picnicking at one of the many delightful Virginia vineyards.  Being the sunshine and daisies Pollyanna that I am, though, I still found effective ways to enjoy a few summer delights.

For example,  instead of driving out an hour or more to a vineyard only to be caught in a torrential downpour huddling under a single shelter, I’d set out a blanket in the common area of my neighborhood to read a book while nibbling on cheese and enjoying a chilled Virginia Viognier.  When the storm clouds got too close, all I had to do was gather the few items and re-establish myself on the back porch and enjoy the storm comfortably.  On days like that, an awesome summer stew, like this Low Country Boil was the perfect accompaniment.

Also referred to as Frogmore or Beaufort Stew, I first enjoyed this classic LCB 5southern dish in its native land of coastal South Carolina, also known as “the Low Country”.  It goes back to my Marine Corps connections.  You’ll find that many Marines with an aviation background (like my dad!),  are familiar with this dish seeing as one of its namesakes is Beaufort, which is home to a Marine Air Station…Parris Island is down the road, but I don’t know how much Low Country Boil they let you have in boot camp, lol!

I love Low Country Boil, because it’s just a fun dish and so full of summer flavors. At its core, all you need is shrimp, fresh corn on the cob, crab seasoning, and water. Common additions you’ll find in the dish include sausage and potatoes. Myself, I like to add zucchini just to get a “real” vegetable in the pot.  And this dish is so easy! Basically, throw everything in the pot, boil it and serve. Can’t get much simpler than that now can you?

LCB 2


Ingredients
serves about 6

LCB Ingredients

  • 8 cups water
  • 3-4 tablespoons Old Bay seasoning
  • 2 pounds shrimp (unpeeled will add more flavor to broth)
  • 1 pound sausage, sliced crosswise into bite size pieces
  • 1 small onion thinly sliced
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, minced
  •  1 pound bite size red potatoes
  • 2-3 ears of corn, husked and cut into thirds
  • 1 large zucchini, sliced into 1/2 inch moons
  • salt and pepper to taste
Directions
  1. In a large pot (preferably at big stock pot), combine  water, Old Bay, onions, and garlic; bring to a boil.
  2. Add potatoes; boil for 10- 15 until almost tender. (Cooking time will depend on the size of the potatoes).LCB potato time
  3. Add sausage to pot and boil for  5 minutes.
  4. Add the corn and boil for 5 minutes.
  5. Add the zucchini and boil for 2-3 minutes.LCB zucchini in the pot
  6. Lastly, add the the shrimp and boil for 3 minutes more or until shrimp turns pink.LCB shrimp time
  7. Ladle into bowls, garnish with an additional sprinkling of Old Bay (optional), and serve.

LCB 1

Note: If you didn’t peel the shrimp…be sure it is cool enough to handle before peeling by hand. Burned fingers are no fun!

LCB 3