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Friday, April 8, 2011

Recipe! Whole Wheat Coconut Rolls

Coconut, like pumpkin, happens to be one of my food obsessions. I love it so much in so many different incarnations...perhaps most of all in curries...or ice creams...but the list hardly ends there. When I saw this coconut bread recipe on Whole Foods, I was completely enamored with the thought of it. However, it calls for white flour, and one of the reviewers said that replacing even one cup of the 3 1/2 with wheat flour made the rolls turn out badly.

Of course, baking with whole grains can be a bit of an art, and there's more than one type of whole grain flour, so I figured that I would give it a shot. For these rolls, I used whole wheat pastry flour. It's rather expensive compared to white whole wheat flour or regular graham flour, but when you need a white flour consistency? It's the only way to go. I found that the "more for kneading" was quite a bit more, so make sure that you have plenty of flour on hand.

Anyway, the dough rose beautifully and the rolls turned out gorgeous and delicious. We ate them with Cabbage-Leek "Latkes" and Coconut Curry Sauce and spread them with butter and honey. DELICIOUS!

Like most yeast breads, this takes a little bit of time. I would allow about three hours to prepare it, although only about half an hour of that is spent actually working with the rolls. The rest of it is rising time! Also I adjusted the cooking time from the original recipe; whole grain rolls seem to take a bit longer. Since no unsweetened coconut was available at my market, I used sweetened.

Enjoy!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Recipe! Cabbage-Leek "Latkes"

This recipe is one that makes a perfect base for almost any savory topping you can imagine! Not only is it incredibly low in calories (50 per cake!) but the natural flavor of the cabbage and leek can be played up with whatever spices you desire! Leave it simple if you're going to use a strongly flavored sauce, but if you want to use a less spiced sauce, feel free to make the latkes pack a punch!

They are even delicious on their own, perhaps as a side dish. In face, I wished I had served them that way after trying a piece of a "naked" griddle cake....but I'll know better next time, right? The recipe as relayed here is vegetarian, but if you have some leftover ham or bacon, they would taste delicious in these!

I made them with a coconut curry sauce and served them with whole-wheat coconut rolls, recipe to come! The original recipe came from Whole Foods. I tweaked my own recipe just a bit and added more spice, but I imagine the recipe is very good as-written too. Also, I found that my batter was too dry and I added an additional egg and approximately another tablespoon of whole wheat pastry flour. They turned out perfectly!! This recipe is very easy. The prepwork was time consuming for me, as cutting two leeks into matchsticks seemed to take forever, but if you know a quicker way to accomplish that, it would be quick prep as well.

Enjoy!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Recipe! Black Bean Quesadillas with Chipotle Carmelized Onions

"Great Mexican food" has different meanings depending on what part of the country you occupy. In the Southern Midwest, we have a fair share of tex-mex restaurants, closer to the border (an out West) they have even more, as well as many authentic Mexican places. But n just about every part of the country, Mexican food means tons of grease, lots of calories, and portions so big to roll out the door afterward. In other words, it's not a friendly cuisine for anyone trying to watch their waistline or eating for a calmer mind.

However, done right, Mexican food can be healthy...and all of those spices and seasonings make a great cuisine to experiment with, to make your own delicious flavor combinations. (I mean, as far as I am concerned? Sweet potatoes and chipotle are a match made in Heaven.) The trick is cutting out the fried food, the extra grease, and on maximizing flavor with spices and whole, high quality ingredients.

When I make Mexican dishes, I love cooking the individual elements separately and then combining them at the end. Using this method achieves the most complex, delightful flavors without adding too much fat. (This as opposed to the Asian wok-style cooking, where everything is cooked in one pan to maximize flavor, usually cooked all together.)

I have included instructions on cooking each element of this dish, and then how to assemble and cook the final product. Make sure that you use an oven proof skillet!

I should be back in full capacity next week. Make, eat, enjoy!!!

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Recipe! Sour Cream Avocado Sriracha Dip

Remember how I wrote about not over-booking yourself? Looks like I aught to be taking my own advice! The last few weeks have been all kind of crazy, with family visiting, family near-emergencies, financial worries, starting a new job and leaving another, and forty hours of new-job training per week....and on top of it all, I've been fighting a pretty vicious cold....whew! I don't know about you, but I am pretty disinclined to cook anything when my sinuses are completely congested. I tried to make a sauce and I couldn't taste anything! It's discouraging to say the least.

In light of all that, posts have been a little sparse this month and for that I very much apologize. I've got some great recipes to share, too! So I decided to go ahead and share this week's recipes, even if I don't really have the time to write up my usual articles. Never fear! We will return to our regularly scheduled programming soon!

Today's recipe is another dip....a very delicious dip I came up with last week to go with tortilla chips and then later, a quesadilla (recipe to come!) This is a vegetarian (not vegan!) dip, and it's quite healthy. I imagine you could substitute Greek Yogurt for the light sour cream....might be worth a try next time! You cold also serve this with vegetables, pita, naan....whatever your favorite "dippers" happen to be.

I recommend using very ripe, soft avocados. Start with 1/2 t salt and sriracha and adjust from there! Enjoy!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Recipe! Turkey Tamale Pie

I ran across this recipe for Vegetarian Tamale Pies the other day, and knew I had to try it out on my little family. We had beans and extra dry polenta, so it made sense....plus it just sounds delicious, no? Of course, certain members of the household can't stand to eat dishes without meat, so it became necessary to add a little something...

In this case, a little something turned out to be turkey, seasoned with home-made taco seasoning. I also changed a few other details here and there, and lacking in ramekins, bakes the whole thing in a pie dish. It turned out delicious, though the presentation was not nearly as elegant as the original. I would definitely recommend the ramekins if serving to guests or at a party, but for your average weeknight-dinner, cooking this recipe in a pie-dish works out just fine.

As (nearly) always, we added sriracha for spice and flavor. If you aren't addicted to sriracha yet, please understand that you need to put the computer to sleep, run to the store, and buy a bottle. I tell you this for your own good.

For maximum deliciousness, make your own polenta and beans. For maximum quickness, use canned beans and prepared polenta. Whichever works! Cook, eat, enjoy.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Lifestyle: Taking Your Time

A few recent conversations have brought the subject of technology and lifestyle to mind lately. The more I see people running around trying to get more and more and more done, the more I am reminded of how much life we are missing out on by being in such a huge hurry all the time.

I've written before about how America's stress and anxiety are exacerbated by our frenetic lifestyle, and this very fact seems to be proven to me over and over again. We use our smart phones to tell us where to go, how to get there, we spend our days cooped up behind computers and we rarely make any real human connections anymore, because we are expected to make so many things happen within the confines of a twenty-four hour day.

In a society that values rushing everywhere, taking your time can seem like a luxury that very few can afford. But sometimes you have to set aside your own time and refuse to be rushed...it's the only way to get a moment to yourself!

The first step in reclaiming your time is often the most difficult:

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Recipe! Healthy Vegetable Asian Stir Fry

So! I come to you with a new laptop...and a headcold. What a week and a half it has been! And I've realized throughout the madness that when things get very tough, cooking becomes very difficult. I try to encourage my readers to make cooking a pleasurable, relaxing activity. I usually treat it the same way. However, when you just have to get some food on the table and there isn't a lot of time to fuss over it, it's great to have some recipes "in the bag", easy things that can be pulled out without much prep work.

Stir fries can be the star of the last-minute show. If you don't have time to make brown rice, I highly recommend serving them over rice noodles. By using minimal oil and as many vegetables as possible, you can make these one-pot dishes into a healthy, flavorful alternative to frozen, processed foods. Use whatever you have on hand: these ingredients are suggestions only.

Feel free to adjust seasonings to your liking...these measurements are meant as a guide. Delicious when served with Garlic Shrimp in Black Bean Sauce as well! Make, serve, eat, and enjoy!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Technical Difficulties!!

Hello everyone!

What a week it has been! We've had family emergencies, family visiting, I ended one job and started another, and now my laptop has been involved in an accident resulting in possibly having to replace it. I'm trying to get everything pulled together ASAP, but it's all a bit nuts right now!

I will be back with blogs and recipes soon! Until then feel free to look through the archives!

The Calm Cook

Friday, March 11, 2011

Explaining Anxiety To Others

Perhaps one of the most difficult aspects of having an anxiety disorder is fighting stereotypes, and explaining the various aspects of the disorder in ways that others can understand. of course, you don't have to explain your anxiety to anyone, it's not anyone's business but yours. But at certain times, you might feel as though you need to explain it, or you might be comfortable enough with another person to do so.

In that case, it's good to have an idea in your mind of what you want to say before you actually have this conversation. Not that it will be the same with everyone, and not that you want it to sound canned, but if you've thought through the basic concepts, they will be infinitely easier to convey.

So what need to be covered in a conversation explaining anxiety, and how can you coax understanding out of someone who may have never experienced your particular dilemmas?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Recipe! Garlic Shrimp with Black Bean Sauce

Every once and awhile there's an ingredient or a condiment that you use in one dish that sounds a little...suspect. Usually it's outside the realm of your culinary experience, maybe something you've not tasted before (to your knowledge). For me, recently, this item was fermented (or salted) black beans. I used them first in the Vietnamese Stir Fry that I made a few weeks ago, and realized that they add a lot of flavor to a recipe, despite being a little off the Western radar.

So what are fermented black beans? Well, they aren't the black beans you eat in tortilla soups and quesadillas. They are, in fact, soybeans that have been taken through a fermentation process. You usually rinse them before using and then smash them together with ginger and garlic for a fantastic stir fry seasoning base. I haven't made Black Bean Sauce yet, but I hear it's pretty delicious, and makes for a wonderful condiment.

Since making the Vietnamese Stir Fry, I've been using fermented black beans left and right, and looking for recipes that include them. This is one of the gems I found, lightly adapted from this recipe, best with a vegetable stir fry over rice noodles or brown rice. Enjoy!