Foodie Blogroll Ad Code

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!

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

A Non-Partisan Look At Food Safety

"Non-partisan" seems to be a pretty big buzzword lately. Maybe because neither parties seem to be doing much of anything useful or good, and who wants to be associated with that? I've been non-partisan, however, for a long time. Since I came of age, it's been pretty obvious to me that neither party was a good idea, that they were both fundamentally broken, and that politics was full of overinflated egomaniacs and liars, all of them crowing to see who could be heard above the rest of the cacophony.

So, when I say "non-partisan", I'm not secretly pulling for any party's agenda. I really mean non-partisan.

I recently read a few articles that have my hackles raised and my eyes rolling. Simultaneously. It's a scary sight, I'm sure. One was about the new GOP "victory" over biodegradable waste. Speaker Boehner triumphantly tweeted that they had gotten the styrofoam cups restored! To the benefit of....who, exactly? The other was a brief article on Grist that mentioned the GOP trying to close down the poison control centers in the United States to save a whopping $27 million...barely a scratch on the surface of the national deficit. And what are the Democrats doing to stop this? Grumbling. Impotently.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Recipe! Crispy Garlic Smashed Potatoes

There's a certain someone in my family who drives a great deal of my cooking and shopping choices. He's the man of the house and the baby of the family, and while he may be fond of my multicultural cooking, too much of it and he will have to have some good old fashioned meat and potatoes, American style. I try to keep this in mind when I meal plan and grocery shop...after all, I could eat curries over brown rice at least once a week, and I love cooking meals that are off the beaten path, but too much garam masala or turmeric and this kid asks for a burger.

Thus after last week's Libyan/Tunisian feast, a good old fashioned meat and potatoes sort of meal had to be constructed. The meat was just your average meatloaf, but the potatoes...

Well, a little while back I got a trial issue of the America's Test Kitchen magazine. America's Test Kitchen comes up with some amazing recipes, but they are often more difficult than it seems like they should be. Still, they tend to produce smashing results, and this recipe is no exception.

Just for the sake of argument, I tried making smashed potatoes the other way (i.e. boiling them then smashing them and baking them) and ...there's no comparison. Roasting is the way to go. This recipe will take about an hour and a half to complete, so it's best served with something that doesn't need the oven. It should be served immediately, hot and delicious. They can be eaten with ketchup...I preferred them without it!

Oh and...the American Food Craving was satisfied. Enjoy!

Friday, March 4, 2011

A Week of Peace Pt 4 (Recipe: Makhouda D'Aubergine)

There's an old cliche about saving the best for last....and that's certainly the case with today's recipe. Tunisian in origin, Makhouda D'Aubergine is a mix and marriage of Tunisian and French influences. Tunisian food is particularly interesting because it is a vast fusion of the many culture that have, at some point, permeated Tunisian society.

This brings up an interesting point as well. I don't deny that Tunisia has faced many difficulties in it's history. Being overtaken by so many different groups, plus natural disasters and authoritarian dictatorships takes its toll. I would never do or say anything to minimize their struggle. However, with the recent Jasmine Revolution and the current struggle to instill a fair and democratic government for the country, one can't deny that their hardships have made the Tunisian people even stronger.

Their strength and courage have been an inspiration to so many throughout the Arab world, and they have even opened their borders to the Libyan refugees and provided humanitarian aid via their military for those needing to flee. This compassion and strength is a beautiful, wonderful thing. It is truly worthy of celebration.

Of course, this mirrors a very human concept; that life is often very difficult and challenging but that the struggles we face ultimately shape us. If we choose to let them, they can shape us for the better. Hardships are a part of life, and what troubles we face in life become a part of us. We are inevitably shaped by them. However, if we let them, they can galvanize us instead of tearing us apart. If you feel as though life has torn you apart, make this dish and remember that everything leaves a mark...but those marks can be interpreted as something beautiful. Enjoy!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

A Week of Peace Pt 3 (Recipe: Whole Wheat Pita Bread)

Sometimes it's easy to be intimidated or anxious about our actions today, because we can't stop thinking of their future complications. It's very smart to consider the future when making decisions, and endeavoring not to endanger your future with your present. However, there are times in life when we have to take a "Leap of Faith"...taking a calculated risk and believing that it's worth it to increase our overall quality of life.

In Libya right now, the people are fighting with all of their might. They don't know what will come of their actions, they don't know how their country will function at the end of what is quickly shaping up to be a civil war. And yet, for the sake of their freedom, the must fight. America was in a similar situation nearly 300 years ago. We didn't know where we were going to end up, only where we wanted to be. But the desire for change and the need for freedom was so strong that it was worth the chance.

On a smaller scale, we make these types of decisions...maybe not every day, but several times in our lives, at least. Those moments where we must look at our lives and decide if some decision is worthwhile, if it is fear that is holding us back or caution. If fear hold you back, then I urge you to conquer your fears. And even if you fall, even if your plans don't work out the way you wanted them to, their is virtue in trying. And there's nothing that you can't come back from, even if it's painful.

Fight for what matters to you. Don't let fear dictate your life. Live for peace and love people freely...all easier said than done, but still doable. And that's what matters.

Please enjoy this recipe for whole wheat pitas, which are a million times more delicious than the store-bought variety and healthier too. Adapted from this recipe. Live well, love much, and be willing face your fears head on.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

A Week of Peace Pt 2 (Recipe: Kofta Meatballs in Libyan Sauce)

It's funny to me, how foreign another culture can feel simply because of the food that it's people enjoy. By the same token, when you sit down and enjoy a meal with another person, it doesn't matter if you come from wildly different backgrounds: you've shared something together, something that you both enjoyed.

Food is funny that way. It can bring people together and it can keep them apart. It's all about the context, and the willingness of two people, or a group of people, to gather around one table and share one another's influences and culture. Americans used to be known for a lack of culinary adventurousness, but we've been getting steadily better. We're much more likely now to try new food from other countries, more likely than ever before.

Maybe a peaceful world seems, to some, a rather naive wish. But if we try for it, surely the world could be better. Nothing is perfect, but with countries at war with one another and within themselves, any improvement would be major improvement. As a cook, as someone who has benefited greatly from a good diet and from the process of cooking with and for others, I don't think it's such a bad idea to start the world-peace process with food. Even people with nothing at all in common can connect over food.

This recipe, Kofta Meatballs in Libyan Sauce, is a wonderful dish to enjoy with a whole group of people. Kofta is an almost universal food around the Mediterranean Middle East. It goes by several different names but the processes and ingredients are similar in all of them. The sauce is what makes it...and you could use all sorts of different sauces. Curry, Korma, Masala...but in keeping with the theme, I used a version of a traditional Libyan "gravy".  Based in tomatoes, garlic, and ginger, this sauce has a delightful mix of spices and goes wonderfully with the kofta.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

A Week of Peace: Part One & Cumin Tahini Dip Recipe



With all of the unrest in Northern Africa and the Middle East, the international climate has been strained...but at the same time, it's been absolutely joyful. Following the protests in Tunisia, Egypt, Bahrain, and Libya has been an amazing experience because the people have been so deeply empowered by them.

There are many freedoms and advantages the First World countries enjoy, perhaps moreso than we even realize. The fact that we can go to a grocery store - whatever grocery store we choose - and spend our own money on whatever food we want to feed ourselves and our families is one of those freedoms. This isn't to say that we aren't dealing with our own problems, because of course we are. Every country, no matter how affluent, has it's own problems. One look at Rhode Island and Wisconsin shows just one of the issues that America is currently facing. However, we have our freedom. It's only right that the rest of the world have the same.

Seeing the coverage of the protests on NPR.org has been so beautiful. Even though it's horrifying to see the lengths that governments will go to in order to quiet their people's dissent, seeing the humanitarian efforts and the way the Libyan Army has defected and joined the people...well, it's a triumph in so many ways. Where it will go from here remains to be seen, but the people are taking their freedom by force, and the painstaking battle for freedom can be the start of something beautiful.

Because of all of this, I decided to cook a Libyan/Tunisian meal with several courses. It was a show of solidarity with the people of North Africa and a nod to all of their efforts. The food was delicious, and I will share the recipes here, but I hope that making these recipes and sharing them with loved ones will encourage the sharing of information and the furthering of freedom.

Please, make these recipes and enjoy, but also remember all those who have been killed in the protests, and celebrate the freedom that the people of Libya are fighting so hard to achieve.