Grilling…

grill with fire

Lit grill (from Wikipedia commons)

There’s nothing quite like grilling out, and one recipe that has turned asparagus-haters into asparagus-lovers in my family is grilled balsamic asparagus.  There are quite a few tasty yet simple variations available online.  Mine is as follows; amounts are determined by the amount of the veggie you are making.  The coriander provides a citrus-y zing that goes well with the balsamic.

This recipe is easy to make in a skillet/wok, though flame grilling provides a better flavor, IMHO.

To prepare the spears, it’s not required to trim them with a knife or peel them.  You can snap the spear in two towards the bottom (the more fibrous part will separate from the more tender part naturally).

 

Grilled Balsamic Asparagus

Bunch(es) of fresh asparagus spears

Olive or vegetable oil

Balsamic vinegar

Salt

Pepper

Coriander (crush the seeds with a mortar and pestle or use powdered coriander)

 

Rinse and prepare asparagus (as noted above).  Put all ingredients into a sealable plastic bag and set in a baking pan (in case the bag leaks).  Refrigerate and marinate for at least 1 hour, mixing at least once or twice, so all spears sit in the mixture/are coated well.  Grill until the spears are cooked to desired doneness, rotating as needed.  (I prefer to cook them until darker green, but not so much that they are mushy.)  Serve hot.

Enjoy!

(And watch for grill flare-ups due to the oil; make sure to grill safe!)

 

 

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Recipe: Chettinad Tomato Lentils

I have to recommend the recipes in The Curry Bible by Jacki Passmore; we’ve tried a few so far and they’ve been excellent quality and variety-wise.  The base spice mix for this curry (from pg. 90) is my favorite so far.  There are so many curries, and they go beyond the pre-bottled store curries for sure.  We have made this recipe several times, and it is a pleasant mix of hot and spice.  It could very easily be made hotter with more/other peppers.  We’ve modified the original to be less hot to work for both of our palates.  (I’m more of a heat fan.)   The original calls for chicken as the main ingredient, but I wanted to give lentils a try as an alternate option; it’s also a little more affordable.  The lentils also hold up well in the curry, even as they are already cooked. (I was a little nervous it would be mush.)

1 lb lentils, made according to package directions

3 dried red chilies, seeds removed (I used 1 each of guajillo, ancho, and mulato chiles)

1 1/2 teaspoon coriander seeds

1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns

4 teaspoons cardamom

3/4 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon salt

7oz dried coconut (unsweetened)

Oil (I used olive)

1 large onion

4 cloves garlic

1/4 teaspoon ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon star anise

6 oz tomato paste (I used the whole 12 oz can to use it up.)

2-3 cups water

2 tomatoes

1 fresh chili pepper (I used Poblano)

Additional salt to taste

Lemon juice

Make the lentils in a pot according to package directions.  (Ours were at medium heat – simmer/boil for about 20 minutes, and they were tender.)  While lentils are cooking, prepare the curry. (When the lentils are done, remove from heat and drain.)  Roast the coriander seeds in a pan on medium-low heat for a minute or two and remove from heat.  Put the deseeded peppers, roasted coriander, peppercorns, cardamom, cloves, cinnamon, fennel seeds, and salt in a blender and blend to a powder.  Add coconut and blend until fine.

Curry powder mix

Curry powder mix

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Heat the oil in a pan.  Chop the onion and add to the pan.  Let cook for a few minutes, stirring as needed.  (The onions don’t need to be completely soft.)

Onions in the pan

 

 

 

 

 

 

Crush the garlic- (a garlic press works well) and add to pan with the onion.  Add the ginger.  Don’t let the garlic cook too long- you don’t want it to burn.  Add the star anise and tomato paste.

Tomato paste added

 

 

 

 

 

 

Stir in the cooked lentils slowly.  Add the water- you don’t want soup, but you don’t want it to burn.  Keep stirring frequently to prevent sticking.

Lentils added

 

 

 

 

 

I chopped and added the tomatoes and chili pepper at this point (you may want to wear gloves with the pepper), but depending on how cooked you would like them, you could add them earlier.

Tomatoes and pepper added

 

 

 

 

 

 

Almost done!  I cooked the mixture with the added vegetables for about 5 minutes more, so they were not cooked completely through.  Keep stirring as needed, and add more water if needed so that the lentils do not stick to the pan.  Season with additional salt to taste, and top with a splash of  lemon juice.

Finished dinner!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Enjoy!!! Remember to have fun and experiment with curry!

 

Also, here are some quick general spice equivalents, if you have whole spices:

1 stick cinnamon= 1 teaspoon

1 pod cardamom= 1 teaspoon

1/4″ piece ginger= 1/4 teaspoon

1 star anise pod= 1/2 teaspoon

1 whole clove= 1/4 teaspoon

Chia… It’s Not Just for Pets Anymore!

I had heard about some of the benefits of chia seeds, but was excited to find out more- such as a recipe for chia pudding!

(Another recipe mentions you can use regular milk.)

 

Or a recipe for simple chia jam:

 

While some claims (such as weight loss) have not been researched much, chia seeds do have some known benefits.  My wife was most excited that they are a source of omega-3s that do not involve fish and (convenience-wise) are available in bulk at our local food cooperative.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

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(But be careful with the name!)  Celebrate with the history and some green, as well as favorite dishes (even though they may not be historically Irish).  Of course, there is nothing like a glass of Guinness.  Visit a local Irish pub, and don’t forget dessert!  I’m not Irish (but I’m adopted Irish through my wife).

We didn’t go with the typical dishes this year; instead, I made a sweet pea and asparagus risotto to celebrate with green.  I’ve made a basic (somewhat healthy) risotto recipe for a while now and have found ways to adjust it to tasty effect.  I have a couple of cooking adjustments so it is not so heavy (1% milk instead of cream, butter added just before the end, olive oil to start).  Enjoy!

Sweet Pea and Asparagus Risotto

olive oil

1 large white onion

2 cloves garlic

2 c white wine

1 tablespoon parsley

1 tablespoon thyme

1 tablespoon marjoram

1 tablespoon coriander

salt and pepper to taste

2 cups risotto rice (Arborio or another kind)

1 cup milk

6 cups water (added one at a time)

chicken-flavored stock granules (or veggie, if desired)

1 small bag frozen peas

1 bunch fresh asparagus, chopped into pieces (tough part of stem removed and discarded)

2 tablespoons butter

8 oz fresh Parmesan cheese, shredded

I cooked this using a wok, but a medium-large non-stick saucepan should work.  Add olive oil to pan and set heat to low-medium.  Chop onion and add to pan.  Saute for a few minutes.  Add garlic using a garlic press (or mince).  Cook for about a minute (don’t let garlic burn), and add white wine.  I added the herbs at this point.  (I tend to like a lot of seasoning, so my herb and spice measurements were more along the lines of 2 tablespoons each.)  Add the rice, and cook so the wine bubbles and starts to reduce.  Add peas and asparagus.  Add milk, and then add the water 1 cup at a time (as the water cooks away and evaporates).  (Add chicken, chicken-flavored, or veggie stock granules according to the package directions.)  Keep heat at about medium so the mixture is bubbling, and keep stirring frequently to prevent burning/sticking and to build the creaminess with the rice.  Taste the rice as you cook so it does not get completely soft (you may need to add additional cups of water if the rice is not yet done, though).  Add the butter just before you are done.  Allow it to melt and stir it into the mixture.  Remove the risotto from the heat and add the shredded Parmesan (while stirring).

A note- fresh peas may be better, but we did not have any available.  The frozen peas we had seemed starchy, but we did enjoy the flavor of the peas, so frozen baby peas may be the way to go (more sweetness, less starch).   Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

(Vegan) Marshmallows

Dandies Marshmallows

Dandies (Vegan) Marshmallows (Photo from website)

I found these marshmallows not because I am a vegan, but rather, my wife needed to find an option to bring for a church gathering.  We also brought some of these to a party hosted by some of our friends, one of whom is a vegetarian.  My wife did some research online and looked for what was available, since we didn’t really have many ideas about what options were out there.  She looked into recipes (somewhat time consuming, and we didn’t really have the right materials/equipment) as well as options and this stood out as one of the few vegan-friendly options.  We were able to find some at Whole Foods, but weren’t able to find them at our local co-op.

In comparison to typical store-sold marshmallows, they are a little more firm (but not much), but most importantly, they are quite delicious!  My wife also thought they had a nicer (more vanilla) flavor, and they passed the S’mores test at the campfire.  They browned well, paired well with grahams and chocolate, and got melty, though they didn’t puff up quite as much.  Overall, they greatly exceeded what I thought a vegan marshmallow would be and were a welcome equivalent (my wife, I think, liked them even a bit better than ‘regular’ marshmallows!)   Our friends agreed that they were tasty also.   I would certainly get them again and recommend them to anyone looking for a vegan (or non-vegan) marshmallow!

“Who gives a bean?” Pasta e Fagioli!

Chow Ciao logo

 

 

 

 

There’s no doubt about it, we’re creeping closer to fall.  As Fabio points out, it’s a great time for soup- in this case, Pasta e Fagioli.  Chef Fabio gives a little bean education to help pick the perfect bean.  I like the addition of the fennel. I personally love the flavor it adds as the star in a risotto.  Give the recipe a try!

Vegetarian Ground Beef

Veggie Ground Beef

Let me start by saying that I am not a vegetarian (but my wife and I don’t have meat included in our meals every day).  It’s not so much that we don’t enjoy steak/burgers/chicken/shrimp/insert other food here, but rather part expense/part health.  Meat can be expensive, and we are trying to eat as healthy as we can.  We both come from families that have had meat as part of meals more often, and that’s ok.  We don’t have anything against it (and I love home cooking).

As a part of trying to eat healthier, we have tried some vegetarian products, one of which is Lightlife Gimme Lean ground beef.  It’s in the refrigerated case in the vegetables/fruits section of our local food market.  I’ve now had it a few times in a few different dishes, and it doesn’t disappoint or make me long for a non-vegetarian substitute in its place (a key component for someone like me).

There’s this perception that trying to eat vegetarian (even if it’s only so often) leaves someone with few, bland food choices, or you only eat vegetables themselves, or it will leave you hungry somehow.  This product is a perfect example of how that is not true.  I’ve made this into tacos with black beans- tasty with some unflavored Greek yogurt and salsa.  (Seriously, try some unflavored Greek yogurt in place of sour cream.)  I couldn’t tell any major difference using Gimme Lean with lasagne. Most recently, we made cabbage soup with this-a tomato base with red wine and kidney beans.  It’s simple to include this in multi-component meals.  I’m not sure that I would use it by itself and it crumbled a bit in the soup, but it’s a quick-cooking, easy substitute for meat, if you’re looking for something to try as an introductory meatless product.  Enjoy!