Monthly Archives: February 2014

Silk Helped Me “Bloom” When I Was Dairy-Free

When I first went dairy-free to help with digestive issues, it was a major shift.

No more butter. No more cheese. No more cream or ice cream, and no more milk for baking, smoothies, or even in my gluten-free cereal.

Obviously, over time, I managed. There are some awesome substitutions you can do at home (I even figured out how to make my own “cream” of mushroom soup and cheese alternatives to make a dairy-free broccoli “cheese” casserole for Thanksgiving one year!), but sometimes, store-bought products can really make things simpler. After all, there is only so much you can fit into your day.

Out of all of the brands of almond milk, Silk’s unsweetened Almondmilk was my favorite. It was creamier than some others, and it worked well for everything from mashed potatoes to smoothies.

Just a few examples:

I could easily swap out regular milk for Silk’s Almondmilk in this carrot cake cupcake recipe.

I used almond milk in this healthy Chocolate Protein “Frosty”, which made for a simple dairy-free treat.

Almond milk made this dairy-free sweet corn ice cream delicious!

In fact, almond milk can be substituted in any recipe for regular milk. It works beautifully. (Just don’t accidentally use vanilla Silk Almondmilk for a savory recipe – it doesn’t exactly taste that great. Not that I would know or anything. *cough cough*)

Ultimately, products like Silk offered help, especially when I was first dairy-free and felt overwhelmed with changes I needed to make. Part of their “Bloom” campaign asks how Silk helped me “bloom” – I’d have to say it helped me flourish in cooking and baking even when I had to eat dairy-free. It was easy to make that switch to using their Almondmilk for all sorts of things. And now, while I don’t eat strictly dairy-free, I still make dairy-free desserts for family members that cannot eat dairy, and this product makes it convenient.

Do you follow a dairy-free diet? Are you interested in signing up to hear more from Silk via email? You can:

• Sign up for a coupon! All new registrants will receive $0.75 off any Silk half gallon!

• When you register, you can also look forward to:

– More coupons delivered to your inbox plus a special birthday offer

– News of Silk sweepstakes and promotions

– Monthly chances to win a year’s supply of Silk!

Sign up HERE!

Want to know more about dairy-free living? Check out my Living Gluten and Dairy-Free Page!

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Silk. The opinions and text are all mine.

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Clementine Mascarpone Frosting

carrot cake cupcakes

Sometimes, you just need a treat.

Or at least, that’s what I decided this weekend. So I made carrot cake cupcakes. (And subsequently forced them upon my co-ed soccer team. They didn’t seem to mind.)

Besides, springtime is coming soon, and what’s more springlike than carrot cake? It’s perfect for Easter, of course, but who wants to wait that long? Especially when clementines can still be found in the store right now? Let’s fake spring until it’s time, and make some cupcakes today.

Now, yes, the frosting is not dairy-free. I will share with you links to make an alternative “cream cheese” style base for your frosting. (I promise; it’s delicious. I made it multiple times when I was dairy-free and shared with family and friends, who were none the wiser.) But if you can eat dairy, the mascarpone makes this frosting creamy and decadent. It’s the perfect compliment to carrot cake, and more especially so with the addition of clementine.

These cupcakes are easy to make and remain moist and tender. I opted to add raisins, pecans, and clementine zest to my cake – you can leave any of these out if you wish, but I find the combination of these make the cake memorable and special. After all, if you’re going to go through the trouble of making a treat, what you want is special, right?

Print Recipe

Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Clementine Mascarpone Frosting (gluten-free)

For the cupcakes:

1/3 c sweet white rice flour

1/3 c superfine brown rice flour (I like this brand)

1/3 c tapioca flour

1 t gelatin (I like this brand)

1/2 t baking soda

3/4 t baking powder

1/4 t kosher salt

1 t cinnamon

1/4 t ground nutmeg

1 t freshly grated zest from clementine (or orange)

1/2 c granulated sugar

3 T brown sugar

1 1/2 c grated carrot

1/2 c finely chopped pecans

1/4 c raisins

1/4 c coconut oil, melted

2 eggs at room temperature

1/2 t apple cider vinegar

1/4 c almond milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a muffin tin with 12 liners. Set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, add the flours, gelatin, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, orange zest, sugar, and brown sugar. Mix on low speed until all is combined and the brown sugar no longer has lumps.

In a separate medium bowl, combine the carrots, pecans, and raisins. Add about a tablespoon of the flour mixture to this bowl and toss to coat. Set aside.

In a third small bowl, whisk together the coconut oil, eggs, apple cider vinegar, and almond milk until frothy. Add this to the flour mixture and mix on low until combined. Add the carrot mixture and mix until everything is evenly combined.

Spoon batter evenly into prepared muffin tin. Bake at 350 for 16-18 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with few crumbs. Remove and allow to cool completely before frosting.

For the frosting:

6 oz mascarpone cheese (Make your own here. Can substitute cream cheese or a vegan cashew cream cheese – I love this recipe.)

1 T butter or vegan buttery sticks

A pinch of salt

1 1/2 T clementine juice

1/2 t fresh zest from a clementine

2 c powdered sugar

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the mascarpone cheese, butter and salt until creamy. Add the clementine juice, zest and a cup of the powdered sugar and beat again until smooth. Add the rest of the powdered sugar and mix on low until combined. Turn to medium speed and beat for another minute or until creamy, adding additional powdered sugar as needed to achieve desired thickness. Chill in refrigerator until ready to use. Pipe or spread onto cupcakes.

Serve cupcakes as is or garnished with clementine slices.

Makes one dozen.

Roasted Balsamic Mushrooms, Plus Videos For Veggie Success!

roasted balsamic mushrooms

You’ve made a decision. You want to eat more vegetables. But after eating salads for a few weeks, you’re sick and tired of the same old thing. You want to try a new vegetable, so you browse the produce aisle, and you grab something different. Some spinach. Cabbage. Maybe Brussels sprouts, or some crimini mushrooms. You’ve told yourself “I’m going to cook this!” and you put it in your basket. It goes home with you, and you stick it in the crisper drawer in the fridge.

And there it sits. And sits.

Aaaaand sits.

See, you had the best of intentions. You really did. But that new vegetable? Frankly, it’s intimidating. Outside of the norm. You just don’t know what to do with it! So it remains in the fridge, alone and forgotten, until it has turned into a mushy, slimy mess in its cellophane bag. After a time, you guiltily throw it away, and resolve to do better next time.

Sound familiar? An alternate version of the story involves you browsing the produce aisle, but feeling so overwhelmed by the intimidation (“I don’t know how to cook any of this stuff!”) that you ultimately come home with a baking potato and a bag of salad for the third week in a row.

I’ve been there. I understand. When we’ve already expended so much energy throughout the day focusing on getting kids ready for school, working, dealing with emergencies, ungrateful bosses, traffic, and less-than-ideal weather, we just can’t deal with the “new vegetable” thing. Even if our heart is in the right place.

It just seems so…hard.

That was the premise for the recent string of YouTube videos I’ve been sharing lately. Because I know that for many of us, cooking from scratch alone is uncharted territory, and even if we know how to make a few things, we are often hesitant or just don’t have the energy to do something that seems daunting. A new vegetable, or any food, really, often seems daunting! I’m hoping that through these videos, that we can together change that thought process. Because honestly, a vegetable shouldn’t be so scary, right?

Each of these videos (feel free to browse around and subscribe to my YouTube channel) showcases a simple way to prepare a fresh vegetable using very few ingredients, and 5 minutes of preparation time, max. The videos aren’t super-fancy; my kitchen isn’t perfect and I’m often in comfortable clothes. It’s not perfectly polished. My dogs make cameo appearances sometimes, as they’re often hoping I’ll drop something tasty on the floor. Moral of the story is: This stuff is totally down-to-earth and doable. Even at the end of a long day. I promise!

This week, I’m sharing one of my favorite ways to make roasted mushrooms. These mushrooms I’ve shared before a few years ago, but I come back to them time and again. After all, they’re easy. You can toss mushrooms with some herbs and garlic, and when you’re ready, throw them in the oven. Then, 20 minutes later, you take them out. The end. Finito. That’s all you have to do.

But in case you don’t believe me, you can watch the video and see for yourself.

See? That’s not so bad, right? Ready to make them for yourself? Here’s the recipe!

Print Recipe

Roasted Balsamic Mushrooms (gluten-free, grain-free, vegan, sugar-free)

1 lb fresh crimini mushrooms

4 garlic cloves, minced

¼ c extra virgin olive oil

2 T balsamic vinegar

1 t fresh thyme leaves

Salt and pepper to taste

¼ c fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment or foil. Toss the mushrooms with the garlic, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, thyme, salt and pepper. Roast until the mushrooms are juicy – about 20 minutes.

Remove from the oven and toss with the parsley while still warm.

(hint: to streamline your meal, you can prepare this recipe up to the point where you would put it in the oven, and instead refrigerate for a few hours. Then, when it’s time, just pop in the oven as directed.)

Serves 4.

 

 

Gluten-Free Mythbusters

Myth: Ding-Dongs are a thing of the past on a gluten-free diet (you can make them yourself!)

When you’re first starting a gluten-free diet, it can quickly become overwhelming. You have to read labels. You know you can’t eat wheat, barley, oats and rye, but have no idea where to find these ingredients in your food, and have been told they are lurking everywhere.

Or maybe you haven’t gone gluten-free yet. You’re just browsing around, and everywhere you look, you see the gluten-free label. You start wondering if maybe this is something you should try, for health benefits. It seems everyone else is doing it, after all!

So you start researching. You look up all these different websites, hoping for some guidance, but no luck. One site says one thing is okay to eat, another tells you that thing is unhealthy. Which is correct? What do you do?

These questions are what’s prompted this post. There are lots of myths about gluten-free living and your health. Let’s get started busting some of these myths!

Myth: A gluten-free diet is a healthier diet.

Fact: Gluten-free does not automatically mean healthy. A healthy diet is comprised of a variety of foods, from meats, to beans, to vegetables, fruits, grains, dairy, nuts, seeds, even a sweet treat or the occasional French fry. For those without celiac disease or a gluten intolerance, eating gluten can totally be a part of a healthy diet.

But just because you eat gluten-free, regardless of whether you have celiac disease or an intolerance or not, it doesn’t automatically make your diet healthier. Many things are gluten-free. Gummy bears, vodka, kale, plain coffee, lead…all gluten-free. But eat any of these in excess (okay, don’t eat ANY lead, please) and it’s bad for your health. Healthy living is about a varied diet and moderation. So while gluten-free living is healthier for those that cannot tolerate it, such as those with celiac disease, gluten-free, by its definition, is not inherently a healthier diet.

Myth: A gluten-free diet will help you lose weight.

Fact: Any diet that reduces your calorie intake below the calories you burn will help you lose weight. The gluten-free diet is not a low-calorie diet or a weight loss diet – the diet is there to help those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance live without the symptoms gluten causes. Some people may lose weight when they start a gluten-free diet, but this is due to the fact that many readily available foods in restaurants and packaged foods are not gluten-free, and that may inadvertently lead to a reduction in calorie intake.

Bottom line: Restricting any food does not cause weight loss, and this includes gluten-containing foods. A gluten-free diet is again, healthy for those with celiac disease or gluten intolerance, but is not a weight loss diet.

Myth: Those with celiac disease can cheat on their diet, as long as it’s only every once in a while.

When those with celiac disease eat gluten, their bodies become damaged by the proteins and they cannot properly absorb nutrients. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, it is because you have damaged intestinal villi. If you continue to ingest gluten, even tiny amounts, it can prevent the villi from healing, and your body will continue to be robbed of nutrients, leading to nutrient deficiencies, osteoporosis, and more. This is why it’s important to adhere to a strict gluten-free diet, including paying attention to cross-contamination sources and minimizing risk.

Myth: All gluten-free store-bought products are stripped of nutrients, and are unhealthy, cause a reduction in fiber intake, and cause nutrient deficiencies.

Fact: Many store-bought gluten-free products are made with refined flours and white sugars, much like their gluten-full counterparts. This doesn’t mean they are less healthy than comparables. A gluten-free cupcake or cookie, for example, is a lovely treat and while it does often contain refined flours and sugar, can be part of a varied, well-balanced diet. (Like I mentioned above, eating ANY single food, from cookies to kale, to excess can cause negative health implications. Moderation is key.)

Furthermore, there is more variety than ever in store-bought gluten-free products, and many items are full of nutrients. You can find delicious whole grain gluten-free breads, granolas, snack bars, pastas and more that are definitely not void of nutrients. Again, the key to a nutritious diet for anyone is variety.

Myth: It’s okay to self-diagnose and go gluten-free without going through medical testing.

Fact: Going on a gluten-free diet before receiving a medical diagnosis can cause test results to be inaccurate. If you think you have an issue with gluten, see your doctor and get tested. Once a proper diagnosis is made, then the gluten-free diet can be followed accordingly. Sometimes people (such as myself – I learned this the hard way) self-diagnose only to find that a gluten-free diet is not making them feel better. This can cause them to not find a proper diagnosis.

Myth: Going gluten-free can can alleviate a bunch of other medical conditions (besides celiac disease).

There have been numerous articles written about the correlation between the gluten-free diet and alleviating numerous conditions, from migraines to eczema to autism. Unfortunately, there is not scientific evidence to back this up. (In fact, a double-blind study at University of Rochester showed no discernible difference in sleep, bowel, or behavior patterns.) If you are experiencing unexplained medical symptoms, it’s best to see a doctor to obtain a proper diagnosis.

Myth: It’s difficult, if not impossible, to eat at a restaurant while on a gluten-free diet.

Fact: While you need to conduct some due diligence and ask some key questions at a restaurant prior to eating, if you have a gluten intolerance or celiac disease, eating out is not impossible. In fact, it gets easier every day, thanks to increased awareness, the increased prevalence of gluten-free menus in restaurants, and smart phone apps such as Find Me Gluten Free. For some tips on eating out, check out my tips on eating out at restaurants.

Myth: As long as I avoid wheat, barley, rye and oats, I’m fine, right?

Fact: The common foods such as regular bread, pasta, crackers, and baked goods contain gluten. But there are some sneaky places it lurks as well. Sauces, condiments, medicines, and makeup can also contain gluten. It pays to check labels carefully.

Myth: There are no good gluten-free breads, pizza crusts, bagels, donuts, etc.

Fact: Now that the gluten-free diet is more prevalent than ever, there are more manufacturers out there making delicious breads, buns, pizza crusts, bagels, and more. A bonus: they taste waaay better than the gluten-free products of old. Local Oven and Udi’s are two of my favorite brands. Also, you can make yummy gluten-free products in your own kitchen! Try out my quinoa pizza crust, for example. Gluten-free doesn’t mean a life without pizza, I promise!

What are some gluten-free myths you’ve heard? Let’s bust them too!

For more help getting started or managing a gluten-free diet, check out my Living Gluten and Dairy-Free page!

Learn more about living gluten free! Visit http://udisglutenfree.com/community

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Udi’s Gluten Free. The opinions and text are all mine.

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic

sauteed spinach

Looking for a quick-and-easy way to get something green on your plate for dinner tonight?

How about spinach?

Gone are those days, when I was growing up, where Mom would open a can of spinach, and we would eat it, pretending we would grow big and strong just like Popeye. I can’t even remember the last time I ate canned spinach, honestly. It’s been a long time. I much prefer fresh when I can get it, frozen when I can’t. It’s a taste preference – canned seems mushy and salty to me nowadays.

Cooking from fresh, however, doesn’t mean it has to be difficult. With just a few ingredients and less than 5 minutes, you can have delicious sautéed spinach with garlic that is a million times tastier than the canned variety. The fresh flavors of the spinach and garlic really shine, and the spinach is tender and bright.

Want to see just how easy it is? Check out my simple instructional video – and while you’re at it, subscribe to my YouTube channel to see even more easy veggie ideas.

So while your main dish is roasting in the oven, pull out a skillet and sauté some spinach! You’ll be happy you did.

Print Recipe

Sautéed Spinach with Garlic (gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

1 T coconut oil (or oil of choice – olive oil or butter works well here)

1 clove garlic, minced

8 oz spinach leaves, rinsed well and drained (let any residual water cling to the leaves), torn into smallish pieces

Salt and pepper to taste

Heat coconut oil in a large skillet over medium heat, swirling around to coat. Add garlic and sauté for about 30 seconds. Add spinach leaves and stir to coat. Cover with a lid and allow to steam for a minute or two, or until leaves have turned bright green and have just started to wilt. Remove the lid and stir. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serves 2-4.

Chocolate-Covered Cherries

chocolate covered cherries

Growing up, one of my Dad’s favorite treats was a box of chocolate-covered cherries. I loved them too. Biting into the chocolate shell to reveal the sweet maraschino cherry inside was like opening a delicious present. But over the years, the boxed chocolate-covered cherries of old became less appealing. The quality went down, and they were more often a cheap chocolate shell filled with cherry-like goo. Next-to-none of the real thing.

While I certainly could have sought out a higher-quality confection from one of the fancy candy stores, I opted instead to attempt my own. I’ve made other candies – chocolate coconut candies, fudgepeanut butter cups, chocolate pecan pralines and more – so why not these?

Turns out, they were easier than I’d imagined. Making the fondant was a cinch, and without the testy nature of boiling sugar (like there is with pralines or caramels and such), this was a project I could do at my own pace and while working on other things in the kitchen without fear. The most difficult part in my opinion was remembering to set the cherries to dry out a bit the day before I wanted to make these – which really isn’t that difficult at all!

So whether you want to treat your Valentine this year to something special, or you just want to play candymaker in a new way, I encourage you to make your own chocolate-covered cherries! They’re sweet and delicious and well worth a little work.

Print Recipe

Chocolate-Covered Cherries (gluten-free, vegan-adaptable)

About 20 maraschino cherries (I used an 8 oz jar of these, as they have no dyes or corn syrup)

2 T butter or vegan buttery sticks (don’t use the vegan spread, as it has too much water), softened to room temperature

2 t agave nectar

1 1/2 T reserved cherry liquid

1/4 t almond extract

1 1/2 c powdered sugar

8 oz semi-sweet or dark chocolate (I used Guittard)

The day before you want to make your chocolate-covered cherries, drain the cherries from their liquid (reserving the liquid) and pat dry. Set on a wire rack inside the refrigerator to dry overnight.

The following day, to prepare the fondant, add the butter/buttery stick, agave nectar, reserved cherry liquid, and almond extract and beat until combined. Add the powdered sugar, and mix on low speed until everything comes together in a ball around the paddle. If it’s too dry, add a few drops of cherry liquid. Too sticky, add a bit of powdered sugar. You want the texture to be a soft and malleable dough, but not sticky.

Scoop a small ball with the dough (about the diameter of a quarter) and roll in your hand. Flatten out the dough into a circle, and place a cherry in the center. Wrap the cherry with the fondant so that it covers the cherry completely, and roll between your hands to get rid of any seams or wrinkles and make it as round as possible. Place on a parchment or silicone-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining cherries. Place sheet of cherries in the refrigerator or freezer for about 30 minutes while you prepare the chocolate.

Temper the chocolate: Prepare a double boiler. Once water is simmering, add chocolate to the top bowl/pot. Allow to melt and come to about 113-120 degrees F, stirring occasionally. Scrape chocolate onto a cool marble slap, and using a scraper, smooth out the chocolate and move it around the slab to help it cool. (alternatively, you can reserve some “seed chocolate” and add it to the warm chocolate to cool it down.) Once it’s about 80 degrees F, scrape the chocolate back into the double boiler. Allow to come to about 90 degrees F, stirring occasionally, making sure not to warm it too much. Then it’s ready for dipping.

Dip each cherry into the chocolate, rolling around to coat completely. Place the cherry back on the prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining cherries.

You can store the cherries in the refrigerator or at room temperature. Over the next few days, the fondant will soften and liquefy a bit (this will slow down considerably in the refrigerator). My photo shows them still with a solid fondant – they’re still delicious that way too!

Makes 20 chocolate-covered cherries.

 

 

Adventures in Curry-Making, or How to Make a Disaster of Your Kitchen

beef curry

So there I was, this past Monday night, with lofty goals of making a beef curry. I’d prepared the curry paste the day before to save time, and I grabbed my pressure cooker. The recipe I was using as a guideline (it’s rare that I actually follow a recipe – I tend to make a lot of changes along the way) suggested I would be braising my beef shanks for 2 1/2 hours. Since this was a weeknight, I figured a 45 minute stay in the pressure cooker would do the trick nicely.

And so it began. I browned the beef, and placed it in the pressure cooker along with a generous helping of coconut milk, fish sauce, palm sugar, lemongrass, and cilantro. Things were smelling good, and I was salivating at the idea of such a flavorful curry that would be gracing our plates in about an hour. I get really excited about curries of all kinds. There is just something so wonderful about an intense mix of spices and flavors that, when simmered for a bit, they really get to know one another and emerge as more than the sum of their parts. It’s comforting and soul-satisfying, and it’s why I have several recipes hanging around this blog, such as this Kerala-style Curry or this Shrimp Cauliflower Curry. A good curry sends me to my happy place.

Well, my (older generation, super-simple) pressure cooker began to heat and spit some steam, so I lowered the temperature a bit. I then set to chopping cauliflower for a side dish in my “prep area” towards the right of the stove. About 10 minutes had passed, and that’s when it happened.

Suddenly, the pressure cooker exploded with a loud “BOOM”, and shot off to my left, across the floor. I squealed. And then just stared, motionless, at the disaster in front of me. My husband (who was in our living room), moments later, asks me. “Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” I mutter, dumbfounded. So he asks again, worry in his voice. “Baby, are you okay?”

“Yes. I’m fine.” I say, rather flatly, given the situation. I was in a bit of shock. “It exploded.”

The mess was horrendous. There was coconut milk on every surface to the left of where I’d been standing – on the cabinets, on the counter, on the stove (on the burner, smoking a bit and turning black, thanks to the sugar), on the floor, on the walls, and even on the cabinets and the books on top of the cabinets on the opposite side of the kitchen from the stove. The smell of fish sauce permeated the air. By some miracle, I had none on me at all. Later on, I would realize that I was rather lucky. That pressure cooker could have flown in my direction and bruised or burned me, or worse.

I quickly picked up the pressure cooker and set it back on the stove, with the beef and about half of the sauce still inside. My husband joined me, and we started cleaning. It was about then that I started to realize just how absurd the whole fiasco was. I laughed at it. Laughed at the coconut milk under the cabinets, laughed at how disgusting the floor was, giggled at the cilantro stuck to the wall inside my combination laundry room/pantry at the end of our kitchen (a good 12 feet away, at least), and joked about how we’d be finding this mess for months. Any other night, an event of this magnitude might have brought me to tears, but in that moment, it was pretty darn funny, and laughing was all I could do. It took us about an hour to get the kitchen back to some semblance of order. I mopped twice, and came back home the following day to mop again so I could get rid of the film left by the coconut milk.

Needless to say, we didn’t have curry that night.

However, I did manage to salvage that beef and remaining sauce. I stuck it in my smaller, 4-quart slow cooker and stuck it in the fridge. In spite of all that happened, I still wanted curry. Also, I detest throwing away food. So the following night, I asked my husband to take the slow cooker out of the fridge and turn it on high for a few hours when he got home. (He’s typically home an hour or two before I arrive.) I was going to resume this curry-making, for better or worse.

Thankfully, it was worth the trouble. Well, maybe not worth the trouble of the whole pressure-cooker-explosion thing, but it was worth salvaging the meat for another night. The slow cooker finished the braising job beautifully, and with a relatively quick finish in my skillet, we had a deliciously spicy, silky beef curry. There are a few things I’d do differently, if I was to make this again (and I’ll share those notes in the recipe below), but we were both more than satisfied, with happy, full bellies and that sense of calmness and peace that accompanies a good curry. It was a tad salty (even though I reduced the fish sauce), and of course, due to the explosion factor, the amount of liquids actually used in the cooking process are approximated. So this is definitely not a perfected recipe at this point, but I felt I had to share with you, if for the story alone! But all in all, it was worthy of seconds by my husband, so I declare it a winner.

Now, the next question is: Does anyone have a good (safe) pressure cooker recommendation? One requirement – it must not explode.

Print Recipe

Spicy Beef Curry, adapted from Bon Appetit - this is what I did, but I am giving you notes to adjust for better flavor next time.

Spice Mix:

3 whole cloves

1 1/2 t coriander seeds

1 1/2 inch cinnamon stick

1 whole star anise

1 t cumin seeds

seeds from 2 green cardamom pods

1 t kosher salt (I would probably use 1/2 t next time)

1/4 t ground cayenne (I would reduce this to 1/8 teaspoon or omit, as the resulting curry was plenty spicy!)

Combine first 6 ingredients in medium bowl. Add cold water to cover, then drain. Place spices in large wok or skillet. Dry-roast over medium heat until dry and fragrant, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes. Transfer mixture to spice grinder. Add salt and cayenne; grind to fine powder.

Curry Paste:

10 small chiles de arbol, stemmed

about 25 cilantro stems

1 c chopped yellow onion

6 garlic cloves, peeled

1 piece of ginger (about 1 1/2 inches long), thinly sliced

1 1/2 T grated lemongrass

Place chiles in small saucepan; add cold water to cover. Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes.

Combine cilantro stems, onion, garlic, ginger, and lemongrass in large skillet. Add 3/4 cup water. Cover skillet and cook until ginger is tender, about 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes.

Scrape vegetable mixture into a small food processor. Add drained red chiles. Blend, adding enough reserved chile soaking liquid by tablespoonfuls to form smooth paste. Stir in spice mix. If you are making this the day before, transfer to bowl, cover, and chill.

For the beef:

3 T coconut oil, divided

2 1/2 lbs cross-cut beef shanks (each about 1 1/2-2 inches thick)

2 cans coconut milk (if using a slow cooker, I’d reduce this by half)

2 cups beef or chicken stock (if using a slow cooker, I’d reduce this by half)

About 25 cilantro stems

3/4 c fish sauce (I would use 1/2 cup and increase the stock next time – or if using a slow cooker, I’d use 1/4 cup)

1/3 c coconut palm sugar (if using a slow cooker, I’d reduce this by half)

1 1/2 T grated lemongrass (if using a slow cooker, I’d reduce this by half)

1/4 c fresh orange juice

1/4 c chopped roasted cashews

1/2 c chopped fresh cilantro leaves

Heat 2 tablespoons coconut oil in a large skillet (if transferring to slow cooker) or Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Season both sides of the beef with salt and pepper. Brown the beef, searing until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer beef to plate. Add the coconut milk, cilantro, fish sauce, coconut palm sugar, and lemongrass into the slow cooker or Dutch oven. If using a slow cooker, add the beef and turn on high for about 3-3 1/2 hours or until the beef is tender and pulling away from the bone. If using a Dutch oven, bring the liquids to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and add the beef. Cover and allow to simmer for about 2 1/2 hours or until beef is tender and pulling away from the bone.

Transfer beef to a plate to cool. Strain braising liquid using a fine-meshed strainer into a bowl and set aside.

Heat remaining tablespoon of coconut oil in the Dutch oven or a large skillet over medium heat. Add the curry paste. Stir until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add 1 1/2 cups of the reserved braising liquid and bring to a boil. Add the orange juice and beef. Reduce heat and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until the sauce is silky and clinging to the beef. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Serve beef curry with steamed long-grain rice, such as Basmati, garnished with chopped cashews and cilantro.

Serves 6.

    Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts

    pan seared brussels sprouts

    A few weeks back, I shared in the Eating the Food group that I was having pan-seared Brussels Sprouts along with some eggs for breakfast. This started a conversation not only about Brussels Sprouts (and their deliciousness, of course) but also about getting more vegetables into your breakfast. I must confess: I don’t always get veggies in first thing in the morning. I do enjoy them (especially with eggs), but it just doesn’t always happen. Of course, that realization got me thinking and inspired this post about getting more vegetables into your day.

    So I’ve been motivated once more to be sure I’m giving vegetables their due. While I have no issues in the spring and summer, when I go to the farmer’s market and come home with more vegetables than any normal human can possibly consume in a week, (What can I say? They all look SO GOOD and I get starry-eyed and have to bring them all home with me.) winter-time makes vegetable consumption more difficult. This is when I focus on those veggies that are longer storage varieties, such as root vegetables, winter squash, cabbage, and of course, Brussels Sprouts, so they still taste fresh. I also try my hardest to make these veggies easy to make, so I’ll be more likely to consume them even on busy weeknights.

    Pan-searing is one such way to accomplish that “easy-to-make” goal. It only takes a few minutes and really highlights the natural sweetness of the Brussels Sprouts, thanks to the caramelization that happens in the pan. They’re delicious alongside meatloaf and mashed potatoes, pork chops, or even with eggs at breakfast. Even if you’ve previously shunned Brussels Sprouts, I encourage you to revisit them with this method. You might just find them not only tolerable, but they could become your new favorite veggie!

    For step-by-step instruction, check out my “how-to” video on YouTube for these Brussels Sprouts (and feel free to subscribe, so you won’t miss an episode!):

    Print Recipe

    Pan-Seared Brussels Sprouts (gluten-free, paleo, vegan)

    1 1/2 T coconut oil

    1 lb Brussels Sprouts, sliced roughly into 1/4 inch thick slices

    Salt and pepper to taste

    Heat a cast-iron skillet to medium heat. Add coconut oil and allow to melt and coat pan. Spread out sliced Brussels Sprouts into a single layer in the skillet. Allow to sear without moving for about a minute, or until the sprouts start to brown. Stir around to flip the sprouts and brown the other side for another minute or so. Continue to stir every so often, spreading the sprouts back out, until they are browned on edges and just tender throughout. (Total cooking time is about 5 minutes.) Season to taste with salt and pepper.

    Serves 4.