Thursday, January 30, 2014

Crockpot Beef Curry with Noodles

I recently travelled with my slow cooker down to South Carolina to try this recipe on my parents. The broth is to die for, and it turned out perfectly since my mom had a cough and this soup was warm and spicy. In my family, Thai food is always a big hit, and this was no exception.  

My husband laughed when I threw the slow cooker into the back of my Rav4, but this is just what we do, right? 
Cooking a chuck roast on low for 10 hours in a blend of Asian spices is nothing short of amazing. The meat is tender and flavorful, with the perfect amount of heat.

Crockpot Beef Curry with Noodles
3 lbs boneless beef chuck roast, cut into 2-inch cubes
3 Tbsp fish sauce
2 Tbsp palm or brown sugar
3 Tbsp red curry paste
1 Tbsp curry powder
1 Tbsp ground tumeric
2 cups water
1 (14 ounce) can unsweetened coconut milk
3 Tbsp ground fresh chili paste (optional)
3 packages instant ramen noodles
Cilantro, scallions, and lime wedges for serving
  1. Combine the beef cubes, fish sauce, sugar, curry paste, curry powder, tumeric, and water in a large crockpot. Cook on low for 10 hours.
  2. After 10 hours, stir in the coconut milk and fresh chili paste.
  3. Prepare the ramen noodles according to package instructions.
  4. Serve the beef curry over a bed of ramen noodles with fresh cilantro, scallions, and lime wedges for squeezing. 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

the power of home

I get to thinking about things when I'm in the car driving or out on the trails running. Today, I drove back from South Carolina listening to a band my mom recently introduced me to, The National, on pandora radio.  As the miles passed, I just escaped into the music feeling content and relaxed. 

If you have met my mom, you know that she one of the most wonderful women you will ever meet. My husband and friends adore her, my father adores her, we all adore her. Spending a little time around her is like an elixir, she is just that special. I'm going to try to relay the gentle little reminders she gives me when we spend time together, so that you may benefit and I may be reminded of her wisdom. 
When you spend time with her, she makes you feel like there is nothing more important than YOU. She does not pick up her cell phone (doesn't have one), does not interrupt you when you're talking, does not talk about herself that much. It's refreshing, and makes me want to be a better friend. 
slow down
Life is short, if you hurry through it you will miss all the good bits. 

have real conversations
In an emailing, texting, tweeting world, remember that nothing feels better than hearing the voice of a friend.

be grateful
Count your blessings, for many people have less than you do. 

make today wonderful with your attitude
If you would like to have a wonderful day, decide to have one. 

practice patience
Good things are worth waiting for. Don't settle and trust that things will work out. 

create a beautiful home
Your home is your sanctuary. Surround yourself with what makes you happy, and keep it tidy. 

choose joy
The harder this choice is, the more necessary it is. Find joy in everyday things. 

always look for the silver lining
I promise it's always there. Always. It's up to you to find it. 

invest energy and love in your relationships 
It's the little things you do for the people you love that matter. 

embrace quiet time
Alone time is time to reflect and energize, recharge. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Basic Pizza Dough

Tonight, in honor of my blog's one year anniversary (!!!) I am sharing my mom's pizza dough recipe. This is a simple yet perfect recipe that was passed to her from our family friend Andy. I am at home with my parents in South Carolina, and tonight we enjoyed a pizza with Italian sausage and another white pizza topped with arugula.  I was so thankful my mom walked me through this simple pizza crust. 
The first time I attempted homemade pizza dough a few weeks ago, it was an epic fail. The crust was too thick with no crunch. Baking is a labor of love and a labor of patience. Expect to fail before you succeed. It requires a calm mind, an unhurried demeanor, and respect for butter and flour. Calm mind, unhurried demeanor. What a lovely combination, only made better by enjoying a nice cocktail in the midst of grating mozzarella cheese. 
There is something so special about slowing down and appreciating the simple pleasures of life. In my world, nothing beats relaxing in the living room with my parents over a delicious pizza dinner while sharing a 6-pack of my dad's favorite beer, Pabst Blue Ribbon. 
Basic Pizza Dough 
from Epicurious

3/4 cup warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)
1 envelope active dry yeast
2 cups (or more) all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
3 Tbsp olive oil
Pour 3/4 cup warm water into a small bowl; stir in yeast. Let stand until yeast dissolves, about 5 minutes. Brush large bowl lightly with olive oil. 

Mix 2 cups flour, sugar, and salt in processor. Add yeast mixture and 3 tablespoons oil; process until dough forms a sticky ball. Transfer to a lightly floured surface. Knead dough until smooth, adding more flour by tablespoons if dough is very sticky, about 1 minute. Transfer to prepared bowl; turn dough in bowl to coat with oil. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let dough rise in a warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour. 

Punch down dough. Do ahead (can be made 1 day ahead, store in airtight container in refrigerator). Roll out dough according to recipe instructions. (Start in center of dough, working outward toward edges but not rolling over them). 
Bake the plain pizza at 400 degrees for 10-12 minutes, prior to adding toppings. Be sure to pop the bubbles with a knife during this step. (mom also says to coat pizza stone and pizza peel with cornmeal to make transfer easy).

Remove the dough and set aside. When ready, top the pizza with desired toppings, and bake for additional 8-12 minutes until cheese is melted. Serve immediately. 

White Pizza with Arugula
from Ina Garten
 - follow the above link for recipe

There are a couple of essentials that would make a great gift for a pizza lover: 
 - pizza peel
 - pizza stone
 - cornmeal (to dust stone and peel and prevent sticking)
 - thermometer (to measure water temperature)
 - scale (to measure flour accurately)
 - a good sharp pizza wheel for slicing 

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Cauliflower Fried Rice

 For our date night this week, I decided to play a trick on my husband and make this "chicken fried rice" and not mention anything about the cauliflower. Of course, he kept walking up behind me in the kitchen, and became highly suspicious as I was pulsing cauliflower florets in the food processor. 
In all seriousness, this is the best healthy low-carb recipe I have ever made. I could eat leftovers for lunch every day. It does not even taste healthy, it tastes like a dish you would order in an Asian restaurant and then go there for take out twice a week and order the same thing. 
I don't know about you, but there is something crazy and fun about cooking in a wok. I bought this one a few years ago on amazon, and it whips up the best stir-fry recipes.  

Next time, we shall see if I can trick him with cauliflower pizza - though given his love for pizza I doubt that will fly in our house, but that won't stop me from trying! Until next week...

Cauliflower Fried Rice 
from A Spicy Perspective
1 head cauliflower
5 slices thick cut bacon, chopped
1 lb organic chicken breast, sliced into thin pieces
3 eggs, beaten
1 Tbsp freshly grated ginger
3 cloves minced garlic
1 bunch green onions, chopped, greens and whites separated
1 cup shredded carrots, roughly chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup chopped thai basil or cilantro
1-3 Tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp sriracha or chile paste
Lime wedges for serving
Coconut oil for frying

  1. Chop the bacon, chicken and veggies so you can work quickly once you start cooking. Cut the cauliflower into florets and place in the food processor. Pulse until it roughly resembles rice.
  2. Heat a large wok (or skillet) over medium heat. Place a rimmed dish to the side of the wok as a holding dish. Add the bacon to the skillet and fry until brown and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place in the dish.
  3. Add the eggs to the skillet and quickly scramble. Use your spoon to break into small pieces, then move to the holding dish. If needed add a small amount of coconut oil to the wok. Turn the heat to high and add the chicken, white onion pieces, ginger and garlic. Stir fry until the chicken is just barely cooked through, then add the carrots and cook another minute. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the holding dish.
  4. Now add the cauliflower "rice" to the wok. Stir fry for 3-5 minutes until soft, but still firm. Add all the cooked ingredients back to the wok, along with the frozen peas, soy sauce to taste, and chile paste. Toss and cook until the peas are warmed through, then toss in the green onion tops and basil. Serve warm with lime wedges.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Kale, Clementine and Feta Salad

Back when I was starting college, my dad reinforced that in times of stress, when I was cramming for exams or just feeling extremely overwhelmed, to focus on three simple things: eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep. Tough times don't last, but tough people do. 
Now that I am 10 years older and under the constant stressful hum of being an adult and working a challenging full-time job, I feel so much better if I follow his advice all of the time. When I strive to be healthy, the result is feeling GREAT, with tons of energy and a positive outlook on life.  I have been known to shed tears watching the Biggest Loser, when you see the positive effects a healthy lifestyle has on the contestants, who have been feeling bad and bad about themselves for years. The phenomenon of a "runner's high" is real - it's an amazing intense happy feeling that comes from activity and taking care of your body. 
Allow me to introduce this gorgeous salad. As Kate describes it on her blog,  it's literally sunshine in a bowl. Salad is so fun to photograph since the colors are vibrant and fresh. This dressing is just bursting with flavor from the lime juice and jalapeno. Trust me, eat a salad like this and you will be craving salad more often! 
Along with eating salad, here are a few more of my best healthy tips:

Pack your lunch
 - you will pad your wallet and avoid the temptations of the cafeteria and eating out

Shop the perimeter of the grocery store
 - fill your cart with vegetables, lean meats, and dairy
 - venture inside for oatmeal, quinoa, or whole grains and then run away from the 
    oreos, cheetos, and junk food!
Be aware of portion sizes

 - this is the French woman's secret to staying trim - rather than eating a bar of chocolate 
    or half a baguette, you just eat one small portion really slowly
 - wait a little while before going back for seconds, it takes your body time to register 
    feeling full

Drink lots of water
 - it's easy to mistake hunger for thirst

Be prepared for when hunger strikes
 - keep a protein bar on hand, along with almonds or a piece of fruit 
 - we often make the worst choices (fast food, candy, chips) when we are starving

Have a celebration meal every week
 - enjoy your favorite meal - be it pizza or a burger -just be mindful of portion sizes and 
    really ENJOY it

Focus on health, not weight

 - weight is just a number on the scale, health is the big picture, the commitment, the 
   decision to take care of your body

Please, share with me your exercise and health mantras that keep you motivated, I would love to hear them ! 

Kale, Clementine and Feta Salad
from Cookie + Kate
Kale salad
  • 1 bunch kale
  • 1 avocado, diced
  • 1 medium pomegranate, arils removed, or a handful of dried cranberries
  • 4 clementines, peeled and sliced into rounds or small strips
  • 4 small radishes, sliced into thin rounds and then into skinny strips
  • Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
  • ⅓ cup crumbled feta
  • ¼ cup pepitas (or sunflower seeds)
Honey-Lime Dressing
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice (about 2 small limes)
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium jalapeƱo, membranes and seeds removed, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons honey (or agave nectar)
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • ¼ teaspoon chili powder
  • ⅛ teaspoon fine grain sea salt
  1. First, make the dressing by whisking together all of the ingredients in a small bowl.
  2. Prepare the kale by slicing out the stems and chopping out the leaves into small, bite-sized pieces. Transfer the kale to a big salad bowl. Sprinkle a small pinch of sea salt over the kale and massage the leaves with your hands by lightly scrunching big handfuls at a time, until the leaves are darker in color and fragrant.
  3. Drizzle salad dressing over the kale (you might not need all of the dressing) and toss well so the kale is lightly coated with dressing. Add the prepared avocado, pomegranate (or dried cranberries), clementines, radishes, cilantro and feta to the bowl.
  4. Toast the pepitas in a skillet over medium-low heat for a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they smell fragrant and toasty. Transfer the pepitas to the salad bowl. Toss the salad to combine and serve.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Kentucky Coffee

I swear, without my friends I would be generations behind the times. So many of my favorite things, from Pinterest to Prosecco to Quinoa to the TV show Call the Midwife, were introduced to be by the people I love. 
Kentucky coffee and Irish coffee are new editions to that list. Yes, I used a be a complete wimp and drink a spiked coffee with a splash of Bailey's on celebratory occasions. It's good, but this is so much better. If you're going to pour good whiskey in your coffee, please be sure it's good coffee. This Knob Creek smoked maple is especially good. Once you make one of these with real fresh whipped cream (the photos don't do this drink any justice) you will understand. 
After our mugs of coffee this morning, we headed over to The River & Rail for brunch, and if you live here in Roanoke, it gets a 5 star rating from both of use. I had the Soft Scrambled Eggs with peppered pork scrapple and Carolina Rice grits. If you would like to experience perfect (I mean puuuur-fect grits) head that way. Josh had the Biscuits & Gravy, and we were both in brunch heaven. 
Kentucky Coffee
1 jigger (1 1/2 ounces) Markers Mark Maple Bourbon
1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Freshly whipped cream

Fill a fluted mug with hot water to preheat it, then empty. Pour hot coffee into warmed glass until it is about 3/4 full. Add the brown sugar and stir until completely dissolved. Blend in Makers Mark boourbon. Top with a collar of the whipped cream by pouring gently over back of spoon, and serve hot. 

*for Irish coffee, use 1 ounce of Jameson and 1 ounce of Bailey's*

Whipped Cream
1 cup cold heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Whip the cream in the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with the whisk attachment. When it starts to thicken, add the sugar and vanilla and continue to beat until firm. 

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Virtual Book Club

I hear this may be one of the best books I read this year...downloaded today for $7.50. 

Slow Cooker Beef and Chorizo Chili

My slow cooker has changed my life over the last year. If you don't have one, I strongly suggest you treat yourself to one - just one click order this one and thank me later. Yes, mom, I'm speaking directly to you. The joy of a slow cooker is being able to leave the house during the day to work, go to the gym, run errands, or whatever without worrying. The newer models will switch to a "keep warm" setting after the programmed cooking time, so that dinner stays warm until you are ready. Most chili tastes so much better after being simmered for eight hours. Rather than eating unhealthy take out or frozen dinners loaded with sodium, the slow cooker allows us to eat real food on busy days. Hallelujah! 
I'm thinking of hosting a chili party - how fun would it be have a chili contest between friends and ask everyone bring their favorite version? I can already envision my kitchen island with a line of slow cookers and an ice bucket full of beer.

I think Josh will have to pick our chili as I have too many favorites to pick just one - 
...and now this one!  
Slow Cooker Beef and Chorizo Chili
from Picky Palate

3 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
1 pound chorizo
2 cups chicken broth
2 (10 ounce) cans Rotel tomatoes, mild
3 (15 ounce) cans pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
3 Tbsp chili powder
2 Tbsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Toppings: diced avocado, cilantro, tortilla chips, sour cream

Heat olive oil in a large dutch oven. Saute onion for 5 minutes, stirring often until softened. Add beef and chorizo, stirring and cooking until browned. Transfer to slow cooker. Add broth, tomatoes, tomato paste, chili powder, cumin, salt and pepper. Cook on high for 6-8 hours (or low for 2-5 hours). 

Top bowls of chili with avocado, cilantro, tortilla chips, and sour cream if desired. 

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Caesar Salad (Vegan Style)

Does anyone else find it easy to slip into boring salad mode? During the entire month of December, I was totally there. For awhile my favorite salad was romaine, diced apples, chicken, and pecans with maple vinaigrette. For two weeks straight. Then it was back to the canned tuna, spinach, chickpeas, and avocado with ginger dressing. And so it goes.
The more love I put into making a flavorful salad, the more I want to eat salad, and the better I feel since I'm eating salad every day. Crazy how that works. I've made a pact to make one new and exciting salad a week. I found the recipe for this salad on The Gardener's Cottage, a blog my mom introduced me to and which I am now a devoted subscriber.
Caesar Salad Vegan Style
from The Gardener's Cottage

1/4 cup tahini
1/4 cup water (use a little less for thicker dressing)
2 small or 1 large garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 Tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
2 tsp whole grain Dijon mustard
1/4 tsp salt

6 oz romaine
15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 avocado, diced
Fresh black pepper, to taste

Any other topping you'd like, such as vegan bacon, croutons, or tomato

Homemade Croutons

Let's be honest, the best part of a Caesar salad is the croutons. Especially when they are crunchy and smothered in delicious dressing.I purchased a loaf of a day old baguette on the clearance cart at the grocery store for a dollar and felt like I won a prize.

Once again, this recipe is proof that homemade is better than store bought. 

Homemade Croutons
French bread, 1 day old, cut into cubes
Olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a large bowl, drizzle bread cubes with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well. Spread onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat, and bake for 15 minutes. 

Monday, January 13, 2014

Red Thai Curry Chicken

Until tonight, I did not think it was possible (for me) to make authentic Thai food at home. Low and behold, I made a delicious curry for dinner, which tasted good enough to be on the menu at our favorite local thai restaurant. Thank you Jenna (of Eat Live Run blog) for sharing this amazing recipe!

At my local Kroger, I was able to find red curry paste, light coconut milk, and baby bok choy. As they say, the rest is history. We gobbled this up while watching Cinderella Man and had a relaxing Sunday date night. 
Red Thai Curry Chicken

1 lb boneless chicken breast, cut into bit-sized chunks
1 Tbsp coconut oil
3 cups light coconut milk
1 1/2 cups water
3 Tbsp red curry paste
2 baby bok choy, chopped
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 inch knob ginger, grated
1 cup chopped snow peas
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp fish sauce
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp salt
Cooked rice or quinoa for serving
Sriracha sauce, for serving

Heat the coconut oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium high heat. When hot, add the ginger and saute until fragrant - 2 minutes.

Add the chicken and sear until not quite cooked through. Then, add the curry paste. Mix the ginger, chicken and curry paste together and continue to saute over high heat for another two minutes. 

Pour in the coconut milk and water, then add the bok choy, bell pepper, chopped snow peas and sweet potatoes. Bring curry to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Stir in the fish sauce, salt, lime juice and sugar. Continue simmering over medium/low heat until veggies are soft, about 10 minutes. Serve curry over rice or quinoa with sriracha sauce on the side. 

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Virtual Book Club

I've been saving this book for a special treat, as A Thousand Splendid Sons and The Kite Runner were both phenomenal. Last night, I needed a little pick me up, and downloaded this book on my Kindle for a steal at $6.49. 

books on my radar: 
 - The Goldfinch by Donne Tartt
 - The Pecan Man by Cassie Dandridge Selleck
 - Someone by Alice McDermott

What are y'all reading? 

Monday, January 6, 2014

Baked Sweet Potato Fries with Parmesan and Cilantro

As I've grown into my later twenties, I've realized the importance of celebrating the big and the little achievements in life. For instance, something as small as taking an amazing photograph, following a resolution to wake up a little earlier, making the perfect cup of coffee in a french press, or living an entire day without complaining. These little things deserve to be recognized and celebrated.  

Tonight, we are celebrating that I have finally learned how to make a crunchy sweet potato fry without a deep fryer! I have tried many times before, and they have turned out soggy and disappointing. I decided to have another go at the elusive crunchy french fry, and after I did my research the secret is cornstarch and not overcrowding your pan by not letting any of the fries touch in the oven. 

If you live in Roanoke and have not enjoyed sweet potato fries, I highly recommend Blue 5, Wasena City Tap Room, and Three Lil Pigs BBQ in Daleville. 

Baked Sweet Potato French Fries with Parmesan & Cilantro
from Sally's Baking Addiction

Sweet potatoes (1 per person)
2 tsp cornstarch per large potato
1 Tbsp olive oil per large potato
Cayenne pepper and salt
Parmesan cheese, finely grated (optional)
Cilantro, roughly chopped(optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat, 1 potato per baking sheet.

Wash and peel the potatoes, and cut off the ends. With a sharp knife, cut the potatoes into thin slices about 1/4 inch wide. Place in a ziplock bag and toss with cornstarch. Pour the potatoes into a strainer to get rid of any extra cornstarch. Place potatoes in a large mixing bowl and add the olive oil and seasonings of choice. Line the sweet potatoes on the baking sheet, and do not crowd them or allow two pieces to touch. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and flip. Place back in oven for 10-15 minutes, and rotate the pan to avoid uneven browning.

Turn the oven off completely and crack the oven door open.  Keep the fries inside as the oven cools down for 15-30 minutes. This step will help the fries get crispier. Top with parmesan and cilantro prior to serving.  

Sriracha Sour Cream Dip 

1 cup reduced fat Sour Cream
2 Tablespoon Sriracha sauce or to taste

Combine, mix well and adjust to spiciness preference.