Welcome friends! Here let me take your coats, hats and pocketbooks. Please go on in, there’s plenty to eat and Don will whip you up a Martini or an Old Fashioned — you know how Mr. Draper is.
Oh, and I brought the tastiest shredded pork and shrimp egg rolls — you just have to give them a try.
You see, this Unofficial Mad Men Cookbook has got me thinking I’m on the set or better yet — back in time. Like I needed another reason to fantasize about being Joan Holloway (Christina Hendricks), in her snug sweaters, fitted dresses and pencil skirts and that gorgeous head of fiery red hair. (A girl can dream, right?) (more…)
I have an affinity for the layered, exotic flavors intrinsic in Indian food — heady mixes of Garam Masala or curry, the darkly- scented lushness of cardamom, coriander and caraway and the vibrant colors of turmeric, saffron and red chilis — these warm me, belly and soul. But it wasn’t always so.
I grew up tasting Italian, Chinese, Mexican, German, French and American style dishes, home-cooked, lovingly by my mother. While this is much more variety than some (like my husband) grew up with, it still excluded many kinds of food that my son is growing up with the tastes and smells of, such as Indian, Korean, Middle Eastern, Greek, Japanese, Soul Food, Vietnamese, Ethiopian, Thai and just about anything else we can get our hands on.
No South Asian spice for this girl - GrooVy Foody pictured here in Bamberg, Germany age 3
The point is, I never tasted Indian food as a child, so the spices used regularly in these dishes, tasted, fittingly, foreign to my tastebuds. They had a depth that my palate was not yet able to decipher. So at 24, when a dear friend of mine, who was also a vegetarian began telling me how great Indian food was, I was interested — but reluctant. The smells were strong, oniony and sweaty, I was unsure of the tofu curry dish he had whipped up but I gave it try. It was, in a word — icky.
Spices in the open air market in Arles, France
No disrespect to my friend, but he wasn’t a culinary wizard and that dish contained improperly drained tofu (bitter) and way too much curry, as well as carrots and peas that were still — crisp. I didn’t try Indian food again until I was 31 and backpacking throughout Western Europe. Sick of bangers and mash, roast and veg, jacket potatoes and the Ploughman’s served up at every pub throughout England and Scotland, I decided to give Indian food another go. No better place (except India, of course) to dive into the sensual flavors of Indian food, than the UK.
Unwittingly(and thankfully), I just happened to pick a restaurant that is considered one of the Top Ten Indian food restaurants in Scotland for my second taste — Pataka. Pataka Indian and Bengali Restaurant in Edinburgh, Scotland is unlike any other Indian restaurant you may have been too, mostly because of its odd choice of decor, which is completely resplendent in Glasgow native, Charles Rennie Mackintosh‘s artwork, with beautifully carved wooden booths and high back chairs. But it was the food served there that made me a believer. If you’re ever in Scotland, I highly recommend stopping by Pataka.
The dish I’m making here is based upon Kheer (also known as Payasam or Payesh depending on the region it’s being served in) which is a loose pudding, traditionally made with rice and sometimes vermicelli (I like to use shredded coconut in place of vermicelli.) It’s often served during or at the end of celebratory meals and accompanied by raisins, saffron (for color), cashews, pistachios or almonds. To me, the milky richness and sweet, dusky flavor of this dish makes it great for ending a spicy meal, as it both calms and revives the mouth and tongue after doing battle with the heated flavors of well-seasoned Indian food.
The beauty of making Kheer at home is that you can also eat it for breakfast the next morning, a meal time that I always feel speaks of comfort to begin with. For additional health benefits (and 5g fiber 6g protein), I decided to put a spin on this soul-satisfying dessert.
Since the Grande Whole Grains from Bob’s Red Mill are whole grains ranging from wheat, rice and barley to oats, buckwheat and sesame seeds you will have some additional thickening, due to the continued absorption of liquid, making for a slightly thicker pudding (this is why the arrowroot powder/cornstarch is less than a TBsp for a pudding.) This also means that the grains need to be pre-cooked before entering your pudding batter.
The balanced flavor of California Olive Ranch’s Miller’s Blend, with its fruit and spice, pairs perfectly in this toothsome treat.
Whole Grain Kheer (India Rice Pudding)
3/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Grande Whole Grains (cooked)
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup coconut milk
1cup almond milk
1 tbsp butter (or ghee)
1tbsp California Olive Ranch Miller’s Blend Olive Oil
1/3 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1/4 shredded coconut
1 large egg
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1-2 tsp Bob’s Red Mill Arrowroot Powder (or cornstarch) to desired thickness
Optional: 1/4 cup raisins, dried cherries, dried apricots, almonds, cashews or pistachios.
Once done cooking remove from the burner and leave the lid on as you begin to assemble the other ingredients — this will ensure the grains continue to soften, as they absorb any leftover liquid.
Combine 1.5 cups of the milks, brown sugar, salt and COR Miller’s Blend into a pot and bring to a boil.
Add the BRB Grande Whole Grains and return just to a boil over medium heat.
Reduce heat to simmer, cover and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Stir in coconut (and/or raisins, dried cherries or dried apricots cut into small pieces, if desired), allowing it to cook uncovered for 10 minutes more, stirring occasionally. The grains will still retain some of their chewiness but should be cooked through and quite a bit softer now.
In a small bowl, whisk together egg and remaining 1/2 cup of combined milks and 1-2 tsp of arrowroot powder.
Remove 1/4 cup of the hot grain mixture, whisking it, little by little into the egg/milk mixture.
Once incorporated, pour the egg mixture into the rest of the hot grains, whisking to mix it quickly and keep the egg from scrambling.
Cook, stirring constantly, for one to two minutes or until to desired thick and creamy consistency.
Remove from heat, stirring in butter, vanilla, cardamom and cinnamon.
Breath in that luscious scent and lick the back of your stirring spoon — you deserve this taste.
You can serve this dish warm, room temp or cold ~ it’s delicious no matter what but my favorite is when it’s set but still warm. Happy Eating!
Makes 6 servings.
A Tasty and Healthy New Year Challenge Giveaway
Each week, the VP bloggers will challenge you to find (and use) the secret code word of the week, posted in the contest tab labeled “Virtual Potluck” on the California Olive Ranch Facebook page.
Each blogger will pick a single winner per week to receive a pack of the featured products from Bob’s Red Mill and California Olive Ranch.
That’s right- four weeks, 12 winners each week! That’s like 48 chances to win! The more blogs you visit the more chances you have to win~ so what are you waiting for?! Let’s get cooking (and eating!) A Tasty and Healthy New Year!
Spicy Vanilla Mushroom Risotto w/spinach and brie stuffed chicken breasts
As a food blogger (and 1/12 of The Virtual Potluck (VP)) I get to try out new foods, cookbooks and appliances from time to time for free — for a foodie like me, this is some kind of perk! Sometimes those perks are a little better than others and sometimes those perks go a little berserk.
Recently, the VP was approached by Marx Foods who, though based in our soggy sister city to the north –Seattle, I had never run across before. We agreed to let Marx put together a selection of random ingredients for us to try out in our own signature recipes this Thanksgiving. After perusing their site, I was excited to see what they would send us.
What I found, when I received the tiny brown box, was a menagerie of seemingly unrelated items, packaged in small quantities. Upon opening the box, I was hit full force by the sweet sensual aroma of dried Madagascar (bourbon) vanilla beans (they sent two small bags — Yay! extra vanilla!) I confess, I couldn’t stop sniffing the bags– it was addictive!
Besides the glorious vanilla beans, which made their way into banana smoothies, raspberry thumbprint tea cookies, whipped cream filling in my decadent Mt. Hood cupcakes, and a bevy of other dishes and drinks (watch for them later in the week!) was that my box contained 2 deeply cherry-toned, driedGuajillo chilis, 9 dried fiery Habaneros, a palm full of dried porcini mushrooms, a slightly larger handful of dried Maitake mushrooms, and 1 cup of Italian Vialone Nano Rice — only THE best rice for making a saucy risotto!
While I was excited by the amazing quality of the ingredients (this stuff is top-notch — their quality control must be super sticklers — there was not a bad, crumpled or spotted item in the bunch), I was sort of sad to see that I had so little, in terms of quantity, to work with. We were all creating brand new recipes from scratch here and having so little of each ingredient, meant the ultimate test of cook’s skill, I was working without a net — I had to get this recipe right in one-shot! Could I do it? What ingredients should I choose? What wouldn’t be a lame cop-out — surely just whipping up some homemade vanilla bean cupcakes was too easy. What to do? What to do? And then it happened ~ all that thinking ~ all that pressure made me pop a spring!
So what did I do?I take that perfectly wonderful perk — and go berserk!
For those of you that do not know the proper definition of the word berserk let me present it to you now, courtesy of Merriam Webster:
1: an ancient Scandinavian warrior frenzied in battle and held to be invulnerable
2: one whose actions are recklessly defiant
Though this would be a frenzied battle (and one in which I would, indeed, prove to be invulnerable) I am NOT ancient (no matter what my 3-year-old thinks) nor am I — Scandinavian. I was however, in light of the short supply, recklessly defiant in my own kitchen. (Somebody call the authorities — I might just run with scissors next!)
I decided to use all of my supplied ingredients (each and every one but not all quantities provided) in one dish. So I said it — out loud, for the first time, as a joke — “I should make spicy vanilla mushroom risotto.” As the words escaped my lips, I laughed but inside a little voice said, quietly, “Why not?”
The next time I said it, was in a Facebook chat with my VP cookmates and as I typed the words, the little voice said, “You should do it ~ it would be a great challenge.” A few moments later, I found myself typing in “I’m not kidding. I’m gonna do it.”
And so — Can I get a drumroll, please? I present to you, my GrooVy Readership: Spicy Vanilla Mushroom Risotto
A few things you should know before you’re too impressed with me:
I am NOT a risotto rookie. Do not try this at home unless you have mastered the art of risotto, first. I learned how great risotto should taste in Italy but I actually learned to make my first risotto well before that, from Nigella Lawson (or I should say from her fabulous cookbook, Nigella Bites, it just makes you feel as if Nigella is standing right next to you, chatting away as you cook together. So, NO. . .I do not actually know Nigella but I Love her just the same!)
I remembered once seeing a recipe floating around the interwebs for Ostrich Steaks with Mushroom Vanilla Sauce, though I’ve never tasted, attempted, or known anyone who has tasted or attempted this dish — just knowing that it existed gave me the courage to dive off this recipe’s cliff.
I am a wuss when it comes to heat (heartburn issues), so I was extremely happy that one of the peppers I was sent were the beautifully mild and sweet Guajillo (often used for tamales and mole’ dishes) and the small but fiery, Habanero (whose scale is only about 1 rung above cayenne’s in terms of heat units on the Scoville — it’s hot, but not Ghost pepper hot!)
We all did NOT get the same ingredients. True — we all got vanilla and the same rice and we all received mushrooms and peppers but the combination of those peppers and mushrooms varied. The ingredients I received really lent themselves well to this dish.
The result was a distinctly flavored and pleasantly complex risotto — one unlike either I or my hubby has ever experienced. The flavor combination itself, was surprisingly, autumnal and very nearly addictive. (We devoured the leftovers for lunch the next day and he has already asked me to make it again.)
Moral of the story: It pays to take risks in the kitchen — all the best chefs do — you should, too! So the next time you have some seemingly random ingredients lying around your kitchen, I hope you think to yourself, “Maybe I should go berserk and take a risk!”
1/4 cup of dried Porcini mushrooms (rehydrated, reserve mushroom liquor)
1/4 cup of dried Maitake mushrooms (rehydrated,reserve mushroom liquor)
1 cup Italian Vialone Nano Rice (you can sub Arborio)
1 quart chicken stock (a little more or less depending on your heat and stirring action)
1 med dried Guajillo pepper (rehydrated and de-seeded, ribs removed)
2 small dried orange Habanero chilis (rehydrated and de-seeded)
1 vanilla bean (scraped completely)
1 egg yolk
1/8 cup grated Parmesan Reggiano, plus more, for garnish
1/4 cup heavy cream
Good grating of fresh ground black pepper
Sea salt, to taste
Dice (or process) the shallots, onion and celery. Heat the olive oil in a deep saute pan, adding the shallot, onion and celery mixture. Cook until softened and transparent (about 5 minutes), making sure it doesn’t stick. Drain the mushrooms (you can soak them together in hot water for 30 minutes) and reserve the resulting liquor. Chop the mushrooms and add them to your saute pan. Add the liquor to an already simmering saucepan of chicken broth, that is just waiting to be added to the rice, one ladleful at a time.
With gloves or well- oiled hands and proper eye protection, remove the peppers from their water (where they have been rehydrating for the last 30 minutes as well) and slice off their stems, cutting them open to de-seed and remove the ribs (this reduces the heat — if you like more heat, leave them in.) Once the peppers are cleaned, dice these as well and add them to the sauteing mixture. Once it’s all been incorporated, mix in your rice, stirring to give it a good coating of flavor and oil.
Begin adding your ladleful of simmering stock to the rice, continually stirring until the stock is absorbed. Then add another ladleful continuing to stir. Continue to do this until your rice is al dente and saucy but not too thick and sticky. You may not need all of the stock, equally, you may need to augment with additional hot water, if your stock runs out before completion.
Mix the scraped vanilla bean, cream, and egg yolk in a small bowl or mug along with the grated parm and pepper. When the risotto done – the rice is no longer chalky but is al dente and the liquid has been absorbed but is not starchy – remove it from the heat and add your vanilla, egg, cream mixture, folding it into the risotto along with the butter and salt, to taste. Taste, adjust the seasoning and serve topped with Parmesan.
Serves 2 to 4 by itself or as a side dish can work for 4 to 8.
I served mine with a simple spinach and brie stuffed chicken breast, seasoned only with sea salt and olive oil, because I wanted the risotto’s flavors to be the focus, with the chicken complementing its deep, rich flavors but ideally, you’ll serve yours with turkey this Thanksgiving!
Want to win some booty from Marx Foods?
Some of the Virtual Potluck members are giving away ingredient samples. Visit the host page and don’t forget to visit ALL of the blogs. There will be some things given away (different items on different sites), some discounts (how about 10% off your Marx Foods purchase, any time between November 21 and 27. Just enter the word POTLUCK into the Coupon Code field at checkout for 10 % off everything.) There’s also plenty of great recipes and fun to be had on Twitter–so make sure you check it all out!
Growing up, I was never much into squash of any kind. My mom seemed to favor zucchini and occasionally, yellow crookneck squash. She was passionate about fried zucchini (as was my middle sister) but I hated it! I didn’t mind the breading but when I got to the center and was met with the taste of squishy, squashy bitterness — ugh, I just had to pass. I remember, many a time, just eating the breading and then tucking the squash into a napkin, smooshing it smaller with each new piece added, in order to hide enough, that my mom would let me leave the dinner table. (I did something similar with the eggplant in another of my mother’s favorite dishes — eggplant parmigiana. Ick.)
The Picky Eater
Flash forward to today. I am a mom now, of a picky and precocious 3 year old. He is a child who loved his veggies before this last year — though, he was never too much into the green lettucy stuff. He used to love eating such a variety of good-for-him foods like broccoli, carrots, peas, corn, avocados, beans and sweet potatoes.
In fact, for a while we thought he was going to be a natural vegetarian because he wouldn’t eat meat (except for nitrate-free hot dogs.) But, alas those days are over and my pediatrician says it’s fairly normal for toddlers to give up the “bitterness” of veggies at this age, opting for the sweetness of fruits instead. (More TRIVIA: It has to do with our cave man survival instinct and the fact that, were we in the wild, our little ones might pluck something poisonous from a bush or vine and pop it into their mouths. Which means, at this stage in life, they are naturally averse to bitter flavors for their own protection.)
To top it all off, as much as I want him to eat his veggies, when he finally agrees to eat some (through sheer bribery or threats) I can’t stand seeing that look on his face when he’s chewing something he really hates. I know it all too well, the feeling like you might just throw up a little in your mouth. It’s at this point, I usually whisk the plate away and thank him for at least trying whatever it was.
As I wait this stage out, I can’t seem to sit idly by and give up on him getting good nutrition. I fret about it and I find ways to sneak vegetables (and even some fruits) into the handful of foods he seems hell bent on eating each and every day. Noodles, it turns out, are the king of foods (along with pizza, burritos, and tuna sandwiches) and I strike a balance by giving him whole grain brown rice noodles and Barilla’s Plus line of noodles that are full of a variety of whole grains and legumes, as well as Omega 3’s (and no they are not sponsoring my blog or paying me in any way to tout them — I just like ’em!)
So imagine my glee, when one of my favorite food bloggers (and one of my Virtual Potluck cohorts) FarmgirlGourmet posted her recipe for Roasted Butternut Squash & Brie Mac & Cheese with Smoky Bacon. It was as if the heavens had opened up and shined their golden butternutty light down upon my pasta. Yes! A new way to sneak a super healthful veg (TRIVIA: though considered veg in cooking, in actuality it’s a fruit) into my little one’s diet — and it comes on the holy grail of food for him — the noodle!
Creamy butternut mac and cheese
The dish is sweet, creamy and cheesy and was a big hit at our house. I highly recommend you head on over to her blog for that recipe and the other bountiful ways in which she has been using up the butternut squash from her garden. We ate it for dinner and lunch the next day and it only used up half of a roasted butternut squash and half of the brie and cream cheese I’d purchased, so I decided to use those ingredients again for lunch the following day for soup, baguette with brie, and a wilted kale salad.
A little bistro flair at home
This bright idea was great for mom and dad (felt like upscale bistro fare for a weekday lunch) but the kiddo was not buying into the soup (he only likes — you guessed it — noodle soup!) — which is why, I boiled up some more noodles and ladeled on some of the soup, topping it with cheddar cheese for a quick and dirty version of FarmGirl’s mac.) We paired this with some fresh strawberries for a well-rounded meal that any toddler will adore.
Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
1/2 an oven roasted butternut squash (approximately 1 to 1 1/2 pds)
4 oz of cream cheese
3 to 4 cups chicken broth (depending on consistency you like)
1 small onion diced carmelized in a saute pan with 1Tbsp butter
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne powder (to taste and heat you desire)
Saute the onion in butter, caramelizing it lightly. Pour into blender or food processor. Scoop the roasted butternut squash out of it’s skin and into the blender, adding enough liquid to allow it to begin blending (you may need to do this in batches depending on blender or processor size.) Add the cream cheese and continue to blend, adding the additional broth as needed until the soup is smooth, creamy and the desired thickness you prefer. Then pour into a deep saucepan heating it on low, as you season to taste with cayenne and salt and pepper.
Makes 4 to 6 heaping bowls of soup. Serve with toasty baguette (we like Trader Joe’s parbaked whole grain baguette) and the wilted kale salad below for a warming taste of fall this holiday season.
Accoutrements, or in plainspeak -- sides
Super Simple Wilted Kale Salad with Parmigiano Reggiano
1 bunch regular, lacinto or red kale
1/2 to 3/4 tsp sea salt (depending on your tastes)
2 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar (you can change the vinegar to match your meal — apple works well with the squash here)
1/8 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano + extra for topping
Clean and destem your kale, patting it dry (with paper towels.) Cut or rip the cleaned kale into bite sized pieces or ribbons. Add olive oil and salt. Next take your freshly washed and dried hands and work the salt into the kale by grabbing handfuls and kneading the kale tightly in your fist. Continuing throughout the entire bowl of kale. After it’s all mixed and the kale has significantly reduced in size (a few minutes) add apple cider vinegar to the mix and toss. Then, let it rest for 10 to 20 minutes as you prep other items for your meal, this allows the kale to wilt, softening the leaves for easy eating and toning down the bitterness. Add freshly grated parmesan reggiano and pepper to taste, tossing to mix. Serve topped with more freshly grated parmesan reggiano.
We love this with any kind of soup or as a side dish with chicken or beef. You can also use this recipe and add it to roasted yukon gold or new potatoes tossed with a little tahini and lemon for an out of this world hearty, warm salad.
Meet the GrooVy Foody
"Hope you enjoy every licky, sticky wordy spoonful."