Thai Dumpling Kale Salad

It may be a week until Christmas, but I’m already kind of done with the cookies. Maybe it’s because everyone’s Christmas parties start back into the beginning of December, or maybe it’s because I joined some friends in a cookie-baking-bonanza that resulted in a whole tin of cookies to myself. I kind of don’t want at all mashed potatoes or stuffing or ham or holiday comfort food. I’ve been jamming on avocados and goat cheese, and I got into my mind that I could really go for an Asian salad. You know the kind, the Americanized version with ginger and wontons.

Well, of course, I didn’t have the ingredients for the giant salad of my imagination (which mirrored that of California Pizza Kitchen fairly precisely), but I did recognize I had a bunch of kale, a threatening-to-die carrot, and maybe some impromptu dressing ingredients. Out of a basic pantry and sad representation of a refrigerator… I created the best dinner I have had in months.

No, really. Admittedly, I freaking love the dumplings from Trader Joe’s. I used to buy the pork gyoza all the time, but somehow hadn’t in awhile… maybe it was a grad school thing. But I don’t eat pork or pigs anymore, and the frozen isle caught my eye (I’ve been excessively lazy recently). I saw Thai gyoza and thought I’d give it a try. The dumplings, while absolutely important, sit atop a salad so flavorful and balanced, that the whole (giant) bowl just satisfies every salty, tangy, savory craving you didn’t even know you had. I was not at all a believer in kale salads; I usually sauté my kale or put it in soups (read: why I had kale in the first place… soup season). But by massaging in the dressing, the kale becomes perfectly crunchy with just the right bite to offset the soft, fluffy little dumplings. I must say, the fresh ginger makes it. Which I totally would not have had if Thanksgiving had not been so recent, but please buy some if you’re making this salad tomorrow (as you should).

And, so long as you have this, or just a normal bottle of Sriracha, you are totally ready to go.

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Thai Dumpling Kale Salad

Serves 1 hungry person (per usual); easily multiplied

Thai Peanut Dressing

½ tbsp. canola (or other mild-flavored) oil

½ tbsp. tamari or soy sauce

1 tsp. natural peanut butter (peanuts and salt)

1 tsp brown sugar

½ tsp. sriracha

2 inch ginger knob, peeled and grated finely, juice included, stringy remnants discarded

Dash crushed red pepper flake

Salad and Dumplings

2 cups organic curly kale, chopped finely

1 golden carrot, peeled and minced/ chopped finely

½ tbsp. canola oil

5 Thai vegetable (or shrimp) gyoza/ dumplings (from Trader Joe’s)

2 tbsp. roasted and salted peanuts

Sriracha to serve

In a large serving bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients. Add the kale and toss, with your hands, massaging the dressing into the kale leaves. Set aside while you prepare the remaining ingredients (time is your friend).

Use a food processor to finely chop the carrot (or your own determination and knife) and add to the greens. Toss.

In a small, non-stick sauté pan, prepare the gyoza according to package directions, which I’ll include here. Heat the oil over medium high heat and add the gyoza to the pan. Cook for 3-4 minutes until the bottom is browning. Add ¼ cup of water to the pan and quickly cover with a lid. Steam for 4-5 minutes until the gyoza are softened and cooked through.

Sprinkle the peanuts over the top of the salad and place the gyoza on top. Drizzle Sriracha over everything.

Absolutely dig in.

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Real question: should this blog be titled “Sriracha to serve”? Seems that’s at the end of every recipe. Also, I hate how dinner time in the winter means it’s pitch black outside. Try taking a good photo in your dark, poorly lit living room… sigh. At least dinner is good.

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Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

I am not on my game. I somehow delayed posting again far longer than intended, as if Thanksgiving was 3 weeks long. Maybe it was, if you consider the brain space it occupied during those weeks. But here it is, December. The month of Christmas, the holiday season, whatever you’d like to call it. So I better catch up the pace.

Unfortunately, my brain is tired, and I haven’t even yet eaten. Sometimes dinner sounds like too much to do. As if the minutes laboring over the stove will exhaust me, I sit hungrily on the cough waiting for a bowl of mashed potatoes (that sounds really good) or pasta or cereal to appear before me, hot (or cold) and ready to go. Maybe even the spoon will elevate to my lips as in the Cheerios scene in the movie Matilda. If you don’t know what I’m talking about then please go watch Matilda promptly. I’ll hum the music- mmm hm mmm hm mm mm mmmm. No? The dancing? The flying, spiraling card deck? No? Bruce Bogtrotter? Someone feed me.

I made this soup a few weeks ago, in tribute to the dropping thermostat and the dog jackets now covering my closet floor. I’m already begrudging my winter coat, so a fair amount of time may have passed. In either case, I was really hell bent on replicating my favorite soup from Panera Bread, because it’s so creamy and delicious. I love creamy soup, but vegetably soup, and wild rice just makes it that much more interesting. I had tried making this soup once before, but failed in some capacity (I think I undercooked the rice), which left me forlorn. Maybe I couldn’t recreate the soup after all!? But winter encouraged me to try again. And this time: success!

This is a labor-intensive product, mostly in the manner of vegetable dicing and time spent waiting anxiously for rice to soften and stock to thicken. So, if you’re sitting on the couch at 7:30pm hungry, it’s not the time to make this. If, however, it’s blisteringly snowy, and an early Friday evening or even Sunday afternoon, go light your favorite fir-scented candle, turn on the Bing Crosby, and make this soup. I promise absolutely no disappointment. I actually promise joy. Holiday-laden, warm and comforting joy.

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Chicken and Wild Rice Soup

Serves 6-8

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken thighs

1 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. unsalted butter (I love Kerrygold)

4 carrots, diced

4 celery stalks, diced

1 yellow onion, diced

10 oz. mushrooms, sliced or diced

1 cup wild rice, uncooked

2 tsp. salt

2 tsp. fresh or dried thyme

1/2 tsp. oregano

1/2 tsp. rosemary

1/4 tsp. dried red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. freshly-cracked black pepper

8 cups free-range chicken stock

1/2 cup milk, anything but skim

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Toss the chicken thighs in a thin coat of olive oil and place in a baking dish, something that allows even space but not too much. Bake at 425 until cooked through, approximately 30 minutes. Once cooked, remove from the oven and cool. Once cooled slightly, shred with a fork.

Heat a large stock pot over medium heat and melt the butter. Add the diced carrots, celery, and onion to the melted butter. Sauté until the vegetables have started to soften, about 10 minutes. To the softened vegetables, add the sliced (or diced!) mushrooms, and sauté for an additional 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are just beginning to release their juices.

Next, add the cup of wild rice as well as the spices and seasonings. Stir well so that everything is mixed. Add the chicken stock to the pot and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until the rice is soft and tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour depending on the variety of rice.

In a mason jar, shake together the milk and flour (or whisk in a small bowl) to create a slurry. While actively whisking, add the thickening slurry to the soup. Allow the soup to simmer, stirring occasionally, until it has thickened to your liking. This takes approximately 5-10 minutes in most cases. Once thickened, add the shredded chicken to the pot and stir. Remove from heat and serve!

 

 

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Now go put on your music, make yourself some soup, and bring some crackers for dipping. If you finish the meal with hot chocolate, I applaud you.

312 Chili

312. Like, the area code. No, actually, like the delicious wheat ale from Chicago’s local Goose Island Brewery. That’s right: beer is in this chili. This isn’t anything earth shattering; people have been putting beer in chili for awhile now. In fact, there’s probably not much that hasn’t been in chili, you know? Like, maybe wine? But it’s probably been done. Anyways, beer in chili is new for me. And I must say, I probably won’t go back. It adds this sort of subtle hoppy hint at the end of each bite that rounds out the spicy, vegetable-heavy flavor. It’s kind of like sipping a beer with your chili, but not nearly as strong, and without the intoxicating side effects. (The alcohol is mostly cooked off).

I love that chili is a total grab-bag. I had a sweet potato to use, so in the chili it went. I wanted lots of vegetables to bulk it up, so I chopped up several cups and sautéed away. Heaping spoonful of minced garlic? Of course. Spicy diced tomatoes, any variety of bean you favor… all of it goes in. The best part is that all of it goes in the crock pot. Which anyone will tell you is the answer to your dinner prayers. It magically both requires less work and imparts more flavor. And now that I boldly italicized crock pot, I can’t stop thinking that it’s a very, borderline inappropriate sounding word. It’s probably an insult if used correctly. Anyways, what I’m offering up today (after much delay and anticipation, I’m sure), is beer. in your chili. in your crock pot. waiting for you for dinner when you come home. I know; what a comeback.

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312 Chili

Serves 6

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 yellow onion, diced

1 green bell pepper, diced

1 carrot, diced

Several cloves of garlic, minced (or used the pre-minced garlic, which has revolutionized my life)

1/4 lb. grass-fed ground beef (amp it up or ignore it all-together, I just had some in my freezer)

2 tbsp. smoked paprika

2 tsp. cumin

1 1/4 tsp. oregano

1 1/4 tsp. garlic powder

2 tsp. cayenne*

1 6 oz. can of tomato paste

1/2 bottle of 312 (or other beer that you like, I guess)

1-2 medium sweet potatoes, diced

1 15 oz. can kidney beans

1 15 oz. can black beans

2 15 oz. cans diced tomatoes (I did one fire roasted with green chiles, one plain)

1 15 oz. can tomato sauce

In a large sauté pan*, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the onions, peppers, and carrots and sauté until translucent and softened, about 5-10 minutes. Add the garlic and stir, cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute longer. Add the ground beef if using and cook until browned. Mix together the spices in a small bowl and add to the vegetable mixture. Stir to coat evenly. Add the can of tomato paste and mix thoroughly, cooking for about 3 minutes or so until well combined. Deglaze the pan with half a bottle of 312 (or other beer, fine. and drink the rest). Allow the beer to boil and reduce for about 5 minutes.

In a large crock pot, add the diced sweet potato, both cans of beans, the cans of diced tomatoes, and the tomato sauce. To this mixture, add the sautéed vegetables. Stir thoroughly. Cook the chili on low for 6-8 hours.

My favorite toppings include diced avocado, cheese, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt (or sour cream), and, of course, crackers. Nothing like saltines in chili, for some reason.

Delicious, easy, warm food for an entire week (or I guess for a large-ish family). So glad it’s time for chili again.

*You’ll notice I didn’t include chili powder. Well, I didn’t have any (and also couldn’t find any at Trader Joe’s where I was shopping… who stops at 2 stores?). But! I found this handy guide for how to make your own. And I found the chili, in result, to be even more flavorful this way. Maybe it’s the smoked paprika?

*Eh hem. I’m sure there are raised eyebrows at my offered crock pot recipe that involves using a sauté pan. But hear me out. Sautéed vegetables are 100 times better in this recipe, and the browning earned from the cooked tomato paste and deglazing with beer is well, well worth the marginal effort. I mean it’s seriously 15 minutes at the stove for a tremendous result. You have 15 minutes. The crock pot does the rest.

Chia Seed French Toast with Blood Orange Strawberry Syrup

So this was not my birthday breakfast (see this post), but this was a delicious breakfast from last weekend. Yes, I made French toast again. I wanted to experiment with healthifying French toast a little bit. Not too much; it still needs to be creamy yet crusted and delicious. But I figured the basics of French toast- egg, bread, milk- didn’t need to necessarily combine into an overly indulgent dish. In fact, it takes to these additional healthy ingredients and toppings very well, and I actually found this preparation more filling and satisfying. The blood orange strawberry syrup draws on this lingering-winter, almost-spring produce I’m noticing now, combining the acidic, thick-skinned winter fruits with the delicately sweet spring flora. They’re a match made in heaven; the perfect sweetly tangy topping to the more heavy toast below. I used chia seeds to amp up the nutritional profile, as chia seeds are a great source of omega-3 fats and other minerals. I also wanted to see if they’d add a bit of a crunch to the toast (spoiler: not too much, really). Regardless, this French toast was phenomenal, with way less added sugar than the typical preparation topped with maple syrup, and more nutritious as well. (But if you want something more indulgently custardy and traditional, use this recipe).

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Chia Seed French Toast with Blood Orange Strawberry Syrup

Serves 1

2 thick slices (about 1 inch) of country bread, preferably multi-grain or whole wheat

2 eggs

1/4 cup milk

1 tsp. honey

1/4 tsp. vanilla extract

1 tbsp. chia seeds

Blood Orange Strawberry Syrup, to serve:

  • 1 cup hulled and halved strawberries
  • 1 tsp. blood orange zest
  • 2 tbsp. blood orange juice, freshly squeezed (feel free to eat the remaining fruit)
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Start by preparing the blood orange strawberry syrup. Mix the syrup ingredients together in a small sauce pan over medium heat. Allow the mixture to come to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium low. Allow the syrup to simmer until the strawberries are broken down and it has reduced to about half the initial volume, about 15 minutes. The syrup will be thick with small strawberry chunks, but still pourable. Set aside to cool slightly.

Whisk together the egg, milk, honey, and vanilla extract. Pour the egg mixture into a shallow pan (I use a pyrex baking dish) and toss the chia seeds throughout the mixture. Soak the bread in the eggs, making sure to evenly distribute the chia seeds through the batter on the toast. Allow to soak for 2 minutes, then flip to soak the other side.

Heat a griddle to 350 and lightly grease with butter. Add the French toast and cook for 4-5 minutes. Flip then cook the opposite side for another 4-5 minutes.

Plate the French toast and top with the blood orange strawberry syrup.

 

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Enjoy for a filling yet healthier weekend breakfast.

 

Dinner for Dito

Ok, so actually this should be titled “Dessert for Oscar,” but I thought a dog-on-blog pun would be more appropriate. Dito is Brian’s dog: a Welsh Corgi with some serious attitude and spunk. Dito is always first, always in the way, and always a little bit on edge. He’s endearing, yet you’d be hard-pressed to isolate global “charms,” as his most memorable qualities include breathing heavily and insisting on jumping in the river every few minutes of his walk. But I find myself missing Dito, purely for his energetic confidence and irrefutable love for his family. Dito can most days be found upstairs with Brian, listening to music (he seems to share Brian’s alternative and classical taste) and happily napping or licking his feet. Oscar and Dito have a tumultuous relationship, as alpha dogs often do, but as Oscar is (probably unhappily) far away with me in Chicago, we have to remember our dog family with pleasant nostalgia.

Today Oscar celebrated his 8th birthday, with birthday go-ers including my roommate’s dog Lola and a wily boxer puppy named Bobbo. Now before this gets weird, yes, I do celebrate my dog’s birthday. No, I don’t think I’m crazy. And yes, he wears sweaters (it gets too cold in Chicago!). I’ve never before made Oscar a cake, or really acknowledged his birthday outside of insisting on a nice visit to the park, but as we’re stuck inside from the freezing Chicago wind, I decided a cake eating contest would be a hilarious Friday-night birthday activity. I searched the internet for a few dog-friendly cake recipes, eyeing several that seemed similar and inclusive of ingredients I already know Oscar enjoys: carrots, peanut butter, etc. I didn’t want to give him anything that seemed to be an ingredient purely for “human” tastes, as he doesn’t care about sweetener or vanilla flavor, I’m sure. I also didn’t want this cake to be the reason I have to get up at 3am, if you know what I mean. So I switched up the recipe a bit, and, no surprise, it was a huge hit for dogs all around. Oscar tenderly and steadily made through his miniature cake, licking the frosting then taking nibbling bites from the edges. He made through about 3/4 before deciding he couldn’t eat anymore. Lola, however, gobbled her entire cake in seconds, and she eagerly finished off Oscar’s plate when he signed defeat.

Oscar may not have been the winner, but if you’re looking to treat your pet (and not feel ashamed for doing so), I really recommend this simple cake, best served contest-style.

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Oscar’s Perfect-for-Pups Birthday Cake

Serves 6 hungry dogs

1 egg

1/4 cup peanut butter, preferably just peanuts and salt

3 tbsp. water

1/4 cup pumpkin puree (or sweet potato)

1 cup shredded carrots (about 3-4 medium carrots)

1 cup whole wheat flour

1 tsp. baking soda

Pumpkin Peanut Butter Frosting:

  • 2 tbsp. peanut butter
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin puree

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Grease a loaf pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together egg, peanut butter, and water until a smooth and even consistency is achieved. Add pumpkin puree and whisk to combine. In a food processor, pulse carrots until evenly shredded. Mix shredded carrots with the puree mixture. Add whole wheat flour and baking soda to the bowl and fold into the batter, mixing evenly, until almost no flour is visible (no need to over-mix).

Pour the batter into the loaf pan. The bonus of making this cake from scratch- the batter actually tastes pretty good. Kind of like an unsweetened carrot cake, with a more notable peanut butter flavor. The cake rises slightly in the oven, but is pretty dense.

Bake the cake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through. Rest the cake in the loaf pan on a cooling rack for at least 10 minutes.

In order to make a bone-shaped cake, slice a 3 inch slice of cake out of the pan. I threw the piece in the freezer for a few minutes since I was inpatient with waiting for it to cool. Using a paring knife, cut out an equilateral triangle at both ends of the rectangle. Then, cut a shallow half-moon shape out of the long rectangular sides.

Frost the cake with about 1-2 tbsp. of  frosting. Maybe your dog is 8 years old and you want to make an 8 out of a peeled slice of carrot. I won’t stop you.

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Oscar beginning to dive in. He flipped the cake over immediately with his voracious first bite. 

 

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Slowing down; he takes little bites and addresses the frosting.

The other family dogs have birthdays in the next few months, and this was really easy… just mentioning.

Mango Chicken

The trouble with life is that it keeps going. Sometimes you’d really benefit from punching life in the face, taking a nap for 2 weeks, then starting from a fresh place. But what actually happens is you get a flat tire in a snowstorm and then get in a car accident in a snow storm 4 days later and then have to go grocery shopping lest you live another week on Larabars and cafeteria soup. Sometimes life throws so many lemons at your face you feel like you’re in a lemon mountain, and you’re not quite sure if there’s anything more than lemons out there. These times call for a solid nap, a quiet place, a really interesting and captivating book, and a steaming hot and comforting meal. Maybe followed by wine; I won’t judge. It may be that you only get 24 hours before life demands you become productive again, but if you work at relaxing hard enough, you can come out almost like new. (I’ll take an interlude to say, what really would help me out is if someone could just fly me to Hawaii for a month long vacation, where sipping beach drinks and “surfing” are the only tasks required of me. I’d appreciate this trip for free, also). As I was driving home from the car service center, in my lovely new rental car for the week, I overwhelmingly began to crave my favorite dish from Rangoli, a truly beautiful and delicious Indian restaurant on the West side near my old apartment. Sitting in traffic, I knew there was absolutely no way I was taking a (probably) hour and a half detour just for dinner, as I had only eaten (the rest of my) yogurt and cereal as my meal for the day. However, I knew I needed groceries, so I convinced myself to drive home, grab groceries in under 30 minutes, and try my hand at my own version. This, as my luck would currently not have it, turned out amazingly well on the first try. I believe I may have perfectly replicated the recipe on a slightly-educated whim, as it turned out just as I remembered it. A rich, warm, definitely-spicy-but-slightly-sweet sauce surrounding juicy chicken breast and luscious mangoes. The sauce kicks at the end, thanks to a pretty heavy spice blend, but the mango cools at just the right time, ultimately encouraging you to eat way too fast and start to overheat a bit. I have to say, though, eating a fulfilling dinner, finally restocking my fridge, and looking forward to nothing but Internet browsing and Anna Karenina for the night, I feel as though I almost salvaged this Friday.

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Mango Chicken

Serves 4

1 cup brown rice

2 1/2 cups water

1 lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into 1 inch cubes

1 tbsp. grapeseed oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

1 jalapeno, minced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 cup roasted red and yellow peppers, chopped (or 1 raw bell pepper, chopped)

1 1/2 cups mango, fresh or frozen, chopped and divided

2 tsp. garam masala

1 tsp. chili powder

1/2 tsp. ground ginger

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika

1/4 tsp. cayenne

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

6 oz. can tomato paste

1 tbsp. sriracha

1 1/2 cups chicken stock

1/2 cup coconut milk

Salt & pepper, to taste

In a medium sauce pan, prepare brown rice by bringing about 2 1/2 cups water to a boil and adding 1 cup of rice (ratio depending on brand and style of rice; defer to package directions). Turn the heat to low, cover, and simmer brown rice for about 35 minutes, until water is absorbed and rice is fluffy. Season with salt and pepper and let rest, covered.

In a large sauté pan, preferably a few inches deep, heat grapeseed oil over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until translucent, about 4-5 minutes. Add jalapeno and garlic and sauté another 1-2 minutes, until fragrant. Add 1/2 cup of mango and stir to incorporate. Toss the spices over the vegetable mixture and cook for about 30 seconds. Add tomato paste and sriracha to the pan and cook for another 2 minutes. Deglaze the pan with chicken stock and stir until blended. Using an immersion blender, blender, or food processor, blend the sauce until smooth and creamy. Return the sauce to the pan and drop the heat to medium-low. Add coconut milk and stir into the sauce.

As the sauce gently simmers, add the chicken and remaining cup of mango to the pan. Cook the chicken in the sauce until it is cooked through, being careful not to overcook, for about 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once the chicken is cooked through, remove from heat.

To serve, pile some brown rice onto your plate. Top with chicken and mango in sauce. If you had some cilantro, that would pair nicely here. I served this with some roasted broccoli to get a bit more green with my dinner, which I’d recommend as it was absolutely delicious doused in spicy mango sauce.

After dinner, feel free to relax and dream of vacations passed, like maybe when you were in Charleston last weekend and everything was perfect. Maybe sun would solve all of our problems; maybe I should move back south.

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Brunching at beautiful Poogan’s Porch in Charleston, SC

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Just dreaming of life at 75 and sunny.* Indian food will have to suffice for now.

*I don’t know that old man.

Spicy Lime Shrimp with Mango Coconut Brown Rice

I don’t have a lot to say; my brain is tired; my commute was long. I came home from work (or, really, I got out of my car an hour and a half later and came inside), and I was starving. I bought a mango and some accompaniments  a few days ago in thoughts of preparing a summer rice bowl full of spicy grilled shrimp, and then the week passed and all the components rested comfortably in my vegetable drawer. I guess it seemed like too much chopping. But, without much else to go on besides cereal, and knowing those vegetables would soften unappealingly while I spent a (hopefully) fantastic weekend away, I dove in to the prep work. I may work fast in the kitchen, but this recipe is the definition of a 30-minute-meal. It seriously all comes together in the time it takes to simmer brown rice, which is nice because once the timer goes off I am suddenly very impatient to eat. I topped my plate with this steamy, spicy concoction with a cleaned kitchen at the outcome, thanks to some quick swipes of the counter and the clean-as-you-go method. This means I can sit on the couch now and recuperate when I should be packing. How else do 25-year-olds live? Oh wait…

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*Chop, chop, chop*

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Spicy Lime Shrimp with Mango Coconut Brown Rice

Serves 2

20 frozen shrimp, raw, peeled and deveined

Spicy Lime Marinade:

  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1 tsp. barbecue sauce
  • 1/2 tsp. sriracha
  • 1/4 tsp. chili powder
  • 1/4 tsp. smoked paprika
  • Dash of cayenne

1/2 cup brown rice

3/4 cup light coconut milk

1/2 cup water

2 tbsp. grapeseed oil, divided

1 mango, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 red onion, diced

Salt & pepper, to taste

First, heat a saucepan over medium-high heat and add coconut milk and water. Once boiling, add brown rice, lower heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 30-35 minutes, until rice is tender and liquid is almost entirely absorbed.

To defrost the shrimp, add shrimp to a colander inside a large bowl. Fill the bowl with chilled water and let soak for 2-3 minutes. Empty the water and replace, and repeat the soaking process. Toss the shrimp in the colander under running water and set aside in a new clean bowl.

Mix the spicy lime marinade by shaking in a jar or whisking to combine. Pour the marinade over the shrimp and toss. Set aside for now (allowing to marinate for about 20 minutes).

Dice the mango and vegetables. In a sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add the bell pepper and onion, season lightly with salt, and sauté until the onion is translucent and the vegetables have softened. Remove vegetables from the pan and set aside.

In the previously used sauté pan, heat 1 tbsp. grapeseed oil over medium-high heat. Add shrimp to the pan, leaving most of the marinade in the bowl. Cook shrimp until pink and cooked through, about 3 minutes. Remove shrimp from the pan and set aside.

By this time, the rice should be done cooking. Add the sautéed vegetables and mango to the coconut rice and season with salt and pepper. Mix thoroughly to combine. Plate the coconut mango rice and top with shrimp.

Pour the remaining marinade into the sauté pan and simmer over medium heat until reduced and thickened, about 1-2 minutes. Pour marinade over plated shrimp and rice.

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Add Sriracha to serve, possibly with another squeeze of lime juice. A sprinkle of cilantro might be nice. Or maybe even a margarita on the side (not for you, Brian). Regardless, this was good. Creamy coconut milk, sweet mango, acidic lime and onion, and succulent and spicy shrimp are magic companions. Soon it will be summer and this meal will fit right in.

Kale and Parmesan Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

More sweet potatoes! When I’m at the grocery store, I always grab a couple of sweet potatoes. To use in soup, to cube up for a hash with eggs, to make sweet potato fries; there’s a never-ending number of ways to use them up. So, naturally, I had a few left in the cabinet this week, and I decided to try something new. My dad loves to make twice baked potatoes. Loaded with cheese, bacon, sour cream, and salt, they’re far from healthy, but they’re a delicious component to his occasional dinner spread, which he puts out once or twice a year. This option is a bit on the healthier side, swapping white potatoes for sweet potatoes, cutting the cheese and butter count, and nixing the bacon for crunchy kale (I think I also have a kale problem; I love it so much). But these twice baked sweet potatoes still have the delectably crunchy skin, and they serve as a unique change of pace for dinner. They’re also fairly quick to come together if you’ve already baked the sweet potatoes ahead of time; however, I rarely think that far ahead, so an easier way to prepare these is to get them fully baked and ready, slide them into the fridge, and twice bake them the next day or on the day of eating. This arrangement makes them great for potluck parties or really any sort of celebration where it’s nice to have things almost fully done ahead of time. Or it’s good for your lonely plate with a side of salad; we can’t all have dinner parties all the time. I’m looking forward to the leftovers today.

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Kale and Parmesan Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Serves 2-4

2 large sweet potatoes

3 cups kale, chopped into ribbons

2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese, divided

2 tbsp. butter

1/2 cup milk or cream

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Poke a few holes in the side of the sweet potatoes (I used a fork and poked along the midline so the holes would “disappear” once the potatoes were cut in half). Place the sweet potatoes in the oven directly on the rack, with a sheet pan a rack below to catch any drippings. Bake the sweet potatoes for approximately 1 hour, or until completely fork tender.

Allow the sweet potatoes to cool slightly, then, using a sharp knife, slice the sweet potatoes length-wise into two halves. Scoop out the sweet potato filling into a large bowl, careful not to rip the skin too much. Place the skins in a baking dish and set aside. Mash the sweet potatoes with a fork or potato masher. Add the cream and butter and mix thoroughly until the sweet potatoes are smooth and creamy.  Add 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese and mix.

In a sauté pan, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add kale ribbons and sauté until softened and bright green, maintaining their crunch slightly. To the bowl of sweet potatoes, add sautéed kale and mix together. Scoop the sweet potato and kale mixture into the cooled potato skins, forming a heaping mound in each. Top each sweet potato half with the remaining 1/4 cup of shredded parmesan cheese. At this point, the sweet potatoes can be refrigerated for a day or two until use.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Place the baking dish of sweet potatoes into the oven and bake for 30 minutes, until the edges of the skin are just crisping. After 30 minutes, turn off the oven and turn on the broiler. Broil the sweet potatoes for 2-5 minutes, until the parmesan cheese on top is melting and browned. Remove the pan from the oven, allow to cool slightly, and serve. These can be picked up and eaten by hand, or sliced easily with a fork. A side of salad rounds out the meal nicely- the one below just mixed greens dressed with a squeeze of lemon juice and roasted pecans. Or, serve these up at a party and watch them disappear!

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Sweet and Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup

My first post on this blog is for a winter vegetable soup. It’s incredibly delicious, but, to be honest, I came up with that recipe in a I-must-use-up-these-last-vegetables-in-the-fridge scramble. Winter vegetable soup was merely a creative and convenient derivation from my truly favorite soup recipe. This one. I’ve made this soup hundreds of times, and while I initially made a few tweaks here and there, I now never stray. It is my go-to soup, my easy weeknight dinner, and my absolute favorite way to eat a sweet potato. It’s perfect as a meal: a giant bowl, steaming hot, served only with a spoon. It’s wonderful as a side to a grilled cheese sandwich (dipping not optional) or a flavorful salad (pecans, goat cheese, and cranberries anyone?). It’s probably even fine as a snack, although I can’t say I’ve ever eaten a bowl small enough to qualify. This recipe is gluten-free, vegan optional, vegetable heavy, definitely healthy, and deeply satisfying. But it tastes indulgent, creamy, and wonderfully complex. Seriously, I could talk about this for way too long. Make this soup, ASAP. Before you get buried in 3-6 more inches of snow and have to dig your car out at 6am and have to work until past sunset and have to run inside on the treadmill because it’s too cold to be outdoors for more than 2 minutes. Make this soup before you forget why winter is sometimes delightfully cozy and warm.

Sweet and Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup 1

Sweet and Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup 2

 

Sweet and Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 2-4

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

1 large sweet potato, diced into 1 inch cubes

1 large carrot, diced

1/2 yellow onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 tbsp. curry powder

1/2 tsp. smoked paprika or chili powder

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

Salt & pepper to taste

2 cups vegetable stock

2 tbsp. milk, cream, or coconut milk

Toasted rosemary breadcrumbs (optional)

  • 1 tsp. butter
  • 1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1/8 tsp. salt

In a medium saucepan, heat extra virgin olive oil over medium heat. Add onions and carrots and sauté until onions are translucent and lightly browning, about 5 minutes. Add diced garlic and heat until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add diced sweet potato and spices and stir. Cook spices for about 30 seconds, then add 2 cups vegetable stock (this is an approximation; vegetable stock should be just below covering vegetable mixture). Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer until sweet potatoes are fork tender, about 15 minutes.

Once the sweet potatoes have cooked through, take the soup off the heat. Theoretically, this soup could be eaten chunky; however, I prefer a smooth and creamy soup. Use an immersion blender, food processor, or blender to puree the soup until smooth. Add 1-2 tbsp. cream or coconut milk and blend.

To prepare breadcrumb topping, melt butter in a small frying pan. Add breadcrumbs, chopped rosemary, and salt, and heat until breadcrumbs are browning and toasted. Sprinkle atop soup alongside some smoked paprika.

Other toppings for this soup could include diced avocado, fresh green onions, greek yogurt or sour cream, or croutons. Or, you know, an entire grilled cheese sandwich. Most importantly, though, make sure you have a bowl and spoon big enough to dive in.

 

Trail Mix Baked Oatmeal Squares

Due to my dog’s intense separation anxiety, I get dressed in the dark. I sneakily pack a pre-prepared breakfast in my purse, and I (as silently as possible) grab my lunch from the refrigerator. I throw a bone into his dog bed, put on my coat (but don’t zip it), and grab my shoes (but don’t waste time putting them on). I slip out the door and walk to the elevator, and I finish getting ready to bear the cold. I probably spend 15 minutes in my house once I get up in the morning before I’m out the door, and I hear Oscar ruffle out from under the blankets in about that time, eager to see what’s been going on while he’s been asleep. My point is: I need quick, I need quiet, and I need ready-ahead-of-time breakfasts. I’ve dabbled in all sorts of hand-held breakfasts I can eat while I drive to work (once I’m at work, I’m at work, and I can’t eat). There are a slew of internet references to breakfasts on-the-go, but how many can you eat while you drive? This has been the sticking point. Also,my microwave beeps too loudly, so this breakfast must come at room temperature or directly from the refrigerator. It seems superfluous to toil over breakfast ideas so much (it’s just food), but I go a solid 6 hours until lunch time, and I like to start my day on a healthful track. So I revise my statement: I need quick, I need quiet, I need ready-ahead-of-time, I need hand-held and truly on-the-go, and, very importantly, I need healthy and delicious.

I loved oatmeal as my breakfast of choice back when I luxuriously dawdled over breakfast at home, but it is impossible to eat with a spoon in the car (I tried once- very risky and unstable). I perused the internet for awhile, as I often do, and saw a few recipes for baked oatmeal. This was enlightening! It’s like oatmeal you can hold in your hand! And, just like oatmeal, the varieties are endless. I’ve become incredibly in love with trail mix recently- I think it has something to do with Trader Joe’s extensive and fantastic options- and I realized oatmeal is the perfect medium for incorporating trail mix flavors. Thus, my absolute favorite breakfast was born (excluding the few times I’ve made donuts… those were the best. I’ll have a recipe at some point).  Even if you have time in the morning, these definitely warrant a try. I’d imagine they’re delicious heated warm on a plate with a side of coffee.

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Trail Mix Baked Oatmeal Squares

Serves 4

2 cups old-fashioned oats

1/2 cup mixed nuts (I used peanuts, walnuts, and pecans)

1/3 cup dried cranberries or raisins (or other dried fruit)

2 tbsp. chopped dark chocolate

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 tsp. baking powder

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

2 tbsp. honey

1 1/2 cup milk

1 egg

2 tbsp. coconut oil, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Prepare an 8×8 square baking dish with a thin coating of oil or non-stick spray.

In a large bowl, mix together dry ingredients. Add honey to the dry mixture and stir until loosely clumped. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and coconut oil. Add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and mix. Allow the mixture to set for 5-10 minutes. Pour the oatmeal mixture into the baking dish and put into the preheated oven. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes, until edges are just browning and the oatmeal is firmly set. Allow oatmeal to cool, then serve warm. Alternatively, oatmeal can be cooled entirely and refrigerated, later sliced into squares to serve for the road.

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I usually am so excited for weekend breakfasts, intentionally and lazily preparing and eating pancakes or eggs and toast. But these oatmeal squares give those meals a run for their money, and keep me functioning at work as well.