Category Archives: Dinner

Local. Sustainable. Organic. A Garden-Inspired Menu

I have been very fortunate to come from and marry into a family interested in having their own vegetable gardens.  Every summer, I am pretty much guaranteed that my family CSA will supply me with organic vegetables once a week.  My in-laws, with acreage, have devoted a quarter of their land to harvesting their own vegetables.

The variety includes squash, potatoes, eggplant, cucumbers, okra, lettuce, spinach, chard, garlic, onion, cilantro, mint, tomatoes, green beans, pears, cantaloupe, chili peppers, and much more.  Needless to say that my grocery bill is substantially lower during this time of year.

Eating from the garden, in short, tastes better.  Much much better.  Fruits taste sweeter.  Vegetables taste fresher and just generally have more flavor.

As a gesture of gratitude, I cooked a meal to thank those that have given me more than just produce – but really a new way about thinking about cooking and quality of food.  This Foodbuzz 24×24 menu is comprised of local organic, sustainable or organic ingredients.

Menu:
Blueberry Mint Soda
Rosemary Bread
Deviled Eggs
Fried Green Tomatoes
Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Balsamic Reduction
Pan-seared Halibut over Wilted Spinach, Texas Portobello Mushrooms and Tomatoes with a Citrus Shallot Dressing
Squash Gratin
Peaches with Homemade Vanilla Bean Buttermilk Ice Cream

Served on a (fortunately) cooler Texas evening, we enjoyed this meal outside near the vegetable garden.  Served family style, this experience was more than a meal but a celebration of the people who dedicated themselves to feeding themselves and their families better.

When I first started grocery shopping and cooking for myself, thinking about where my food comes from was not even in my thought process.  In my mind, shopping at the big chain stores for cheaper blueberries and shopping at an organic store for duper expensive blueberries would yield the same result, the former just requiring an additional rinse under some cold water.

Well, times have changed and I’ve grown a bit wiser.  In this global world where any food is accessible year-round, I now focus on buying for the season rather than for the sale.  In the end, the product is not the same.

Instead of investing in produce that has traveled thousands of miles, I encourage you to check out your local farmer’s markets, join a CSA, buy seasonally, or grow a garden, no matter how small.  Growing and knowing the food you eat will change how you look at your plate.

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7 Comments

Filed under Appetizers, Bread, Dinner, Uncategorized

Comfort Food: Dal Curry

For the past few months, Binks has decided to cut meat (save fish) from his diet.  My job has then been to make sure he incorporates healthy proteins to ensure he is full and satisfied with what he eats.

The easiest, cheapest and tastiest way to do this?

Lentils.  Specifically, dal curry.

There are several ways to prepare dal, but this is the absolute favorite for me.  It’s comforting and flavorful.  On top of it all, it packs a healthy punch.

I used to make this version often (given to me by my MIL) until I perfected this version.  Now, it’s one of those dishes where I’m absolutely satisfied with the results and acts as a “go-to” recipe for me.

For this recipe, I use yellow split lentils as it cooks fairly quickly and does not need the overnight soak that other lentils typically require (i.e. urad dal).  You can also use masoor dal (red lentils) as it cooks quickly, as well.

Dal Curry
Ingredients:

–  1 cup dal (I use yellow split lentils or toor dal)
–  2 cups water
–  1/4 tsp turmeric
–  1 tsp salt
–  3 tbsp olive oil
–   1/2 tsp cayenne pepper (adjust to your taste – if unsure, start with a scant 1/4 tsp and go up if you want)
–  1/4 tsp cumin
–  1/4 tsp turmeric
–  1/2 tsp coriander
–  2 tsp ginger paste (you can also just grate fresh ginger)
–  2 serranos, diced (you can use jalapenos and/or adjust the amount per your taste)
–  1 small onion, diced
–  3 cloves garlic, minced
–  2 small tomatoes, diced
–  big pinch of garam masala
–  salt to taste

For tadka:
–  1/2 tsp cumin seeds
–  2 dry red chili, tear apart with your hands
–  pinch of asafeotida
–  1/2 tsp garam masala
–  2 tbsp olive oil

Directions:
1.   Place 1 cup dal, 2 cups water, and 1/4 tsp turmeric into pot and boil until the dal until the dal is soft.  Mash some of the dal in the pot.  Add salt to the dal mix.
2.  In a separate pan, heat oil over medium-high heat, and add cayenne pepper, cumin, turmeric, coriander and ginger paste (or grated ginger) and fry until the raw smell of the spices vanish, about 2 minutes.
3.   Add the onion, garlic and serranos (or jalapenos or any other pepper you decided to use) and saute for another 4 minutes until the onions have browned a bit.
4.   Add the tomato and cook for another 5 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and mixed with the spices and onion mix.
5.  Add the dal mixture (water and all), and lower the heat to medium.  Now, taste to see if you need more salt and add if you need.  Once properly salted, add a pinch of garam masala to ‘finish it off’ and stir to incorporate.  Cook the dal over medium heat for about 10 minutes.  (At this point, if you want the consistency to be more watery or soupy, add boiled water, 1/4 cup at a time until it reaches your desired consistency.  I prefer my dal a bit thicker so I just usually add 1/4 cup.  Remember, as the dal cools, it thickens so add water accordingly.)
6.  While the dal is cooking, in a separate pan, you prepare your tadka.  Over medium-high heat, heat olive oil.  Once the oil has heated, add cumin seeds and let it sputter for approximately 1 minutes.  Then add the dry red chili, asoafeotida, and 1/2 tsp garam masala.  Cook until the raw smell of the spices is gone and the red chili peppers have toasted a bit.
7.  Pour the tadka into the dal and stir.
8.  Serve hot, preferably with rice.

I love the combination of this dal curry with brown rice.  Talk about hearty and perfect for a fall night.

8 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Favorites, Indian, Vegan, Vegetarian

Thai Tanee

I love Asian food.  Obviously I’m a huge fan of Indian.  My next favorite would be Korean.  Then, Japanese.  Of my top 10 Asian food favs, I think Thai food would be the last or near the last on that list.

I rarely crave it, but when I do, it’s almost an unstoppable force.  Yesterday was one of those days.

Binks and I Yelp-ed and found Thai Tanee.

Tai Tanee is located in a strip center, and if I weren’t looking for it, I would likely drive by and never notice.  But, I’m very glad I stopped.

Upon entering the restaurant, you immediately (well, I immediately) notice how clean everything is.  We were immediately seated by the sweetest of wait staff.

Binks and I usually share when we go out to eat, so we came up with a game plan.

Appetizers: Tanee Egg Rolls with chicken.  *not pictured, forgive me.

Main Course: Chicken Larb Salad and an order of steamed rice.

When the waitress came to take our order, I made sure to say, Thai hot – very very hot.  As always, I got the typical reaction – “Yes, Yes.”  And, I had to stop her.  No, I mean really – Thai hot – very very hot, I told her again.  She walked off and I hoped to goodness she would know.

She arrived with this:

Don’t let the plethora of red pepper flakes fool you.  It wasn’t Thai hot.  If you have ever cooked with the Thai peppers, you know what Thai hot is.

But, it was full of Thai flavor.  While it was a tad on the sweeter side, Binks and I really enjoyed the meal.

The picture doesn’t do it justice.  The portions were huge.  Mind you, Binks and I shared.

I of course had to have my side dish mixture of garlic chili paste, Sriracha sauce, and low-sodium soy sauce.

Per usual, my side dish mixture turned into pretty much a main course on my plate.

After the waitress saw my hot sauce concoction she said: “Oh, you like really hot.”  I smiled and nodded while sweating out of every orifice in my body.

I’m 80% sure I gave myself 40 new ulcers.  I left very satisfied.

Do you love Thai food?  Have you tried larb salad?  Do you like spicy?  Thai hot?  Do you dare? 🙂

20 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Uncategorized

Potstickers

My first dim sum experience was a life-changing one.  Various types of food passing by for me to pick up at my leisure is the stuff that goes on in my dreams.

The one dish that always stands out to me above all is the potsticker.

Now, I must tread lightly here because I’m out of my element.  I know that there is a Chinese version and a Japanese version of this dumpling.  People refer to potstickers as gyoza which is a Japanese version, which I think originally comes from the Chinese version.

I don’t know which way mine swings – towards Japan or China.  All I can account for is that it is divine and will serve me well until my next dim sum reservation.

And with a spicy dipping sauce to boot.

Now that I’m familiar with working with the wrappers and the filling, my next logical stop will be here, another item on my Kitchen List.

Potstickers

Ingredients:

  • 1 package wonton/dumpling wrappers – I bought the frozen kind that I thawed overnight in the fridge.
  • 1 lb ground pork
  • 2 stalks green onion, minced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 (6 oz) package mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp garlic chili sauce (you can use Sriracha), optional
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions:

  • Heat sesame oil in pot over medium high.
  • Add garlic and mushrooms until lightly browned and mushrooms are cooked – approx. 5 minutes.
  • Place mushroom mixture into a large bowl.  Make sure to remove any moisture.  I usually squeeze out the water from the mushrooms (after cooking) with a spoon and then throw it into the bowl.  You can also squeeze inside a cheesecloth or dab with a paper towel – just make sure its cool enough to handle.
  • To the mushroom and garlic mixture, add the pork, green onion, vinegar, soy sauce and chili sauce.
  • Spoon a teaspoon size amount of the mixture into each wrapper.
  • Secure the ends so that the dumpling is closed tight.
  • After making all your dumplings, heat a pan (that has a lid) 1 tbsp oil until very hot over medium high heat.
  • Place your dumplings in the pan.  Leave space between each dumpling so they do not touch each other.
  • Once the bottoms have browned, usually about a minute after heating, the need-to-be-careful part comes.
  • With one hand I hold the lid (my right hand) and with the other hand I hold the water.  I quickly add the water to the pan and shut it closed with the lid.  The mixing of the oil and water will cause sputtering so please be careful!  So cover immediately and let the dumplings steam inside the pan until the wrapper is translucent.  It usually takes about 3-4 minutes.
  • You can use the same pan for the next batch, but I wipe down my pan with a paper towel so that I can remove any remaining water/oil when I pour another tablespoon of oil.
  • Serve hot with the dipping sauce.

Dipping Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup soy sauce
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 2 tbsp chili garlic sauce (or Sriracha)
  • 3 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 stalk green onion, sliced thinly

Directions:

  1. Mix all ingredients and serve.

*You can most certainly tweak the sauce per your taste.  If you want something more tangy, increase the vinegar.  For spice, I also thinly slice a jalapeno pepper or serrano pepper and add it to the sauce to soak.

Are you a fan of dim sum?  Do you like potstickers?  Do you know the difference between the Japanese and Chinese version?  Inform me! 🙂

15 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Favorites, garlic, olive oil, Uncategorized

Do You Panang?

If you don’t – you should.  No judgment.

Thai food has never been my favorite – I don’t crave it like I do a bowl of pho, banh mi, sushi/sashimi/nigiri, or just a plain bowl of kim chi jigae.

However, when the mood strikes – I want it pretty badly.  Usually either a larb salad or panang.  (Never pad thai – I don’t like peanuts or peanut butter in my savory food.  No judgment, please.)

And the mood struck.  Yesterday.  For dinner.

Well, it struck before when I was at Sprouts getting my bulk shopping on (20% off sale – HOLLA!), and saw a jar of Thai Red Curry when I wandered to the “International” aisle.  I was getting tired of the guy that had his cart in the middle of the grains isle, leaving no room for others, and would not leave the area.  No judgment, sir.

Tofu Panang

Ingredients

  • 1 package extra firm tofu, cut into cubes (take as much water out as possible)
  • 4 tbsp sesame oil (you can use olive oil but sesame gives this dish a great flavor), divided
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1/2  cup onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp ginger, minced – I have tried it with ginger powder and it was fine, not perfect but fine
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil – I have tried it with dried basil and it was fine, not perfect but fine.
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, minced (optional)
  • 3 tbsp Thai red curry/panang paste
  • 1/4 tsp cumin
  • 1/4 tsp coriander
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1/2 can of water – read on
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and sliced into strips
  • 1/2 cup carrots sliced into sticks
  • 1 package mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce (if you don’t want to use this, use soy sauce or tamari), or to taste
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp chopped cilantro.

Directions

  • Heat pan over medium-high heat.
  • Add 2 tbsp oil and heat.
  • Add tofu to pan and season with salt and pepper.
  • Fry tofu until browned on all sides.
  • Remove the tofu from pan and set aside.
  • Heat remaining 2 tbsp of oil.
  • Saute onions, garlic, ginger, and pepper, until tender – about 7 minutes over medium-high heat.
  • Add curry paste, cumin and coriander, and heat with the onions until cooked through and the raw smell is gone – about 1 minutes.
  • Add basil and mix in with curry paste combo for about 10 seconds.
  • Add salt.
  • Pour full can of coconut milk into the pan.
  • Fill 1/2 of the now empty coconut milk can with water and pour into mixture.
  • Stir to combine and bring the whole mixture to a boil.
  • Once boiling, add red & yellow bell pepper, carrots & mushrooms.
  • Bring to a boil – approximately 10 minutes.
  • Add tofu and turn heat down to medium-low.
  • Let it simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
  • Add fish sauce and lemon juice; mix until incorporated.
  • Simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Serve over jasmine rice.
  • Garnish with cilantro.  Serve with wedges of lime or lemon (optional).

Note:  BE CAREFUL with the fish sauce.  If it spills even an iota within a 5 mile radius, your skin, clothes and life will be ruined for a full week.  I speak from experience.

Do you enjoy Thai food?  Do you cook it?  Have you spilled fish sauce on yourself?

No judgment.

35 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Uncategorized

Semi Olie-Made

Do you guys watch Sandra Lee’s Semi-Homemade Cooking on the Food Network?  (When I had cable), I used to.  Prior to knowing anything about it, I thought the idea was ingenious.  She cooked the way I cooked way back then.

Doctoring up pre-made food was the name of the game.  And I was a playa!

The one thing I knew best was how to doctor up spaghetti sauce.  Why I couldn’t just prepare homemade spaghetti sauce – I don’t know.  But, let me share.

I don’t like jarred spaghetti sauce.  I don’t know if it’s the massive amounts of sugar they put in there or what.  I can never eat a jar of spaghetti sauce without doing something to it.

Let me introduce you to the ‘something’:

Saute with olive oil over medium heat until soft and caramelized.  (I like my marinara a little chunky so I leave the red bell pepper bigger, but feel free to omit or mince based on your preference.) 

Then comes the kicker – the wine.  Binks and I usually have about half a glass left in the wine bottle that we definitely do not want to waste!  Add it after the veggies are done caramelizing.

Add the jar of tomato sauce and simmer for about 20-30 minutes over low heat.

At this point you can use an immersion blender to puree everything or just leave as is – chunky! 🙂  Feel free to make it your own at this point with the addition of basil or parmesan cheese.

Serve with your favorite pasta!

Perfect quick way to use up that spaghetti sauce in the pantry for dinner!

I would suggest this to Sandra Lee, but then….

….. the Kwanzaa cake episode arrived….

Oh. God. No.

What do you doctor up?  Do you watch Sandra’s show?

12 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Vegetarian

Tempeh Joes

I’m 28 years old.

At the age of 9 when I tasted my first sloppy joe.  And, I still remember the sauce.  Delicious sauce!  I remember seeing the commercials on TV for Manwich sandwiches and see the kids wipe off the red sauce from their mouth with the back of their hand (“I want a Manwich please!”) and wanting my next sloppy joe (and a napkin).

At the age of 13, I had my last sloppy joe.  For no other reason than I moved to high school where sloppy joes were somehow left off the school lunch menu.  And, my Indian mom sure as heck would not be making a sloppy joe at home without adding her own Indian flair to it.  So, in an attempt not to dilute the original, I never requested it.

15 years later…

I bought some tempeh and marinated it in my favorite BBQ sauce.

Ignore the burnt spatula – I love that thing despite what I’ve put it through!

I added it to some sautéed onions, garlic, red and green bell pepper.

And I made my own Tempeh Joes!

And you can’t leave out the slaw (mine was shredded cabbage and carrots quickly warmed in a pan) or the pickle.

I finished and relished every bite!  It brought me back to the cafeteria lunch line, ya’ll – minus the mystery meat, which I discovered at age 15.

Tempeh Joes Recipe

Adapted from here

Ingredients

  • Tempeh, 1 8oz package
  • 1 and 1/4 cup BBQ sauce of your choice*
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
  • 1 medium green bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions

  • Crumble the tempeh with your hands or a grater until it resembles ground beef.
  • Marinade the tempeh in 1 cup of the BBQ sauce.  I added 1 tsp of Tabasco for a kick.
  • While the tempeh is marinating, prepare your veggies.
  • Heat non-stick pan over med-high heat.
  • Once heated, add oil and wait to heat over same heat.
  • Add onions, garlic, jalapeno (optional), and saute until soft.
  • Add red and green bell peppers and continue to cook until tender and the onions have browned.
  • Add the tempeh and the BBQ sauce to the veggie mix.
  • Cook until heated and cooked through.
  • *Add the 1/4 cup BBQ sauce and cook until warm.
  • Serve on toasted buns (*snicker*)!

*Note:  I like my Tempeh Joes on the saucy side.  If you do not, then omit the 1/4 cup of BBQ and do not add it at the end.

This was my first experience with tempeh and it definitely won’t be my last!

P.S. I made a killer dressing to the slaw that’s creamy without any dairy!  That post is coming up soon! 🙂

Do you cook with tempeh?  If so, what do you do?  What’s your favorite way to cook it?

16 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Uncategorized, Vegan, Vegetarian