04 November 2011

Two Thai Curries

For the past three years, I've been somewhat obsessed with Thai food. Prior to 2008, I'd never tried it. I don't think I could have even told you a single thing about what would make food...Thai. Now, I don't consider myself a Thai food expert by any means, but I have developed a bit of an opinion--let's just say that in the past three years I've probably eaten enough Thai curry to make up for the lack of Thai food in my first 26 years. My Nashville friends know that all it takes is one word, "Thai?" and I will gladly join them for dinner. More specifically they know that if they're going to Thai Phooket, that beautiful double-wide trailer of Thai deliciousness, I will have a hard time saying no. I haven't been to every single Thai restaurant in Nashville, but I think I'm getting close. So far I've been to these (listed in order of preference):
  1. Thai Phooket
  2. Ginger Thai
  3. The Smiling Elephant
  4. Siam Cuisine
  5. Siam Cafe
  6. Pad Thai Kitchen
  7. International Market
When I go to a Thai restaurant, I order two things: fresh (not fried) spring rolls and a curry. Usually I get green curry, but I also like Panang, Huang Ray and Red. Massaman curry is good, but I'm not a fan of potatoes in curry (especially served over rice...to many starches for my taste).

I like going out to eat at places that make food that is hard for me to re-create. Thai food has been a challenge for me to perfect in my kitchen, but I've given it a couple shots recently and had success, although I can't say I've come anywhere near Thai Phooket.

There are a few key ingredients that are necessary to make a good Thai curry: coconut milk, lemongrass, thai basil and...fish sauce. That last one has been the missing flavor in my curries. The idea of it sounds gross--a sauce made from fermented fish--but I'm pretty sure that it's the reason my curries have lacked umami. As of late, I have become intrigued with the fermentation process, so I may come around and buy a bottle of fish sauce one of these days.

The first curry pictured here is a green curry. I had a bunch of veggies that I needed to use as well as Thai basil. I am in love with Thai basil. Green curry is sweeter than red curry, but since I'm not eating sugar, I needed a good alternative. There was a random bottle of carrot juice in my fridge at the time that I made this, so I decided to use it as my sweetener. It worked beautifully.

Vegetable Thai Green Curry
Veggies (I used beet greens, spinach, carrots, broccoli and cauliflower)
1-3 garlic cloves, minced (I love garlic, so I used 3)
Coconut oil
Thai basil
1 can coconut milk
1/2 cup carrot juice (if you want it sweeter, add more)
1-2 Tbsp Bragg's Liquid Aminos
2 Tbsp Thai Kitchen Green Curry Paste
Coconut milk

First, I sauteed the carrots, broccoli, cauliflower and garlic in coconut oil until the veggies were soft. Then I added the greens, spinach and basil. Next, in a separate pan, on medium heat, I combined the coconut milk, carrot juice, Bragg's and curry paste--I made sure to stir it often. Once the sauce was completely mixed, I poured it into the pan of veggies and let them simmer for a few minutes.

I was super pleased with the result. Easy, healthy and tasty.

My second attempt was a team effort with my roommate and we went for Thai red curry. Again, we had lots of veggies that needed to be eaten, so when she asked me about ideas, my mind immediately went to Thai. This time, we made it in the slow cooker and again, it turned out great. A little different flavor from the red curries I've had in restaurants, but nonetheless delicious. The picture really doesn't do it justice.

Vegetable Thai Red Curry
We chopped the veggies (sweet potato, bell peppers, carrots, broccoli and spinach) and layered them on top of each other in the crock pot. The veggies that would take the longest to cook (carrots and sweet potatoes) were on the bottom along with the onion, garlic ginger and basil. Next, we poured in the coconut milk and added the red chili paste and Bragg's. For a little sweetness, we added a tiny amount of stevia (add more or less to taste). Then, we covered and cooked it for 5-6 hours on low. The house smelled amazing and it made a huge amount. 

I ate Thai red curry over quinoa for several days in a row...and I was totally fine with that. Let me know about your successful Thai recipes, or even better, just let me know the next time you want to go to Thai Phooket. I can be there in five minutes.

09 October 2011

Truly Grateful

This is where I celebrated my birthday.

Yes, this place really does exist, and I took this picture myself. But as amazing as this looks, it's really just the beginning (or the end actually, the final destination) of the celebration of the big 2-9 the past couple of days. Please allow me the moment to brag on my incredible family, friends and coworkers.

The day started off in the best way ever to start a day. Breakfast at Marche. My friend Jen, took me there before work and we had eggs, thick cut bacon and roasted potatoes. I love bacon.

Then, I headed to work. Terrible place to spend a b'day? Wrong. At my office, they know how to celebrate. My office was decorated with "Happy Birthday" and "Feliz Cumpleanos" signs. There were gifts on my desk along with these beautiful tulips. (Ahhh, America, where tulips bloom in October.)

After lunch, my office mates brought me into a room where they had a glorious spread of many of my favorite foods, including these. They called my roommate to ask for ideas and did research on this blog to decide what to bring and make. Talk about feeling loved. I still can't believe they made me truffles. Thanks Maegan. :)

I left work a little early and headed to my parents' house. My mom had prepared a taco bar (I love Mexican food!) complete with avocado, three salsas, cilantro, lime, guacamole and refried beans.


I would have been completely satisfied and overwhelmed with joy if my day ended there. But it didn't. Next, my sister brought out a carrot cake. Carrot cake is one of my favorite desserts. I love it.

The carrot cake that she made was one of the best I've had and it was grain and dairy free and sweetened with pure maple syrup. She based her recipe on this one. I don't deserve all of this kindness. It was an amazing day.

The next morning, my mom and I had fun in the kitchen making homemade ice cream (vanilla, cinnamon, and dairy/sugar free chocolate banana coconut), and pumpkin spice lattes. In the afternoon, a few friends came over to my parents' house and we enjoyed the drinks and dessert.

THEN, to top it all off and make this the best birthday celebration ever, I went to Arrington Vineyard with a bunch of friends to have a picnic. What could be better than rolling green hills, crisp fall air, friends, family, good food and drinks?

I'm still floating from all the goodness. Thank you, God, for another year of my life. I am grateful.

21 September 2011

Chocolate Hazelnut Butter...aka Nutella

Chocolate and hazelnuts. If that doesn't make you think of Europe, then I don't know what will. I've been thinking about Europe a lot recently...especially the mountainous, dairy-laden, politically neutral center of the continent, otherwise known as Switzerland. My best friend from high school and her husband just moved to Switzerland. They'll be there for a year and I'm planning to visit in the spring.

It's significant, not just because it's big trip to look forward to, but because exactly 10 years ago this fall, I moved to Swizerland myself. I was fresh out of high school and yearning to see the world. So I did (at least, the central European part of the world). I lived in Huemoz, Switzerland at a place called L'Abri and also traveled to Italy and Austria. There were many lessons learned, possibly the most concentrated time of learning in my entire life. It was an adventurous time complete with hitchhiking, sleeping in airports and going topless in an (all female) Turkish Bath. Oh, and eating lots of Swiss chocolate with hazelnuts.

I'm not sure if it was spurred on by sweet memories or if it was the anticipation of returning, but two nights ago I decided I wanted Nutella. I was watching this amazing documentary (about trash, no less), and I literally paused it in mid-frame because I needed Nutella. For those of you unfamiliar with Nutella, it's the most famous brand of chocolate hazelnut butter commonly eaten in Europe (and the US is catching on).

It's easy to make yourself and healthier than the stuff in a jar. First, buy some raw hazelnuts (TJs has them) and toast them in a pan or roast them in the oven.

Heating them makes the skins fall off, which is good, because the skin tastes bitter. Peel off as many of the skins as you can (this is the hardest part of the process). Toss a heaping cupful into the food processor and start blending those babies.

Keep blending...

Stop and scrape the sides. Keep blending...

Once the oil from the hazelnuts starts to make more of an appearance and you get a smooth, creamy butter, you're ready to add the other ingredients.

Add 1-2 heaping Tablespoons of cocoa powder, depending on how chocolatey you want it. I like dark dark chocolate so I added two. Also add a pinch of sea salt and stevia to taste. I added two of the teensy little scoops that came in my stevia shaker.

Blend again...until you get this:

Goodness on a spoon.

This morning I had my Nutella on this GF toast.

It's like eating Europe for breakfast.

14 September 2011

My Other Love

I wish so much that I had time to cook, take pictures and write posts, but these past couple of weeks have been consumed with my other passion: languages. It's the first week of fall foreign language classes at the school where I work, so I've had long days full of phone calls and emails--which aren't my passions at all, but are a necessary evil in order to get the classes going. My breakfast this morning consisted of carrot sticks and raw almond butter, so there's not much worth seeing as far as my meals go. Entonces...

...I'll leave you with a picture of some things I wish I were eating. :) All pictures courtesy of my trip to San Francisco.

02 September 2011

Mocha Almond Fudge

I may just let the pictures do the talking today. I mean, how can I possibly improve on chocolate, coffee and almonds mixed together?

Well, I will at least add that this fudge is raw and made with soaked almonds, so not only does it taste good, but it also has some major enzyme activity going on.

In case you're wondering, the ONLY way to really enjoy fudge is by stacking it perfectly on a plate and taking it out into nature. Fudge loves the outdoors. Ok, really it's just more photogenic outside. Doesn't this fudge look great with a leafy green backdrop?

Just one little fudgy vignette before I let the pictures talk...

When I was a little girl, growing up in St. Louis, I remember going downtown to Union Station with my family to watch the men make fudge at The Fudgery. But these guys aren't just fudge makers, oh no, they're also comedians, song writers and just overall entertainers. Watching them fling liquidy fudge into the air while singing and dancing was one of my favorite things.

I may or may not have been singing in the kitchen while making this fudge.

I think singing makes the fudge turn out better. After you blend all the ingredients together (see recipe below), you just pour/spread them into a container like so.

It might be hard to tell from the picture what the size of the tupperware is, but it's pretty small. It made plenty of fudge--at least enough to last me a day or two. :) You could always do a bigger batch, of course...

Raw Mocha Almond Fudge
1 cup soaked almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (optional)
1/4 cup coffee grounds (I used whole beans)
1/2 cup brewed coffee
1/3 cup coconut oil
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/8-1/4 tsp stevia powder (add more to taste)
1/8 tsp sea salt

Process until mixed well. add more oil and coffee (or water) until the consistency is somewhat solid but soft. Spoon into a dish or pan and cover. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares. Sing a song.

If I make this again, I think I'll try making it with raw almond butter and without the coconut flakes or coffee grounds so it will be creamier. It was super delish like this too, though.

Happy Labor Day Weekend!

30 August 2011

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies and Cold-Pressed Coffee

I know someone who likes to use this simile, "Sex is like pizza. Even when it's bad, it's still pretty good." If that's true, then I can say this for sure: sex is not like coffee. If coffee is bad...well, it's just bad.

I love good coffee. It really is one of my favorite things. I am not one of those cup-a-day-ers who need caffeinated brown water just to make it to lunch. No, if I'm gonna have a cup of coffee or shots of espresso, I want it to be good. Good coffee to me means strong, smooth and black. I like to savor a cup of coffee or espresso in the afternoon--not to help keep me awake, but just to enjoy.

The best espresso in Nashville is at Crema and if you ever go there with me and I order an Americano, just be forewarned that I might make faces and comments as if it is the best thing I've ever tasted. The crema (thin foam on top of the espresso) is enough to make my day--it's just so perfect and beautiful. Sadly, many restaurants in the US serve lukewarm, dark-ish liquid made from beans ground two years ago that have been sitting in a humid cupboard or a freezer for several weeks. It's just as unfortunate, that many Americans think that the best part of waking up is Folgers in their cup. It's not. Trust me.
You can imagine my disappointment when coffee became one of those things that I needed to limit in my diet. Coffee creates a more acidic environment when it's consumed and I'm going for more alkalinity in my system. I still enjoy a cup every so often, but in the last year I've tried to stick to green and herbal tea. It's just not the same, though.

Then, a few weeks ago, I came across this recipe for cold-processed coffee that is supposed to cut the level of acidity in coffee by 75%. The recipe is for a restaurant-sized portion, so I did some mathematics and came up with this formula: 8-10 Tbsp coarsely ground coffee to 4 cups cold/room temp. filtered water. After the coffee steeps for 24 hours, press it and then drink it or store it in the fridge for a few days. I stored mine in glass jars and then added hot water for an americano and coconut or almond milk for a latte (hot or cold). It turned out great. If you don't have a french press, go get one today. I may or may not bring my own coffee grinder and french press to work sometimes. It's a little ridiculous, but I just don't think it's worth it to drink coffee if it doesn't taste good, you know?

Alongside my cold-pressed coffee, I had some mini sausage patties. Yum.

Just kidding. They're really no bake chocolate cookies, but the pictures kind of look like breakfast sausages. I promise that they didn't taste anything like sausage. Coffee and sausage do not pair well together. Coffee and chocolate, on the other hand, are a perfect duo.

Following my current raw food kick, I created this little snack/dessert out of soaked brazil nuts. Brazil nuts are one of my favorites. They made the cookies light and gave a nice alternative flavor to my more common chocolate/almond combination.

Chocolate No-Bake Cookies
1 cup soaked brazil nuts
1/2 cup cocoa powder
3 Tbsp coconut oil
1/4 cup coconut flakes
stevia to taste
pinch of sea salt

Blend all ingredients in food processor until well-mixed and "dough" is firm enough to form with your hands. Roll into balls and lightly press to flatten into small cookies. Place in fridge for 15-20 minutes until they become more firm. Store in fridge or freezer. 

Go forth and consume good coffee and chocolate!

19 August 2011

The Latest on the Raw Food Front

Thanks to Cafe Gratitude, I've been a bit obsessed with raw food cooking these days. Well, I guess it's technically not cooking....how about raw food creating. Sounds more untamed anyway. Here's what I've been up to concerning raw, live food:

What I'm currently reading...

I first saw this book at one of the vineyards during the wine country day of my San Francisco vacation. I took a picture so I wouldn't forget the title. When I got back to Nashville, I picked it up from the library. Libraries are magical places. I've only read a couple chapters of the book so far and skimmed some recipes. It appears that if I want to become serious about this fermenting thing, I need to get my hands on some crocks. Anybody out there have extra crocks they'd like to donate toward my cause? Crock. Haha, funny word.

What I'm currently eating...

Hearty Italian Bread by Raw Food Warrior, a new raw food company run by a local Nashville couple. They have a tent each week at the East Nashville Farmer's Market and that's where I first learned about and tasted their stuff. This "bread" is my favorite thing of theirs so far. It is definitely hearty and chocked full of raw nutty goodness.
Also eating...

Kale Artichoke Dip. I was dreaming up a raw version of the popular Spinach Artichoke appetizer, but I didn't have spinach on hand. I was really pleased with how this one turned out. It was also my first time soaking almonds, which I'm learning is better for digestion and maximizes the beneficial enzymes in nuts, seeds and grains. Can't beat that with a stick. This raw version doesn't really taste like the cheesey, baked original, but it's yummy, and a great way to sneak kale into your diet.

Raw Kale Artichoke Dip
2 cups chopped kale
1 cup artichoke hearts (i used TJ's frozen ones)
1 cup soaked almonds
2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp spicy brown mustard
1 tsp italian seasoning
1/4 cup chopped onion
1-2 garlic cloves
juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 Tbsp olive oil 

Put soaked and drained almonds in your food processor and process until you have a course almond meal. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the olive oil. Blend until it's mixed well (for about 3 minutes). Then, slowly add the oil, little by little, until the dip is creamy. Eat with crackers or veggies.

Happy Friday! Have a great weekend!

15 August 2011

Sharing the Wealth

I love my neighborhood. It's a rare thing in southern cities the size of Nashville to be able step out your front door and walk to the grocery store, coffee shop, pub, library, church, farmer's market, salon, etc. But that is my life. Even though Nashville's population is around one million (I think), there's rarely a time I don't run into someone I know when I leave my house. Sounds pretty picturesque, huh. Now, Nashville is definitely not perfect, and I can't even say it's the best place to live ever, but in the community/neighborhood/friendliness category, I give it 5 stars. If you had asked me a few weeks ago, I probably would have said 4, but the 5th star came hand delivered to our front door this past week when our neighbors brought a bounty of home grown produce from their backyard garden.

Check this out.




Sage, thyme, marjoram, basil, scallions.


Thank you, neighbors, for your generous gift. And don't worry, we did more than just take pictures of the produce. We also enjoyed every bite!