Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Improvised Meals: Coconut Rice with Greens and Chili-Garlic Black Beans

There's little in this life I find more satisfying than being able to improvise a delicious dinner when we are running low on fresh groceries or when the things in the fridge seem super random. Sometimes my efforts on this front fall pretty flat, but recently I've had good luck and so am going to share a few "improvised meals". Maybe my lovely and creative sisters will join me and post a few of their own?

The first meal in this little mini-series couldn't be easier, and like many of the most nourishing meals, is built around grains and beans. I always keep coconut milk and this Huy Fong chili garlic sauce on hand (looks like the company has verified it is free of gluten), which here adds most of the flavor.

1 can black beans
1 can coconut milk, full fat
1 cup rice (I like to use short-grain brown rice here, but whatever you have on hand will be fine)
1 egg (optional but highly recommended)
Few large handfuls of greens (spinach, arugula, etc)
Garlic (optional)
Red pepper flakes
Hot sauce (I love the Huy Fong chili garlic sauce so much & the company has verified it is gluten free)
Sesame oil

Prepare your coconut rice, using the coconut milk as a partial substitute for water. When cooking brown rice with water, I use a 1:2 ratio; when subbing in some coconut milk I increase the total amount of liquid by about 1/4 cup.

Heat some sesame oil in a pan and add garlic, then black beans. Heat black beans through with red pepper flakes, salt, and hot sauce. In the meantime, fry an egg in a separate pan.

When rice and egg is ready, toss greens on top of bean mixture to wilt. Top rice with beans, egg, and as much extra hot sauce as you can take!

Food Allergies & Ethics: Gluten-free (check your hot sauce), vegetarian, and dairy free. Omit the egg to make it vegan.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

CSA Dinner: Coconut Rice, Braised Baby Bok Choy, and Grated Baby Turnips with Nori Salt

Just a quick note on a dinner that came together just right.  

In this week's CSA, among other things, we got four small, delightful turnips with perfect greens and some baby bok choy.

I made short-grain black rice in the rice cooker with water and half a can of coconut milk (Katelyn taught me that!); braised the bok choy and turnip greens in avocado oil, ponzu, and a little miso; baked an eggplant into lovely softness; and topped it all with grated turnips (spicy and crunchy!) tossed in nori salt.  

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Guest Post: Sunday Chicken, Two Ways (Orange, Kalamata Olives & Fennel or Roasted Red Peppers, Provolone & Basil)

First of all, I am honored to be invited to guest blog again for the fabulous Parady sisters.  

Summer has finally arrived in Laramie, Wyoming, and summertime begs for good, flavorful food!  If you are like me, though, brats and burgers won't necessarily cut it.  My husband Kelby and I have begun a weekend routine of getting all inspired from watching "Lidia's Kitchen" on PBS on Saturday morning and then re-creating her genius for a Sunday night backyard date night.  These two chicken dishes are really, really easy, and really, really delicious.  And, your kitchen will smell amazing for days.

Chicken with Orange, Kalamata Olives, and Fennel

You will need:
- One package of chicken breasts or chicken cutlets (I swear that using free-range, organic, antibiotic-free, etc. chicken really does cook and taste better)
- Two generous tablespoons of unsalted butter (again, I use the fanciest butter I can find - I love Kerrygold Irish butter)
- Two generous tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- All-purpose flour (or a gluten-free flour substitute)
- Large red onion
- Large, ripe orange
- One cup pitted and halved Kalamata or Gaeta olives
- Dry white wine (for drinking while cooking, of course, but save a cup or so for the recipe, too!)
- One teaspoon fennel powder
- Chopped fresh Italian parsley

Tackle the fennel powder first.  Having freshly-ground fennel is key for this recipe - all of the other flavors hinge on it!  I had Kelby carefully clean our coffee bean grinder (with some disassembling, I think, to get all the coffee grounds out of the filters and mechanisms), and ground a little more than a teaspoon of fennel seed in it. You haven't smelled until you've smelled freshly ground fennel.

Next, prep your chicken.  If you use chicken breasts, cut them on a bias to create two thin slices from each breast. 

Zest and juice the orange, slice the red onion, and halve the olives, if necessary.  

Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat - it is important to keep from overheating the mixed fats and burning them off, and to keep from over-cooking the chicken. Season the chicken breasts with kosher salt, and lightly dredge through the flour. Tap off any excess flour. Brown the chicken for about two minutes on each side and set aside. Add the onion and cook until it softens. Then add the olives, orange juice and zest, fennel powder, and some white wine.  I just eyeballed the amount of white wine to use, but I'd say it was between 1/2 and 1 cup.  Cook for a couple of minutes, and then add the chicken back to the skillet to cook for a few minutes more, until all the ingredients come together in a sauce that coats the chicken and the chicken is cooked through. Correct seasoning with a pinch of salt, and sprinkle with chopped parsley. 

Chicken with Roasted Red Peppers, Provolone, and Basil

For this variation on chicken, you will need:

- One package of chicken breasts or chicken cutlets
- Two generous tablespoons of unsalted butter 
- Two generous tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- All-purpose flour (or a gluten-free flour substitute)
- One 8-oz. jar of roasted red peppers
- A few ripe tomatoes (use whichever variety is most in season)
- One teaspoon dried oregano
- One cup (at least) grated provolone
- Fresh basil

Slice the red peppers, and dice the tomatoes. The amount of tomato you use is variable, depending on your preference for them, and depending on what tomato variety you have.  If you use plum or roma tomatoes, use about four or five of them.  If you use beefsteak, use only two. Remove the seeds when dicing them. 

Prepare and cook the chicken as you would in the recipe above. However, rather than removing the chicken after browning it, leave it in the pan, and add the peppers, tomatoes, oregano, and about a teaspoon of salt.  Simmer the ingredients until they come together in a sauce.  Top everything with the grated provolone and fresh chopped basil, cover, and cook a few minutes more.  

Final tip: If you don't have a pair of herb scissors, I highly recommend investing in one. Herbs, especially small-leafed herbs, can be such a pain to de-stem and chop, and herb scissors will reduce that prep time down to nothing and make fresh herbs much easier to incorporate into your recipes.  Here's what they look like (in fact, this is the exact pair that I use): http://www.amazon.com/RSVP-SNIP-Herb-Scissors/dp/B000TYKWMI.  

Bon appetit!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Summer Tea Smoothie With Strawberries + Avocado

It was 111° F here in Phoenix yesterday. With heat like that, a smoothie in the morning is basically a necessity, but the typical dairy + banana base loses its appeal.

Enter the summer smoothie made with sun-brewed green or herbal ice tea, avocado for creaminess, frozen berries, cinnamon, and honey. This morning, I covered frozen strawberries with tea I brewed in the sun yesterday using 1 bag of organic green and 2 bags of Tulsi Cleanse. After blending with my immersion blender, I added 1/2 an avocado and a ton of cinnamon and honey, then blended again until smooth. Light, hydrating, creamy, and delicious.