Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Perfectly Balanced Chicken Red Curry

Let me preface this post by saying how much I've missed blogging, how much I've missed taking photos of food, and definitely missed getting to really study my recipes after creating them. It's been such a good process for me to becoming a better cook.

All that to say, the reason I haven't been around much is that I just got a wonderful new job and no time for blogging! We've been eating delicious still, and enjoying some lovely local restaurants too. Billy has taken over a lot of the cooking, and he is amazing! It's been a lot of fun to see his take on food and cooking, and have the privilege of coming home to an already made meal.

This meal is one of those. An amazing meal that Billy cooked up with a lot of research that he put into it, even before starting. It couldn't go unnoticed. It was definitely begging for a blog post. —Rachel

There was something missing from the red curries I have tried to make in the past. There seemed to be too much salt and sour. When I compensated with sweet, then it became overdone, I could not find the right balance. There was something missing from the depth of flavor. The use of kaffir lime leaves, as opposed to the rural white-guy-stand-in, lime zest, was an immense step in the direction to a more authentic Thai curry. In addition, I remembered the Massaman curry at a local place in our hometown contained Star Anise. Though I couldn't place the taste, as soon as I remembered that ingredient, I knew that was the missing flavor from a well-rounded red curry. Though it may not traditionally belong in a red curry, the addition of star anise, complements the other major flavor components. —Billy
Perfectly Balanced Chicken Red Curry
(Printable Recipe)

1, 14 oz can coconut milk, divided
3 tbsp red curry paste, divided (This was pretty spicy, so if you're sensitive to spice, use half of the amount. The brand we use is Mae Ploy, found at the Asian Market)
2 chicken breast, thinly sliced against the grain
2 cups chicken broth
4 tbsp brown sugar
3 tbsp soy sauce (Or to taste. We use Gluten-Free, low-sodium Tamari)
2 tbsp fish sauce (Or to taste)
1 small onion, thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
8 kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade, divided (Purchased fresh at our local Asian market)
1 red bell pepper, julienned
2 carrots, sliced on the bias
2 small russet potatoes, cubed
3 star anise

2 sprigs of fresh basil, for garnish
Long grained or Jasmine Rice, for serving

How To:
First off, you are going to want the fat of the coconut milk, as it tends to separate, so do not shake the can. Heat a wok over medium-high heat, then pour in the creamy top part of the coconut milk (about 1/6-1/4 of the can). Once it's at a gentle simmer, add 2 tablespoons curry paste. Sauté your curry paste, do not fry it. Stir continuously until coconut milk and curry paste have incorporated and reduced into a thick brownish sauce.

Add chicken, turning occasionally until the surface is cooked, about 6 minutes.

Add the remainder of the coconut milk, remainder of the curry paste, chicken broth, brown sugar, soy sauce and fish sauce. Add in onions, garlic, and four kaffir lime leaves. Let simmer 1-2 minutes. Add in the rest of the vegetables, and star anise. Let simmer 10-20 minutes. The longer you allow it to simmer the better the curry will come together.

Serve over long grained, or Jasmine rice. Garnish with the rest of the kaffir lime leaves and basil.


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake

Although I adore hearts and chocolate, this year for Valentine's I'm going for a non-traditional dessert. I wanted something light in texture, with more of a technical process so that I could have fun while baking. Since I typically don't peruse the dessert section in my cookbooks, it was a great excuse to research. I came across this recipe in Wagamama, and I couldn't help but want it. Green tea, especially matcha, has a special place in my heart. I don't know why I love it so much, but it makes me happy. So I gave it a go. Unlike my last post about cutting down the sugar content from my baked goods, this one has a standard amount of sugar, but it's Valentine's right? So why not splurge a little.

This cake has a light, spongy texture, with a delicate bite. My cake came out marbled, mostly white-ish yellow with green streaks, but I really liked that effect. The drizzle is pretty sweet, but it's accented by the earthy, robust matcha green tea flavor. After pouring the drizzle on is when the cake really gets its dark green color. I really love to eat this cake with a cup of coffee or well-steeped tea, and especially while sitting next to my lovely Billy.

Happy Valentine's Day. I hope you get to make something fantastic that is perfectly you, whether something with hearts or something of the deliciously green persuasion.

Matcha Green Tea Drizzle Cake
(Printable Recipe)
Serves: 8 Time: 1 hr Adapted from Wagamama

3/4 cup all-purpose flour
2 tbsp matcha green tea powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar, preferably organic
4 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 tbsp matcha green tea powder
2/3 cup water
2/3 cup sugar, preferably organic (or honey would be a lovely substitute, use about 1/4 cup instead)
créme fraîche (or sour cream), for serving

How To:
Preheat oven to 350ºF. Prepare an 8 or 9 inch spring-form pan. Cut a parchment circle to fit the bottom. Butter the bottom for the paper to stick on it, and butter the sides well.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, matcha, and baking powder. Set aside.

Set up a double-boiler, or place a sauce pan with two inches of water in it, on the stove top. Bring to a boil, then drop to a light simmer. Place a heat-proof bowl over prepared pan. The bowl should be large enough that steam from below can't come into the mixture above in the bowl. Add sugar and eggs into the bowl. Whip the mixture (an electric mixer works best) until it becomes light and frothy, about 3-5 minutes.

Gently fold in the flour mixture into the whipped eggs. Pour the melted butter into the side of the pan. Gently fold until just combined. Use caution not to over mix. Gently pour into prepared pan. Bake in oven for 30 minutes or until wood pick comes out clean.

While the cake is baking, prepare the drizzle. In a small saucepan add matcha powder and a small amount of water. Whisk until combined, and repeat process until matcha is fully blended into the full amount of water. Turn heat to medium. Add sugar. Once mixture begins to bubble, turn heat down and let simmer for ten minutes or until slightly thickened.

When cake is finished baking, let set in pan for 15—30 minutes before inverting. Run a knife or offset spatula around circumference of cake. Invert cake on to a serving plate (and remove the parchment). You may also choose to let the cake rest until it is fully cool before inverting. Using a tooth pick or skewer, poke many holes around the whole cake. Pour drizzle over the top of the cake, reserving about a tablespoon of the drizzle.

In a small bowl, mix a few tablespoons of créme fraîche (or sour cream) with a teaspoon or so of the drizzle. Dollop on to serving slices and sprinkle with a little matcha powder.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Blueberry Power Muffins

During the winter I love to bake, but don't really like all of the over-sugary desserts. Lately I've been trying to sub in healthier ingredients to give my baked goods an extra touch of goodness. With these Blueberry Power Muffins, I started with a fabulous recipe from Damn Delicious (a really great food blog if you haven't checked her out yet), then added a few of my favorite things. The extra goodies include flaxseed, walnuts, and I used white whole wheat instead of regular all purpose flour.

Some of these ingredients have benefits to be aware of. My favorite is flaxseed. The benefits are huge ranging from being a phytoestrogen which means it has high levels of antioxidants (to help fight against disease and cancer); it has a good dose of Omega-3 fatty acids (research suggesting leading to a healthy heart as well as acting as an anti-inflammatory), fiber (good for digestion and ridding the body of toxins), and other vitamins and minerals that are necessary for good health but aren't readily available in our typical Western diet.*

These muffins are a great little treat, as well as an easy breakfast for on the go. Next time I make these I will sub in coconut sugar I think. I've been using it as a sugar substitute lately and apparently it has benefits such as amino acids and minerals. Just food for thought. Happy New Year.

*Sources: http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/flax-seed.html

Blueberry Power Muffins

1 cup white whole wheat flour, I use King Arthur Flour
1 cup rolled oats, plus more for topping
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed (or coconut sugar)
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1 cup plain yogurt, plain kefir works great too
1 large egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup blueberries, I use frozen
1 cup walnuts, halved or chopped 
2 tbsp flaxseeds
Zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp coarse sugar, for topping

How To:
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Prepare two, standard sized, muffin pans with liners. 

In a large bowl combine flour, oats, brown sugar, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. 

In another medium bowl combine melted butter, yogurt, egg, and vanilla. Pour over the dry mixture and gently mix until blended, taking care not to overmix. Add blueberries, walnuts, flaxseeds, and lemon zest. Gently fold in. 

Scoop batter evenly into muffin pans, I like to use an icecream scooper. Sprinkle the muffins with oats and a little sugar each. Place in oven and bake for 15 minutes (depending on oven disparities, check for doneness and cook for another 5 minutes if need be). Remove from oven and let cool in pan for five minutes before removing to a cooling rack.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Pumpkin Custard Pie with Ginger Snap Crust

With Thanksgiving around the corner and pumpkin season coming to a close I was itching to make something seasonally appropriate. I am a traditionalist in terms of respecting time-appropriate ideas and expectations, but my taste buds and creative nature draw me in the other direction of being a non-conformist. I will still make that pumpkin pie, and I still will have a Thanksgiving meal with Turkey.. but I can't just pull out the old Betty Crocker cookbook and follow a traditional recipe verbatim, every year... how boring for a creative like me. Ah.

So anyways, I think this pumpkin pie satisfies the need for a dessert that is pumpkin filled, but it is also different enough to satisfy my need to try new things. This particular baking experience was kind of scary. I definitely gambled on cooking times, not knowing if a deep dish pie would actually set, and also not knowing if the crust would burn being in the oven for so long. Alas, it turned out delightful: super moist, custardy goodness, with a spicy not too sweet crust.

What else am I bringing to the table on Thanksgiving? My self-assigned items: this lovely Pumpkin Custard Pie, delicate baking soda biscuits, roasted parmesan and herb red potatoes, mashed potatoes for the traditionalists, homemade gravy, and (I'm cheating here) store-bought stuffing. What about you? Any delicious recipes you'd like to share with me? Comment below! To the rest of you, au revoir! May you have a blessed, thankful Thanksgiving.
Pumpkin Custard Pie with Ginger Snap Crust
(Printable Recipe)
GLUTEN-FREE OPTION: Sub out the ginger snaps for gluten-free ginger snaps, double check your pumpkin puree and evaporated milk ingredients.
COOK'S NOTE: While you're baking your pie, check on it after the 45 minute mark, and continue to do so every 15 minutes until the middle is just a wee-bit wiggly. Remember oven temperatures vary oven to oven.

10 ounces ginger snaps (or sub in gluten-free version)
1 3/4 tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp ground ginger
1/3 cup unsalted butter, melted

3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
2 large eggs
1, 15 oz can pumpkin puree
1, 12 oz can evaporated milk

How To:
Preheat oven to 400ºF. Prep two 6-inch wide, 4-inch high, spring form pans (or one larger spring-form pan) by rubbing with butter and lining with a circular cut-out of parchment paper. Set aside. (Note: if your pans are known for leaking, wrap the bottom of them with a good amount of foil, making sure they are still level.)

Make the crust: In a food processor, add the ginger snaps, brown sugar, and ground ginger. Pulse until mixture is crumbly and cookies are broken down. Add melted butter and pulse to incorporate. Mixture should be like wet sand. 

Evenly divide mixture between the two pans and gently press to an even thickness using fingers. I also worked the crust up the sides of the pan about halfway. You can do the side crust more or less, keeping in mind the thickness of the bottom crust. Place in oven for five minutes. Remove to cool. 

Make the custard: In a small bowl, whisk together the sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Add eggs and whisk until blended. Add the pumpkin puree and stir to incorporate. Once mixed well, slowly add the evaporated milk until blended well. Pour the mixture into the two prepped pans. Set pans on top of a baking sheet in case of spills or leakage. 

Place the baking sheet with the pies in the oven and bake for 20 minutes at 400ºF. After 20 minutes, turn oven down to 350ºF and continue to bake for another 30-40 minutes. Check to see if middle is still very wet and wiggly, if so bake for another 15 minutes. The desired look of the custard will be dark, refer to photos above. OR if the middle is not overly wiggly (but it will be a little bit), turn off oven and let pies rest inside cooling oven for one hour. After an hour the custard will have set. Remove from oven and let sit at room temperature for another hour. 

Refrigerate until ready to serve, covering well. Keeps well for 2 - 3 days. The pies also freeze well, first cover in plastic wrap then cover in foil over that. To serve, remove wrap and set out at room temperature for 2 hours prior to serving.
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