Mussels in Coconut Thai Broth

Growing up in North Jersey, most of my food influences are Italian. Having to eliminate tomatoes and garlic for a minimum of two weeks (maybe forever), I am finding it REALLY hard to cook. And when I saw mussels on sale at the supermarket for nearly nothing (and wild caught might I add!), I HAD to get them…and then I had to get creative.

I had to think of a broth that doesn’t have garlic and still pop. For some reason, I can’t stop thinking of these coconut thai duck wings Mike and I had on our honeymoon. Just like buffalo wings, only duck and tossed in a coconut curry sauce. UGH! I’m salivating just thinking about them!!!!! Anyway, I thought I could do a Thai broth- and that made me think of that recipe I posted earlier from Cooking Light Magazine for a Thai Coconut Chicken Soup. So I took some of the components of that recipe to create something that would suite my needs.

And I wish I could bring this to dinner tonight. I’m going out for dinner to ring in the New Year and it’s my first time going out to eat with my new restrictions. I feel embarrassed that I’m going to have to be picky to the waiter, and draw attention to myself like that. Lucky, I could review the menu online to see if there were any meals that i could order. Thankfully, there are 3-4, but I still have to make sure there isn’t flour, corn syrup or garlic in them. My hope is that I don’t have to ask for plain chicken and vegetables- that will suck royally. At least eating home I know I’m safe. I really sympathize with the kids at school who have those killer allergies. Mine just give me tummy troubles. Anyway, back to the mussels…

Mussels in Coconut Thai Broth

2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 cup chopped onion

1/2 cup chopped red pepper

1/2 cup chopped mushroom

1 tbsp. minced ginger

2 tsp.  sambal oelek (ground fresh chile paste)

2 tsp. fish sauce

1 cup chicken stock

1 cup coconut milk

1 stalk of lemon grass sliced in half

2 lbs. mussels (about 3 dozen scrubbed clean)

1. In a deep sided saute pan, Saute onions, peppers, mushrooms and ginger in olive oil for about 5-7 minutes.

2. Add samba oelek and fish sauce and cook for about 1-2 minutes

3. Add stock and milk and bring to a boil. Add lemon grass and simmer for about 10 minutes.

4. Bring back up to a boil and add mussels. Cover pot with lid and cook until all mussel open. About 5-10 minutes. Discard any mussels that don’t open.

5. Serve mussels in a soup bowl and pour broth over mussels. Serve with crusty bread (or my rice bread!).

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Condiments are the Enemy No More

The first two days of my new diet haven’t been that bad. A co-worker (thanks Brian!) told me about  a website called paleomg.com. It’s a pretty awesome site and the author is pretty funny. She posts several recipes, and they all follow the paleo diet. For those of you that don’t know what that is, check out this very abbreviated list of what you can and cannot eat here. Basically, you are eating the same way our paleolithic friends ate thousands of years ago. I was attracted to this diet because they don’t eat ANY grains, because grains have to be processed and cave men did not know how to do that yet. I agree with the bulk of this diet, however I don’t want to give up legumes- me likes the beans!!! And with most carbs off my plate, beans fill that void.

The hardest part of this diet I’m finding, isn’t WHAT to eat, but the ingredients used to make them-especially the ingredients that are pre made. They most likely contain wheat, gluten, soy or corn based products. My first snag came when I wanted to make a dip for some family coming to visit. I pulled out the vegetable soup mix I always use, thinking it was okay-but there was wheat and soy in that mix, so that was out. ‘Think Liz, think. I know!!!! Dill dip!’ That’s mayo, sour cream, dill and onion salt. I thought I was good. And then I read the ingredients of the mayo- Olive Oil mayo: made with soybean oil. OUT. I made the dip anyway, and was confined to grapes and cheese for the afternoon, secretly feeling duped that a label wouldn’t be deceiving (what was I thinking?!?!?). However, I will save my label rant for a another blog I’m working on.

I walked away from that situation with a realization that I didn’t think was part of this new diet- I WILL HAVE TO MAKE ALL MY CONDIMENTS FROM SCRATCH. And that may seem like a pain in the ass, but it really wasn’t that bad. I made my own mayo and hot sauce yesterday. The only annoying part was doing the dishes. And the piece of mind that I can make good tasting food that doesn’t have chemicals and preservatives I don’t even know how to pronounce is priceless.

Basic Mayo

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp. lemon juice or white wine vinegar

1 cup light olive oil

1. Get your ingredients ready first, cuz once you start the emulsion, you can’t really stop until it’s done. And an electric mixer will be your best friend- unless you’re trying to bulk up your arms!

2. Whisk the egg yolk for about 30 seconds and add the vinegar/lemon juice.

3. Whisk for a bit and then SLOWLY add oil, whisking heavily. If you start to see oil pooling on the sides, stop pouring oil until you whisk it away (ha!).

4. Keep whisking after you add all the oil until it well, looks like mayo!

5. You can add garlic if you want. I added onion powder and some salt to give it a little more flavor. And because I’m an art teacher and don’t throw things away, I had an old mayo jar and stored my mayo in it!!! It will keep for 5 days. And you can double your recipe!!!

Can you guess which one is mine?

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Grigio’s Hot Sauce- YEOWWWWWW!

10 green hot peppers

10 dried red hot chili peppers

1/2 cup white vinegar

1/2 cup acai pomegranate vinegar

1 onion loosely chopped

salt to taste

1. Slice the green peppers and place them in a sauce pan- seeds and all.

2. Add dried peppers too

3. Add both vinegars. I’ll admit that I really didn’t measure how much vinegar I put in. I just used half of each until it covered all the peppers. 😛

4. Bring to a boil and let simmer for about 10-15 minutes. About 2-3 minutes before it’s done, add the onion. I did it this way because I wanted that raw onion strong flavor. If you add the onion too early, the onion flavor will weaken.

5. Let cool for a few minutes and then run in a blender for a couple minutes.

6. Pour mixture through a sieve, getting rid of skin and some seeds that didn’t break up in the blender.

I’m not sure how long this keeps, but I’m sure the vinegar allows it to last a few weeks.

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PS- The mayo on the left is mine! 😛

A Girl and Her Allergies

After posting nothing but holiday treats on here over the last few days, its time to open up about some news I received last week- I have some pretty extensive food allergies. I’ve been feeling pretty crummy since November, and after several trips to the doctor, I was told to see an allergist. Long story short- my diet is about to change drastically.

I’m pretty excited about feeling better, but I’m sad at myself that it took allergies to get me to start eating healthy. However, I need to do this for my health and am looking forward to starting this new journey. However, I could use a little help from some of you reading this. If anyone out there has a recipe to share, I’d appreciate it!!! The recipe cannot have the following ingredients:

wheat                                        

corn (or corn-based products)

rye

soy (all soy products)

beef

apple

banana

orange

peach

pear

pineapple

strawberry

cherry 😦

lime 😦

mint

tree nuts

wine (it’s actually a yeast that is in some wines, but since I don’t know which wines have it, I’m avoiding it for now)

chocolate

cinnamon

cottonseed

garlic 😦 😦 😦

oregano

tea

sesame

vanilla

thyme

broccoli

white potato

tomato 😦

squash 😦

cabbage

asparagus

brussel sprouts 😦

Now before you ask “What the HELL can you eat?!?!?!?” which is what my husband asked, let me tell you what is still fair game. Sweet potatoes, all seafood, chicken, turkey, all dairy, peppers, onions, pork,lamb, and rice. I think what will be the hardest to avoid is the wheat, soy and corn. It seams to be in almost everything!!! Even today, I was about to make a dip for a family get-together this weekend, and I had to put it back in the pantry because it has high fructose corn syrup in it. I’m really going to have to read labels. The items I’m saddest about is tomato, garlic, squash, oregano and thyme. I love cooking with all of those items, and it will be hard to let go of them for a while.

The good news is some of these items I may not be ‘clinically’ allergic to many of these items, and will only need to avoid them for a few weeks. However, I suspect the main culprit is wheat, and secretly hoping too. The past few months I’ve read about how the wheat Americans eat has been genetically altered so much, it is not the same wheat our parents grew up on and the original wheat plant is almost extinct. That scares me.

So folks, I could use some ideas. Even if it’s only a snack! And it will be greatly appreciated!!!! I will also keep you posted on my endeavors every now and then. And if you know of someone who has to avoid as many foods as I have to, could you please share this blog with them? I could really use a support group of people who are going through the same thing.

 

Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 14- Cherry Surprise Crinkle Cookies

I’ll start by saying I will never make these again. Wasn’t super crazy about them, and the I almost feel they are set up for failure. They’re not terrible- just too much work for not that much flavor.

Cherry Surprise Crinkles

1/2 cup butter, softened

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp baking soda

1/4 tsp salt

1 egg

1 tsp almond extract

2 cups flour

1/2 cup chopped maraschino cherries, well drained and patted dry

36 Kisses with cherry cordial

1. Preheat oven to 350F. In a medium mixing bowl beat butter with an electric mixer on medium for 30 seconds. Add sugar, baking powder and soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping the sides of the bowl. Beat in the egg and almond extract. Beat in flour. When it’s all combined, add cherries.

2. Divide dough into 36 equal portions. Shape each portion into a ball around a kiss. Place balls 2″ apart on an un-greased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are lightly golden brown. Transfer cookie to cooling rack.

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Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 13- Gingersnap Logs

This is a no bake treat. Not really a cookie. And they’re not easy to make. There’s a step in the recipe I don’t really understand, but the end result is always good!

Gingersnap Logs

1 1/4 cup crushed gingersnaps

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk

1 tbsp. molasses, 1 1/2 tsp. rum or coffee liquor (I use rum, of course!)

1 1/2 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. cinnamon

3 oz. white chocolate baking squares with cocoa butter, chopped

1 cup canned vanilla frosting

red decorative sugar (or any decorative sugar or jimmies)

1. In a food processor combine 1 cup of the gingersnaps, the powdered sugar, milk, rum, vanilla and cinnamon. Cover and process until well combined. Transfer to a bowl and stir in remaining crushed ginger snaps. Cover and chill for 1 hour or until the is easy to handle. (Okay, this where I get confused. I’ve made this for two year now, and I don’t get this point. The dough is easy to work with as soon as it’s done. I put it in the fridge and chill it, but then it becomes too stiff and actually crumbly. I have to spend a minute on each log, using the warmth of my hand to soften again. Next year I’m skipping this step.)

2. Line an cookie sheet with waxed paper and shape the dough into logs that are 1″ x 1/2.”

3. In a small saucepan, cook and stir white chocolate over low heat until chocolate melts. Add frosting, heat and stir until mixture is smooth. Using a fork, dip logs into mixture, letting extra drip off. Return logs to waxed paper and sprinkle with sugar. Let stand for 30 minutes or until chocolate hardens.

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Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 12- Marshmallows!!

I wanted to do something different for my secretaries at school. There four of them, and when you want to say thank to them in some way, plus the two custodians, and some administrators….the cost can add up. This year I found these gourmet hot chocolates on a stick. Click here to go to their site. I wanted to pair the gourmet hot chocolate with some gourmet marshmallows. And THOSE can be expensive. So the next best thing was to make them.

I never knew how easy it is to make marshmallows. I don’t think I’ll ever buy them again!

Marshmallows

3 packages unflavored gelatin

1 cup ice cold water, divided

12 oz. granulated sugar, appr. 1 1/2 cups

1 cup lt corn syrup

1/4 tsp. salt

1 tsp. vanilla extract

1/4 cup confectioners sugar

1/4 cup cornstarch

nonstick spray

1. Place the gelatin into the stand mixer bowl along with 1/2 cup of cold water. Have the whisk attachment standing by.

2. In a small saucepan, add 1/2 water, sugar, salt and corn syrup. Put on medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the saucepan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240F, appr. 7 to 8 minutes. Once the mixture reaches 240, remove from the heat immediately.

3. Turn the mixer on low and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup into the bowl, letting it run down the side of the bowl. One the syrup is added, turn the mixer to high. Whip the mixture until it becomes very thick and lukewarm, about 12-15 minutes. Add the vanilla at the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping, prepare the pan as follows:

Regular Marshmallows

Combine the confectioners sugar and corn starch in a small bowl. Lightly spray a 13″ x 9″ metal baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. Add sugar and cornstarch mixture and move around the pan, coating the bottom and sides. Return remaining mixture to bowl for later.

When ready, pour the mixture into the pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly in pan. Dust the top with some of the sugar/starch mixture. Allow marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1″ squares using a pizza wheel dusted with starch/sugar. Lightly dusted all cut sides.

Mini Marshmallows

Same as above but line 4 half sheets with parchment paper. Spray paper with non stick spray.

Pour mixture into a piping bag with a 1/2″ round tip and pipe marshmallows on to cookie sheet, leaving an inch between each line. Sprinkle sugar/starch over each line. Let set 4 hours or overnight.

Use a pizza cutter and cut into 1/2″ squares.

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Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 11- Chocolate Cherry Macaroons

I’m not a super huge fan of macaroons. These have chocolate and cherry (or cherry flavored craisins!), so now I’m a fan! Fairly easy recipe, but you need two days in order to enjoy them. I also would double the recipe if you plan to give these out to people as gifts because they only make 20. This recipe comes from Fine Cooking Cookie Magazine 2012.

Chocolate Cherry Coconut Macaroons

1 3/4 cups sweetened shredded coconut

2/3 cup cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez (not coconut milk!)

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 large egg whites

1 tsp. vanilla extract

pinch of salt

3 oz. (1/2 cup) dried cherries, coarsely chopped (I used cherry flavored craisins)

1. Heat oven to 325F. Spread coconut on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, stirring around frequently until some of the shreds turn golden brown, appr. 8-10 minutes. You’re not toasting the coconut as more as you’re drying it out. Let cool and turn off oven.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk the cream of coconut, cocoa, egg whites, vanilla and salt until well combined. Stir in the cherries and then the coconut. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly firm, a minimum of 2 hours up to overnight.

3. About 20 minutes before you plan to bake the macaroons, position the oven rack to the center and preheat the oven to 325F. Line a heavy cookie sheet with parchment. With damp hands, shape heaping tablespoons of the batter into balls. Place on the parchment about 2 inches apart. Top each macaroon with some of the left over coconut. Bake until the sides are no longer sticky and the top still feels soft, about 20 minutes.

4. Let the macaroons cool on the sheet for about 3 minutes before transferring them to a wire cooling rack to cool completely.


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Christmas Cookie Countdown Day 10- Mexican Chocolate Snicker Doodles


I love the combination of chocolate and cayenne. I think it’s a brilliant marriage, and have always wanted to incorporate into my Christmas Baking. This recipe allows me to do that. It’s not you conventional christmas cookie, but because it’s a snicker doodle, it’s allowed! Once again this comes from 2012’s Better Homes and Garden’s Special Christmas Cookie Edition magazine.

1/2 cup butter, softened

3/4 cup granulated sugar

3/4 cup packed brown sugar

1 tsp. cream of tarter

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/2 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (they say it’s optional, but that’s what makes it ‘mexican!!!!!’)

2 eggs

2 tsp. vanilla

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 1/4 cup flour

1/4 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp. cinnamon

1. In a mixer, beat the butter for 30 seconds on medium until creamy. Beat in the sugar and brown sugar, cream of tarter, baking soda, salt, and cayenne until combined. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Beat in cocoa powder, scraping the sides occasionally. Add in as much of the flour you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Cover and chill dough for 1 hour.

2. Preheat oven to 350F. In a small bowl, mix 1/4 cup sugar and cinnamon together. Shape dough into 1 1/4 inch balls and roll in sugar mixture. Place dough 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.

3. Bake 10-12 minutes or until edges are set and tops are cracked. Transfer to cooling rack and let cool. Makes 30 cookies or so.

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