Friday, January 9, 2015

Stress Cooking: Moroccan Inspired Meatball Stew

Life in the wilds of West Texas can definitely be exciting.

With school out, the kids love going to the farm with my darling husband to help out. Well, Kid 1 is learning how to work with the module builder and helping pack the harvested cotton. But Kid 2 just goes to have fun and explore and let her imagination run amok -- all of this is important work too.

Well, recently the kids got more excitement than they bargained for, and I got pretty darn close to a heart attack. 

While the family was out at the farm, I was visiting a friend when I got a text from a stranger that said: "I have got your kids." 

It turned out, he was a kind soul with the Grape Creek Volunteer Fire Department. My husband was moving the stripper (seriously, it's a cotton picking machine) from one farm to another when he managed to get tangled up in some electrical wires. The line was down and he couldn't get out until the power company came and turned off the electricity.

Fortunately, the kids were riding with his farm hand and following behind. So they were safe, but had front row seats of watching their father in trouble. 

As soon as I got the call, I drove like a crazy woman to get to my family. This is what greeted me:


When I got there, they'd managed to get the DH out and we were all able to unite for a family hug. But then he had to repair the stripper and move it off the road. Since the kids were shaken and I was of no use at the scene, I decided to take the kids back home.

I don't think I have ever prayed so hard or driven so fast in my life. It also left me full of gratitude and with an determination to cook. In our house, the kids help with the prep work and I figured that more than anything would help calm them down, bring back a bit of normalcy. Also, I wanted to greet my husband with a wonderful family meal.

Truth be told, I wanted, needed, the comfort of the kitchen, to do something. I wanted something warm to cut the chill of this experience, so I reached for the spices I'd grown up with -- bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, cardamom and more. I added earthy turmeric and smoky cumin. To give it substance, I threw in hearty favorites like carrots, chickpeas and meatballs.



Working in the kitchen together, I saw my kids relax and listened to their thoughts and feelings. The aroma of spices melding together wrapped around us like a warm hug.



Somewhere along the way, I'd stopped watching the clock and so I was pleasantly surprised when the DH walked in the door. It was the best family meal we'd ever enjoyed. Life is full of blessings, big and small.

My Moroccan Inspired Meatball Stew

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cinnamon sticks
2 bay leaves
5 cardamom pods, cracked
5 cloves
6 black peppercorns
1 1/2 cups chopped onions
1 1/2 cups diced potatoes
1 cup baby carrots
6 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon Spanish paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 cups beef broth
Frozen meatballs (as many as you want)
1 jalapeno, de-seeded and minced (optional)
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
1 15.5-ounce canned garbanzo beans/chickpeas, drained
1 cup whole green or black olives
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
1 5-ounce package baby spinach leaves
Salt to taste
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro plus additional for garnish
1/4 cup thinly sliced chives or green onions
Serve over Brown Rice or Couscous with Fresh Cilantro and Lemon wedges (for garnish)

Directions:

1. Heat oil in a large pot or a dutch oven.
2. Add whole spices (cinnamon to peppercorns) and cook for about 2 minutes. 
3. Add chopped onions, potatoes and carrots and cook until onions are softened.
4. Add in ground spices (turmeric to cumin), cook using bits of broth to keep the spices from sticking (but don't too much liquid at a time because you want to cook the rawness out of the spices)
5. When the spices look cooked, add in remaining broth, meatballs, jalapeno, tomatoes and chickpeas or garbanzos and apricots. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes. (Potatoes and carrots should be tender by the end of it)
6. Add in olives and spinach, stir, Add salt to taste. Take off heat and top with fresh cilantro and green onions. Stir before serving over rice or couscous.

Enjoy!

This post is part of Let’s Lunch (#LetsLunch), a twitter-based virtual lunch club where anyone interested can join our monthly ‘lunch date’. A topic is posted at the beginning of the month, and this motley group of food bloggers, writers and people who just love cooking from all around the world jump in and cook up a storm.

Cheryl Tan's Malay Vegetable Stew
Demetra's Coconut Shrimp Stew
Linda‘s Chinese Soy-Braised Pork & Peanut Stew
Lisa‘s Chicken & Fennel Casserole
Mel‘s Lamb & Harissa Stew
Betty-Ann‘s Salmon Sinigang (Tamarind Stew with Vegetables) 
Anyone can join at any time – just join us on twitter by searching and adding the hashtag #LetsLunch.

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Join Me on My 2015 Cooking Challenge? Plus a lentil recipe!

Happy First Sunday of 2015! I have had time to reflect about the past year and examine my hopes for the new one, I have my coffee and I feel ready to share my thoughts.

So, here's what I learned in 2014:


One of the things I let go off last year was this blog. I cooked because I had to feed the family. Well, the break was good for my cooking soul because I missed cooking for fun and talking about food with friends. I'm wholeheartedly back in the kitchen and I have already cooked my first Bengali meal of the year:

Use of this image without permission is a copyright violation.

And I have decided to combine two different cooking challenges to come up with one that's my own.

The 52 NewFoods Challenge (#52NewFoods), developed by Jennifer Tyler Lee, a mother of two. She came up with the challenge in an effort to make her family eat better and include more variety.  

How it works: You try one new food each week for a year – or try an unfamiliar preparation of an already-known food. Each week, the family jointly chooses one new recipe and commits to preparing it together. 

Take a Bite Out of Your Cookbook Pile Challenge (inspired by the awesome Take a Bite Out of Your Aged TBR Romance Pile 2015 Reading Challenge). Basically, I have an entire floor-to-ceiling book shelf full of cookbooks and this is the year I'm using them!

What I like about my challenge:

  1. Committing to cooking together once a week is doable even for a busy family like mine.
  2. It involves the whole family, which means the work is shared and the kids are more likely to learn and hone kitchen skills.
  3.  If the kids help make it, I know they’ll be more likely to taste it. So, less  power struggles at the table, more fun and family time in the kitchen.
  4. We'll actually use my cookbook collection and it'll help me sort my books into keepers and giveaways. My local library loves getting cookbooks for its annual fundraising sale, your might too. 
  5. We get to enjoy good, healthy home-cooked food in the end of all the work. Note: Okay, so some of the recipes we try might not be as healthy as others, but since we're making it we'll know exactly what's in it and that's healthy in itself.
So are you taking on a foodie challenge (anything food related, doesn't have to be healthy or involve diets) this year? Want to join mine?

And, yes, I'm returning to food blogging this year. Food -- cooking, sharing and eating of it -- is nourishing to my body and my soul. Wishing you good health and good eats in 2015!

Now for the recipe...

In the Bengali meal picture, many would assume the shrimp curry with pumpkin and green beans (actually I used Kabocha squash since I was out of the more traditional pumpkin) is the star. Not so. It's the dahl, golden lentils cooked with warm, colorful spices and flavorings. There's a Bengali saying: Dahl bhaat Bangali. It translates too: A true Bengali only needs dahl and rice to be happy.


Use of this image without permission is a copyright violation.

Since it was for the new year, I decided to cook a fancier version of the dahl instead of my usual everyday one. There as many ways of cooking lentils as there are lentils in a bag.

Masala or Moshla Dahl (yes, my mother coached me over the phone for this one)

1 cup mung dahl (pale yellow lentils)
3 cups of water (added in separate amounts)
1 medium onion, thinly sliced, divided
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon chili powder (in desi terms, this is ground red peppers. NOT a TX chili blend)
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 serrano pepper, cut in half at the midpoint
1 or 2 tomatoes, diced
4 to 6 medium garlic cloves, finely minced or smashed
Salt (to taste)

Directions:

1. Over medium heat, dry roast the lentils in a pot (basically, fry lentils in a dry pan or pot until you get a nutty aroma and the lentils turn a shade darker). 

2. Add enough water to just cover the lentils. Add in 1/3 of the onions and the spices (from turmeric to chili powder). Bring to a boil, lower heat to a gentle simmer.

3. Keep an eye on the lentils. When the water almost disappears, check the lentils. Mash them if you can, add more water to just cover and let them cook. Keep doing this until the lentils reach the consistency you want. I wanted it to be mostly creamy, but still with some shape to the lentils. When done, take it off the heat and set aside.

4. In a small frying pan, melt the butter.

5. Add the onions and cook for a few minutes. Add the mustard seeds and serrano pepper. Cook until onions are soft and browning.

6. Add the tomatoes and garlic, cook until soft. Scrape the cooked veggies and butter into the pot of cooked lentils. Add salt to taste, stir and serve with rice.

(Steps 4 through 6 is the bhagar or tarka process -- see glossary for more information.)

Enjoy!

Friday, April 11, 2014

Peanut Butter Cookies: All the Yum minus Flour and Sugar

Life as a Mom is hectic. With Kid 1 in Middle School and Kid 2 in Elementary, we have to do daily pick-ups and drop-offs at two different schools. This also means two different sets of school programs, meetings, and projects. And, you have to factor in all the extracurricular after-school activities -- swim classes, archery, scouts etc. There is a short amount of time (about an hour) between the last school pick-up and first activity drop-off. Frazzling? Yes! Needless to say, both Mommy and the kids need a treat.

For a while, we found ourselves at our favorite local eateries almost every other day -- donuts from Donutopia, boba tea from Lotus Cafe. While this helped my popularity as a mom, it definitely didn't help my waistline. So I started looking for snack ideas that were quick, easy, healthy and passed the family's taste test.

One of the best answers I found are peanut butter cookies! Made without flour and sugar, the cookies are high in protein and full of that wonderful nutty peanut butter flavor.


When #Letslunch, the online foodie group that meets once a month for a virtual potluck, suggested 3-ingredient recipes as the April theme, I was ecstatic. Not only did I have the perfect share, but I'd find new simple recipes to add to my kitchen.

Without further ado, here's the Peanut Butter Cookie recipe:

1 cup creamy peanut butter (you could use the chunky if you wanted)
3/4 cup Splenda or Stevia (OR if you're not worried about sugar, go for brown sugar)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
Garnish: dark semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking tray with foil (for easy clean up).
2. Mix the peanut butter, sweetener, egg and the vanilla extract (if using) in a bowl until all ingredients are well melded.
3. Scoop out a tablespoon of the dough and plop it on the prepared tray.
4. Using a fork, roll the scooped dough into a ball, flatten it to create the crisscross pattern.


5. Bake for 9 minutes.
6. If using chocolate chips, press them into the warm cookies gently.
7. Let cool a bit, then enjoy...of course, with a glass of cold milk!



I hope you like them as much as we did! Now here are some of the other 3-ingredient #LetsLunch recipes:

Roasted Asparagus with Truffle Oil by Glass of Fancy
Turkish Sesame Sweets by Monday Morning Cooking Club
Filipino Sticky Rice Logs by Asian in America
Mac'n'Cheese & Peanut Butter Cookies by Tea and Scones
3-Ingredient Thin Mints by Free Range Cookies (Our hostess for April)
Easier Chicken and Dumplings by A Cook and Her Books
Trinidad Mango Chow by Spicebox Travels
Gluten Free Almond Cookies by The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook


Friday, July 12, 2013

Munchies: Farm-fresh Corn Fritters

July’s Let’s Lunch theme is Munchies, in honor of #Letslunch founder Cheryl Tan’s new short story in The Marijuana Chronicles, edited by Jonathan Santlofer. Other authors in the anthology include Lee Child and Joyce Carol Oates...Woot! So proud of my friend!

Anyhoo, for a while I was stumped as how to come up with post to support the theme o.0 Luckily Cheryl explained that any food that satisfied the munchies that we all get from time to time would work. Well, I live in Texas and knew exactly what she meant -- Fried Food! Yup, nothing satisfies the munchies as hot, fried food straight from the stove.

 And since I like to cook with seasonal produce, I turned to our local farmers' market for ingredients. We seem to be experiencing a wonderful bounty of sweet corn...


So of course, I decided to turn them into some yummy Asian-style fritter! In Bangladesh we call them pakoras and have them on rainy evenings with tea. Well, since I'm in Texas, imagine me saying cheers with an ice-cold beer and hot spicy corn pakoras :)

Recipe:
 3/4 cup all purpose flour
1/4 cup chickpea flour (also known as besan)
4 tablespoons milk
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups corn kernel (fresh off the cob, frozen or canned)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon turmeric powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup minced red onions
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro, chopped
1/2 small red bell pepper, finely diced
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
Oil for deep frying

 Directions:
1.  In a mixing bowl, combine chickpea flour, all-purpose flour, salt, baking powder and turmeric.

2. In another bowl, break eggs and whisk with milk. Add in the corn, onions, cilantro, peppers and stir.

3. Add the flour mix into the wet mix, stirring with a fork from time to time to blend and break up lumps. You should end up with thick colorful batter.

4. Heat the oil in a wok or small frying pan over medium-high heat (the oil should be at least 1 inch deep). When the oil is hot, drop in a 1/4 tsp. of the mixture. If it sizzles and begins to cook, the oil is ready. If not, the oil needs to heat a little longer.

5. When oil is ready, drop a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into the oil - this will be 1 fritter. Add as many tablespoons to the oil at one time as you have room for in your pan, without allowing fritters to touch or join together.

6. Allow fritters to cook at least 1 minute before disturbing - or until they have a more solid form - then gently turn them with your tongs or a spatula to fry the other side. Fritters are done when they're golden-brown on both sides.

7. Remove from oil and allow to drain on an absorbent towel or paper. Continue cooking the fritters in batches until all the mixture is used up.

8. Serve with Cilantro-Mint sauce or sweet-chili sauce found in Asian groceries.

 For more tasty munchies, follow #LetsLunch on Twitter or visit some of the other celebratory posts:

 Hapa Mama's Fry Sauce with an Asian Twist

 Cheryl's Spam Fries with Key Lime Mayo at A Tiger in the Kitchen

 Annabelle‘s Scallion Pancakes at Glass of Fancy

 Linda‘s Sam Sifton’s Trinidadian Chinese Five Spice Chicken at Spice Box Travels

 Pat’s Sausage Rolls at The Asian Grandmothers Cookbook

 Emma’s Homemade Pizza Rolls at Dreaming of Pots and Pans

 Anne Marie’s Awesome Simple Sandwich for Munchies at Sandwich Surprise

 Lisa’s No-Wait Nachos at Monday Morning Cooking Club

 Vivian‘s Spam Bacon & Kim Chi Sandwich at Vivian Pei

Friday, April 5, 2013

Flavors of the Bayou: Crab Stuffed Okra Poppers Recipe & Story Excerpt


Hi, y'all! I'm honored to present Linda Joyce, a sister writer and foodie. So wonderful to meet friends who enjoy some of my favorite things -- good food and good books! 




I’m excited to spend time with Rashda and the good readers of Hot Curries and Cold Beer. Thank you for having me as a guest.

And no good guest comes present-less to a party, therefore I’m offering a giveaway. For everyone who leaves a message here, their name will be entered into a drawing for a goodie bag from me. The delights of the prize are related to cooking, things I picked up when in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.



Remember, you must leave a message along with your email address to be entered to win.

In Rashda’s post Finger Lickin’ Good Curried Ribs on 2/8/13, she mentioned Mardi Gras. Well, Rashda is to Food and Texas what I am to Southern cooking and Mardi Gras. And one cannot possibly be from The Big Easy, Baby! without having a love of food. However, I got a double whammy. I’m an Irish/Cajun New Orleanian and half Japanese, too. Isn’t that a culinary treat! *grins*

Per the definition of Foodie from the Urban Dictionary 
My interest in food fits definition #1.

A person that spends a keen amount of attention and energy on knowing the ingredients of food, the proper preparation of food, and finds great enjoyment in top-notch ingredients and exemplary preparation...

I enjoy simple food, for example, oysters. They’re luscious when raw on the half shell or roasted with drizzled garlic butter or in seafood gumbo or just deep-fried. A most versatile frutti di mare.

Now, my gumbo recipe is a closely guarded secret. However, if you come to my house, you know you’re really special if I make Crab Stuffed Okra Poppers. Of course, okra has to be in season—I pick it from my husband’s organic garden. Here’s the recipe:

Crab Stuffed Okra Poppers

Begin by making the dipping sauce: Remoulade sauce. It needs to chill while making the Okra Poppers.

Mix together in a glass bowl:

1 c. mayonnaise
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
3 tsp. chopped parsley
2 tsp. Dijon mustard
2 tsp. sweet pickle relish
1/2 c. ketchup
1 tsp. horseradish (or to taste)
1 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
Dash paprika

Now for the Poppers

Heat oil to 375 degrees in a large deep pot when ready for deep frying poppers.

1) Start with about 20 fresh, young okra, about the size of your middle finger.
Wash, dry, and cut long ways.
It helps if the cut is a 1/3 to 2/3 split so the smaller part will become the “hat,” so to speak, of the okra pod. Keep both pieces together until stuffing.
Remove seeds.

2) Make Dredge:  Combine in a flat pan (I use a pie pan)
1 c. Panko
1 c Bread crumbs
¼ tsp. garlic powder
Salt and pepper
½ tsp. cayenne pepper if you like a little bite.

3) Dredge: Beat together in bowl
1 large egg (or 2 small)
½ c dry white wine. (wine can be omitted. May have to add another egg)
Dash of salt

4) Make Crab Stuffing:

1 cup crabmeat
½ c. bread crumbs, or panko
2 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp. mustard (I prefer a Dijon)
1 tsp. Old Bay Seasoning
1 egg, beaten
5 tbsp. real mayonnaise
Salt to taste.

Gently combine all ingredients in a bowl.

5) A - Stuff okra with crab. Pack gently. Replace “hat” so pod looks whole again.
    B - Dip stuffed okra pod into Drench
    C - Dip pod into Dredge
    D - Deep fry 4 to 6 for about 1-2 minutes, until golden brown.
    E - Remove from oil and drain on plate with paper towel.

Serve warm Okra Poppers with chilled Remoulade Sauce. Bon Appetite!

Yes, I am a foodie and it’s part of my heritage and culture. I’m also a writer, and there’s no better way to immerse a reader in setting and culture than by including food in my story.



In my novel, Bayou Born, Branna is having lunch for the first time with James, and this is what ensues:

   “I’ll have the side salad, the garden-salad sandwich and lemonade. Fresh squeezed lemonade. You don’t find that every day.” She looked up into the waitress’ plastic smile, then handed over the menu.

     “Garden sandwich?” James asked. “Not the special? Don’t tell me you’re one of those women who only eats rabbit food. Or don’t you eat southern?”

     What did he mean by that? “Of course I eat southern cooking. I’m from Mississippi. My daddy’s family is from Loosy-ana. My comfort food may be different than yours—there was no seafood gumbo or jambalaya or stuffed mirlitons on the menu—but I promise you my comfort food is southern. I happen to like what the menu says about the specialty sandwich.” She cocked her head, daring him to challenge her decision.

     “Mur-la what?” the waitress asked.

     “Chayote squash or vegetable pear at the grocery store,” James answered. “I want the fried grouper sandwich with fries, please.”

If you want to know more about Branna and James in Bayou Born, the book is available for Kindle now. It will be available in print at Amazon and The Wild Rose Press in mid-April, and Barnes and Noble mid-May.

I invite you over to my place at http://www.linda-joyce.com and please join me at Linda Joyce Contemplates where I blog.  http://lindajoycecontemplates.wordpress.com


Twitter: @LJWriter



Thursday, April 4, 2013

April Cover Girl for Miss Millennia


Miss Millenia Magazine

April 2013




So, wow. I'm April's Lady Lennia and theme is Giving Back. I was chosen because of my UNICEF project with A Tale of Two Djinns. Totally humbled and honored. And grateful.

You do what you can and sometimes the Universe answers back in wonderful ways. If I had to be on the cover of a magazine (Lol, what a hardship...not!), I couldn't imagine a better one than Miss Millennia. It seeks to inspire, encourage and empower young women. Again, wow.

They asked me to blog with them for all of April. I'm going to use this opportunity to share about things that concern me: violence against women, human rights, poverty, equality, courage and community. I'm also going  to share about projects close to my heart: UNICEF, the Peace Ambassadors of West Texas, Valentines at the Soup Kitchen. And, of course, I'm going to share about people who inspire me.

Thank you, Universe!

If you are interested, here's my Miss Millennia interview. I'll keep you updated about the blogs.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Grill Me, Baby Giveaway

I met author Sophia Knightly online and was immediately floored by her friendliness and energy. She's a bundle of positiveness. So when I heard she was having a HOT special for her book, "Grill Me, Baby" I had to invite her to the blog.




The heat is on…

Raised among women who taught him to cook at his family’s Buenos Aires restaurant, master chef Paolo Santos deftly works his culinary wiles—and his gypsy charm—on posh Flamingo Island’s female clientele.

The tastiest tidbit on the island, though, is cool, elegant Michaela Willoughby. The redhead’s slender curves are as enticing as her rabbit-food menus are maddening. And she’s his main competition for the chance of a lifetime.

Michaela overcame her own weight issues to become Flamingo Island’s premiere spa chef. Now she has a chance to share her innovative recipes for healthy living on a new cooking show—if she can somehow outshine Paolo. His sizzling, Latin-lover looks are more heart stopping than his decadent cooking. And she’d love nothing better than to stick a fork in his outsized ego.

When the stage lights ignite, so does the competition…and a sexual chemistry no one—least of all Paolo and Michaela—saw coming. Suddenly, separating business from pleasure is as impossible as separating a scrambled egg. And the big question isn’t whose knife cuts fastest…it’s whose heart can take the most heat.

Warning: Contains two hot chefs duking it out in a lively showdown of sexy rivalry. Mix in family drama, luscious recipes and spicy mischief, and there’s more than just steam rising out of the kitchen. May cause lusty cravings for midnight indulgences. 


GRILL ME, BABY Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/6Y07iUPt3rg







Buy link: http://store.samhainpublishing.com/grill-baby-p-6830.html

Samhain Coupon Code: GRILLME

Amount Off: 50% Discount off of Grill Me, Baby

Duration: March 1st - March 31st, 2013

***

  • 1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 3-4 garlic cloves
  • 2 Tbsps. fresh oregano leaves or 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tbsp red or white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Directions:

Finely chop the parsley, fresh oregano, and garlic (or process in a food processor several pulses). Place in a small bowl and stir in the olive oil, vinegar, salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Serve immediately or refrigerate it. If chilled, return to room temperature before serving. Will keep for 3-5 days refrigerated.


More About Sophia

Bestselling author Sophia Knightly loves to cook up hot romance and delicious humor in her feel-good stories. Whether it's romantic suspense, romantic comedy or chick lit, her books are fun and sexy contemporary romances that feature hot alpha heroes and strong, smart women. Her popular Tropical Heat Series books, Wild for You and Sold on You, have consistently been on multiple Amazon bestselling lists.

A two-time Maggie award finalist and a P&E Readers' Poll finalist, she believes in love-at-first sight and happy endings, and she always enjoys a good laugh. When not writing or reading, she finds pleasure in walking the beach, exploring museums, going to the theatre, enjoying good food, and watching movies. One of her favorite pastimes remains simply watching people, especially those in love! 


Visit her website at: http://www.sophiaknightly.com

"Like" her Facebook author page at: http://on.fb.me/vGfJ5t

Follow her on Twitter @SophiaKnightly