Thursday, July 28, 2011

California Club Salsa

This recipe idea came to me mainly because I had an "Appetizer Party" to attend and I had avocados in the fridge that I needed to use.

Oh.. And it's really hot outside.

And I like salsa and I happened to have roasted corn, tomatoes, cilantro, lime, and one teenie tiny little jalapeno that hadn't been taken in the storm. 

I started dicing and mincing not knowing exactly where I was headed. Much like I do almost everything. I put one foot in the middle of the road without looking both ways.
Don't blame my parents. They taught me right, I just stopped practicing safe techniques and going by feel. Sometimes I go get hit by that perverbial 'car' and other times it's a slam dunk.

Like this California Club Salsa. It started with avocado, tomato, onion, lime, cilantro, and jalapeno.

Then I noticed that we had some ham and at an appetizer party I felt a little remise in just bringing salsa. If all we were going to be eating was appetizers then they better be damn filling.

So I added the ham. Then I went for a long walk and thought about what to name this crazy concoction that we would be using as a slider for shoving corn chips in our mouths.
It reminded me so much of a club sandwich, but with avocado.. Oh! A california club, but those always had cheese in it. 

So, what the hell I was committed now and in went the shredded cheddar cheese right before we left so it wouldn't get to soggy.

And let me tell you...
There wasn't a bite left when we departed so no pictures with chips. It went to fast, sorry. The party was a success and so was this crazy-hair-brained invention of mine.

Here's the recipe.. You could also use cooked bacon.. Yum.. I may try that next time that would be a great substitution for the ham if you have that around intead. Or even canadian bacon would be great!

California Club Salsa
2 Vine Ripened Tomatoes; Diced
2 Avocados; Diced
1/2 Medium White Onion; Diced
2 Cups Roasted Corn (you can also use frozen if you are short on time)
3 Cloves Garlic; Minced
Juice of 2 limes
2 Cups Cooked Ham; diced small
1/4 Cup Fresh Cilantro; Minced
1/2 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Husk the corn and spray the corn with cooking spray and sprinkle each ear with salt and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet and roast for 45 minutes. Once cooked remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing the corn kernels off the cob. ***Speedy Note: If you are a little rushed on time, you can add 2 cups of frozen corn and skip this step.
2. Slice your tomatoes, avocados, onion, and garlic. Add to a large bowl. Then add the roasted corn. Stir all together.
3. Add the lime juice, diced ham, and fresh cilantro. Cover and refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
4. When you are ready to serve, add the shredded cheddar cheese, stir to combine and serve with corn chips!

Servings: 24

Nutritional Skinny:

 47.5 calories / 3 g fat / 4.5 g carbohydrates / 1.5 g fiber / 2.1 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: Let's see... the benefits of this recipe. Well, you probably have everything in your fridge to make it, your friends will think you are a creative genius (or crazy), and it tastes great on a tortilla chip with a cold bottle of beer enjoyed with friends in your backyard. Sounds like a benefit to me!

Cheers! :)

Friday, July 15, 2011

Pork Curry with Peas, Corn, and Basil Ribbons

I'm slowly recovering from the "hail storm massacre of July 2011" (see previous post for details). This Pork Curry with Peas, Corn, and Basil Ribbons helped.

With every yummy sweet coconut-y bite my spirits lifted just a little. The kick from the red pepper flakes helped my taste buds get into the groove and the deep curry zing was enough to help me make a full recovery.
After spending the afternoon in the garden, bare hands weeding and salvaging bruised lettuce this was a simple and easy dinner that I prepared while my honey shopped for boats.

Yeah, who knows. His solution to a bruised garden ego was boats, mine was cooking. Nothing new there.

While he described the difference between out board motors and in board motors I smelled the gentle sweet aroma of simmering coconut milk and curry.

By the time we sat down, we were both feeling better and one bite later all seemed like it would be okay in the end.
I was able to use the last of my basil that still clung on for dear life during the storm. My ribbons don't look that pretty, kind of bruised and batter, but I was proud of those tough little leaves. And they were a delicious addition as was the lime juice. Just clandestine.

Now on with the recipe!

Pork Curry with Peas, Corn, and Basil Ribbons

1 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 tbsp. Green Curry Paste

1/2 Cup White Onion; Diced
2 Cloves Garlic; Minced
2 Pork Filets; Cubed
1 (13.6 ounce) Can Lite Coconut Milk
1/2 Cup Fat Free Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 tsp. Crushed Red Pepper Flakes
2 Cups Frozen Corn
2 Cups frozen Peas
1 tbsp. Fish Sauce
2 tsp. Brown Sugar
2 tsp. Grated Lime Zest
Juice of Half a Lime
Bunch of Basil (about 1/4 cup); Sliced into ribbons
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet, wok, or pot. You want a deep skillet as you will be filling it with liquids and other yummy ingredients. Add the curry paste and swirl with the oil to combine the oil with the paste and heat the paste so it softens.
2. Dice the onion and garlic and add to the skillet. Cook over medium high heat for 5 minutes stirring occasionally.
3. Dice the pork into bite sized peices and add to the skillet as well. Stir for another 5 minutes to brown the pork. Toss the pork constantly to brown it evenly throughout.
4. Add the coconut milk, chicken broth, and red pepper flakes. Turn down the heat to medium low and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally and don't let it boil. If it boils turn the heat down. This will cook the pork through.
5. After 15 minutes, add the frozen corn and peas. Continue cooking and stirring for another 10 minutes. 
6. Then add the fish sauce, brown sugar, lime zest, lime juice, and basil leaves. Stir for another 5-10 minutes.

7. Spoon a generous helping into a large wide bowl and serve with jasmine rice cooked according to package directions.

Servings: 6

Nutritional Skinny:

216 calories / 5.6 g fat / 14.5 g carbohydrates / 2 g fiber / 26 g protein

Mental Health Benefit: This recipe is another one pot wonder. Some of my favorite recipes come together in just one pot. And coconut milk so so good for us. It's loaded with manganese which helps relieve glucose intolerance, it also rich in phosphorus which helps us maintain healthy bones and muscles. It also helps us control weight as it makes us feel full faster due to the high levels of fiber in it. It's also loaded with potassium, zinc, and Vitamin C which helps lower blood pressure, boost our immune systems, and support a healthy prostate. Plus it is deliciously sweet and provides a rich flavor to any meal especially this one!

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Whole Grain Flax Bread

So yesterday was a little interesting... Just when I thought me and Mother Earth were getting on so well we got a huge hail storm. It basically took out my flowers (really was it necessary to take half of her sweet head?),
My petunias look like there was a massacre,
And just look at the house numbers? Now how am I going to remember where I live?

Isn't there supposed to be two lights?

Oh... there it is. Perfect.

And that's when I noticed the worst! My basil, my sweet sweet sweet yummy delicious pesto-making-basil! What happened to your lush leaves!
And let's not even talk about my sweet tomato plants. They didn't do anything to deserve this kind of treatment. 

I mean really, they were just young little plants trying to make it in this mad-crazy-windy world.

And it looks like this outside.

So I did what any normal person would do.

I put this on...
And got to work making the most delicious bread. The recipe is hand crafted, tested, and proven to be the best. Okay, I'm the only judge, but whatevs.
It helped me get through the day after the flower-garden-house massacre all from hail. That also punched huge holes in our window screens.

I want some yummy homemade bread. 

Don't you? The smell and the kneading and the crying just make me feel better. The crying isn't necessary, it's just sort of my thing.

Okay.. on with the recipe.

Whole Grain Flax Bread
Makes one two-pound loaf

2 1/2 Cups Whole Wheat Flour
1 1/2 cups Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
3 tablespoons Powdered Milk
1 1/2 tsp. Instant Yeast
1 1/2 tsp. Salt
1/4 Cup Milled Flax Seed; Plus 2 tbsp.
1/2 Cup Oats; plus 3 tbsp.
1 1/2 tbsp. Honey
2 tbsp. Olive Oil
2 Cups Water, a little warmer than room temperature

*If you don't have powdered milk you can use 1 1/4 cups milk and omit the water, however the bread turns out lighter with the milk powder.
1. Stir together the bread flour, whole-wheat flour, and yeast in a large mixing bowl. Stir together to combine using a whisk.

2. Then add the oats, milled flax seed, and salt.  Stir to combine.
2. Add the honey, olive oil, and water. Stir until the ingredients form a ball. If there is still flour in the bottom of the bowl, dribble in additional water. The dough should feel soft and slightly sticky. It is better for it to be a little too soft that to be too stiff so add water until you get to here.
3. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and kneed the dough for 7-10 minutes. It's a great arm work out!
4. Place the dough in a greased metal bowl. Cover with saran wrap and set in a warm spot and allow the dough to rise for 60 to 90 minutes. My favorite place for dough to rise is on top of the dryer while I am drying clothes. It is warm and perfect! Try it! The dough will double in size. If it hasn't doubled, let it continue rising until it has.
5. Sprinkle an additional 1 tbsp. flax seed and 2 tablespoons oats onto a dry surface. Turn the dough onto this surface. Then sprinkle the remaining 1 tbsp. of milled flax and oats on the dough. Begin gently rolling the dough out by hand into a 6 inch by 10 inch rectangle using your bread pan as a guide. You don't want it to be any wider than the bread pan you plan to put it into.
6. Spray your pan with baking spray and place the dough in the pan. Sprinkle with any remaining oat and milled flax that didn't get picked up off the rolling surface. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another hour to hour and a half. You want the dough to rise above the rim of the baking pan. That's how you know it's time to pop it in the oven.
7. Once the dough has doubled in size again. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
8. Place the bread in the middle rack of the oven and bake for 30 minutes. After 3o minutes rotate the bread 180 degrees to promote even cooking and heating and cook for another 15-30 minutes. The bread is done when the top is golden brown and the top crust sounds hollow when thumped. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 30 minutes and slice and eat!
Servings: 16

Nutritional Skinny:

95 calories / 2.6 g fat / 21 g carbohydrates / 2.3 g fiber / 4.3 g protein

Mental Health Tid Bit: On days when I feel beat up or rung up and hung to dry, I try to take really deep breaths and be really gentle with myself. Just like we would with an toddler who accidentally plugged the toilet with legos. Baking bread is soothing and something that I always manage to do without a hitch even on the most harried days. Here's to home made bread, sunshine, and plant boosters!


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Spicy Black Bean and Ham Chowder

Mother nature seems to be playing nicely with me lately. The summer months over here feel a lot like the desert -- dry and hot as all get out. Our deck overlooks the western sky making it a great spot to catch the sunset, however it can also roast you like a thanksgiving turkey.

Conveniently our grill is located on this very same hot deck. However, lately whenever I decide to grill for dinner, the clouds magically appear cooling the temperature and making grilling much more comfortable.
Likewise, when I decided to make this Spicy Black Bean and Ham Chowder I realized what I was up against. Hot spicy soup in the middle of summer? It seemed like a rediculous idea, but I went with it anyway. 

And wouldn't you know, the clouds came and the thunder rolled all afternoon dropping the temperature 20 degrees. It rained hard at first tapping the roof like a mad hatter, then soft and steady. The perfect weather for my chowder. I consider this a huge french kiss from Mother Earth herself.

With the crock pot set to low and the cream cheese and shredded cheese added, I set off on a drive. 
I turned left onto a windy dirt road and rolled down my window and took a deep breath. The whole earth smelled of wet pine needles, fresh mowed grass, and moist soil. There was the scent of wild roses coming from overgrown bushes filled with roses as small as your fingernails.
I kept driving and ran into three spotted fawns in the road (they ran to fast to get a picture, but they were adorable!). While stopping for them I smelled wild sage, damp aspen, and the rubber from my tires. Clouds lace the sky like Picasso's Cystene Chapel. 

On the way back home off in the distance was a rainbow over the mountains at sunset.
When I returned to my crock pot, big bowls were set out ready to be filled with this smokey, sweet chowder. 
The smells eminating throughout the house were as complex as Mother Earth with a savory,  yet spicy aroma mellowed by the sweet cream cheese and cheddar that were added in. Not to mention the roasted corn, salty ham, and bright minced garlic.

All was right with the world in that one moment when I topped my Black Bean and Ham Chowder with extra cheese..
and fresh cut cilantro...
And I took my first bite...

Life is delicious.

Now on with the recipe!

Spicy Black Bean and Ham Chowder
2 Ears Sweet Corn (or 2 cups frozen corn)
1 tbsp. Olive Oil
1 Medium Sweet Onion, Chopped
5 Cloves Garlic, Minced
1 Jalapeno Pepper; Minced
4 Cups Low Sodium Chicken Broth
1 (15 ounce) Can Low Sodium Black Beans; Rinsed
3 Cups Cooked Ham; Cubed
1 tsp. Liquid Smoke
1 tbsp. Chili Powder
1 tsp. Cumin
1 tsp. Curry Powder
2 tsp. Cayenne Pepper
salt and pepper to taste
4 Ounces Low Fat Cream Cheese
1 Cup Shredded Cheddar Cheese
2 tbsp. Whole Wheat Flour
1. Preheat the oven to 350. Husk the corn and spray the corn with cooking spray and sprinkle each ear with salt and pepper. Place on a cookie sheet and roast for 45 minutes. Once cooked remove from oven and allow to cool before slicing the corn kernels off the cob. ***Speedy Note: If you are a little rushed on time, you can add 2 cups of frozen corn and skip this step.
2. Heat a large skillet over medium high heat with one tbsp of olive oil. Add the onion, garlic, and jalapeno pepper and saute until the onion becomes translucent and the pepper starts to slightly soften and char on the outside (approximately 4-6 minutes).
3. Transfer to a large crock pot and add the chicken broth, corn (if using frozen), black beans, ham, liquid smoke, chili powder, cumin, curry powder, cayenne and salt and pepper. If using roasted corn add to the crock pot once it has been roasted, cooled, and cut off the cob.
4. Cover and cook on low for 3-4 hours. After this time add the cream cheese. Then in a bowl combine the shredded cheese and flour and add to the crock pot. Stir until combined and cook for another 30 minutes.
4. Serve hot and garnish with extra cheese and fresh cilantro!
Servings: 8 (approx 1 cup)

Nutritional Skinny:

240 calories / 8.5 g fat / 18 g carbohydrates / 4 g fiber / 21 g protein

Mental Health Tid Bit: Chowder is one of those heart soothing, mind calming, and body comforting foods that will cure whatever ails you. Whether it's a frazzled mind, a broken heart, or a wounded ego. This chowder will help. The crock pot also makes this a no brain recipe that you can't mess up. Throw this in the crock pot and consider this dinner one of your many successes of the day.

The end.