Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Quick & Easy Tom Kha Gai (ต้มข่าไก่) - Vegetarian/Vegan

For the Birmingham locals - this is NOT the "Surin soup". I actually have a recipe that is a dead-on clone for that soup. BUT, that recipe is a wee bit labor-intensive and makes a gigantic pot, and I'm pretty Sweet Brown on that task right now. This, though? This is CLOSE. Really close. And you can have it prepared before you'd be able to find a parking spot at Surin.

For those of you who have never experience the "Surin Soup", I can only apologize. It's a mild Tom Kha Gai; coconutty and full of flavor. Addictive, to say the least.

This soup is a new take on Tom Kha Gai; a quick and dirty version of the Thai classic. Instead of trying to scour the stores for galangal, fresh lemongrass, or kaffir lime leaves, this shortcut version uses super easy-to-find ingredients. How easy? I found everything on my list at WAL-MART. 

This isn't some flea market version of the real thing - the incredible flavor is still there, while keeping this recipe both vegetarian and vegan friendly. Of course, you can always add poached chicken as well...

With easy to find ingredients and a quick 10-15 minute cook time, this is definitely a super simple way to bring the Thai restaurant experience home! 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Southern Secret Mashed Potatoes

This post feels like a total cop-out. I mean, I've posted recipes for mashed potatoes before (here and here), but these, THESE are my new ultimate mashed potatoes. They're so incredibly good that I've actually given up on using buttermilk in mashed potatoes, and y'all know I loves me some buttermilk. 

So, what makes these so incredible? Mayonnaise, probably definitely my all-time favorite 'aise'. Rick Bragg puts the Southern love of mayonnaise into much more eloquent words than I could ever hope for in this article for Gourmet. Plus, he's from the exact same county that I grew up in. 

Anyways, back to the mayonnaise. It lends a rich, creamy tangy flavor to the potatoes that can't fully be explained. True, buttermilk also lends some sourness, but not like mayonnaise. Also, these mashed potatoes don't TASTE like mayonnaise, which is great news for picky eaters/mayo-phobes/Miracle Whip fans (sigh). And, before you start thinking that mayonnaise & potatoes are gross together, just think about potato salad!

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Cast Iron Skillet Meatloaf

I've posted a recipe for meatloaf before, but not plain & humble meatloaf (you know, the kind topped with a ketchup-y BBQ-type sauce). I've only posted a recipe for 'fancy' meatloaf, studded with rich mushrooms and topped with a cream and herb sauce - the kind of meatloaf you could actually serve to guests.

Some issues arise when cooking 'traditional' meatloaf. You never know exactly WHEN it's done, and often you have to suction out excess fat, lest it spill over onto your oven's heating elements and create a huge cloud of smelly smoke (ask me how I know about this). Of course, industrious inventors have thought of this already...

C even has the "As Seen on TV" Perfect Meatloaf Pan; we found it one day in Big Lots. I think my Dad has one as well. I don't have a special meatloaf pan. I have some glass and dark anodized loaf pans, and a massive collection hoard of cast iron skillets. So, instead of dealing with the special grease-straining pans, or struggling with my usual loaf pans (great for breads, terrible for meats), I decided to use what I had on hand - my beloved cast iron. 

It works GREAT! The skillet gives you more surface area for that awesome browned surface (the best part, honestly), and the loaf isn't trapped in it's own fat. That being said, surprisingly little fat was left in the pan, yet the meatloaf was incredibly moist and tender. 

Oh yeah, there is NO way to make meatloaf look good in photos. It's a fact.

Note: This is a true meatloaf - a loaf of meat. There are no bits of onion or bell pepper for picky eaters to grimace at. Feel free to add them if you want, or serve them on the top or side!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Skillet Andouille Pasta

This is one of those dishes that tastes a lot better than it looks - I promise. So, it's not much for presentation, but gets extra credit for deliciousness. 

I get lazy sometimes - we all do. After a long day of work, I wanted to cook something quick and easy, without dirtying up a bunch of dishes. I also did NOT want to go to the grocery store. But, I definitely didn't want to hit the drive-thru or order a pizza - basically, I didn't want to spend any money. Yes, I am both lazy AND cheap.

In less than 20 minutes, I had dinner on the table, thanks to having a decently-stocked pantry and a package of andouille in the fridge! There's plenty of flavor thanks to the sausage, and it's hard to deny the allure of gooey, cheesy pasta. Even better, I only had a single skillet to clean afterwards!

Monday, March 17, 2014

Japanese Crab & Cucumber Salad with Ponzu-Mayo Dressing

Though I know some of you are turning your nose up at Surimi, also known as 'imitation crab', it's actually quite popular in Japan and used in a lot of dishes, especially crab salads!

This salad is simple and quick to prepare - simple shred crab and cucumber, then top with a creamy yet tangy ponzu & mayonnaise dressing! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Chia Seed Pudding (Vanilla and Chocolate)

In the last few years, chia seeds have become THE hot new "superfood". And yes, these are the same chia seeds of Chia Pet fame. Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia!

Chia seeds are naturally gluten-free, and a single 1 Tbsp serving contains more calcium than a glass of milk, more omega-3 fatty acids than salmon and a ton of antioxidants. They're also full of dietary protein and fiber, which means they will give you plenty of energy and keep you feeling fuller longer. Kind of like flax seeds, except you don't have to grind them to get all of that nutritional benefit.

Chia seeds are said to be great for weight loss, because of their hydrophilic properties - they can absorb up to 12x their weight in water! When soaked in water (or any other liquid), chia seeds form their own weird gelatin coat thanks to all of that soluble fiber. It's thought that eating chia seeds slows the conversion of carbohydrates into sugars, which helps maintain a higher metabolic rate.

So, not only are they good for you, but they can help suppress the appetite, even out blood sugar, and help with any, um, digestive issues. Even better, you can add them to just about anything!

One of my favorite ways to eat chia seeds is in a healthy pudding. There are tons of recipes out there, but, the general rule is to have 4 parts of 'milk' (cow, almond, coconut, etc) per every 1 part of chia seeds. Personally, I prefer Nutiva chia seeds - I've always been a big fan of Nutiva coconut oil, and they have really great bulk prices on chia seeds (THANK YOU, AMAZON). HealthWorks also has great prices! 

You don't have to cook this pudding - simply stir everything together, and chill! I like to make a plain vanilla version, as well as a chocolate version. Now, this pudding DOES have texture (and looks like frog eggs), but it's similar to rice pudding & tapioca pudding in my opinion. Plus, it's much healthier! If texture really icks you out, simply buzz everything together in a blender!