Saturday, May 22, 2010

spice of life

I've been exploring spice lately, and in my quest to cook as much as possible, I've learned that I find cooking to be cathartic and almost therapeutic. I've made homemade mac and cheese (first time in my adult life), made my own alfredo sauce from scratch (this DOES actually require heavy cream -- not milk and cornstarch, which although they taste fine has a really bizarre, lumpy and goopy look), and have been experimenting with spice. I found an awesome spice shop called Savory. They have an online shop and stores in Colorado, and she has a show on the Food Network -- Spice and Easy, which although I haven't seen it yet, have set to record with DVR. I love love love love love the shop, and could very easily spend tons of money in there, but everything is totally affordable - they have curries that I of course zeroed in on, but also all variety of mushrooms and baking spices... and much more. I actually fell in love with their honey powder, which I have been putting on my popcorn.

Awesome foods that I've made in the last week:
  • Betty Crocker's Homemade Macaroni & Cheese
  • Thai Red Chicken Curry (I cheated here and used a spice packet from an Asian food store), ate one serving and froze
  • Thai Green Chicken & Eggplant Curry - Savory's recipe. Awesome. Didn't make enough of the sauce, so I made another batch of just the juice, coconut milk, curry paste plus added Chinese red peppers, bamboo shoots, and cilantro sprigs. Again froze most of it.
  • Pasta Alfredo with breaded and pan fried eggplant (left over from the Green curry). For the alfredo I tried using milk and cornstarch first, but got a lumpy white sauce. Then I forgot to add the cheese, so stirred it into the pasta white sauce mix, with ugly but tasty results. Night two, I made more pasta, and bought heavy whipping cream, and did the sauce right (including mixing the cheese correctly) and added everything together for a very tasty result.
  • AMAZING Guacamole. I realized that with all of the amazing cooking I've been doing I had everything I needed to make a great guac and was just missing the chips.
    • Mix two ripe avocados, one diced Roma tomato, four diced green onions, about a dozen diced cilantro sprigs, one diced jalapeno, and a tablespoon of lime juice. Mash all together and serve for a tasty, all natural, all fresh guac. Super easy AND super tasty.
I've learned that cilantro may be my favorite herb and flavor and I love the way it smells and tastes. I especially love how my hands smell after chopping. Hopefully I can perfect all of these awesome recipes in the next few weeks. I cannot wait to make for Klark!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

chicken tikka masala

My entire house is alive with the aroma of Indian spice and my fingers smell of fresh cilantro. I almost wish I were about to walk in the door for dinner... it's amazing in here. My latest experiment, chicken tikka masala, is bubbling away on the stove, imparting scents of cinnamon, cumin and other spice while freshly chopped cilantro floats through the now-heavy air. I can't wait to eat. It's 9:30 and I misjudged time... and must go to bed soon, but I have to try at least a small helping. My sauce and rice have a few more minutes though, so I wanted to start writing first, before my hunger consumes me and my brain goes entirely to food!

The first time I experienced this mean was in New Zealand, and while I don't have naan, I think it's an awesome first attempt for cooking from scratch instead of a pre-made sauce... that said I haven't taken a bite yet. Oh well. I've gone to Indian restaurants several times, which has only served to further enamor me of this awesome meal. So I decided to google the recipe and settled on a 4.5/5 star rated option from  The recipe is below and I'll talk some about my substitutions.

Okay, enough waxing poetic about this awesome food. I loaded up a small dish, and took a few pictures, then dug in. Little explosions went off in my mouth -- man this has some good kick to it; I might do with a little less jalapeno next time, but this is killer. Filling and good. I made a few substitutions to the recipe below; shortly after declaring that I had all the ingredients I realized that I forgot to buy heavy cream, but I substituted with evaporated milk and it turned out just fine. The yogurt mix that coats the chicken is really thick, so given how much I hate the idea of cleaning the grill (another chore for Klark), I placed my kebob skewers (there were actually 8 - I used four chicken breasts instead of three) on a tin foil on the grill. Also, both places that call for salt, I used one teaspoon of Nu-Salt instead of 3 of salt... and it works just fine to enhance the flavor, just like salt does. So although All Recipes says this is a dish very high in sodium (also using GINORMOUS servings, by removing the salt, using no-salt-added tomato sauce, and all fresh other ingredients, I have actually made it into a reasonable amount of sodium and an amazingly tasty dish. Amazingly tasty, delicious recipe that will become a keeper!! Highly recommend you all try it (if anyone is actually reading).


  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • 4 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 3 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 4 long skewers
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 3 teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 1 (8 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro


  1. In a large bowl, combine yogurt, lemon juice, 2 teaspoons cumin, cinnamon, cayenne, black pepper, ginger, and 4 teaspoons salt. Stir in chicken, cover, and refrigerate for 1 hour.
  2. Preheat a grill for high heat.
  3. Lightly oil the grill grate. Thread chicken onto skewers, and discard marinade. Grill until juices run clear, about 5 minutes on each side.
  4. Melt butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat. Saute garlic and jalapeno for 1 minute. Season with 2 teaspoons cumin, paprika, and 3 teaspoons salt. Stir in tomato sauce and cream. Simmer on low heat until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Add grilled chicken, and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

seasonings in the cabinet

The other night, I started looking through all of our seasonings, spices, sauces, and miscellaneous ingredients... and was shocked (that word seems to be finding it's way into my writing on far too regular a basis) at the sodium content of so many of them. Yes, when I've cooked, I've generally cooked healthy, but rarely, if ever, considered the sodium content of the ingredients.

Unfortunately, because of all of the soy sauce we've used in marinades, we bought a giant Costco-sized container of soy sauce that just might last us a lifetime. Rather than throwing out something that's perfectly good (and given the salt content, will never expire), we'll continue to use it and all of our other higher sodium product listed above until they either run out or expire, although we'll start to phase them out and temper their use. 

I think Klark is a little worried about what this new gameplan means to him. Hard to tell when we get two sentences in on Yahoo messenger before his connection dies and it's a day in between blurbs; mostly I think he's excited to have real food, though. I did explain to him that it's not about not eating our favorite foods, but it's about lowering their sodium content when available. Already, products with more salt are starting to taste too salty to me, which speaks to how much removing something from your diet can make you more sensitive to it (case in point, me and milk).

Also, it should be noted this is something I'm doing by choice. My doctor hasn't given me a number to hit, but rather this is something I'm doing by choice -- and the more I learn about how much excess sodium is in Western diets, the more I'm glad I'm doing it. When I go back in a week, I hope that my blood pressure will be lower, but if not, I'm just starting on this journey and plan to stay on my path, regardless of blood pressure. I will rule it though and not let it rule me -- I refuse to look at something that I love (Annie's Mac & Cheese) and not ever eat it again, just as I refuse to stop going to eat at friends' houses or at restaurants like Olive Garden -- it's about being smart; and, if I pick something that contains more sodium, then I'll be more careful for the next few days. I will still be going to the Melting Pot to celebrate my birthday!!!!


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