Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Spicy Curries to Warm Things Up!

     This post was requested by Jenn, who never liked Indian food until I got Jamie Oliver's legendary 2008 cookbook, Jamie's Food Revolution.  In it, there is a whole section called "Easy Curries" and I learned that if I could open a jar of Patak's or Thai Kitchen brand curry paste, I could make yummy curries that everyone loved.  These recipes are based on Jamie Oliver's but have morphed into some variations. In this post are two Indian curries and a Thai mango curry.  (For a separate post on our family's version of Thai Green Curry click here .)  But whatever type of food you are cooking, I highly recommend any of Jamie Oliver's cookbooks; they all have great recipes and beautiful photos.

Basic Ingredients for the Curries:


For Six Servings:

2 medium onions

1 bunch of cilantro

1 thumb sized piece of ginger or 1 1/2 teaspoon ground

1 small green chile like Serrano or jalapeno

2 tablespoons vegetable or olive oil

Purchased curry paste such as Patak brand for Indian, Thai Kitchen for Thai 

1 (15 oz.) can of coconut milk

Optional:  4 chicken breasts, cooked and cubed

Basic Directions for the Curries: 

1.  Peel and slice the onions.  Chop the cilantro, including the stems.  Cut the skin off the ginger using a carrot peeler and then finely dice it.  Remove the seeds and membrane from the pepper and finely chop it. Adjust the amount of pepper used to the amount of "heat" desired. I only use 1/2 of a jalapeno, but a whole small Serrano pepper.  

2.  Place the onions, cilantro, ginger, pepper, and olive oil in a pan and sauté over medium low heat until the onions are tender. 

3.  Add 1/2 cup curry paste (except if making Thai - see directions below), the extra ingredients listed below for a specific type of curry, and the chicken if you are using it.

4.  Simmer on medium low for about a minute, then pour in the coconut milk.

5.  Simmer for at least 10 minutes and serve with hot cooked rice and warm naan bread.


Tikka Masala

Use tikka masala curry paste if you can find it, if not, Patak's mild curry paste is fine.

Add a 15 oz. can of chopped tomatoes when you add the curry paste.

Garnish with a few chopped tomatoes.


Use korma curry paste if  your can find it, if not, Patak's mild curry paste is fine.

Add a 15 oz. can of drained and rinsed garbanzo (chick pea) beans when you add the coconut milk.

Garnish with almonds. (Some people add a cup of unsweetened coconut - we leave it out.)

Thai Mango Curry

Along with the cilantro, onion, pepper, and ginger sauté 1/2 of a red, yellow, and orange bell pepper.

When the vegetables are tender, add 2 minced garlic cloves and sauté an additional 30 seconds.

Instead of Patak's use 2 tablespoons of Thai red curry paste.

Add 1 tablespoon soy sauce (or Tamari) and 1 tablespoon fish sauce when you add the curry paste.

Skin a mango and cut into cubes.  Add the mango during last five minutes of cooking. 


Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Cupcake Celebration!

December 15 is "National Cupcake Day"!  I try not to eat too many sweets, but I couldn't resist baking up a bunch of cupcakes to celebrate this foodie holiday.  When I do indulge in a dessert, I want the good stuff: butter, cream, etc.  However, whatever I bake has to be quick and easy.  I found this short cut to making really delicious cupcakes from the TidyMom blog on a 2007 post.  What I like about it is that any flavor cake mix can be used and then jazzed up with a few extras.  Topped with rich buttercream frosting and decorated, these cupcakes definitely evoke a "Wow" from all!  Below are the basic steps for any cake mix and plain butter cream frosting plus the variations I used to make Red Velvet Cupcakes with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting, Oreo Cookie Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting, and Chocolate Carmel Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting.

Basic Cupcake Ingredients

For about 18 cupcakes:

1 box good quality cake mix

3 eggs

1 stick butter (1/2 cup), melted

1 cup water

 Basic Buttercream Frosting Ingredients

To frost 18 cupcakes:

3 cups confectioners sugar

2 sticks of butter (1 cup)

1/4 cup milk or cream

1/4 teaspoon salt


Addition Ingredients for the "Wow!" Factor:

The variations are endless.  The inspiration I got here came from bakery bought cupcakes I purchased for Allison's birthday back in September.  They got me thinking of possibilities...

Basic Directions:

Put the cake mix, eggs, melted butter, and water in a bowl and mix for two minutes.

The batter will me nice and thick. (This one was a German Chocolate cake mix.)

Place a cupcake liner in the well of each muffin tin and spoon 1/4 cup batter into each one.

Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 20 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Directions for Basic Buttercream Frosting:

Place the confectioners sugar, butter, liquid, and salt in a mixing bowl. Beat at high speed until combined.  If it seems too thick to be spreadable add more liquid one tablespoon at a time.


Red Velvet Cupcakes with Peppermint Cream Cheese Frosting

Follow the basic directions for the cake batter above using a red velvet cake mix.

 Stir in one cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

 To the basic buttercream frosting recipe, add 1(8 oz.) package of cream cheese and 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract.  Reduce the amount of butter to 1/2 cup (1 stick).  After frosting, top the cupcakes with crushed candy canes and coarse decorating sugar.

Oreo Cookie Cupcakes with Chocolate Buttercream Frosting

Follow the basic directions for the cake batter above using a white cake mix.

 Stir in 1 cup of crushed Oreo cookies (about 10 normal sized cookies).

 Before you fill up the cupcake liners, drop 1/2 of an Oreo into the bottom of each one.

To the basic frosting mix, add 2 oz. (2 squares) of unsweetened baking chocolate, melted.

After frosting, top each cupcake with a mini Oreo and a bit of crushed Oreos crumbs.

Chocolate Caramel Cupcakes with Vanilla Buttercream Frosting

 Follow the basic directions for the cake batter above using a German chocolate cake mix.

Bake the cupcakes as directed.

 Combine 1 cup sweetened condensed milk with 1 cup caramel topping (like Hershey's brand).

Immediately after taking cupcakes from the oven, poke holes in each one.  Pour a healthy tablespoon full of the caramel mixture over each one. Let sit about 10 minutes before frosting.

 Add 1 teaspoon of vanilla to the basic frosting mix. After frosting sprinkle with Health bar bits.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Sunny California Kale Salad

  After eating all the rich Thanksgiving dishes last week, I found myself dreaming of a healthy but tasty salad Jenn and I had when she was relocating to California.  So - here I go - I have to duplicate one more salad from our travels!  While it has a lot of health benefits (One cup has these percentages of the following daily requirements: 130% vitamin A, 85% vitamin C, and 435% vitamin K), it also has enough rich flavor to be fall-festive holiday fare.  The restaurant we ate this salad at overlooks the ocean and is right down the street from Jenn's apartment. We watched families enjoying a day on the beach as we munched on it!  Enjoy!


For the salad:

5 oz. package of organic baby kale, about 4 cups

1 large Fuji apple, about 1 cup diced

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/3 cup sliced almonds

1/3 cup golden raisins

For the dressing:

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning





Slice and core the apple, then dice enough of it to make 1 cup.  Give the kale a good chopping; you should have about 4 cups worth from the 5 oz. package of organic baby kale.


Put the kale, apples, parmesan cheese, sliced almonds, and golden raisins in large bowl. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and pour 1/4 cup of it over the mixture in the bowl.  Toss.