Saturday, June 25, 2011

Karma Korma

Blogging from the public library this lovely Saturday (clear skies!).  We've had some stormy weather (literally and figuratively) and many thousands of people are just now getting their power turned on again.  Friends have also been dealing with tough times too:  the passing of family members, shocking revelations of people they thought they knew, lies, etc.  

Our world got rocked in a different way.  Our sweet home was broken into on Thursday.  They (he/she/it?) took our computer (hence blogging at the library), my husband's camera, some of my family jewelry, and my spare car key.  Another apartment was robbed down the hill from us in the same afternoon.  I'm not feeling so sad about the stuff we lost, just feeling violated.  Trying to reroot, ground, breathe.

I got started on the right foot this morning, however, and had a wonderful massage with my dear friend Beth at Belleza.  I was also encouraged by another friend in my little community.  His offering of wisdom,
It is often difficult to continually remain open especially when we feel our lives have been compromised or that we have been taken advantage of.  I hope that you allow the light you have to continue to shine as bright as ever as you over come this challenge...
So today, I'm serving up some Karma Korma (aka Vegetable Korma).  There will be no pictures (they're gone!) so you'll have to use your imagination or check out the original recipe from Vegetarian Times.  First I followed their recipe to a T and it was delicious--apparently my husband's new favorite.  Then I tweaked...he couldn't taste a difference AND it was cheaper and more nutrient dense.  Instead of fresh tomatoes I used canned, which tend to retain more good stuff (lycopenes!).  I also substituted Greek yogurt for evaporated milk (protein!) and brown rice for white rice (it wins!).

Karma Korma
This dish goes great with garlic naan if you've got it.

1 cup brown rice (long grain or brown basmati)
1 15oz can diced tomatoes
1 small white onion, chunked
3 tbsp minced fresh ginger
2 tbsp olive oil (or canola oil)
1 tsp garam masala
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
4 tbsp golden raisins
1 12oz package (4 cups) frozen mixed vegetables, such as green beans, carrots, peas
1 15 oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
Salt & pepper to taste

1.  Cook rice according to package directions (or let your rice cooker handle it).
2.  Puree tomatoes, onion, and ginger to paste in food processor or blender.
3.  Heat oil in saucepan over medium heat.  Add garam masala and cardamom.  Cook 30 seconds or until fragrant, stirring constantly.
4.  Add puree mixture and raisins to the saucepan.  Simmer for 2 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly.
5.  Stir in frozen Greek yogurt and mix well.  Add frozen vegetables, chickpeas, and salt and pepper.  Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer 6 to 7 minutes (until vegetables are tender).
6.  Serve over rice and enjoy.

Indian food is my comfort food.  What's yours?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Yo Yo Daddy-O

I woke up this morning to the sound of the 'angels bowling' as my dad used to say.  While the sky looks like Dementors could come swooping down at any time, it's cool and the birds are singing.  If the rain stays at bay, we'll have a great time grilling out this Dad's Day (I promise I wasn't trying to rhyme).

Last year we started a tradition of taking over the kitchen at my in-law's house when we created our own take of Giada's Mini Italian Pub Burgers.  My father-in-law is one of those dads who balks at a meal with no meat, but we're going out on a limb today.  In an effort to promote a heart-healthy diet for dad, we're not putting any meat on that grill.  Instead we're making Blue Cheese Stuffed Portabella Burgers (with whole wheat buns, spinach, and grilled red onion rings).  We're also trying out two recipes from the most recent Martha Stewart Living:  Beer-Steamed Potato Hobo Pack and Adobo Peanuts.  I made the peanuts ahead of time and they made the kitchen smell recent sinus issues also ceased for the duration of the bake!

My dad, who basically looks like this, lives in Cincinnati and we're bummed that he can't join in our feast.  We sent him some locally roasted coffee we got at Three Rivers and a homemade card.  Maybe we'll get to take in a baseball game this summer after all, with those terribly delicious ball park nachos and ice cold beer.  Happy Father's Day, you!

How do you celebrate your dad?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Breathe In, Calm...Breathe Out, Smile

I recently started reading Peace is Every Step, written by Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese Buddhist Monk and Nobel Peace Prize winner.  The book gives simple suggestions for living fully in the present moment; it's subtitled "The Path of Mindfulness in Everyday Life."  He talks about how to find peace in doing the dishes, answering the telephone, and driving your car.

I have specifically been working with the breathing technique he offers at the very beginning of the book.  I shared this with my Balancing Flow yoga class tonight (thanks Jenna & John for your support!) and I'd like to share it with you as well.  Hanh recommends that as we inhale we say to ourselves, "Breathing in, I calm my body," and as we exhale we say, "Breathing out, I smile."  It doesn't have to be a big toothy grin, perhaps the corners of your eyes wrinkle or just the tips of your mouth turn upward in a sort of Mona Lisa smile.

He goes on to discuss the importance and effects of smiling:
If a child smiles, if an adult smiles, that is very important.  If in our daily lives we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it.  If we really know how to live, what better way to start the day than with a smile.  Our smile affirms our awareness and determination to live in peace and joy.  The source of a true smile is an awakened mind.
He's right.  Studies have proven that smiling, or just seeing a person (or baby) smile, can change our body chemistry.  I challenged my yoga students to smile with their exhales, even while they were all knotted up in garudasana.  After class, they looked quite relaxed--this breathing technique worked for them.  So now you've got a tested recipe for mindfulness, a way to help you stay tuned in to the present moment. 

What makes you smile?

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Yankee Beans & Greens

What a weekend!  My little brother graduated from high school AND turned 18 all in about three days time.  That's a little much for a big sister to handle all at once.  After that turbulence, I decided I wanted to eat something a little bit fresh, a little bit simple, and more than a little bit tasty. 

If you're feeling a little out of sorts like I was, just stare real intently at some rainbow chard.  I found the most beautiful bunches at the market and when I got home, I just looked at them for a while.  Fuchsia veggies...come on! 

The prospect of these 'greens' immediately transported me back to my first day as a waitress at Cracker Barrel (I had only recently crossed the Mason-Dixon Line at that point).  In a drawl thick as an oil (ohl) spill, a customer requested some beans 'n greens with vinegar on the side.  I believe I questioned my migration South at that point.  It has taken about seven years for the trauma to subside and just this week I made my own version of beans 'n greens.

Yankee Beans & Greens
If you're feeling sassy, this looks like a great recipe for homemade baked beans (just omit the bacon!).

For the Greens:
2 bunches of rainbow chard
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 large onion, diced
Salt & pepper to taste
Red wine vinegar to taste

1.  Wash the greens well.  Remove and discard (aka compost!) the stems.  Trim away thick mid-ribs from the leaves.  Discard them or slice thinly and use.  Chop leaves coarsely.
2.  Heat oil in a large stock pot.  Add the onion and saute over medium heat until golden.  Add the greens, cover, and steam until tender.  (If you decide to use other kinds of greens like kale or collards, you will need to add 1/4 to 1/2 cup of water to keep moist and steam longer, about 10 to 15 min.)  Allow 3-5 min to steam chard.
3.  Remove from heat and season to taste with salt, pepper, and red wine vinegar.

For the Beans:
I just used a large can of vegetarian baked beans.  Put them in a small sauce pan and heat through on the stove.  The special part about the beans is what you serve them on:

Hearty Whole Grain Cornbread Muffins (makes 12)
A lot of the corn muffins I've tasted are too sweet, especially to be served with baked beans.  This is my tweaked recipe with less sugar.  If you like your cornbread sweet (like Jiffy), add up to 1/2 cup of sugar.
1 cup cornmeal
1 cup whole wheat flour
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 1/3 cup milk
3 tbsp butter, melted

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Grease muffin pan.
2.  In a large bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
3.  In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg.  Beat in the milk and the butter until completely combined.
4.  Using a wooden spoon, stir liquid into dry ingredients until just moistened.  (Don't mix too much or the muffins will have tunnels).
5.  Divide batter evenly among the muffin cups.  Bake 18-22 min or until lightly browned on the top.  My muffin pan is non-stick so mine usually cook up by 12 - 15 min.

Get cookin with this summery comfort food.  What do you think about greens?  Are they too bitter for you?  Do you like your corn muffins sweet or not?  I want to know what's going on in those heads of yours out there in the blogosphere.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Cilantro Pesto!

It's so dang hot y'all.  My cilantro & oregano aren't fairing too well out there on the balcony in the heat...and I'm afraid it's not much cooler in here.  I snipped off the most descent looking strands of the oregano and hung them upside down to dry.  The living room smelled so nice for a little while.  I had much bigger plans for my cilantro, however.

Now for some reason, not everyone likes cilantro.  Some people think it tastes like soap.  I am not one of those people.  I think cilantro is Om Om flippin delicious.  This is the whole reason I decided to try my hand at herb gardening.  Unfortunately, my cilantro was a little patchy, a little yellow, a little sad.  I'm going to be honest with you, I only used a tad bit of my own cilantro in this recipe, as in like 3-5 leaves.  I found a lovely bunch of green organic cilantro at the store last week that I needed to hurry up and use (there's only so much you can garnish!).  This is what I did:

Cilantro Pesto!
If you are a cilantro hater, you can always go halv-zees with fresh baby spinach leaves.

2 cups pack cilatnro leaves
1/3 cup walnuts
1/3 cup shredded or shaved parmesan cheese
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp crushed yellow mustard seed
1 clove garlic
Zest of a small orange 
Dash of crushed red pepper
Salt & pepper to taste

1.  In the bowl of your food processor (a blender will work too), combine all ingredients except olive oil.  Pulse a few times.  Blend and slowly add the olive oil until you achieve desired texture (you can always add more or less oil, 1/3 cup is just a good start).

That's it!  It's so easy.  Spread it on a sandwich; put it on eggs; use it as pizza sauce!  I cooked whole wheat pasta and some frozen mixed veggies (zucchini, squash, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower), mixed in some navy beans and stirred in a spoonful of pesto.  De-lish. 

What do you think about cilantro?  Are you a hater?  Let me know dear readers!