Spicy Coconut Red Curry

It was an unassuming restaurant.  Neither littered with elaborate decor nor teeming with fancily-clad waiters wearing bow ties.

Okay, okay fine, it was a bar.  And we stopped in for a quick bite to eat and a brew.  Now, this place was an all American joint…burgers, fries, the whole shebang.   The only thing on the menu sans meat was a random red curry and rice dish.  Seeing as how my options were limited and my stomach was beginning to growl something fierce, I began to order the probably Americanized, bland, and doubtfully tasty dish.  My waitress stopped me mid sentence and began to gush about how delicious it was, about how it was her favorite thing on the menu. I raised an eyebrow but seeing as how it was the only thing I could eat, I went ahead and ordered it!

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I have this strange aversion to ordering dishes that are from one culture at a place that boasts a menu of a different culture.  I don’t know why…I just feel that it can’t be done as well.  Take for instance, when you see a burger on the menu of a chinese restaurant.  Stick to what you know.  With this mentality, I went to take my first bite of the curry dish and was overwhelmed with surprise.  It had hints of coconut, and lemongrass, and paired so well with the rice nestled underneath it.  Who’da thunk?  I took half home and devoured the rest for lunch the next day.

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I usually order mushroom mutter (matar..mattar…? someone help a sistah out here) or chana masala at an Indian restaurant.  The chana masala includes chickpeas simmered in tomatoes and the mutter is green peas and mushrooms in a creamy sauce.  When eating Thai, I love the spicy red curries over rice.  Being the culinary dare devil that I am, I set out to marry the two.  Thai food…welcome, welcome! And in the words of Alanis Morissette, thank you India.

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If you’re not a fan of spice, I would probably recommend that you seek a recipe elsewhere or retreat to the playground swings where you belong.  Just kidding. But in all seriousness, I love spicy food.  I even sprinkled on red pepper flakes after the fact because apparently I was a dragon in a previous life and would like to again try to breathe fire.  The coconut milk adds an element of creamy sweetness to this dish and it is (of course) jam packed with tons of fresh veggies.  The chickpeas are optional but I added them in for extra protein!

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I would start on the rice before anything else.  Thai Kitchen makes a great red curry paste and this paste can be found in just about any grocery store (Note: Trader Joe’s is slackin’ and does not carry it).  I would also recommend using full-fat coconut milk.  Don’t worry, this isn’t the same fat dripping off of your Krispy Kreme.  All Trader Joe’s had was low fat so I used that and wished I would have taken the extra 10 steps across the street to purchase the other version. What can I say, it was raining and my hair was already looking like Mufasa’s mane.

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Spicy Coconut Red Curry

  • 1 small head of cauliflower
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 cup frozen green peas
  • 1/2 onion
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 cup mushrooms (I used cremini)
  • 1 14-oz can coconut milk
  • 2 T red curry paste
  • 2 T brown sugar
  • 2 T soy sauce or tamari if gluten free
  • 1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed (optional)
  • 1 cup brown rice (or white)
  1. Start by cooking the rice.  Combine in a large pot (or just use a rice cooker) 1 cup rice with 2 cups of water.  Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for about 40 minutes, or until all of the water is absorbed.  Set aside, still covered, for about 10 minutes and then fluff with a fork.
  2. While the rice is bubblin’ start another pot full of boiling water.  Cut the cauliflower head into slightly larger than bite sized florets, about 3 cups worth.  Blanch the cauliflower. Blanching? What the S#$*?! Fear not!  It’s just one way to partially cook something and simply means boiling the florets in the water with a little salt for about 3-4 minutes.  Then run the florets under cold water until completely cooled. Pat dry and set aside.
  3. Chop the onion into bite sized pieces and thinly slice the shrooms.
  4. Add the olive oil to a skillet and saute the onion and mushrooms for 5-7 minutes, until brown and tender.
  5. In a wide saucepan over medium heat, mix together the coconut milk, curry paste, sugar, and soy sauce/tamari along with the water.
  6. Add in the cauliflower, mushrooms, onion, frozen peas, and if feeling turned on by the thought of oligosaccharides, the chickpeas.
  7. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, throw some red pepper flakes on top if you’re seeking a dinner/nasal decongestant all rolled into one, and serve over hot brown rice. Enjoy this tasty multi cultural union.

 

Musically speaking, I’m going to have to do a little self promotion. I just love this song and think it’s really beautiful.  It’s been rainy and overcast and I have been so incredibly busy with work, school, and traveling all over, sometimes it’s nice to hear yourself and again be reminded why you fell in love with music in the first place.  This song was written and recorded this summer in Los Angeles right before an epic night where we ran through the city like renegades and watched the sun rise over the Santa Monica boardwalk.  I am dreaming of summer.  Can you tell?  It’s called Lullabye and it’s by myself and the talented and wonderful Kyle Graber. Spin this while you simmer up a hot creamy pot of rice and spices.

Sweet Potato Fudge Brownies

Someone brought it up to me the other day that my blog, The Savvy Sweet Potato, is thus far lacking any recipes containing sweet potato.  Uhh…what? Really? Completely shocked and utterly embarrassed, I figured I should remedy this situation with a recipe for brownies. Redemption at its sweetest:

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High in iron, B vitamins, magnesium, and carotenoids (cancer fighters/immune boosters), sweet potatoes, if you couldn’t already guess, are my absolute favorite vegetable.  This proclamation is huge, because I happen to love all vegetables on planet earth. Sweet potatoes take the cake though (or…brownie….see what I did there?) because they are just so versatile.  For instance, you can turn them into delicious fudgey brownies! I am not pullin your leg here. Read on.

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I have made this recipe several times with pretty good reviews from friends.  But, this time, I tweaked the recipe a bit and these brownies jumped from good to out of this world amazing.  They are made with such a simple list of delicious, nutritious ingredients that when I went to eat one (or three….) for dessert, I actually felt really energized and awake. This led me to the justification that I could eat one for breakfast…but moving on…

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The real game changer was toasting the almonds before I ground them and adding in cacao nibs.  What in the hell are cacao nibs, you ask?  Good question. They’re like the OG chocolate…basically they are just whole natural cocoa beans that have been mechanically split.  They are quite bitter on their own, but impart a rich chocolatey crunch when paired with something a little sweeter. They are packed full of anti oxidants, which is the reason any fashion magazine you read will tell you to eat a little chocolate now and again, it’s healthy for you. However, these little guys are only found in health food stores and can get pricey, so if you would like to make a switch-a-roo, I suggest adding in dark chocolate chips (preferably mini) and taking out the maple syrup. Toasting the almonds adds a layer of rich nutty smokey flavor and is a necessary step, in my humble opinion.

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Completely dairy, sugar, and gluten free, creamy sweet potatoes and caramel-like dates form the bulk of these delicious fudgey brownies.

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Adapted from Deliciously Ella

Sweet Potato Fudge Brownies

  • 2 medium sized sweet potatoes
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1/2 cup buckwheat or brown rice flour
  • 14 medjool dates
  • 4 T cocoa powder or raw cacao
  • 3 T pure maple syrup (omit if using chocolate chips instead of cacao nibs)
  • pinch of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup cacao nibs (or dark chocolate chips…nibs highly recommended)
  1. Start by toasting up them almonds.  Place on a baking sheet and toast in the oven at 350 degrees or put in toaster oven until browned and begin to omit a toasted aroma.  Stir frequently…careful not to burn!
  2. Once toasted up, put almonds food processor and grind until they become almost powdered. Set aside.
  3. Peel and dice the 2 sweet potatoes, then steam for about 20 minutes (they are done when you can poke them with a fork and they’re mushy) then add to food processor
  4. While the taters are steaming, the dates need to be softened.  Place the dates in a bowl of hot water (so water covers all dates) to soak for about 15 minutes, or if lazy like myself, place in bowl of water and microwave for 2-3 minutes.  Take out the pits and add to food processor.  Process dates/sweet potato mixture until crrrrreamy as possible
  5. Mix in bowl with ground almonds and remaining ingredients
  6. Grease a square baking dish with olive or coconut oil (or simply line with parchment paper) and spread batter into pan
  7. Sprinkle brownies with a little cocoa powder and bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes.  Brownies are done when pierced with a fork and the fork comes out dry.
  8. Let brownies cool at least 10 minutes before cutting.  I know this is complete torture, but I promise its a necessity so they have a chance to set. Do as I say and not what I do- be patient.
  9. Pair brownies with a big glass of milk (or soymilk….or almond milk….) and eat yo little sweet potato loving heart out.

Today’s song of choice is an oldie, but of course, a goody.  I have been listening to a lot of old music recently…lots of groovy rock n roll jams from the 60’s and 70’s as well as jazz and blues from the 40’s and 50’s.  Django Reinhardt was a French guitarist who helped develop a new style of jazz guitar due to the fact that two of his fingers were paralyzed and he could only play with his index and middle finger.  “Georgia on my mind” is a sweet little song that I have fallen in love with the last couple weeks.  Play this as you dip your brownie in that milk. Bon appetit!

Toasted Coconut Banana Pancakes

Sunday breakfast.

Am I right, or am I right?

Sometimes you wake up and you’re like, Eggs, let’s do this. Or usually in my case, lethargic bowl of cereal, come to me.  Other mornings you rise and it’s like Woah…pancakes, how on god’s green earth did I survive the past 5 weekdays without your carbohydrate fluffiness in or around my mouth?

I don’t know, either. This breakfast gives Jack Johnson’s hit “Banana Pancakes” a run for its money.  It’s easy. It’s delicious. It’s pretty. No really, see below.

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Eh, eh eh? There has been plenty, plenty of times where I really want pancakes in a bad, bad way but let’s face it sometimes we just don’t feel like whipping out every bowl from the kitchen and going to town. Perhaps the reason being we stayed up too late the night before.  Saturday night, I’m looking at you.

Sometimes we want something easy peasy. This recipe is made in the blender! You just toss the ingredients in and whirl it up. Throw in stuff like a smoothie…AND OUT POPS PANCAKES. Pretty fancy if ya ask me. Sweet bananas, wholesome oats, a little honey and some crunchy coconut to round it all out…these flapjacks are the perfect way to kick off my favorite day of the week! Bonus: they are also free of sugar, wheat, and any dairy.

If you’ve never replaced an egg with chia or flax seeds while baking, it’s the bees knees.  And it’s been a staple in my kitchen for a long time now. Knock out the cholesterol that would normally inundate pancakes by replacing the egg with ground flax/whole chia seeds and swapping out coconut oil for butter.  Chia seeds are chock full of fiber and omega 3 fatty acids while coconut oil boasts high levels of antioxidants and lauric acid (which has beneficial effects on cholesterol levels).  Can you say healthy saturated fats? What a paradox. Toasting the coconut probably takes the most skill in this recipe, but even that requires just a few stirs and some good old fashioned patience. You can do it. Pancakes, come to me.

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Toasted Coconut Banana Pancakes

  • 2 cups old fashioned rolled oats (gluten free, if desired) or 2 cups oat flour
  • 1 1/2 cups toasted shredded coconut (directions below)
  • 2 cups vanilla almond milk (or any non dairy beverage)
  • 1 large ripe banana
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 heaping T honey or agave nectar
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 T chia seed for the “egg” (flax seed will work too, directions below)
  • 3 T water
  • coconut oil for cooking
  1. Start by throwing shredded coconut on a baking sheet at about 350 degrees until it begins to brown. Try to spread it out as evenly as possible. Stir frequently so none of the shreds burn, I would say the overall process takes about 10-15 minutes. Set aside half of the toasted coconut for the topping of the pancakes and place the other half in the blender. Do not blend yet.
  2. Put the oats into a food processor and grind until you make oat flour.  You can also purchase oat flour in the store if you are lazy void of a food processor.  But you should probably invest in one.  Soon.  They’re amazing. Add the 2 cups of flour to the blender. Again, hold off on blending just yet.
  3. To make the “egg,” just combine 1 T of chia/flax seed with 3 T of water.  Let it sit for 5 minutes until it coagulates and becomes gooey or gummy; this will be your binder instead of egg! Add egg to blender.
  4. Then add all other ingredients except coconut oil to the blender and blend it up.
  5. You may have to add more milk or water if the batter is too thick. Use your own judgement here because unfortunately I’ve got a busy schedule this week and am not able to peer over your shoulder with one eyebrow raised.
  6. Heat up coconut oil in a large skillet. Pour a medium sized spoonful of blender batter onto skillet and fry up until bubbles begin to appear.  Then flip and fry the other side.  Side Note: Don’t go Mount St. Helens-ing on me when the first pancake turns out looking a little jacked up. The first one always behaves strangely….be patient and the other ones will come out round and all swell-lookin’. Promise.
  7. Top with the rest of the toasted coconut, some organic maple syrup, and even some almond butter if you’re feelin’ crazay.

 

If I’ve got these delicious pancakes toasting on the griddle, coffee brewing, my bike shoes laced up, and this song playing on a Sunday morning…it’s guaranteed to be a good day.

I am really becoming fond of gypsy jazz. A very special friend of mine made me a mix with a bunch of music…& here is one of the songs that has been on repeat. Lively, but surprisingly soothing, this song is called B-612 by The Gonzalo Bergara Quartet.  I love making Sunday breakfast to music like this. Oh, happy days 🙂

 

Tropical Salmon with Coconut Black Rice

Coming home from vacation is always bittersweet.  One second you’re skipping along singing kumbaya because it was so beautiful and the sun was so pretty and that IPA was so frosty and then the next, you’re ready to break down into tears when you see that leaning tower of pisa pile of laundry and the 18 unopened bills smashed into your mailbox.  I must say, though, that the good always outweighs the bad and I feel rejuvenated and blissful.

I hiked, I laughed, I climbed more than a few trees.  Life is good:)  Culinarily speaking, it was hit or miss.  My brother decided Top Ramen was good trail food and so I ended up eating my body weight in Sweet & Salty granola bars.  But, we did go out to a few fancy shmancy restaurants in Los Angeles and I had some delicious seared tuna one night and some sushi another. Naturally, it evoked in me a burning desire to cast out my fishing pole and catch what I could for dinner at home.  Hah.  And by that I mean defrost some frozen fish and get to cookin’. I may get down down in the kitchen from time to time but this isn’t Cast Away, mkay?

I don’t cook fish very often because I usually prefer it grilled in the summertime.  Whatta’ snob. But because the grill and I got more beef than Biggie and 2Pac, this means a person who knows how to properly use the grill is a necessity.  I usually cook alone. This renders me hopeless, and also lame.

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A fish dish for me most likely translates into throwing some olive oil on a fillet of salmon, dousing it in a hefty cloud of salt and pepper, and throwing it in the oven for 10 minutes. Nothing very fancy and nothing worth posting. However, this past summer I remember someone who was grill-certified (hint: not me) grilling up some mahi mahi one evening and I paired it with a mango chutney and brown rice cooked in coconut milk.  It turned out pretty groovy to say the least. I wanted to incorporate something equally interesting with the salmon I bought at Trader Joe’s months ago that is about to transpire into fillet-o-freezer-burn.

Enter: marinated salmon with a tropical fruit relish and ginger coconut forbidden black rice.

Welcome, welcome.

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Sounds legit, right? This salmon is also cooked in a pan and not on the grill so it is dummy-proof.  Unless you are more of a dummy than me (who is still unable to beat anyone at a game of Candy Land) which is pretty much, I have decided, a physical impossibility.

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Moving ahead.  Sorta obsessed with this recipe. In this refreshing take on glazed salmon, the rich tropical fruit pairs perfectly with the sweetness of the glaze and also against the nutty chewiness of the black rice.  If you have never tried black “forbidden” rice, which actually cooks up sort of purple, you won’t be disappointed. Find it by the normal rice (duh) or in the bulk bins! 

Tropical Salmon with Coconut Black Rice

For the salmon:

  • about 1 lb or two decent-sized fillets of salmon
  • 1 T honey or agave nectar
  • 2 tsp soy sauce or wheat-free tamari sauce
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp minced fresh ginger
  • juice from half a lime

For the fruit relish:

  • 1 ripe mango
  • 1 ripe kiwi
  • 1 or 2 large strawberries
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 cup orange juice (fresh squeezed, if possible)

For the rice:

  • 1/2 cup black “forbidden” rice
  • 2 1/2 cups water
  • 1 T minced fresh ginger
  • 1/4 cup cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • juice from half a lime
  1. Begin by making the rice!  From the rice section of the ingredient list, heat up the coconut oil over medium in a decent sized pot. Once it’s melted, add the T of ginger and cook until fragrant (a couple minutes).  Add in the rice and salt and stir well, stir like you mean it. Then add in the water and stir, bringing the mixture to a simmer.  Cover and boil for about 45 minutes, stirring throughout.
  2. While the rice is cooking, marinate those salmon steaks. Place the first 7 ingredients from the salmon section of the recipe in a plastic bag or baking dish and toss salmon steaks…sufficiently coating each one.  Seal the bag or cover the baking dish and let marinade for up to 30 minutes in the fridge, turning pretty frequently so they soak up the maximum amount of glaze!
  3. When the water from the rice is sufficiently evaporated, turn off the heat, let stand 5 minutes, and fluff with a fork.  Stir in juice from 1/2 a lime and 1/4 cup cilantro.  The rice will still be relatively sticky so don’t look all surprised when it comes out wetter than something like Basmati rice. Basmati is old school, baby.
  4. When the salmon is marinated, whip out a frying pan.  Throw in some some olive oil or cooking spray and heat up to medium.  Drop the salmon steaks in and cook thoroughly on each side. Unless you’re into the whole raw fish thing, which is great, except that this salmon is not sushi grade and therefore I do not recommend indulging in your inner grizzly bear. Should take about 5 minutes of cooking on each side…you will see the really pink middle turn opaque when done.
  5. While you’ve got this goin’ on, chop up all the fruit from the fruit relish part of the ingredient list.  Stir in the orange juice and cilantro.  I would really recommend fresh squeezed OJ, however snobby that sounds. It’s flavor is so refreshing and tart over the standard taste of the orange juice in a box. But I digress….
  6. Top the salmon with the fruit and pair it with the rice. Not only does your plate look like the rainbow, the way it tastes is sure to win over every salmon-skeptic. You’re welcome.

 

I’ve got a sweet, creamy, dreamy song for you today.  This pop-synth jam is by an up and coming band called Young Summer. Listen to “Waves That Rolled You Under” and let it trickle into your ears on a hot night. Once you taste this dish, you’ll want to take a drive and blast this with the windows rolled all the way down.