Thai Coconut Soup

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With the Winter season in full swing, everyone is looking for the heavy, hearty, warm dishes to savor on a cold brisk evening. Folks will often say that the cold weather is the best for soup season,Β  I respectfully disagree. I love a nice bowl of Tomato Bisque with a grilled cheese sandwich in the middle of the summer, or a bowl of Pho just because It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed one.Β  Soup is the one thing I haven’t made yet this winter and I had a craving for something spicy, a dish with a little heat and something out of the ordinary aside from the common split pea, chicken noodle, chili and beef barley that everyone showcases this time of the year.

I opened up the pantry to dig through the dry goods and see what I could come up with. I came across two cans of Coconut Milk and said “boom, a Coconut Curry Soup!” Unfortunately the only curry I had on hand was yellow curry powder, not what I was looking for, so I made a version ofΒ  Tom Kha Gai (Thai Coconut Soup) instead, minus a few key ingredients because I didn’t have them on hand. Coconut milk has a thick consistency, and a rich, creamy texture. Coconut milk comes from the flesh of mature brown coconuts (not to be confused with coconut water which is found naturally in immature green coconuts). This milk is found in many cuisines around the world ie: Southeast Asian (Thai), Hawaiian, and the Caribbean.Β 

I’ve personally always loved coconut. From the dried shavings that are in desserts, to the cream used in Pina Coladas. I know plenty of people that don’t enjoy coconut as much, but I believe it’s because they’re consuming all the wrong stuff! The battery on my Nikon died and until I replace it, I’m stuck using my camera phone for pictures, so I apologize if the photo quality isn’t the best. The pictures don’t do this soup justice! If you like heat, coconut and ginger, this soup is worth a try! The coconut milk adds a wonderful sweet balance to smooth out the spice from the chili paste.Β 

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Mise en Place:

  • 2 Cans Coconut Milk (full fat, be sure it’s milk and not cream!)
  • 1 Cup Baby Bella Mushrooms, sliced
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Fresh Ginger, minced
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, julienne
  • 2 Cups Stock (I used homemade Chicken stock, vegetable works fine!)
  • 2 Limes, juiced
  • 1 1/2 Tablespoons Fish Sauce
  • 1/4 Teaspoon Chili Paste
  • 6 Oz Pack Rice Noodles, prepared according to package
  • 1 Small Bunch Fresh Cilantro
  • S&P, TT

Method of Prep:

  • In a large sauce pot over medium heat, add a tablespoon Oil and cook onion until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add in garlic, and fresh ginger, cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add in Mushrooms, season with a little salt and pepper.Β  Stir and allow to cook for an additional two minutes.
  • Pour in Stock and coconut milk, mix well. Season with more salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat, add in chili paste, fish sauce and lime juice. Stir and allow to simmer slowly for 20 minutes. Taste, adjust seasoning if needed.
  • In a serving bowl, add in 1 handful of rice noodles. Add in hot soup and garnish with cilantro.
  • Enjoy!

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Coconut Crusted Tofu with Peach Salsa

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I’m always looking for new ways to cook with tofu. I came across a recipe similar to this one on the eating well website.Β  I made a few changes in the recipe for it to suite me. This recipe makes a very light meal and is excellent for the summer. If you’re not a fan of tofu you can substitute chicken for the protein.

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Serves: 2

Active Time: 10 Minutes

Total Time: 15 Minutes

Gluten Free/Vegan/Grain Free/Dairy Free/Refined Sugar Free (substitute maple syrup)

Mise en Place:

-2 Medium Peaches, peeled and cut in small chunks or diced

-1 Jalapeno, seeded and diced small

-1 Tablespoon fresh chopped Cilantro

-1 Tablespoon Brown Sugar

-1 Tablespoon Rice wine Vinegar

-1/3 Cup Unsweetened Coconut flakes (I used Sweetened)

-2 Tablespoons of Gluten Free Flour OR Rice Flour (AP works fine!)

-2 Tablespoons Corn Starch

-1 Package Firm Tofu, drained

-2 Tablespoons Oil

-Salt, TT

 

Method of Prep:

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

-Combine peaches, jalapenos, cilantro, brown sugar, vinegar and a teaspoon of salt in a small bowl. Stir to combine. Set aside.

-Mix coconut flakes, flour, a teaspoon of salt and cornstarch in a shallow dish. Cut the block of tofu lengthwise into 5 thin steaks. Pat the tofu dry with a paper towel. Season both sides with salt and pepper.

-Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saute pan on medium heat.

-Press both sides of tofu in flour mixture to coat.

-Place tofu into the frying pan. Cook until golden brown on both sides (Approximately 2 minutes each) Adjust heat to avoid burning.

-Transfer tofu to a sheet tray and bake in the oven for 5 minutes.

-Serve over rice and top with salsa.

Enjoy!

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Serving Suggestion:

-The tofu and salsa are great on their own, however I recommend cooking off some white rice and drizzling a little bit of soy sauce and sriracha on top of rice and garnish with scallions. Place 2 tofu steaks on top, spoon salsa over tofu and drizzle a little bit of the juice from salsa around the rice. (See pictures)Β  YUMMY!

 

 

Dinner With a Vegan

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I first met Jessica a few days after Brandon and I had gotten settled into our new place in FL almost a year ago. We happened to both be in the parking lot, I was coming home and she was leaving. We stopped and introduced ourselves and I was super excited to see I had a neighbor who was my age and a girl! As I got to know Jessica I found she was a vegan which isn’t a big deal at all. I personally wouldn’t choose to be vegan in my lifestyle, I enjoy bacon and eggs way too much and why others do it is for their own personal reasons.To each their own I say.

Thanksgiving is probably a Vegans hardest holiday. I would find it very difficult to have a dinner party at my house if I knew someone coming was vegan. I would have to do a separate menu just for them. I love the use of butter in my cooking too much to avoid it because of one person. Holidays for a Vegan shouldn’t suck but I feel like they get left out in many way when it comes to family dinners and other dining adventures. Vegans can always bring their own food or talk to who ever is cooking and see if they wouldn’t mind keeping at item or two vegan for them.

I didn’t get to celebrate Thanksgiving this year with family or friends due to work, so when I got an invitation from Jessica to come to her 3rd annual Veagsgiving, I couldn’t resist. I didn’t hold any high standards for her cooking as I do on most everyone else because I knew certain things wouldn’t be served or added to the food that I love. I had gone over to her place the night before the party to help her begin some of the early cooking and preparation. The menu looked good and sounded delicious. I just couldn’t wait to eat it.

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Jessica and I might not agree on the same food but we both love wine so that makes dining together a lot more exciting. I arrived at her place after work, just in time for dinner. I grabbed a plate and took a little bit of everything because I knew this party would give me something to write about. We also for whatever reason decorated our wine glasses with mustaches. See Above.

Veagsgiving Menu:

Appetizer: Carrot Sticks, tortilla chips and Hummus

Entree: Chickpea Cutlets

Sides: Autumn Latkes, lemon and garlic scalloped potatoes, maple cranberry sauce, Ginger and agave bread (muffins).

Salad: Pear, Walnut and Poppy seed Cabbage Salad with a Soy and Brown Sugar dressing.

Dessert: Pumpkin Pie with a Cashew Crust (I love her addition of the pig on top of the pie. Pure Awesome)

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The salad and pumpkin pie were my favorite. I liked the idea of the chickpea cutlets but they were seared a little heard and something in the texture of them made them feel like they were molded with glue making it hard for me to cut with my fork..maybe they just needed to be served hotter than they were?. I loved the concept of the Autumn latkes, all the flavors from the beet, carrot and sweet potato went together perfect. Only problem was, they weren’t peeled before being blended therefore making them taste dirty and bitter. I recommend peeling all root vegetables even if your lazy! The skin makes them taste horrible and there is a lot of dirt…not a great flavor addition. The ginger muffins were tasty but had a weird texture. I later learned they were gluten free muffins which explains the texture. I was invited to bring a dessert so I did. Its always a fun challenge when I have to work with allergies and special diets. Eliminating what I can’t use in my recipes and trying to figure out what that leaves me with and how I can make something magical out of the mystery basket of little ingredients I have to work with. After I made my dessert I realized I had included honey, which if you didn’t know isn’t Vegan! (Honeybees are considered animal product) I told Jessica and she said it’s not a big deal. So I lucked out on that one. These are what I made, I call them Coconut Dreams.

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Active Time: 5 Minutes

Total Time: 10 Minutes

Mise en Place:

-3/4 Cup Almonds

-1/2 Cup Shredded Coconut, plus and addition 1/3 Cup for rolling

-3 Tablespoons Honey (Use maple syrup if Vegan)

-2 Teaspoons Coconut Oil

-1 Teaspoon Vanilla

Pinch of salt

Other Tools:

-Sheet Tray

-Parchment Paper

-Food Processor

-Small cookie Scoop

Method of Preparation:

-Combine all ingredients in food processor and blend until well chopped.

-Roll into balls and roll balls in extra coconut.

-Place on parchment paper lined over a sheet tray and chill in the refrigerator.

Enjoy!

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Keep in mind:

If You happen to have a friend or family member over to your house for dinner one night and they are vegan a few things for you to keep in mind so everyone comes hungry and leaves happy:

-Be careful where you place the meat dish on the table. Don’t set the Turkey or pot roast in front of the guest who is a vegan. That’s just rude and mean.

-Just because someone is vegan, they aren’t thinking in their head everyone at the table eating meat and other animal products is evil! Don’t feel like your being judged by the Vegan.

-Lastly, If you invite a vegan over for dinner, you should probably cook them something vegan so they can enjoy a great meal as well. If you don’t know any vegan recipes search the internet. If you can’t cook well ask your Vegan guest to bring their own food so it isn’t a big deal.

**Note: If you would like any of the recipes off the vegan menu, please contact me through email and let me know which recipe. I’ll be more than happy to share!

Email: Agres12@yahoo.com

Almond Joys

If I’m not mistaken, the most wonderful time of the year comes out of the middle of nowhere each year. It seems as if the holidays arrive faster than the year before. What feels like a few months ago has already been a year since last Thanksgiving and Christmas. While everyone is planning their menus for what to cook for thanksgiving and Christmas, I am beginning my list of sweet treats to bake. My career as a Chef doesn’t give me the option to have the holidays off to spend with family and friends. In lieu of my absence this year I would like to put together mini cookie boxes to send home to my friends and family as a Thank You for loving me and being there for me with your support and a gift to show I’m thinking of them this holiday season.

Along with cookies I’m going to include one or two of my favorite candies. I went through phases growing up of what my favorite candy was. I’ve loved them all and rarely indulge in them anymore now that I’ve read the labels and don’t understand half the crap that is added into candy, plus its not healthy with the diabetes that lingers in my family background.Β  It’s okay to love dark chocolate though and lately I’ve been on an almond joy kick. I don’t know why anyone would dislike almond joy’s. They are made from 4 healthy and yummy ingredients (if made at home of course!). If your on an AJ kick as well, I urge you to try this recipe. As you can tell by the above photo, my chocolate skills are not the best, but I’m not too concerned about the look of it because the taste is spot on. Forget buying this candy from the store. If your doing a lot of baking for the holidays you should add in some candy as well.

Active Time: 15 Minutes

Total Time: 35 Minutes

Yield: 8 Each

Recipe Credit: Deliciously Organic

Mise en Place (Ingredients):

-2 Cups Shredded Coconut

-1/3 Cup Maple Syrup

-16 Almonds

-12 Ounces Dark Chocolate, melted

Other Tools:

-Double boiler

-Food processor

-Sheet Tray

-Wire rack for sheet tray

-Spatula

Method of Prep:

-Process maple syrup and coconut until moist and clumps together.

-Form mixture into ovals. (Approximately 1.5 tablespoons worth of mixture each)

-Place an 2 almonds on top of each mound.

-Melt chocolate over a double boiler until smooth.

-Spoon chocolate over each mound.

-Refrigerate for 10 minutes until firm.

Enjoy!

Jerk Chicken

Before I meander on in this post about an incredible dinner option for you and your family, I want to share with you an Item Brandon came across in the grocery store a couple weeks back. This jerk marinade [pictured above] called “Boston Jerk seasoning, Jamaican Country Style.” I’ve had jerk seasoning both dry and wet on a few items before, and honestly this stuff is out of this world. It’s amazingly powerful in spice and flavor, requiring only 1 teaspoon needed for whatever it is you want to marinate. If you are a jerk seasoning fan or enjoy Jamaican cuisine, check your local grocery store for this marinade and buy some! You will thank me later.

As for this post, one of my absolute favorite menu items in my home is Brandon’s Jerk chicken served with black beans, coconut rice, and roasted bananas [or plantain’s if you prefer] . I ate a lot of chicken as a child so for me chicken is overrated. When I cook with chicken [which I seldom do anymore] I prefer to use chicken thighs for a few reasons: 1.) Dark meat, 2.) It doesn’t get dry like chicken breast does, and 3.) its awesome! You can use breast for this recipe but the wow factor wont be the same. This is a Jamaican dish, so to keep the flavors close and the plate somewhat authentic, I cooked my rice with 1 can of coconut milk instead of water. If your milk evaporates before your rice is cooked you can then add in a little bit of water or milk to finish cooking it. In most traditional Cuban and Jamaican cuisine, fried plantains are added as a side to your meal. I didn’t have plantains on hand, so I substituted using a whole banana roasted in the oven for about 15 minutes, no seasoning or sugar, just slice banana on parchment paper, on a sheet tray, in the oven, BAM. This is an awesome substitute, trust me. Lastly, for the black beans, open 1 15 oz can and pour into a pan [don’t drain the beans] season with some spices and cook until beans are soft. For best results with flavor of chicken, marinate overnight. I really hope you enjoy this dish as much as I do!

Active Time: 25 Minutes

Total Time: 45 Minutes

Ingredients:

-1 Package of Chicken Thighs

-1 Teaspoon Boston Jerk Seasoning

-1 Cup rice

-1 15 oz can Coconut Milk

-1 15 Can Black beans

-1/2 Onion, small dice

-1 Garlic clove, brunoise

-1 Teaspoon Cayenne

-1 Tablespoon Cumin

-S&P, TT

-1 Ripe Banana

Additional Equipment:

-Parchment paper

-Sheet tray

-Canola oil

-2 Sauce pots

-1 Fry pan

Method of Prep:

-Rub 1 teaspoon of jerk marinade all over chicken thighs until fully coated. Cover, place in refrigerator and marinate over night or for a minimum of 4 hours.

-Turn oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Heat a skillet up add oil and once hot, sear thighs until a light dark and crispy coat appears. Approximately 5 minutes on each side.

-Once chicken is seared, place on a sheet tray and finish cooking in the oven until chicken reads 165 or is fully cooked.

-While chicken is cooking, Add rice and coconut milk to a sauce pot. Cover and cook over medium heat until finished. Check often and stir.

-As the rice cooks, Saute onion and garlic until light brown. open a can of black beans into a pot [don’t drain the beans]. Add cayenne, cumin, salt, and pepper. let simmer over medium heat until beans are fully cooked.

-By this point your chicken should be about ready. Pull from oven and let rest.

-Cut the banana on a bias, place on parchment paper and place in the oven for 10 minutes to cook, allowing all the natural sugars to pour from the banana πŸ™‚

-Once everything is cooked and tastes delicious, plate it up and eat.

Enjoy!