Red Curry with Tofu

September 16, 2010

When the Ingredient Master (a.k.a., my husband) came home from work tonight, I had a craving for something in particular but I knew he wouldn’t like my idea. I ran it by him just to see what he would think. Oatmeal. I know it is strange, but the weather is cool and it sounded delicious. He reminded me of the importance of a balanced meal. I knew he was right, but oatmeal just sounded so yummy!

Since I am eating not only for my health, but for the health of my baby boy as well, I knew I should listen to his suggestion and make a balanced meal. My oats would have to wait until morning. I went into the kitchen to get started while my boys played in the living room.

I have roughly about five dishes that I use as fall-back meals when I don’t feel like cooking. I know how to do them by heart so there is no need for a recipe; no need to think.

  • Pasta (with either an oil sauce or red sauce)
  • Red Curry
  • Eggplant Parmesan
  • Chicken and whatever veggie I can find
  • Fajitas/Tacos

I decided to go with fall-back meal #2: Red Curry. Ordinarily I would have paired it with chicken but I was too lazy to defrost chicken so I went for the tofu.

As I was sautéing the vegetables the Ingredients Master says to me (from the living room), “What are you making?” “Oatmeal” I happily replied.  He asked if I was serious and I said “Does it smell like oatmeal?” He said, “No, it smells like peppers” he paused, sniffed the air, and continued “and onions.” I laughed. “That is because it is red bell peppers and onions.” I told you… there is no hiding from his nose.

This is one of the fastest, easiest dishes to make. It only takes about 15-20 minutes to make. Especially if you are lazy like I was tonight and use fresh tofu.

The following recipe is to the best of my ability. Remember, I make it by heart with no measurements.

Red Curry á la Emily (makes enough for 2)

  • 2 tsp of Red Curry Paste
  • 1 Bell Pepper (any color)- sliced
  • 1/2 of a Large Onion- sliced
  • 1 can of Coconut Milk (we use the lite stuff)
  • Any other veggies you want to put in. I included sugar snap peas and green onions in tonight’s dish. I have also used bamboo shoots and water chestnuts and those add a nice texture.
  • 2 tbsp of brown sugar
  • Crushed Red Pepper (amount depends on how spicy you like it. I normally do about 1/2 tsp or a little less)
  • 1 tsp of garlic powder
  • Dash of lemon peel
  • A bit of cinnamon. You don’t want to use too much.
  • Your choice of protein. I have only made it with Chicken and Tofu.
  • Salt to taste

Sauté the peppers and onion in a tbsp of olive oil in a large deep frying pan or wok. If you are using chicken, salt and pepper it, slice it, and throw it in there too. (If using tofu, it is better if it is lightly fried beforehand in a separate pan). As it cooks, add curry paste and mix around. Once the veggies are cooked but not soggy and chicken is cooked on the outsides add coconut milk. Throw in all the other ingredients and let cook until chicken is cooked all the way through.

I normally taste it several times to see if it is missing anything. Sometimes if it doesn’t taste sweet enough, I add a little granulated sugar. You will also need to salt it to taste.

Serve with rice. We use jasmine rice. But, be careful because the rice tends to “bland” down the taste. Mine always tastes right in the pan, but when I put it over rice it needs more salt and sometimes (for the Ingredient Master) more sugar.

Carmel Coco Delight

September 15, 2010

I think I can say, with confidence, that I just made the world’s best hot chocolate!

Perhaps I should give a little back story before I divulge into my creamy chocolate yumminess.

My husband and I frequently spend time at Barnes and Noble. We have spent many a Sunday reading and sipping lattés at B&N. I love the Starbucks café there. They serve Cheesecake Factory cheesecake and always have my favorite flavor (white chocolate raspberry) in stock. Well last weekend, I had a very intense craving for that cheesecake. After we went to the grocery store to stock up for the week, we stopped to get my cheesecake. I jumped out of the car to make a quick run for my favorite dessert. When I got up to the counter I looked the the pastry case and was shocked to see that my cheesecake was no where to be found. I asked the girl behind the counter where it went and she said it had been replaced with pumpkin cheesecake for the fall. I felt a little piece of myself shed a silent tear. I told her how disappointed I was, but decided to get a piece of the pumpkin cheesecake instead. I looked up and saw they were featuring a new hot chocolate for the fall. It was a carmel hot chocolate. I decided to get one of those as well. I took my cheesecake and hot chocolate back to the car where my husband was waiting for me. I took a sip of my drink and said “This is amazing!” Since my husband is the Ingredient Master, I asked him how he thinks they make it.

For the next couple days I couldn’t stop thinking about this hot chocolate. This morning I decided that I was going to try and make it… from scratch. No hot chocolate mix. No carmel syrup. Hot chocolate is easy enough to make. I make it all the time. Baking cocoa, sugar, and milk… but carmel syrup? I didn’t have the faintest clue what to do. I went to the bookshelf and pulled out my Joy of Cooking cookbook, flipped through the index until I found carmel. I looked at the recipe and read sugar and water. “Well that’s easy”, I thought. I put some water and sugar in a pan and turned the heat on. As I let the sugar dissolve I started questioning myself, as I often do. I went back to the recipe thinking that sugar and water seemed much too easy. Sure enough, there was more to the recipe than what I had originally read. I decided to read it really carefully to make sure I don’t miss anything this time. “Be careful not to let sugar water come to a boil.” Crap. It had been boiling for a good five minutes. I turned the heat down and went back to the book. Add butter and cream. I cut up a little butter, put it in and after it melted and cooked down a little I added a bit of heavy whipping cream. I removed it from the heat and let it set for a couple minutes while I tasted my coco. It was at a good temperature. I poured a little of the carmel mixture into a mug and poured the coco on top. I stirred it up and took a sip. Pure bliss! Let me tell you, Starbucks has got nothing on me. This was creamy, smooth chocolate heaven. I could hear hundreds of tiny little angels gathering around the steamy coco to sing Handel’s Hallelujah chorus in perfect unison.

My only regret was that I didn’t actually measure anything. I just poured the cocoa, sugar, butter, milk, and cream until I felt there was enough. What resulted was a beautiful mixture of sweetness and I hope I can reproduce it in the future.

Live and learn.

First Thing’s First

September 14, 2010

During my upbringing, I was surrounded by family restaurants. One would think that I would have picked up some pretty sweet moves in the kitchen growing up in a restaurant. Au contraire mon cher! The only thing I picked up was the expectation of food magically appearing in front of me and leaving the mess for someone else to deal with. Reality hit hard when I realized that it wasn’t normal to have someone else do the cooking, clearing of dishes, cleaning up the cook’s mess, etc. Not to mention that if you wanted someone else to do it for you, you had to pay! No, no… I had to do things myself. And, not just part of it, ALL of it. Since I was a poor college student and could not afford to eat out every night or hire a chef, I was quick to take the easy way out. I quickly learned that “cooking” wasn’t difficult at all. Nearly everything came prepared. You pretty much just had to add water and dinner is ready! Like so many college students (and young adults), I was falling into a very dangerous habit. Then, I met Lou (my husband). He lived in the dorms, but he bought “real” food.  He introduced me to cooking with real ingredients, or as I like to call them, bona fide bites!

I’ll never forget the day he suggested we make pancakes. I went to my kitchen cabinets and looked for the Bisquick, but it was no where to be found. I told him I couldn’t make pancakes because I was all out of the mix. He looked at me like I was crazy and informed me that you don’t need a mix to make pancakes. Now, I’m not stupid. I knew you didn’t need a mix, but I had never made pancakes without it, so I assumed it was difficult. You know what they say about assuming… After I made my first batch of bona fide pancakes, I couldn’t help but wonder “why do they even sell a mix!?” It didn’t take long for me to realize that much of what I was “cooking” from mixes and boxes were just as simple to make from scratch. Plus, when you make it yourself, you know what is going into it. It was a real eye opener for me.

Now, eight years later, I find myself needing to take my cooking skills to the next level. My husband is a great cook. He has skill when it comes to food and taste. His senses are heightened to the point that he can smell a dish and tell you what ingredients are in it. It’s frightening really. I’ve seen him come downstairs when I am making something and say, “I smell cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, and clove.” And, sure enough, I am making something with all the ingredients he listed. His nose knows.

I’m not a bad cook. I can follow a recipe pretty well. But, I’m not where I want to be. I don’t fully understand food or the science behind it. I can’t look at a group of ingredients and know what to make. I need something in front of me to tell me what to do, step-by-step. I am beginning a journey of food enlightenment with this blog. Here, I will share my findings. I hope you enjoy reading about my bona fide bites.

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