Recipe Review: Coconut Curry Mussels

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Coconut Curry Mussels

Wanna try ’em: Go here for the recipe

My fiancé Chris is an amazing guy; he’s smart, funny, very sweet, and takes wonderful care of me. My only real complaint is that he’s a very picky eater. He won’t eat dishes including shellfish, sour cream, green onions, mayonnaise, hot peppers, mustard, or any sort of vinegar. Sometimes it makes weekly meal planning depressing, I mean a girl cannot live only on tacos and chicken and dumplings.

The mussels in an ice bath with the other ingredients

The mussels in an ice bath with the other ingredients

Chris was out of town this past weekend, which meant I had a whole 2 days to eat anything my little heart desired. I decided to cook a batch of steamed mussels. I love mussels. They’re not super expensive and are really fun to eat (it’s great to be allowed to use your hands and slurp!).  I used to make them regularly in college to reward myself after a project, big exam… or just for surviving a Tuesday. I always steamed them in a lovely tomato-basil broth, but this time I wanted to try something different. Instead of heading down the traditional route and cooking the mussels “a la Parisienne” (in white wine, garlic and herbs) I went Southeast Asian with a coconut curry broth.

Red Curry Paste

Red Curry Paste

This recipe from “How Sweet Eats” requires a few tablespoons of red curry paste. Red curry paste is a little miracle in a jar; I can’t believe I’ve never used it before! It has red peppers, lemongrass, and ginger… basically everything that makes Thai food delicious.  After I swirled a few spoonfuls into simmering coconut milk, the house smelled like my very own Shangri-La.

Mmmm broth of heaven

Mmmm broth of heaven

From start to finish the mussels and their broth take around 20 minutes. The little mollusks seem like they’d be a pain to prep, but they’re really not too bad. They just need to be checked for beards and scrubbed a bit before they can be tossed into the pan. The only thing I didn’t enjoy was having to repeatedly dunk my hands in ice water to retrieve the sleeping bivalves.  One taste of these delicious morsels made the discomfort totally worth it.

A pan full of cooked mussels....my tummy is rumbling!

A pan full of cooked mussels….my tummy is rumbling!

Make sure you have a large sauté pan or wok for steaming the mussels. I find it’s best if all the little shells are steamed in one layer. This helps to ensure that each mussel gets a spoonful of yummy broth. You’ll want to make sure you have a lid that fits snuggly over the pan, as you don’t want the steam to escape and the mussels to stay closed.  As my picture illustrates…the lid doesn’t have to match to make a good seal.

Why yes that's the lid to my dutch oven. Don't judge

Why yes that’s the lid to my dutch oven. Don’t judge

These coconut curry mussels are like potato chips; you can’t eat just one….bowl. They’re fragrant from the curry paste, sweet from the coconut milk and just all around addictive.  I ate 2 full bowls and wanted to try for a third, but then common sense (aka my tight fitting yoga pants) prevailed.  Make sure to have an extra bowl on the table for all the empty shells. You’ll also need some crusty French bread to soak up all the leftover broth, because it would be a crime to leave any remnants of that divine liquid.

Coconut curry mussels and french bread, a match made in heaven

Coconut curry mussels and french bread, a match made in heaven

 

This meal is great for a date with someone special or for a sunny Saturday afternoon alone with a good book and a glass of wine. Though I missed my fiancé over the weekend, these coconut curry mussels softened the blow.  Hmmm….maybe Chris should go out of town more often!

A Perfect Saturday afternoon

A Perfect Saturday afternoon

 

A bowl of the spoils

A bowl of the spoils

Recipe Review: Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grapes

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Honey Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Grapes

Want the Recipe?: It’s in this cookbook

What do you cook when company’s coming for dinner on Saturday night and you know you aren’t going to have a lot of time or energy to fix something complicated? That was my dilemma last weekend. I was scheduled to spend the morning judging a voice competition an hour away from home.  Meanwhile, Daniel, Chris’s cousin, had planned to spend the evening with us hanging out and watching basketball. I wanted to make a decent dinner for the three of us but it needed to be simple and stress free. I also wanted to avoid my usual, overdone “dinner for company” meals (aka pasta and chicken) and try to make something new.

Tchai, wanting to go out side to sit with daddy and Daniel

Tchai, wanting to go outside to sit with daddy and Daniel

Sounds like a challenge, right? Actually it ended up being a cinch due to Jessica Merchant’s fabulous cookbook, Seriously Delish (Side Note: Her blog, “How Sweet It Is”, is one of my regular weekly reads). In the book there’s a recipe for honey glazed pork tenderloin with roasted grapes that looked like it would fit my needs perfectly. I was a little hesitant at first (I had never cooked pork tenderloin before), but Chris seemed excited by it and Jessica’s recipe called itself foolproof, so I thought I could handle it.

The ingredients for the pork

The ingredients for the pork

One of the things that drew me to this recipe was the roasted grapes. I first had them a little over a year ago in a cooking class and I was blown away by how delicious this underrated fruit can be with a little time in the oven. Once they’re roasted the grapes take on a deep sweetness that makes me think of really great homemade jam. You can put them with anything; desserts, toasts, or chicken, but they are really perfect in this recipe with the honey glazed pork.

Searing the tenderloins

Searing the tenderloins

I know I say it all the time (possibly in every blog post) but this dish is incredibly quick to throw together. Searing the pork, glazing it, and combining all the remaining ingredients in the skillet took only 5 minutes.  From there, the recipe just goes into the oven for 35-50 minutes. The pork was done so quick it actually had to wait on me and the poorly timed mashed potatoes before it hit the table.

All the roasted yumminess

All the roasted yumminess

Even though the pork was a little cooler than I would have liked, it was amazing. It was sweet from the honey and the black pepper gave just the right amount of spice. The acidity from the soft red onion and the sweetness from the grapes played so well off of each other and gave the whole dish a much needed balance. To me though, the pan sauce with the red wine (we used a Bordeaux), stock, onions and grapes was the best thing on the table. I think I covered everything on my plate in the sauce!

The roasted pork and grapes along with broccoli and mashed potatoes

The roasted pork and grapes along with broccoli and mashed potatoes

Daniel plate, devoid of Pork

Daniel’s plate, devoid of Pork

The boys were super happy with dinner. Chris said he liked the tenderloin a lot, though I’m not sure he really had any of the grapes and onions. Much to my surprise, Daniel really loved the whole thing. He cleaned his plate in less than ten minutes and then went back for seconds, then thirds! He even took half of a tenderloin home the next morning. Throughout the meal and anytime afterwards when the pork was mentioned, Daniel said it was the best tenderloin he’s ever eaten. I think he should he should come for dinner every weekend so that my cooking is regularly praised and my ego boosted. 🙂

Roz, trying to figure out a way to steal a piece of pork without getting caught

Roz, trying to figure out a way to steal a piece of pork without getting caught

Recipe Review: Black Tea and Honey Pound Cake

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Black Tea and Honey Pound Cake

Wanna try it yourself? Here’s the Recipe

 Last week the kitties and I had the house all to ourselves.  Chris was out of town on a business trip and though I miss my fiancée when he’s away, I do enjoy the quiet of being home (mostly) alone. I get to put on PJ’s at 7pm, watch all the British period drama my little heart desires, and the house magically stays much tidier. However, the best thing about being home alone is getting to cook and eat recipes I love without worrying about pleasing my picky eater.

The Tea Cake ingredients

The Tea Cake ingredients

This time my self indulgent recipe was a black tea and honey pound cake from the fabulous blog “The Lady and Pups”.  I love pound cake, it’s uncomplicated, buttery, and satisfies my sweet tooth. This particular recipe is no exception.  The honey in the cake makes it sweet and slightly floral and the black tea gives the cake such a wonderful caramel-y aroma. Speaking of tea, I used a combination of Earl and Lady Grey tea, my favorite winter afternoon brews. They add a slight citrus note to the cake which I really like.  If you wanted a stronger tea flavor, try using an English or Irish breakfast.

mmmm tea milk, smell so good.

mmmm tea milk, smell so good.

 I start the cake by setting out the butter and eggs and steeping the tea milk. The milk takes about an hour to fully steep and cool, but luckily it synchronizes perfectly with the butter coming up to room temperature. If you’re in a hurry, feel free to stick the milk/tea mixture into the fridge and put your butter on the pre-heating oven to soften. Just be careful, you don’t want melted butter for your cake!

The Creamed butter and eggs

The creamed butter and eggs

Tea speckled batter

Light, Fluffy Tea Speckled Batter

In my many years of baking I’ve learned two things that almost always ensure success; whether its cookies, brownies, or cakes. The first is to make sure the eggs and butter are always at room temperature. It makes it much easier to get the ingredients mixed together and a more consistent batter. My other tip is to make sure to take the time (usually 3-5 minutes) to really cream the butter, sugar, and eggs together. It makes the batter light and fluffy and makes a huge difference in the final texture of the cake.

Ready to be baked

Ready to be baked

This tea and honey pound cake is good as dessert with whipped cream, but also a midday snack with fruit preserves, or (my favorite) toasted with cream cheese for breakfast. I actually ate it 3 mornings in a row like that! It’s also great as a hostess gift or as the final course of a dinner party. I’ve taken it to my students a few times, and all I come home with is crumbs!

a slice of supreme yumminess

A slice of supreme yumminess

You know what? An itty bitty part of me is looking forward to Chris’s next business trip and my next self-indulgence! 🙂

Recipe Review: Lime and Coconut Chicken

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Lime and Coconut Chicken

Recipe from Chaos in the Kitchen

Hey Mom, whatcha doin?

Hey Mom, whatcha doin?

I find it really challenging to consistently cook complete healthy meals on weeknights. With busy work schedules and everyday stressers it’s tempting to open up a bag of pre-cooked dumplings or call for take-out. But now, as I’m getting closer to my wedding date, I feel a renewed sense of dedication to cook a healthy weeknight meal. Chris is supportive of this, but, as I’ve stated before, he’s quite a picky eater. So not only should our weeknight meals be fast, simple, and healthy, but they also have to be “fiancée approved”.

All of the marinade ingredients

All of the marinade ingredients

One of my new favorites that has recieved Chris’s approval is lime and coconut chicken from the website Chaos in the Kitchen. It’s a great weeknight dish because it can be prepared in stages throughout the afternoon/evening. I can swing by the grocery store on my way home for chicken and whatever else I need, prep the meat and sauce in 20 minutes, let it marinate the 2 or 3 hours I’m teaching lessons, and then complete the whole dish in the time it takes me to boil some white rice. The flavors are also fantastic. It has sweetness from the coconut milk, a spicy nudge from the pepper and just the perfect tang from the limes.

The marinade before the chicken goes in

The marinade before the chicken goes in

All of the ingredients can be easily procured at any local grocery store. I use a generic curry powder and my very own homegrown cayenne peppers in the marinade. (Side note: Can I just take a second to say how awesome it is to grow your own ingredients? It makes you feel like you can accomplish anything!) The recipe doesn’t specify the kind of oil used for the marinade. I’ve made this successfully with both olive and vegetable oil, so I think it’s up to your preference and/or what’s on hand. I tweak the recipe by juicing the zested lime and tossing it into the marinade bag to add more citrus flavor, it’s a small thing but it really makes a difference.  I also don’t use cilantro….Chris is not a fan.

After 2-3 hours the little lime peak through the marinade, letting you know its done :-) (just kidding!)

After 2-3 hours the little lime peak through the marinade, letting you know its done 🙂 (just kidding!)

The smell of the marinade is one of the highlights of the meal. The curry, coconut, and lime are so deliciously fragrant; it gives me the urge to relax on a beach somewhere with one of those tropical umbrella drinks. I serve the chicken with white rice and a spoonful of reduced marinade on top of everything. The meal is gone within minutes of being put upon our dining room table. The leftovers are fabulous too; I make little rice bowls for lunch and pour any remaining sauce on top of dish before reheating.

The chicken cooking off in the skillet. Smells so good!

The chicken cooking off in the skillet. Smells so good!

In conclusion, this Lime and Coconut chicken is exotic, scrumptious, easy enough to do on a weeknight, and picky eater approved.

Recipe Review: Clementine Ricotta Cookies

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Clementine Ricotta Cookies

Recipe from Yummy Addiction

It’s that time of year again; there’s a gingerbread man wreath on our front door, the house is decorated with tinsel and twinkle lights, the Nutcrackers are on the mantle instead of the cats, and the stereo alternates between Handel, Bing Crosby, and Thurl Ravenscroft. Christmas is almost upon us, which means it’s also time for the joys of holiday baking and Christmas cookies.

the set up...with upside down butter

the set up…with upside down butter

I’ve had a recipe for ricotta cookies with orange and poppy seeds that I’ve wanted to try for a while. I bought a container of ricotta for a party earlier this month but ended up not using it. These cookies seemed like the perfect way to not let the cheese go to waste. I know ricotta seems like it’s more suited to pasta than pastry but that mild, fluffy texture is just right for baked goods…

Butter in my man made force field

Butter in my man made force field

While we’re on the subject of baked goods, let me share a quick story. Our dearest Rosalind has a deep abiding love for butter. Anytime I set a stick on the counter for a few hours to come to room temperature I return to find a rather long tongue shaped divot in one end of the butter and a kitty not too far from the scene of the crime. Now, I have to put the sticks of butter under the glass cake dome to keep it safe from our little fur ball. I sometimes worry about her kitty cholesterol.

look at the pretty poppy seeds peaking through the flour

look at the pretty poppy seeds peaking through the flour

,          All the ingredients mixed together.

The batter only requires the use of a hand mixer and is a snap to put together. The recipe calls for oranges but I had just purchased a box of clementines the day before so I decided to use those instead. It took the zest of three clementines and the juice of one to equal the orange zest and juice specified in the recipe. The clementine zest makes the batter smell citrusy and delicious. The poppy seeds add lovely grey-blue specks throughout the batter and give the cookies great texture.

The little cookie/biscuits/cakes/scones out of the oven

The little cookie/biscuits/cakes/scones out of the oven

  Actually, the term cookie is kind of up for debate. I thought the puffs of yellow and blue flecked dough looked like miniature biscuits as they came out of the oven. Because of their light, fluffy consistency Chris called them “cookie shaped cakes”, while my boss’s wife referred to them as scones. However you want to classify them, they are delicious pillows of citrus and poppy seed goodness.

my clementime icing. Dont worry, the seeds were taken out

my clementime icing. Don’t worry, the seeds were taken out

Once the cookies are cool, they’re topped with a quick powdered sugar icing. I used the juice of one and a half clementines to make the icing the right consistency for glazing. Speaking of that, I tried to make that sophisticated crisscross line pattern with the icing…but it didn’t really work. I used the tip of a spoon (which was not the best tool) and the icing sort of splattered around into these weird misshapen zebra stripes. I eventually gave up and just spooned the icing onto the three dozen cookies and called it a night.

Yeah....glazing didn't go as I'd hoped :-(

Yeah….glazing didn’t go as I’d hoped 😦

Since the glaze is the only super sweet part, I think these cookies are good at any time of day. I had one along with my coffee for breakfast one morning (as well as later that night for a bed time treat  J ). Every person who ate the cookies seemed to enjoy them. A few of my students went back for seconds (and attempted thirds!).  I think these ricotta clementine and poppy seed cookies may be a new Christmas tradition.

glazedcookies

PS. My next post should be Wednesday, December 30th, so a Happy Christmas to you and yours from the 2 Cats family.

a Christmas Wrapped Tchai

a Christmas Wrapped Tchai

Rosalind says "I can bea Nutcracker too Mom"

Rosalind says “I can be a Nutcracker too Mom”

Recipe Review: Pumpkin & Black Bean Chili

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Pumpkin and Black Bean Chili

Recipe can be found at Unconventional Cooking

                It’s been six months since I’ve completed a blog post and a lot has happened in that time. I’ve got a new day job, my voice studio has grown, I made my directorial debut in the fall, and to top it all off I’m engaged!

The moment after I said Yes (and called my parents of course!)

The moment after I said Yes!!! (and called my parents of course!)

I haven’t really been cooking many new recipes because I’ve been so busy…and when I have made something new, I’ve forgotten to take notes and/or shoot pictures. 😦 But now the dust has settled (well, as much as it can) and I’m trying to get back on the horse so to speak.   I decided to use one of my favorite foods to get me back into the groove of recipe testing and blogging, soup.

The ingredient line up

The ingredient line up

I chose a pumpkin and black bean chili that I found on Pinterest (surprise, surprise). I’ve seen several recipes and restaurant dishes that use the pumpkin\ black bean combo and I thought it sounded intriguing and potentially very tasty. Chris was hesitant at first (he’s not a huge pumpkin fan) but said he’d at least give it a try. So one night after teaching a few lessons, I pulled out my small soup pot and gave the chili a whirl.

Mmmmm toasted onion and spices....

Mmmmm toasted onion and spices….

On the outset I made a few adjustments to the recipe. I chose not to use red bell pepper as I didn’t really think it would add anything to the dish. I also substituted granulated garlic for fresh because the bulb I had was really old.  The recipe says to take the time and toast the spices.  I think this step is vital in the success of the meal. In addition to making the house smell like scrumptious cumin, it really makes the flavors bloom and adds more depth to the quick cooking chili. The recipe says to add salt, but doesn’t say exactly how much. I found that the soup needed at least two or three pinches of salt to balance everything out.

Once the 30 minutes of bubbling is complete and the chili is ready, it’s really quite fantastic. It’s got a toasted smoky flavor with a little bit of heat from the cumin and red chili flakes. The canned pumpkin puree makes the chili hearty and filling without being too sweet or “gourd-like”.  Much to my surprise, Chris liked it even though it was a vegetarian meal!

The Chili after 30 minutes of simmering.

The Chili after 30 minutes of simmering.

The recipe makes several topping suggestions for the chili. Chris and I both used some shredded cheddar cheese which added a nice depth of flavor to the bowl. I also put a dollop of sour cream on mine; I thought the chili would benefit from the added tang.  Chris thought the chili was too mushy on day two, but I disagreed, it was even better the second day with the addition of a little greek yogurt on top.

A warm bowl of the good stuff

A warm bowl of the good stuff, pre-toppings

                I may fiddle with a few things here or there, but overall I think this is a very good recipe. I’m super excited that my darling carnivore liked the chili without any animal products.  I might try adding some ground turkey or chicken to a batch at some point for him, but for now I’m just glad he ate a whole bowl of vegetarian chili. This is a great meal for a chilly (wonk wonk) weeknight when you want a hearty dish but don’t have a lot of time.

Recipe Review: Corn Dogs

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Corn Dogs

For the Recipe: http://www.chef-in-training.com/2013/03/easy-homemade-corn-dogs/

Roz trying to find food on the kitchen floor

Roz trying to play with part of a wooden skewer

My apologies dear readers for my long absence, the month of March has been an incredibly busy and stressful time. I spent the first week or so trying to catch up at work from all of the snow days. This included building next year’s class schedule, compiling spring evaluation forms from instructors, and writing somewhere around 100 placement letters for our families.  At the same time, my own students (I teach theatre classes for those who don’t know) had their big yearly showcase. It went super well and I was a very proud mama bear. The very next weekend, we had our studio-wide fundraiser for our May ballet. I ended up MC’ing at the last minute due to a sudden case of Mono. Needless to say, I haven’t really had a lot of down time to relax and think about cooking or blogging.

But now that the craziness has passed and Spring is underway. I am working towards getting on a regular writing and posting schedule. How do other bloggers do it? I have yet to figure out how to juggle all these pieces. Suggestions and hints are always welcome in the comment section.

dukebasketball

Speaking of March Madness, the NCAA tournament is of great importance in the 2 Cats household. Chris is a lifelong Duke fan and roots for his team during the tourney. I’m pretty new to this whole basketball thing; I watched my first game when Duke won its last national title. I was really excited when UGA made it to the dance this year….and annoyed when they got eliminated in the first round *sigh*. This past weekend when Duke was playing Michigan State in the Final Four, I decided I’d make a Chris-pleasing sports appropriate dinner, homemade corn dogs.

I can’t recall ever eating a corn dog before I met Chris. I had an aversion to hot dogs for a while due to a lecture on their contents and processing by a middle school teacher. But eventually I moved past that fear and realized that corndogs are just hush puppy batter covering a sausage of meaty goodness. During one Pinterest session, I stumbled on a recipe from the blog “Chef in Training” and thought, why not?  I can make these; they’re simple and straight forward….and deep fried. Deep fried is always good.

While the Duke/ Michigan State game was in half time, I mixed together the dry ingredients and skewered the dogs. This all took around 10 minutes, which gave me plenty of time to set up the frying oil in my large dutch oven and return to the man cave for the second half of the game. Once the game was over (a.k.a. when Duke was so far ahead there was no possible way they could lose) I started heating the oil and mixed the wet & dry ingredients together. The batter was very fluffy and expanded a great deal due to the amount of baking powder.

the ingredients minus the hot dogs

the ingredients minus the hot dogs

I found that because the batter was so fluffy, getting it on to the hot dogs evenly was challenging. I solved the problem by using the back of the spoon to spread the batter around the hotdogs evenly. I did just one corn dog at a time to maintain consistency, but if you had extra hands I think you could make an assembly line for frying and do 2 or 3 dogs at a time.

Fry puppies, fry

Fry puppies, fry

Once the oil was heated, each corn dog took less than 3 minutes to fry. You have to turn the corn dogs every 30-45 seconds, otherwise the frying won’t be even and you might end up with a corn dog that looks somewhat like a dinosaur (or according to Chris, cow utters). I ended up making only 1 package of hot dogs, so there was plenty of batter left. I made a few hushpuppies from the leftover dough, which were unfortunately disappointing due to lack of flavor. Actually, I found even as corndogs, the batter could be livened up a bit with some spices. I think the next time I make these, I may try adding some turmeric and paprika to the dry ingredients, and maybe some red pepper for a little bit of heat.

The corn dogs do lend themselves well to additional sauces and sides. Chris served his pair of corn dogs with some canned hot dog chili (ew). I dipped mine in some homemade sriracha mayo though I think some plain ketchup & mustard would be good as well.

a pair of finished corndogs awaiting sauce

a pair of finished corndogs awaiting sauce

I think once I figure out the spice mixture these corndogs will be perfect for a summer get together or another sporting event. Then again, now that Duke is the tournament champion, I may be required to make these every year as part of the 2 Cats household superstition.