Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Tropical Kale Salad with Creamy Pineapple Coconut Dressing

Did you know that massaging raw kale gives it a slightly wilted texture, so that it's softer?  Neither did I!  I bumped into a whole new world of kale salads and learned that the die hards rub some dressing into the kale and let it marinate before eating.  Crazy town!

But let's get back to this salad.  I've started calling it "scurvy salad" because of its healthy dose of Vitamin C while we're still seeing chilly winter weather outside.  It's basically an island vacation on a plate.  Coconut, lime, pineapple, mangoes, banana.... I'm telling you - it's the cheapest tropical vacation you'll ever take.

And we're bringing back those Chia Seeds again.  This time, not only do they add some fiber and omegas to your dressing, they also serve as a thickener.  This recipe takes advantage of how Chia Seeds absorb liquid and create a gel, and use that to thicken the dressing naturally.  I love it!

And a secret?  That dressing is pretty delicious when drizzled over coconut milk ice cream.  I may or may not be stuffing my face with it as I write...

I Feel A Tan Coming On,

p.s.  Happy Leap Year!

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Tropical Kale Salad with Creamy Pineapple Coconut Dressing
adapted from Oh She Glows

For the dressing:
1 c. chopped pineapple *
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
3/4 c. coconut milk
1 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 Tbsp. coconut oil, melted
pinch kosher salt
1 Tbsp. honey (if using unsweetened coconut milk)

For the salad:
3 c. packed kale, stems removed and roughly torn
2 c. butter or romaine lettuce
1/2 c. chopped pineapple *
1 c. chopped mango *
1/2 large banana, sliced
1 Tbsp. shredded dried coconut
1/4 c. roughly chopped macadamia nuts or pecans

In a blender, blend all dressing ingredients until smooth.

Then, prepare the kale by adding about 1/2 of the dressing to the kale and massage it in with your fingers. While the kale marinates, chop the fruit.  Toss everything together and top with coconut and nuts and additional dressing as desired.

* Note: I used frozen and thawed chopped pineapple and mango to save on costs, and this recipe turned out great.

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Dressing Ingredient Lineup:

Salad Ingredient Lineup:

Monday, February 27, 2012

Food Rule 63 and Vietnamese Roasted Chicken with Dirty Sticky Rice

Today's Food Rule is about enjoying and savoring food and not rushing through a meal:

It's about appreciating the first bite of a food and understanding that no matter how many bites come afterward - be it 2 or 200 - none will taste as good as that first bite.  It's a Food Rule to help keep pleasure at a maximum and calories at a minimum.  A Chinese proverb sums it up well:  "The more you eat, the less flavor; the less you eat, the more flavor."

I hadn't intended to pair today's recipe with this particular Food Rule, but it was beautifully illustrated as I took my first bite.  This was a new recipe for me, and I was anxious to finally taste how it came together.  And, my, how that bite was delicious.  I'm pretty sure I swooned right there at the dinner table.  That first bite was a perfect slightly crispy and charred texture with tender and juicy insides, and unique flavors that still managed to be familiar.  Oh, that first bite was delicious.  So were the second, third, and fourth bites too.  But none tasted as good as that first forkful into my mouth.

So from here on out, I'm going to try to keep this Food Rule in mind.  I'm especially bad at limiting myself with sweets.  Just this morning, I took two, then three, then four, then five bites of a huge cookie.  A cookie I should not have been devouring before breakfast even.  And in hindsight, that first bite was incredible.  But those subsequent bites were more along the lines of stuffing my face in a sugar-induced delirium.  I could have enjoyed that cookie just as much with one bite, if I had really paused in the moment to savor it.

Savor Things,

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Vietnamese Roasted Chicken (Ga Ro Ti)
adapted from Sunday Night Dinner

2 lbs. chicken thighs, bone-in (about 4 thighs)
1 1/2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 1/2 Tbsp. fish sauce (I prefer Golden Boy brand)
1 1/2 Tbsp. sesame or canola oil, plus additional for frying
5 cloves garlic, minced

Remove skin from thighs and trim excess fat using kitchen shears; set aside.  In a medium bowl, whisk together sugar, pepper, soy sauce, fish sauce, oil, and garlic.  Add the chicken thighs and evenly distribute the marinade between the thighs.  Cover and marinate for 12-24 hours in the fridge.

Heat oven to 350°F and line a medium-sized baking dish with foil.  Heat 1/2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium high heat. Reserving marinade for the rice, add the chicken to the skillet and fry until deep golden brown, about 5 minutes. Flip chicken and brown other side for 2 minutes.  Remove from skillet and place in foil-lined baking dish.  Don't overcrowd chicken during browning; work in batches if necessary.

Roast chicken for 25-30 minutes. To check for doneness, poke the chicken with a knife; the juices should run clear (bone-in thighs 170°F internal temp, boneless thighs 165°F internal temp).  Serve with dirty sticky rice.

Dirty Sticky Rice
adapted from Sunday Night Dinner

1 1/2 c. cooked sticky rice (3/4 c. uncooked)
3 green onions (white and green parts), sliced
2 Tbsp. chicken stock or broth
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove any completely burned bits from the chicken skillet, leaving a thin layer of grease.  When about 10 minutes remain for the roasting chicken, heat skillet over medium heat. Add green onions and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add reserved chicken marinade and cook an additional 2 minutes.  Deglaze skillet by adding chicken stock and scraping up browned bits, and heat through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add cooked sticky rice to pan and fold the scallions evenly into rice. The rice should be a light brown color filled with scallions and de-glazed chicken and garlic bits.

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Roasted Chicken Ingredient Lineup:

Dirty Sticky Rice Ingredient Lineup:

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Neapolitan Cake with the Best Whipped Frosting

As promised, I'm back with recipes!!

Whew, I had to take a bit of a breather because I've just been pooped all week.  I suppose that staying up past my bedtime to catch back up from being gone isn't helping much in that department.  Anyway!  I'm back.  Back to my ways of dreaming about recipes to try out and tweak and photograph.

Of the recipes I used for this massive (I'm not kidding - the assembled cake easily weighed 5 pounds) cake, the one that should snatch your attention and reel you in is the frosting.  This frosting is pretty dang amazing.  It's fluffy yet incredibly silky and just tastes like heaven.  It doesn't overpower your cakes, yet it's got a delicate vanilla flavor that will make you melt into a helpless puddle. You. Must. Make. This. Frosting.

You must.

Dreaming About That Frosting,

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Vanilla and Strawberry Layer Cakes
adapted from Martha Stewart

1/4 c. all-fruit strawberry jam
1/3 c. diced strawberries
drops of pink food dye, optional
3 c. (390g) cake flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
1 1/2 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c. (400g) sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. milk
8 large egg whites
1/4 c. (50g) sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray two 9-by-2-inch round cake pans; line bottoms with parchment paper rounds. Set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the all-fruit jam, strawberries, and optional food dye.  Set aside.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and 2 cups sugar until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low speed, add flour mixture in three parts, alternating with milk and beginning and ending with flour; beat until just combined. Transfer mixture to a large bowl; set aside.

In the clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites on low speed until foamy. With mixer running, gradually add remaining 1/4 cup sugar; beat on high speed until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 4 minutes. Do not overbeat. Gently fold a third of the egg-white mixture into the butter-flour mixture until combined. Gently fold in remaining whites.

Pour half the batter (about 830g) into a prepared pan, smoothing with an offset spatula.  Fold strawberry mixture into remaining cake batter and pour into second prepared pan.  Bake until cakes are golden brown and a cake tester inserted in centers comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Transfer pans to a wire rack to cool 20 minutes. Invert cakes onto rack; peel off parchment. Reinvert cakes, and let them cool completely, top sides up.

Chocolate Layer Cake
adapted from Martha Stewart

1/2 c. (46g) cocoa, pref. dark cocoa
3 oz. strong coffee, boiling
1/2 c. milk, room temperature
1 1/3 c. + 1 Tbsp. (179g) cake flour
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 c. unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/4 c. (250g) sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 large eggs, room temperature

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter or spray one 9-by-2-inch round cake pan. Line with parchment paper round.

Sift cocoa; whisk in boiling coffee and milk. Let cool. Whisk together cake flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

Using a rubber spatula, mix the butter in a large bowl until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually add sugar and vanilla. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Pour in the cooled cocoa mixture. Mix until fully incorporated.

Add the sifted dry ingredients to the chocolate mixture, stirring until just combined. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 35 minutes, until a cake tester comes out clean when inserted into the center.

Remove the cake from the oven, and allow to cool in pan for 15 minutes on a cooling rack. Carefully run a small offset spatula around the edge of the cake to loosen from the pan. Remove cake from pan, and invert onto a wire rack. Let cool completely, about 1 hour.

Best Whipped Frosting
adapted from Can You Stay for Dinner

2 c. milk
10 Tbsp. (80g) flour
1 Tbsp. vanilla
2 c. unsalted butter, very soft
2 c. (400g) granulated sugar (not powdered sugar)

In a medium saucepan, whisk milk with flour until completely dissolved. Heat over medium until the mixture begins to sputter, whisking constantly. Continue to whisk as the mixture thickens. You will know it’s done when it reaches the consistency of thick cake batter, after about 7 total minutes of heating and whisking. Stir in vanilla set aside to cool completely.

Now, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment beat softened butter with granulated sugar until light, fluffy, and white in color, about 5 solid minutes of beating on medium-high speed (Kitchenaid speed at 8). You want the sugar to be totally incorporated into the butter.  If you're adding food dye, beat it in now.

Be sure that the milk/flour mixture has completely cooled, and add it to the butter/sugar mixture. Beat all ingredients for about 3 minutes on high speed, scraping down the bowl often, until they are smooth and well blended. The frosting should be as light and fluffy as whipped cream.

Note:  This recipe makes a ton of frosting.  You'll need it to frost a cake with three layers.  But if you're making this for a standard cake or cupcakes, divide this recipe in half.

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The frosting's cooked flour and milk mixture will be thick, with the consistency of a thick cake batter.

After the flour and milk mixture is completely cooled, add it to the creamed butter and sugar.
And beat the heck out of it with your mixer's whisk attachment.

Slap some of the frosting on the chocolate cake layer and spread evenly to the edges.
Top with the strawberry cake layer.

Slap on more frosting, and spread to the edges.

Top with the white cake layer.
Notice that my hands are exactly like my mom's.
Smile :)

Dump all remaining frosting on top of the cake.

Spread frosting to the edges.

And continue spreading the frosting down the sides of the cake,
until cake is completely covered and frosting is even and smooth.

I eat my cake layer by layer.  What up!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Neapolitan (Birthday) Cake

Happy Birthday to meeeeee,
Happy Birthday tooooo meeeeeee,
Happy Birthday, dear Saraaaaa
Happy Birthday to meeeee! 

Psst!  Today's my birthday!!  Which means I'll be eating far too much cake and refusing to share with anyone, woohooo!  We were out of town all weekend, so the recipe for this amazing confection will come later in the week.  I just wanted to share exciting (-for-me) cake photos on my big day :)

Making A Wish,

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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Food Rule 21 and Green Smoothies

(Lest you think I've gone off the deep end with my treats consumption, ha!)

I'm going to throw down some honesty here today.  That up there?  That's my breakfast every day.  Yep.  A huge green smoothie that I suck down while I'm sitting in traffic, on my way to work.  Why?  Obviously I'm capable of making other, more traditional items to eat.  But why am I eating 3 overflowing cups of kale and spinach for breakfast?

Because I'm waging a war on my acne.  There you have it.  My skin has the ability to go from allllmost clear to a disaster within a matter of a couple of days.  It's 90% of the reason I avoid dairy.  Dairy hormones and sugars make my acne (and body hormones) fly out of control, resulting in painful red bumps and cysts on my face.  Which then turn into dark scars.  It's not exactly a great way for a girl to go out in the world, especially considering that wearing a bag over my head isn't something I've been able to pull off.  (Yet.)

Now, I'm a firm believer in healing my body from the inside.  I've done just about everything for eliminating external irritating detergents and fabric softeners and body washes.  So, when my skin flares up, I know that something isn't happy on the inside.  After reading a bit about alkalinity and watching this video, I really felt compelled to get more greens in my diet.  Which is perfect for another Food Rule:

I've raved about greens in the past, but short of throwing them into every single dinner, I couldn't figure out a way to get more into my diet.  Until I started seeing Green Smoothies pop up everywhere.  They sound iffy at best - Spinach for breakfast?  Raw?  And you drink it??  Yes, indeedy, my friends.  And they taste really, really good.  Throw in a banana and some other fruit, close your eyes, and you don't even know it's loaded with leafy green vegetables.  I swear.

I follow this basic recipe for my breakfasts each morning:

Some Chia Seeds for omegas, fiber, protein, and energy
3 huge handfuls of greens - usually kale or spinach
1 fruit to make things sweet - a ripe banana or an apple
1-2 other fruits for flavors - raspberries and mango together are really good!

Note: If you add red or blue berries, your smoothie color won't be as vibrant green.  Because red + green = kinda brown in color.  Which equals disgusting photos, lol.  I didn't want to scare you away any more than I already might be, so I left the fruit for this recipe pale in color so that all you see is that gorgeous green!

What do you all think??

Are you already a Green Smoothie aficionado?
Tempted to come over to the vibrant green side of the fence?
With Bo in thinking that my breakfast is too whack to even consider? :)

My Hippy Roots are Showing,

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Green Smoothie

2 Tbsp. chia seeds
1 c. water
3 c. kale, chopped with stems removed
1 c. frozen peach slices (unsweetened)
1 banana, sliced and frozen

Soak Chia seeds in water for at least 5 minutes, as you gather the remaining ingredients. Add ingredients to blender in this order: Water with soaked Chia seeds, kale, banana, and peach slices. Blend until smooth.  Makes one 24oz. smoothie.

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Seriously, check this out.  These are the numbers for my recipe above:

It's a pretty great way to start the morning, am I right?!

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