Sunday, January 19, 2014

In: Butter Chicken Curry with Rice and Spinach

The boyfriend and I made this low-FODMAP butter chicken curry recipe, and it was quite good. We made a couple of modifications by just tasting and adding things, but the recipe was a good base. A few notes:

(1) We didn't have cardamom pods, so we substituted the 1tsp of cardamom with 1/2tsp of cinnamon and 1/2tsp of nutmeg.
(2) Our dish turned out looking redder than in the linked recipe, so you may want to play around with the amount of tomato you put in
(3) The linked recipe suggests marinating the chicken overnight--we weren't patient enough so we just let it marinate for 20 minutes.

Check out the original recipe here.

Step 1: Gather your ingredients
2 chicken breasts (or 4 tenders)
5 roma tomatoes (or 500g of any other tomato, fresh or canned)
5cm ginger
1 jalapeño
160ml coconut milk (we used the whole can instead)
1/2tsp nutmeg
3Tbsp lemon juice
1tsp cinnamon (1/2tsp for the marinade, 1/2tsp for the curry)
1/2tsp cumin
1tsp chili powder
3tsp coriander
3Tbsp olive oil (1Tbsp for the marinade, 2Tbsp for the curry)
1tsp black pepper
2tsp salt (we used 2tsp but thought it tasted too salty--I suggest putting in less and maybe adding more later)

Step 2: Prepare the chicken
Combine the the marinade spices (lemon juice, 1/2tsp cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, coriander, 1Tbsp olive oil, black pepper, salt) in a medium-sized bowl.

Then, cut up the chicken into bite-size pieces and add to the marinade.
Marinate for as long as you can/want, but either way, make sure to cover and put in the fridge.

Step 3: Begin preparing the curry sauce
Note: The instructions in the linked recipe were a little unclear about the order of these steps. I've laid it out a bit more clearly.

Before you start preparing the curry sauce, set the oven to 200degrees. You'll be using it soon.
So first things first, chop up the tomatoes, jalapeño, and ginger (Note: you may want to remove the seeds from the jalapeño before chopping it up, but if you like it super spicy, you may dare to leave them in!) The vegetables don't need to be chopped finely--the blender will do that for you later.
Cook the vegetables down in a large saucepan using the remaining 2Tbsp olive oil. Here I fudged the recipe a bit--I accidentally added the coconut milk before blending the cooked vegetables. Either way, you basically need to cook down the vegetables (in olive oil only or in the coconut milk) until they are pulpy. 

Step 4: Bake the chicken
While the vegetables are cooking on the stove, you should put your chicken in the oven. It only needs to cook for about 12-15 minutes.

Step 5: Finish cooking the curry sauce
Once the vegetables are cooked down, let it cool down a little and then throw them in the blender until there are few to no chunky pieces. Return the blended vegetable mixture to the saucepan.
At this point, if you haven't added the coconut milk, please do so. Also add the remaining 1/2tsp nutmeg and 1/2tsp cinnamon to the saucepan.

If you've timed it right, the chicken will have cooked for about 12-15 minutes at this point, so you can add that to the sauce now as well.
Let everything simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

Step 6: Enjoy!
Serve with some rice or other sides. We quickly made some spinach with almonds and dried cranberries.
This is a quick and easy side: just wilt a bunch of spinach in some olive oil, and add chopped almonds and some dried cranberries (or raisins). That's all there is to it.

Bon appétit!


Monday, January 13, 2014

Out: Dinner and a movie ("Her" and Absolute Noodle)

This post is a bit late, but I wanted to share about my dinner and a movie night with the boyfriend.

We caught the 3pm showing of the movie "Her" at E Street Cinema (cool theatre in downtown DC that shows indie films and serves beer!). The movie was quite entertaining, albeit awkward and inappropriate for kids. I don't want to ruin it for anyone who hasn't seen it, but it's basically about a guy and his unconventional girlfriend in futuristic Los Angeles. Something I noticed in the movie that I thought was funny is that all of the men's pants are worn really high...

Anyways, after the movie, we went to Absolute Noodle, a Thai noodle place in Chinatown. We checked in on Yelp and got free veggie spring rolls:
which were delicious. The outer layer was super crispy and not greasy, and the inside filling was piping hot and flavorful. I got the Pad Thai with beef (recommended by the waiter):
and the boyfriend got the lemongrass soup with chicken:

I usually don't feel too strongly about Pad Thai, but I would go back there just for the dish! I won't profess that it's the best thing in the world, but it's great to find a decent low-/average-cost restaurant that serves pretty decent food, especially in "Chinatown," which is full of chain restaurants (e.g., McDonald's, Chipotle, Nando's, Chop't, California Tortilla).

Overall, it was a successful date night (that ended with a trip to the grocery store--another one of my favorite places)! 

Monday, January 6, 2014

In: DIY summer rolls

Tonight I made one of my favorite "DIY" meals--summer rolls. If you don't know what a summer roll, it is like a lettuce wrap but with a rice paper wrap. I'll show you what I mean.

Step 1: Gather your ingredients (Note: yields 2 servings).
You can really put whatever you want in these summer rolls. If you're lacking the inspiration for your first attempt, here is my list.

2 chicken breasts, shredded or chopped
1 carrot, thinly sliced or julienned
1 cucumber, julienned
1/2 bell pepper, julienned
1 avocado
1 cup spinach
Rice paper
Rice noodles
Sweet chili sauce (or ponzu sauce, if you prefer salty over sweet & spicy)

I sometimes add some other interesting ingredients, like apple, mango, crab meat, cooked shrimp, bean sprouts, and cilantro. I also prefer getting rotisserie chicken instead of cooking the chicken, but the store didn't have any so I had to improvise.

Step 2: Prepare your ingredients.
The boyfriend cooked the chicken with some soy sauce, rice vinegar, and sesame oil. These aren't absolutely necessary since you'll have the chili sauce, but it does give the chicken more flavor!

I also started soaking the rice noodles. I typically soak them for 10 minutes, but you can soak for as long or little as you'd like, based on how al dente you like your noodles.

In the meantime, I chopped the vegetables. If you don't know how to cut an avocado, please read on. If you do, skip ahead to Step 3!

I decided to include a quick avocado cutting tutorial. I was inspired to do so after seeing my mom try to cut one. She peeled the skin and tried to scrape off as much of the meat as possible. Don't do that! Instead, cut the avocado (skin on) in half longways.
Then, twist the two halves apart. (Yes, I know. My avocado wasn't super fresh, but it was still good!)
Now, stick the knife in the avocado seed. The easiest way to do this is do an axe-like chop into the seed.
Twist the seed out with the knife.
Now, all that's left is to get the meat out. I like to cut longways for, essentially, avocado strips. But you can also cube the avocado or just scoop it all out with a spoon if you want a big piece of avocado!

Step 3: Serve and eat!
After preparing all of the ingredients, I set them out in separate little bowls.

You'll only want to prepare your rice paper immediately before preparing each individual roll. Don't prepare them in advance, or they'll get too sticky and rip apart. Preparing them is easy. Just have a large bowl of warm water set aside, and immerse the rice paper for 5 seconds. The paper may seem too stiff, but it will have softened by the time you fill the roll.

Fill the roll with whatever ingredients you'd like, placing everything in a line from one end of the rice paper to the other. Don't put too much in, or else it may not wrap!
Then, close up the roll by taking one side of the paper (where you don't have a pile of ingredients) and pull it up over the ingredients in the center. Repeat with the opposite side, sticking the two sides together. Then just fold up the open ends.

There you have it! A DIY summer roll. Enjoy!


Sunday, January 5, 2014

In: Oatmeal banana pancakes

My boyfriend has been on a low FODMAP diet, so my recipe tutorials will generally be FODMAP-free (at least, for the time-being). He found this banana oat pancake recipe from COOKIE+kate that he wanted to try, and I decided to give it a go. I was a bit skeptical because it didn't require any milk, but the pancakes were actually pretty delicious! I also was able to test out the new cast iron pan that I got for Christmas. :)

I followed the recipe to-the-T. Here are my personal pictures of the recipe and my thoughts/results:

Step 1: Get your ingredients and supplies together. (Note: yields 6 four-inch diameter pancakes)

3 small bananas (~9 ounces)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon maple syrup
2 eggs
1 cup oat flour (I'll show you how to make this later)
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg

cast iron pan (not required, but great for consistent cooking)
blender/mixer/grinder (for the oat flour)

Step 2: Combine the wet ingredients.
I mashed the bananas...

...and then mixed in the other wet ingredients (lemon juice, maple syrup, melted butter), blending in the eggs last. Set this bowl aside.

Step 3: Combine the dry ingredients.
The store didn't carry any oat flour (and I didn't know how much I would use it), so I bought some oatmeal and made my own oat flour. It was really easy. Basically, I just ground up the oats in my Magic Bullet (I love my MB), and voilà--oat flour.

Once that was ready, I mixed in the other dry ingredients (baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg) in a medium-sized bowl. I used my flat-head whisk for this, although I think they're typically used for whisking sauces.

Step 4: Add the wet mixture to the dry mixture.
I made a well (basically make a volcano shape with the mix) and added the wet mixture, pouring the wet mixture into the center of the well and then mixing everything together (Note: COOKIE+kate suggest that you not overmix the batter).

Step 5: Wait 10 minutes.
Once everything is combined, set aside the mixture aside for 10 minutes so the baking soda can react with the wet ingredients.

While this is set aside, I turned the stove on to medium-low and put my cast iron pan on the burner. I also added some butter to prevent the pancake batter from sticking. Cast iron pans are great because they maintain the same level of heat, unlike many standard pans that get hotter with prolonged cooking. However, a standard pan can be used but cooking times may have to decrease for successive batches of pancakes.

Step 6: Cook the pancakes.
Pour 1/4 cup pancake batter onto the hot pan. Make sure not to increase the temperature, as medium-low is perfect for cooking the pancakes (I found out, the hard way, that if you increase the temperature, the pancakes are more likely to burn).
After about 3-5 minutes, you should see bubbles forming in the batter. That means it's time to flip (check the underside, though, to make sure that the bottom is browned).
Cook for another 2-3 minutes once the pancakes have been flipped. Now, they're ready to be served!

This recipe makes 6 4-inch diameter pancakes, so unless your cast iron pan or griddle can handle all of those at once, you'll want to leave the cooked pancakes in the oven at 150-200 degrees Fahrenheit so that you can serve all of the pancakes at once. These are great with some maple syrup and a cup of orange juice! Enjoy!


Welcome 2014, and Hello, Blogger!

Each year, many people set big new year's resolutions, like losing 50 pounds, traveling to a far-off country, or becoming financially stable. As for me, I decided not to have a checklist of resolutions for the year but instead set a goal of improving myself and my habits each day. I will likely not be successful in making each day better and more productive than the next, but my hope is to live each day with purpose and appreciation for every moment we have on this earth.

So, long story short, I've wanted to start a blog for quite some time but never got around to actually doing it. I finally bit the bullet and started this blog as a log of my life--Living In (cooking experiments, craft projects, etc.), Out (restaurant experiences, sites around the city, random activities, etc.), and About (adventurous travels, cultural discoveries, etc.). Hope you enjoy!