Pan-fried Coconut Shrimp

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Shrimp is one of those foods I usually have to enjoy on my own. That is to say that Sam won’t touch the stuff, even if it’s breaded and fried. I often buy a bag of raw shrimp to keep on hand in the freezer for lunches or dinners where we’re short on food or he’s out of town.

When we honeymooned in Barbados, I kept seeing coconut shrimp on the menus and figured I should try it while we were there. However, other dishes always tantalized me more and though I kept looking for an excuse to order it, not having someone who’d share it with me made it that much more unlikely. Finally on our last night we went to Champers for our final, elaborate, honeymoon feast. They took us to our table on their open deck, overlooking the beautiful Caribbean waters. Thanks to our wonderful hosts at our hotel, the restaurant had surprised us with “just married” confetti and personalized menus congratulating us on our recent wedding.

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Seeing as it was our last night in paradise, we opted for a three-course meal. We each chose our own appetizers, Sam’s a beautiful baked brie with apples and mine the long lusted-after coconut shrimp! They were perfect – crispy and sweet, with sprigs of lettuce for color and crunch and a sweet chili sauce to dip. We followed our appetizers with equally amazing entrees and desserts – three in fact! We ordered two (being the gluttons that we are) and they brought us a surprise extra – a scoop of ice cream with a candle and “congrats” written in chocolate across the plate.

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The famous coconut shrimp at Champers!

We left the restaurant five pounds heavier and happier, me glad to have finally enjoyed my coconut shrimp.

So yesterday, with Thanksgiving leftovers dwindling and a trip to the grocery store in the somewhat distant future, I decided to make myself coconut shrimp for lunch. Other than deep-frying, how hard could it be? The answer: not that bad at all. You dredge your shrimp, throw them in the pan (more like place them carefully and stand back!) and within a few minutes you have tasty, crispy, coconut shrimp.

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Then, since this was a totally impromptu lunch, I whipped up a simple mixture of ketchup and red curry paste to dip them in. Despite the splattering dangers and the mess on the stove afterward, they were worth every bite!

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Pan-fried Coconut Shrimp

serves 1 for a meal or 2 for an appetizer

1/4 lb. raw shrimp (thawed if frozen), peeled and deveined

1/3 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/3 cup unsweetened, shredded coconut

1/4 cup milk

1/4 cup flour

salt and pepper

canola oil for frying

ketchup & red curry paste

Set up your breading station as follows: flour in the first bowl – add a good sprinkle of salt and pepper, milk in the second bowl, and panko and coconut mixed in the third.

Heat a large skillet or deep saucepan (saucepan is probably safer) with oil over medium heat. Add enough oil to form a thin layer on the bottom about 1/4 inch. If you wish to deep-fry you can add several cups of oil, but it will take longer to heat up and can be more dangerous. I did mine in a skillet and though there was some splattering, they were easier to flip.

While the oil heats, bread your shrimp, keeping one hand for dry and one for wet (to avoid breading your hands). Dip in the flour first, milk next, and coconut crumbs last. Put breaded shrimp on a plate. Discard any remaining breading ingredients.

To test your oil, toss in a few extra breadcrumbs and see if they sizzle. When ready, use tongs to transfer your breaded shrimp to the hot oil, being careful not to overcrowd the pan. After you can see they are beginning to brown on the bottom, flip them. Let them cook about another minute and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Let cool.

In a small bowl add however much ketchup you’d like. Mix in red curry paste to taste, starting with a small amount and tasting for spice. Dip your shrimp and enjoy!

 

 

Post 119 – 5 Ways to Jazz up Plain Yogurt without adding sugar

I have always been a fan of yogurt. Creamy, smooth, tart and sweet – it is a comforting and easy to eat kid food. I remember eating yogurt pretty much every day while growing up, either packed in my lunch or for an afternoon snack. Though I know my mom tried to give us healthy food whenever possible, it is hard to get a kid to like plain, unsweetened yogurt. Ours was almost always flavored and sweetened while my mom sometimes bought her own tub of plain yogurt to eat for breakfast or sneak into healthified desserts.

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Well you know what they say… like mother, like daughter. As it happens, I grew up and began buying myself plain yogurt to have with my granola. Though I have adjusted to the lack of sweetness, sometimes I want to add a little something more to make it special. Here are five ways to jazz up your plain, unsweetened yogurt without adding excessive amounts of sugar.IMG_1516

1. Stir in some fruit – fresh or frozen! Thawed frozen fruit can be juicier than fresh fruit and can therefore make your yogurt seem more luxurious and colorful. The night before, pour some frozen berries into a small container to thaw in your fridge. In the morning, drain some juice if necessary and then stir it in. You are adding both color and flavor! Alternatively add a nice fresh fruit like ripe strawberries, raspberries or peaches in the summer.

2. Add some zest! Grate some lemon, orange, or lime zest into your bowl. I find lemon adds a nice zing and freshness to the yogurt. If you really like you can also add a squeeze of juice, but make sure to taste it as lemon juice might make your yogurt too tart. Orange juice, however, would add a nice, natural sweetness.

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3. Stir in your own vanilla. Like vanilla yogurt? Save on sugar and add your own vanilla extract or vanilla paste if you have it. Sometimes just having that vanilla scent and flavor makes it seem sweeter.

4. Sprinkle spices that hint at sweetness. Cinnamon is a spice that people most often associate with sweet things – snickerdoodles, cinnamon rolls, etc. Try adding a little bit of cinnamon, ginger, or nutmeg to your yogurt and see how much it sweetens your bowl.

5. Swirl in some (homemade) jam. So this one might be cheating a little bit since jam is usually sweetened, but this way you can at least control how much sugar you are putting in. I like adding a mixed berry jam and barely swirling it into my yogurt. It’s like fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt, though you don’t have to wait until the end to find it!

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Try these five delicious ways to jazz up your yogurt and let me know what you think. Top it off with some homemade granola for added crunch and you have a delicious healthier treat!

Bon appetit!

Post 114 – Pear Oven Pancake

IMG_1437Saturday morning breakfast in the early spring: a cup of your favorite tea or coffee, a slow breeze drifting in with the sunlight, and this beautiful Pear Oven Pancake. This could be you tomorrow morning. All you need to do is make this beautiful Pear Oven Pancake. I’ve seen it called a Dutch Baby or a Dutch Pancake too, but I’ll call it something simple and recognizable, something to beckon you from your routine of scrambled eggs and burnt toast. Continue reading

Post 102 – Sushi making

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With all the snow falling this time of year (in Boston especially), I find myself leaning toward the heavy, filling foods: meaty, hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kind of food. Winter time means you load up on the food that keeps you warm and satisfied. You bust out the crock pot and get your oven cranking so that you can make all of the thick stews and freshly baked breads needed to fill you up. I love a big pot of Cincinnati Chili or Beef Stew, but after a few days, I find myself wanting to balance out my heavy meat consumption with something a little lighter, but this time of year most veggies seem scarce and a summer salad hardly seems appealing. So how do I lighten things up?

In general I try to eat a balanced diet and as wide a variety of all food groups as possible. Nonetheless I still struggle on a daily basis with what I should be eating for my diet in general. More protein? More veggies? Less fat? More fat? The answer I give myself is constantly changing. After reading this National Geographic article on the evolution of diet, though no more enlightened on the issue of what to eat, I realized the wide diversity of diets that are sustaining people across this planet. I began to think about how grateful I am not to have to hunt for or gather my food. I do have to lug my groceries back from the store, (less than a mile away, though in this snow it’s more of a chore) but I’m not afraid of not having enough to eat because I have to catch dinner. In this country we are privileged to have so many choices of what to eat. Without this choice I would never be asking myself what¬†should I eat. Perhaps the ability to choose itself is something to appreciate.

IMG_1204So I’m getting my veggies in today via sushi. Admittedly most of the veggies are eaten outside of the sushi, but hey I ate them so that counts for something. If you make your own sushi, you’ll realize how few veggies really fit inside.

IMG_1206After college when I lived in Ohio for a short time before moving to Boston, I enjoyed volunteering at a small cooking school associated with an upscale grocery store. In exchange for helping to set up and clean up I got to watch each chef in action and keep the recipes from the class. It was a great gig and though it could be exhausting, it gave me a good introduction into the professional culinary world. I loved the nights I volunteered at a cooking class. In one of the many classes that I went to we learned to make sushi.

IMG_1207Of course after going to the class and seeing how relatively do-able it is to make your own sushi, I got suckered in to buying the sushi rolling bamboo mats, which I use every now and then (including for this week’s school cooking club!). I learned that just learning how to cook the rice correctly takes years of training in Japan! Sushi making is definitely a skill.

IMG_1208I filled mine today with carrots, cucumber, avocado, and shrimp. I used brown rice because that’s what I had on hand, but there is a special type of sushi rice available that has the right stickiness for sushi.

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IMG_1210Served with thin slivers of pickled ginger, soy sauce, and the extra fillings on this side, this made for a tasty way to eat my veggies! It makes for a nice break from the usual heavy winter fare.

IMG_1212Sushi Rice

It’s hard to write a real recipe for sushi as technique is easiest demonstrated rather than described and fillings can be whatever you want. One way to make your sushi extra… er sushi-flavored (?) is to make sushi rice. After you cook your rice, whether it is actual sushi rice or just short grain brown rice, mix in a mixture of rice wine vinegar, sugar and salt. You’ll want about 1 teaspoon of rice vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, and an 1/8 teaspoon of salt per half cup of uncooked rice (though you’ll add this mixture after cooking).

Stir the vinegar, sugar, and salt together to dissolve the mixture. When the rice is done, spread it out on a plate or a sheet pan to help it cool and let out some of the moisture. Drizzle in some of your vinegar mixture, carefully folding it into the rice. Taste and add more as desired for flavor. Be careful not to add too much as you want your rice to be somewhat sticky, not wet. Use your sushi rice to spread on Nori (seaweed) and top with fillings as suggested below for your sushi. Enjoy!

Possible fillings

cucumber, carrots, avocado, red pepper, scallion – cut in long thin strips

cooked shrimp, smoked salmon, tofu, cooked chicken

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Post 100 – The Cooking Marathon

I wanted to do something special for Post 100 – make a hundred of something (actually totally do-able at work), post a hundred photos from my blog (too much scrolling), or eat a hundred M&Ms (my father-in-law would be proud), but none of those things seemed quite right. Reaching a hundred posts after about 2 years of blogging feels pretty important, but I don’t need to turn into some kind of holiday. (The first blog I wrote lasted about 3 posts, no photos, and probably never had any readers but me – watch out, it might still be lurking out there in cyberspace…)

Breakfast: Happ parfait, cinnamon bread, cheesy spinach square

Breakfast: Happ parfait, cinnamon bread, cheesy spinach square

Instead I spent my day yesterday in the kitchen cooking and baking to my heart’s content, filling up the fridge with good food and gearing up for a week of good eating.

Here are some photos from the 6 recipes I made yesterday: homemade cinnamon bread, sweet potato salad, chicken cordon bleu, salmon with cilantro pumpkin seed pesto, cheesy spinach squares, and walnut cream for my apple, ginger and nut “porridge” from my new cookbook!IMG_1181

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Thank you to all of you reading and following my blog! I wouldn’t be writing and taking crazy photos of food without you.

Post 81 – Recipe experimenting!

I like experimenting with recipes – especially when they turn out well the first time! Here are some loosely written “recipes,” more like guidelines, for making three delicious dishes (say that 5 times fast!)

Baked Fish in Parchment Paper

Inspired by the cod we enjoyed over the weekend while visiting my aunt at her new home in Connecticut, I decided to try my luck at poisson en papillote or fish baked in parchment paper. It keeps the fish moist and requires very little work and time.

You simply put the fish on a square of parchment paper large enough to fold into a package, season as desired…

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fold it up and bake it…

photo 4(14)(make sure you put it on a sheet pan or in a baking dish). I recommend baking at 375 for 10-15 minutes (depending on the thickness) or until the fish feels slightly firm when you press it.

And voila! Moist fish!

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If you can tolerate lemon, onions, and garlic these would be lovely additions.

 

Summer Squash Gratinee

Since I had bought some summer squash, I also made a tasty squash “gratinee” based on this recipe. Usually gratinee is a dish baked with cheese that gets nice and browned and crispy and tasty, but since I can’t eat cheese right now I found an excellent substitute thanks to some recipe browsing: almond flour.

Start by salting your squash. Slice the squash into even slices (about 1/4 inch thick) and place in a colander. Toss with a fair amount of salt (about 1 tablespoon of Kosher salt for 3 medium squash) and let drain for at least 15 minutes. The salt will draw out the excess water in the squash so as not to water down your dish. Shake excess water out and pat dry with a paper towel. Oil or spray your baking dish. I used a pie plate for mine. Place the squash in a pretty pattern, seasoning each layer with fresh ground black pepper, oregano, and a drizzle of olive oil.

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photo 2(25) Sprinkle with a few tablespoons of almond meal (3-4) and lightly drizzle with olive oil OR spray with an oil spray. Bake at 400 for 35-45 minutes until desired doneness is reached and it is slightly browned.

Let cool slightly and enjoy! The topping looks like cheese and even tastes slightly cheesy from the nuttiness of the almonds. I would definitely make this dish again.

 

Almond Butter Bites

My final experiment was a recipe based on a comfort snack food my mom made growing up: peanut butter balls. She would mix an indiscriminate amount of peanut butter, oats, honey, powdered milk, raisins or chocolates until it became a dough like consistency with the right amount of sweetness and the right texture. Then she would form the dough into balls and we would eat them for a snack. Delicious!

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Since the ED eliminates peanut butter, oats, chocolate, milk, and raisins (I can have honey in small amounts) I had to come up with my own version using almond butter, cooked buckwheat, coconut, flax, and honey (mixed in unknown amounts to achieve the flavor and texture desired). I rolled them in unsweetened coconut so they looked pretty. I’ll be taking these tasty buggers to my all day frisbee tournament tomorrow for a nice little treat! Here’s hoping it doesn’t rain.

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Happy weekend and hope you do some kitchen experiments!

 

Post 74 – Homemade Pierogi

My grandpa’s cousin, Eva, came over from Poland once when I was little and made us homemade pierogi, those beautiful, soft Polish dumplings. Though I remember nothing about her particular recipe, I remember being impressed that she could make them from scratch¬†because we had only bought them in the freezer section.

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Now I am a sucker for any sort of fried or boiled dough pocket filled with delicious-ness and luckily most cuisines have their own version – ravioli, tortellini, empanadas, potstickers, and pierogi to name a few. There’s something so comforting about cutting into that pillowy or crispy goodness and finding out what’s inside. Mmmm.

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So while perusing the internet last year or maybe hearing about someone else’s pierogi eating, I decided I could totally make my own pierogies. In the end it wasn’t even that hard! Time consuming – yes, but difficult – not really (much easier than that damn potsticker dough!). You make a simple yeast-less dough, let it rest and prepare your filling. I love cheese and mashed potatoes and used to make those on a regular basis last year, but this time I had some ground beef to use up and I figured Sam would appreciate the load of protein within. I added onion and beef broth for flavor (and accepted the fact that I wouldn’t be eating any) and folded up a whole tray of these beauties. I can’t speak for myself, but Sam very much enjoyed them and is excited for the stash in the freezer.

I found a delicious recipe that I used last year and loved, but it seems to have disappeared from the internet. The one I used last year had sour cream in the dough, but this one is lower fat and dairy free and just as delicious I’m sure.

Meat-filled Pierogi (dairy free)

adapted very slightly from here

2 3/4 cup flour

1/2 tsp. salt

1 egg

2 tsp. oil

3/4 cup warm water

 

1 pound ground beef

1 small onion, finely chopped

1/3-1/2 cup beef broth

 

For the dough, mix flour and salt. In a small bowl whisk egg, oil, and water and stir into the flour mixture. Mix with your hands if needed until it comes together in a smooth ball. Let rest for at least 15 minutes while you prepare the filling. If you are not going to use it after a half hour or more I recommend refrigerating it to keep it from getting too soft.

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For the filling, brown the beef in a medium skillet. When done cooking, remove beef and leave a tablespoon or so of the fat. Saute the onion in the beef fat with a bit of salt and pepper until soft and slightly browned. Return the beef to the skillet and add the beef broth until the desired consistency and warm for a few minutes. I found if I added too much broth, the filling would be too runny for the pierogi dough. Remove from heat and put into a separate bowl to aid in cooling.

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To assemble, roll out your dough to about an 1/8 inch thick. You don’t want it so thin that the filling will break through, but you don’t want it too thick either. Using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass (as I did) cut out circles from the dough (about 3 inches in diameter or so) and set aside. Lightly stretch each circle and fill with about a tablespoon or more of the beef filling (you’ll be surprised how stretchy your dough is).

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Fold the circle over in half and pinch the edges to seal with your fingers. Press the tines of a fork around the edges if desired for a better seal and a different look. You may need to dip the fork in flour to keep it from sticking. As you make the pierogi, put them on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.

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When you have filled the cookie sheet, put it in the freezer for at least 10 minutes to allow the pierogies to firm up. If you are saving them for another time allow to freeze, until firm enough to put in a freezer ziploc bag. Otherwise prepare a pot of boiling water, lightly salted. Add pierogies (do not crowd the pot) and cook for 3-5 minutes. If desired, carefully remove pierogies from the water, letting access water drain and add to a pre-heated and lightly oiled skillet (medium heat).

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Cook until pierogies are crisp, flipping once to get each side.

Serve hot with more sauteed onions, shredded cheese, and sour cream if desired.

 

I wish I had Eva’s recipe, but I promise you these will be equally delicious. Hope you try them!