Wednesday, October 30, 2013

WIAW #61: Coconut Curry Lentils with Shrimp

Happy Wednesday before Halloween everyone! I was so excited yesterday when I found out my building does trick-or-treat for the kids in complex. I immediately started working on a easy-DIY Halloween costume from the great website, Take Back Halloween for women and girls who want creative costumes based on inspiring women throughout history.

I have no spooky snacks, but I do have an easy costume if you still need one for this weekend. I will reveal a tutorial this week! Any guesses on my costume? What are you wearing?
Meanwhile, I have been enjoying my new kitchen and been trying to cook a lot, despite my still limited pantry.

Like these Coconut Curry Lentils with Coconut Scented Shrimp and vegetables.
(Recipe at the end of this post FYI.)

I told you last week I was really enjoying experimenting with my new Kitchen Aid mixer and pasta attachment... so I hope you understand. 

This is what I ate this week in no particular order.

I made pasta!

Homemade fettuccine with turkey sausage, 
mushrooms and sage with side of sauteed asparagus

Honey crisp apple with PB2 (my new obsession)

Homemade sweet potato and roasted garlic ravioli in a white wine sage and parsley sauce

Mediterranean Rigatoni with baked salmon, fresh tomato sauce, Kalamata olives, and feta 

Homemade turkey meatball marinara on ciabatta

Granola and strawberries over Greek yogurt and honey

Coconut Curry lentils with Coconut scented shrimp, spinach carrots, and love

As for that curry…..

It’s no secret that I love curry. Whether it’s a type of Indian, Bengali, Thai, etc. I am on board. So when I saw Thai Peanut Lentil Curry  from the Nifty Cupcake on Pinterest, I knew it would be a new way to prepare the green lentils in my pantry. Of course, since it is me, I changed to recipe to my personal preferences, adding more emphasis on the coconut than the peanuts, and adding julienned carrots, sautéed shrimp for a full meal.

I changed the ratios of my version quite a bit: using 1 cup of dry lentils per sauce recipe versus the directed 2 cups. For my preference, I like a more stewed curry meal, the original lentils seem like they have a bit more crunch to them. I also wanted another veggie in mine, so I added raw julienne carrots at the same time, which wilted like the spinach, as they were so thin. I love the sweetness and color they brought to the dish.  My other changes were little, using roasted coriander instead of turmeric out of necessity, and using coconut oil to add some more coconut flavor. If you have it, use it. It will really add to the dish…especially the shrimp.

I used PB2 powdered peanut butter instead of regular peanut butter. If you have the regular stuff, go ahead and use it, but you might want to use less since regular peanut butter has a lot more fat and will affect the taste more.

If you haven’t tried PB2 yet, you are missing out! I’ve seen people raving about it for a year and a half, but I just recently tried it as I never before saw it in stores, only online. Let’s just say, I love it! Since it’s powdered, the fat and oil are removed, making it only 45 calories with 10 calories of fat per 2 tbsp. than the regular 200 calories per 2 tbsp.! Now you can have your peanut butter and eat it too! I like using the powder in smoothies, but once prepared with tbsp. water, the texture is so creamy and delicious, and I couldn’t believe it.

But my new favorite way to use PB2 is in this coconut curry. You won't be disappointed. When have I ever led you astray? 

Coconut Curry Lentils 
with Coconut scented Shrimp
(Adapted from The Nifty Cupcake)
Makes 3-4 dinner servings

Note: this recipe is listed under vegetarian, vegan, and meatless because it is so easy to customize. Simply omit shrimp and replace chicken broth with vegetable broth or water. Easy!


1 cup dry green or brown lentils, rinsed
2 to 3 cups chicken broth
2 tbsp. coconut oil
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 can low-fat coconut milk
3 cups of fresh spinach
2 large carrots, julienned
1 large yellow onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp. pb2 prepared with 1 tbsp. water, plus more for garnish (or 1 tbsp. regular peanut butter and chopped peanuts for garnish)
1 tbsp. curry powder
2 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. dried ginger
1 tsp. roasted coriander
1 tsp. sea salt and pepper

Sriracha for serving

For the shrimp
12 American large Shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tbsp. Coconut oil
1 Garlic clove, minced
Dashes of the following:
Pb2, curry powder, paprika, coriander, garlic powder, dried ginger, salt, and pepper.


In a medium pot, add lentils and covered with enough chicken broth to cover the top by an inch. Simmer covered over medium-high heat until lentils are tender. 10-20 minutes depending on lentils. Check after 10 minutes, continue to cook and add more broth if necessary. Once cooked, drain if necessary and remove from pot, setting aside.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion to pan, stirring frequently until caramelized, not burnt.

While onions are cooking, combine all of the spices together in a small bowl. Once onions are cooked add the spice blend and toast spices for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Add coconut milk, coconut oil, and peanut butter and stir with onions and spices. Simmer for sauce for about 5 minutes, allowing it to slightly thicken.

Meanwhile lentils are done and sauce is thickened, reduce heat slightly, and gently fold in lentils, spinach, and carrots. Cover for 2-3 minutes, until spinach and wilted. Stir together one last time.

While spinach is wilting, using the lentil pot, heat 1 tbsp. coconut oil, and garlic until fragrant for the shrimp. Add shrimp and dashes of spices. Stirring shrimp in the sauce, cook until both sides of shrimp are pink and begin to curl. About 3 minutes. Do not over cook shrimp. Take off heat.

Once lentils are ready, dish onto plates and top with shrimp, dashes of sriracha, and an extra sprinkle of pb2 or chopped peanuts. Serve immediately.


The Cuisiner

Do you have plans for Halloween? Tell me what you're wearing or doing!

Thursday, October 24, 2013

WIAW #60: Crispy Kale and Shiitake Parmesan Rigatoni

Last Tuesday, Aaron and I arrived in our new apartment. For 6-9 months we will call San Angelo, Texas home.

It is definitely a nice change to have two bedrooms and bathrooms. Not to mention a couch! I do not miss our studio apartment on the seventh floor. We even have a "porch" here. Worth it.

It wasn't until Friday that we finally got our stuff, including most importantly my kitchen stuff. No one told me how good it feels to open all the new things you got on your wedding registry. I love everything from my Kitchen Aid mixer to the set of dessert bowls.

Because of that, my WIAW is a bit light today. This is the only meal I've photographed other than a grainy one of Thai food on a hotel bed. It's sad. I hope you will forgive this transgression. I'm so happy to have my kitchen back!

I’m still low on some of those “essentials” you eventually stock up on when you’ve lived in a kitchen for a while. Unfortunately when moving, all those nearly empty bottles and packages that would give your recipe the exact “umph” it needs, doesn’t get packed by DoD movers. They don’t pack cleaning supplies either…or alcohol.

The next day I ended up breaking out that mixer and making my very own pasta. Anyone know how to make noodles with your mixer?

But when I made this recipe, I relied on what I had for a lunch for one. I felt like getting creative and after binge-watching Master Chef Juniors while unpacking, I decided to quick-fry some kale and shiitake mushrooms to top my rigatoni during my first recipe in my new kitchen.

I love homemade kale chips, so I thought, wouldn’t a nice topping of extra crispy kale and mushrooms be delicious on a creamy base of pasta? Yep. If you have some extra time and want to omit the oil, you can definitely bake the kale pieces. But…the mushrooms won’t get crispy in the oven easily.

These crispy vegetables would also be awesome topping on a number of recipes.

This isn’t my normal everyday lunch obviously. This would be an impressive special occasion meal (that actually isn’t hard) with the addition of crispy prosciutto, even fresh cherry tomatoes. The Parmesan sauce is little decadent, but hey, if you eat like me on a normal basis, you deserve it. And your guests will be super impressed with this multiple textured meal. 

You’ve got crispy, chewy, and fresh. No molecular gastronomy required….

Crispy Kale and Shiitake 
Parmesan Rigatoni
(Makes 2 meal servings)

8oz. Dry Rigatoni
Water and salt for boiling
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
3 tbsp. milk
4 tbsp. grated Parmesan
Garlic powder
Black pepper
Sea salt
Zest of one lemon
1 cup kale, shredded into 2 inch square pieces
5-6 fresh shiitake mushrooms, cut into 1 inch pieces, stems cut in half
1/2 cup vegetable oil


In medium pot, bring salted water to a boil. Add pasta to water, return to boil and cook until al dente. Once cooked, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile in saucepan, heat vegetable oil over medium high. Working in batches, carefully toss in kale and stand back as oil will spit. Cook until oil stops spitting and kale is crispy and dark in appearance, about 2 minutes. Transfer to paper towel lined plate and season with a sprinkle of salt, pepper, and garlic powder, and lemon zest. 

Repeat with remaining kale and shiitake. Mushrooms will take a little longer than kale to fry. Wait until kale is finished and oil is at it's hottest and fry for 3-5 minutes, until crispy. Set aside.

Once pasta is cooked and drained, toss in butter, milk and cheese until coated. Season with lemon zest, and desired salt, pepper and garlic powder.

Transfer pasta to plates and top with kale, mushrooms, remaining lemon juice and more cheese if desired.

Serve immediately so pasta stays hot and kale remains crispy.

(Tip: for easier cleanup, use a bowl instead of hot pan to mix sauce and cheese will congeal to pan.)

The Cuisiner

What is one of your favorite unexpected dishes to make?

Monday, October 21, 2013

Vegan Butternut Squash Burrito Bowl

They say breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Maybe they're right, but for me nothing can make or break my day easier that not having a good, filling lunch. 

The second half of the day is usually the hardest to get through, so you really need a protein-lunch. There is nothing better to assemble at home and eat for a quick lunch at work than a veggie packed burrito bowl.

This lunch was inspired by the influx of home-grown produce into my kitchen. Between my best friend's family's butternut squash and my mother's late-season red and yellow tomatoes, I had to make something delicious. 

With that said, homemade burrito bowls are one of my favorite leftover lunches. While this particular one seems like it takes a lot of prep, it was mostly do to leftover quinoa and lentils in the fridge that were just waiting to be paired with butternut squash and tomatoes.

This is easily customizable and an all-diet friendly meal. If you aren’t vegan, simply add leftover chicken, cheddar, or other additions. Try it with sauteed kale, topped with greek yogurt, or even roasted butternut-squash seeds.

If you like to weekend-prep, try Lindsay from The Lean Green Bean's tips on sprouting lentils and other great weekend-prep tips. If you have time to prep your lentils and quinoa ahead of time, burrito bowls are super-easy weekday meals.

Vegan Butternut Squash Burrito Bowl
(Makes 2-3 lunch bowls)


¾ cup French green lentils
Vegetable broth (amount determined by lentils instructions)
1 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and chopped into 1-inch chunks
1 medium carrot, peeled, then shredded over a box-grater
½ cup chopped cucumbers
Reserved pulp from tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt, pepper
Garlic powder
1 garlic clove, minced

Pico de Gallo
2 red tomatoes, cored, chopped, and deseeded
1 yellow tomato, cored, chopped, and deseeded
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 lime, juiced to taste
¼ cup red onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
¼ tsp. chipotle chili powder

This recipe is best for make-ahead and packed lunches


For pico de gallo, add all ingredients in a medium bowl. Mix and refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes green lentils according to package with vegetable broth. Set-aside until ready to be used. (If using sprouted lentils, use this.)

Prepare quinoa according to these instructions for fluffy quinoa. Set aside.

In a frying pan, sauté butternut squash and garlic over medium heat with olive oil. Lightly brown squash in pan until soften.  Then add tomato pulp, salt, and pepper and cook until squash has absorbed the liquid and is tender when pierced with a fork. Season to taste and set aside.

Once all ingredients are prepped, begin to assemble bowl. With equal amounts of each ingredient. First, quinoa, then lentils, squash, carrots, cucumbers, and finally pico de gallo.

Serve hot or pack for protein-full lunch at school or the office!


The Cuisiner

What is your favorite at-work or quick healthy lunch?

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Fried Green Tomato BLTs

This recipe was meant to be with me.  You see, I love everything about fried green tomatoes. Along with the Southern history of this dish, I love the 1991 Hollywood movie, and especially the way the crunchy fried topping melts into a sweet and tangy late season green tomato.

Fried green tomatoes aren’t just delicious, they are the BEST way besides green salsa to use up those pesky green tomatoes left on the vine when August is long over and Fall frost is around the corner. Up until last week we were pulling red and yellow tomatoes off the vine in my mother’s backyard to make everything from sauces, salsas, and sandwiches. But green tomatoes are one of my favorite parts of homegrown tomato-ing.

As you can see from the fried green tomatoes in the corner of this photo, we even had them at our wedding.
A few weeks back we sat down and enjoyed a truly magical batch of these delicious circles of wonder. After that, I couldn’t wait for the next frying, though my stomach needed a break! These babies are perfect on their own. I had no intention of changing them…not even dipping them in sauce.


While perusing menus of Nashville and Asheville restaurants for our moving-trip to Texas this weekend, I discovered a listing on a menu I could not stop thinking about.

Fried green tomato BLT.

Yep, it had happened. I found a way to have my tomatoes and eat them too. Get ready for one of the best sandwiches you've ever made at home. This is definitely an easy crowd pleaser.

We chose not to toast the bread as the tomatoes and bacon already added enough crunch and I feared toasting the bread would cause the sandwich to fall apart. If you chose to crisp your bread, try them grilled-cheese style, crisp in the pan. These sandwiches are plenty for a meal with all of the extra calories in my opinion. I felt full with one and a few extra fried tomatoes.

Note: these really don’t work well with red tomatoes as they are too soft for the breading and frying and will easily turn to mush. If you can’t get your hands on the green ones, try tomatillos instead and jazz up the aioli with some Mexican flavors like cumin and cayenne pepper.

At face value you may think, this is a bit gimmicky, just eat them on the side of your plate and have a BLT, but come on, there is always room for creativity. This recipe is pretty basic, soft chewy Italian bread, crisp thick cut bacon, herbed mayonnaise. Sounds like a good sandwich even without the fried green tomatoes, but trust me, it’s even better with them!

Fried Green Tomato BLTs
(Tomato recipe adapted from The Best of America’s Test Kitchen 2013)
Makes 5-6 sandwiches

For tomatoes

6-7 medium green tomatoes, cored and sliced ¼ inch thick
2/3 cup fine cornmeal (we used instant polenta)
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup panko bread crumbs
1 ½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. pepper
1/2 tsp. chipotle chili powder
2/3 buttermilk
1 large egg            
2 cups bacon grease (taken from bacon) or vegetable or peanut oil

 For the Sandwiches

10 slices of hearty Italian bread
1 lb. thick cut bacon (turkey bacon also works)
10 pieces of romaine, butter lettuce
1 cup arugula

 Herb Aioli

1 cup Hellman’s mayonnaise
1 garlic clove, minced
4 basil leaves, chopped finely
2 tsp. shopped fresh oregano
1 tbsp. chopped chives
2 tsp. chopped thyme
1 tbsp. kalamata olive juice or red wine vinegar to taste
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

 (If using turkey bacon, you will need to use oil instead of bacon grease for the tomatoes)


Mix all ingredients for aioli together well and refrigerate until sandwiches need to be assembled.
Place tomato slices on a plate or cutting board lined with paper towels. Cover tomatoes with another sheet of paper towels and let sit for 20 minutes. Pat the tomatoes dry, use more paper towels if needed.

Combine all dry ingredients together in a bowl. In another bowl, beat egg with buttermilk.

Dip dried tomatoes in the buttermilk mixture, then dredge in dry mixture. Lay dipped tomatoes onto a clean plate or cutting board. Set aside.

In a large heavy frying pan, begin to cook bacon in batches over medium heat, rendering the fat and crisping bacon. Lay fried bacon on a paper towel-line plate. Do not clean pan.
Using the rendered bacon grease in the frying pan, begin to fry tomatoes in hot grease, leaving room between each tomato. Fry each tomato slice until golden brown on each side, for about 4-6 minutes.  With a spatula, carefully flip each tomato.

Once tomatoes fried, set them on paper towel lined plates.
To assemble sandwiches, spread equal amounts of aioli of bottom slice of bread. Top with fried green tomatoes, two-three slices of bacon, and desired lettuce/arugula. Keep each sandwich together with two toothpicks. Serve immediately while still hot.

The Cuisiner

What is your favorite old-fashion recipe? How would you update it?