Caribbean Coconut Rice

 

My family and I were lucky enough to go to Costa Rica over the summer.  It was an amazing place: full of friendly people, interesting adventures, beautiful plants, unique animals and tasty food.

One of our most memorable meals was in Playa Flamingo at a beach restaurant called Coco Loco, which we found on our Fodor’s Guide (yes, I still enjoy travel books).  (Trip Advisor Reviews).  We had the place and the beach to ourselves (probably because a storm was heading our way).  There was something for everyone.  My son had their signature dish of seafood mixed with rice and vegetables and cooked in a whole coconut.  My daughter had a wonderful salad, which included palm nuts (new to us). And my husband and I enjoyed the freshest fish tacos ever.  But it was our side dishes of coconut rice that had us discussing how we would replicate as soon as we got home.  It was very simple but so flavorful and delicious.

 

My son initiated finding a recipe and making it once we got home.  The Costa Rican version had a mixture of brown and jasmine rice, which we haven’t perfected.  But this is what we’ve been making from Vegetarian Times and substituting Earth Balance “butter” to make vegan so my daughter could enjoy too.  Amazing how it brings our thoughts back to that amazing beach….

Caribbean Coconut Rice

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1 clove garlic, minced (1 tsp.)
  • 1 3-inch cinnamon stick
  • 1 cup jasmine rice, rinsed and drained
  • 3/4 cup light coconut milk
  • 1 tsp. sugar
  • 1/2tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. grated lime zest
  • 1/8 tsp. white pepper
  • 1/4cup toasted shredded, unsweetened coconut, optional

Preparation

Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add ginger, garlic, and cinnamon stick, and sauté 1 minute, or until fragrant. Stir in rice, and sauté 2 minutes, or until rice grains are opaque. Add coconut milk, sugar, salt, lime zest, white pepper, and 3/4 cup water, and bring to a simmer. Stir once, cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer 15 minutes. Fluff rice with fork, cover, and let rest 5 minutes. Garnish with toasted coconut, if using.

 

Share

Remembering Memorial Day…Forgetting the Carnival Food

This memorial day weekend was filled with activity…some related to remembering those who fought for our country (parade and discussion with our kids), but mostly gatherings of friends and community (parade again, carnival, San Francisco Bridge celebration, sleepover, BBQ and some I’m sure I can’t remember).

 

With all the events there was a wide variety of food, of course.  We enjoyed everything from a mexican fiesta at friends (complete with margarita machine), to BBQ (chicken and tofu), the freshest fish in Marin (Fish Restaurant) and too many pancake breakfasts.

 

Thankfully one event we did not try food was the carnival.  First of all the dizzying rides were hard enough for me, if my kids would’ve asked for a corn dog or cotton candy I would’ve died.  I think both the rides and concessions looked like the same ones I had as a kid.  No updating here.  Actually when we got home from the carnival my daughter asked “How come all the people working at the carnival had brown and yucky teeth?”  This was quite an observation.  My husband and I were thinking the carnival workers seemed more tidy than those we remembered from carnivals when we were a kids.  Anyways my answer to her was “Maybe it’s because they work all day and have to eat the carnival food all the time”.  O.K. I’m not sure that’s true, but it stands to reason right? (I was too tired and nauseous to tackle the possibility of smoking too).

 

Unfortunately the weekend ended on a personal memorial as my son’s hermit crab, “Hermit” died tonight.  I told my son I’d post a photo of happier days with Hermit to share of his beloved pet.

Share

Spicy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies for Grandpa

What do you get for grandparents that say they don’t need birthday gifts?  Something homemade of course.  My kids are great at making special cards and artwork, but we also like to make baked goods to send in the birthday package too.  Who doesn’t enjoy getting cookies in the mail?  I make an oatmeal cookie inspired by Oatmeal Cherry Cookies from the Junior League San Francisco Flavors Cookbook (which I helped recipe test for years ago), that has lots of savory spices and then added chocolate chips rather than cherries or raisins (to be honest I was out).  There’s not too much chocolate to overpower the spices, which I like.  They were a big hit.  I made extra so not only did Grandma and Grandpa enjoy them, but our family as well.   At our house they went quickly as a sweet treat with hot chocolate on a rainy afternoon.

Here’s the recipe….

Spicy Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies

Makes about 2 dozen cookies

1 cup old fashioned oats

1 1/2 cup all purpose flour or wheat pastry flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter at room temperature

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup granulated sugar

2 egg yolks at room temperature

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup reg or mini chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a baking sheet with parchmnet paper.

In a medium bowl combine oats, flour, salt, baking soda and spices.

In a large bowl or stand mixer cream together butter and sugars until light and fluffy.  Beat in egg yolks and vanilla. Blend in dry ingredients until all are incorporated.  Fold in chocolate chips.

Drop tablespoon sized portions of dough 3 inches apart on prepared pan.  Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let cool on pan for 3 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Share

International Potluck with Falafel Recipe

Growing up I remember visiting my grandmother in Rhode Island and she would spend all day in the kitchen making Syrian food.  Everything from grapeleaves (she even grew and picked her own leaves), lamb kibbeh, tabouli, stuffed squash, etc.  She never followed a recipe.  Just did it from memory of watching her mother and grandmother.  I’ve made her recipes (from an old cookbook my aunt gave me), but they’re so labor intensive I usually only make one item at a meal.

My son has been making a family tree and studying hertitage at school.  The studies culminated in an International Potlcuk at the school.  Each family was supposed to bring a dish from your family heritage.  Originally my son asked me to make grapeleaves, but I just didn’t have the time to do that mid-week.   Instead we selected falafel.  Funny I don’t remember a lot of falafel at my grandmothers, but my family likes them and it’s quick.  It also serves my vegetarian daughter well.  This recipe is from Real Simple (I’m sure my grandmother would never use canned chickpeas).  I did make her cucumber yogurt dip though.  It too works with lamb or grapeleaves.

The event was really fun and I was amazed by the variety of foods.  Everything from pot pies from England, samosas from Africa, pasta from Italy, sushi from Japan, to sausages from Germany and more.   It would be a fun theme for any large gathering.  And it was great to see kids, and adults trying foods they’ve never seen before.

Crispy Falafel

2, 15 ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 shallot, finely diced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground pepper flakes

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoons kosher salt

3 tablespoons fresh parseley, chopped

1 1/2 cups panko or dried breadcrumbs

2 eggs, whisked

1/4 cup canola oil

Yogurt Sauce

1 1/2 cup plain yogurt

1/2 cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped

1 – 2 cloves garlic, minced

1/8 teaspoon ground pepper

1/8 teaspoon salt

(add a pinch of brown sugar if too sour)

 

In a food processor, processor chickpeas, lemon juice, 1/4 cup water until almost smooth.

Add the shallot, cumin, red pepper, garlic, salt and parsley and 1/2 cup breadcrumbs.  Pulse to add together.

Remove from processor.  Roll unto 2 inch diameter balls and flatten slightly to form patties.

Place remaining breadcrumbs on a flat dish.  Dip patties in eggs then roll in breadcrumbs to coat

For cucumber yogurt sauce combine all ingredients.  Cover and let sit in refrigerator at lease 30 minutes.

Heat half the oil in a skillet over medium heat.  Cook half patties (do not crowd) until golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes per side.  Drain on paper towels.

Add remaining oil if necessary and cook remaining patties.

Serve with yogurt cucumber dip, pita bread and spinach.

 

 

 

Share

Contractors in the House…What’s For Lunch?

The Contractor's Lunch Special

We’ve definitately had our share of contractors over the past few years working on our house projects.  One thing I have learned is that they appreciate and rarely turn down food.  This is good because I feel really awkward having someone in my house and not offering them food.  I know this may sound odd.  I just have to be a hostess and offer someone in my home a drink or food.

 

I realize this isn’t the approach everyone takes.  I grew up thinking if you go to someone’s home you bring something – cookies, wine, flowers, small gift.  However when I became a mom, I realized I was the odd one bringing flowers to the playdate host.  After a few times coming to what is now my daughter’s best friend’s house, the mom (my friend now) requested I stop bringing things.  Actually a pineapple was the last straw.  I took the hint.

 

I assume everyone that comes to my house should be fed and/or wattered, or at least offered to be.  For playdates I always have or make something.  Even if the neighbor comes over for a brief moment I offer something.  I can’t help myself.  So having someone working on my house makes me feel like I should provide something as well.  The good thing about the contractors is they are usually hungry and are not picky.  I’m not running a restaurant (and they’re not family) so I don’t ask them what KIND of sandwich when I offer a sandwich.  This makes it easy.  They can eat it or not.  But they always do (or at least hide it and I don’t know).  Actually I like this approach for everyone.  I make the food, you eat or don’t eat the food.  But there’s no discussion, critique, or complaining.  Just a simple “thank you.”

Once we were having our driveway repaired on a hot day.  My kids and I made ice cream cones for the contractors.  I enjoyed watching my kids bring them to the guys and seeing their surprise.  A simple act of food and kindness goes a long way.

The past weeks we’ve been remodeling our dining room.  The kitchen is right next to the dining room, so it’s awkward to go to the kitchen if I’m at home and not offer lunch.  So sometimes I avoid the kitchen if I don’t have time to make everyone (the contractors) lunch.  Tonight I didn’t know what to do as two guys came to finish something unexpectedly around dinner time.   I held off dinner as long as possible, not wanting to sit down for a family meal while they are working.  Finally we (the rest of my family) gave in.  I kept thinking we could of at least ordered them a pizza.  Maybe I’ll make them muffins tomorrow…

 

Share

Another Evening in the Kitchen….I Can’t Stop Myself

Some evenings I just get too overambitious.  Today I just don’t have a clear focus and instead of having a meal plan, I keep cooking and cooking.  Hopefully something will come together.  I’m having trouble settling back into the mealtime routine after being on holiday and now getting the kids homework and activities in before dinner.  These are some photos of my kitchen right now at 6:24 p.m.

I just finished making maringues for my daughter’s kindergarten class.  However I’m already second guessing them and may make something else.  That’s more like 10 pm tonight.

I realized I thawed out pork chops for dinner this morning and actually had a plan for them.  However I remembered my husband saying he didn’t want to eat meat.  Call it a resolution.  Anyways I called to get clarification.  Sure enough when he said meat he didn’t just mean red meat but pork too.  OK.  But I can’t waste food.  So I’ve cooked that.  Even if we don’t eat it tonight, at least I can now freeze it.  Tip:  I could not have put it back in the freezer without cooking it.  Since it came from the freezer already.  However after cooking it can then be warpped and frozen.

Now I’m creating a vegetable stir fry.

And for another protein for those not eating pork, I’ve made some marinated tofu.

So now the plan is a stir fry over rice noodles.  You can pick pork or tofu with your veggies.  That will have to work.  Did I mention I did all this is about 45 minutes?  My family comes home from my son’s Tae Kwon Do in about 10 minutes…

Share

Peas and Thank You – New Family Meatless Cookbook Review and Give Away

Sarah Matheny, author of the popular blog, Peas and Thank You has written a new cookbook, Peas and Thank You: Simple Meatless Meals the Whole Family Will Love, after changing her family’s diet to one without meat products.  She has an easy and witty style about her writing and this book is peppered with food photos as well as her little “peas” (aka girls) enjoying her recipes.  This book has stories, tips and recipes from a mainstream family that takes on a not-so mainstream diet.

 

This book is a good one for those looking to make a diet switch and eat less animal products, as well as someone just looking for new meatless ideas.  I know I am.  Sarah has recipes from morning to night.  There are fruit smoothies for breakfast, sandwiches and salads (Hugh Jass Salad is just for mom) for lunch and hot meals (curry, jambalaya) for dinner.  Plus a few retooled desserts without the use of dairy (carrot cupakes).

 

My family made the homestyle chocolate chips cookies with sea salt, the thai veggie burgers and the homestyle spaghetti sauce.  While the cookies were good, I did notice they were missing something…butter.  But good to have a vegan recipe for such a popular treat.  Also the veggie burgers were good, but needed some sauce to lend moisture.  Luckily Sarah has a versatile almond ginger recipes that did the trick for me.  The spaghetti sauce was rich and easy (see below).  We used it on pasta as well as sauce for homemade pizza.

Review

Pros: good variety of meatless dishes, some simple and quick, fun writing style, good photos, nutritional info on each recipe, pea points on each recipe give helpful hints

Cons: some dishes require special ingredients (tempeh, non dairy cream cheese) that may be hard for some to find, some recipes are time consuming and need many ingredients

Give Away!

If you would like a chance to win a copy of Sarah’s new cookbook, Peas and Thank You, please send a comment on this post, with the name of your family’s favorite meatless recipe.  One winner will be chosen at random on Thurs. November 10, 2011 and notified via email.

 

Homestyle Spaghetti Sauce, pg. 142 from Peas and Thank You

It’s almost as easy as opening a jar, both with the added joy, if you wish, of letting it simmer for hours, rubbing garlic behind your ears, smearing a few splatters on your apron and bringing your thumb and teo fingers together to emphasize, “Now attsa some tasty sauce!”  You’d be right.

2 14.5 ounce cans organic diced tomatoes

1 6 ounce can tomato paste

1/3 cup onion, diced

1/2 cup fresh basil

2 teaspoons oregano

1 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Combine all ingredients in a high speed blender ot food porcessor and blend until smooth.  Pour sauce into a large saucepan and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occassionally.

 

Share

Hunger Challenge Wrap Up

So my family agreed last week was hard.  I feel like the challenge (my goal of trying to keep my family full and satisified with healthy food on such a limited budget) was all consuming.  Everything else seemed like a blur, and other than our daily lives of school, homework and blogging, not much was accomplished.  I simply didn’t have the time or energy.  We also missed our social life and the ability to have people over and feel like we could host and provide for them.

My car broke down the day after the challenge ended.  If this had happened during the hunger challenge I would not have been able to handle it so well (car was towed and kids and I walked 1.2 miles in 85 degree heat).  Because we were able to get a icy, fruit smoothie and emergency snacks out of the trunk (yes, I keep nuts and graham crackers usually for when hunger strikes) for our walk home – it became another adventure – rather than a hardship.  If we had been hungry and thirsty and not able to refresh our bodies with fuel, we wouldn’t have had the energy or spirit to walk home.

So there is much to be thankful for and we’re glad the unhappy faces are down from the cupboards and we’ve been grocery shopping again.  My kids even have ideas for next year (they said it).  Unfortuantely hunger will still exist next year (although we can hope the numbers of people effected go down) and thus another challenge.

I’m happy to annouce the KGO Fight Hunger Day last week is still totaling and pulling in donations for the Bay Area food banks, and is now over $185,000.  Well done.  I think the more people are able to spread the word, the more we can all help each other.  Thanks for reading, caring and sharing.  And thanks to my family for supporting the challenge 100%.

Share

Kids’ Menus – A Few Good, Most Not So

I am usually dissappointed by kids’ menus at restaurants.  Why is it that the restaurant can serve fresh, organic, delicious food on the adult menu, but the the kids’ is an afterthought with a choice of who’s who from the freezer section?  Why offer a kids menu at all if you’re stooping to offer a steamed hot dog and boxed macaroni and cheese?  When did people get the idea that kids will only eat hot dogs, hamburgers, pasta with butter and chicken strips?  And even if the kids’ menu is decent, why does everything have to come with fries?  If your restaurant makes pasta for adults, make pasta for kids (just not such an overwhelming size).  If my family is going to a mexican restaurant we’ve decided we want mexican food, not a burger and fries.  If you have salads for adults, why not a small salad or some fresh, raw veggies for the younger set?  And what about milk?  Some kids are only offered soda, juice and chocolate milk.

 

Seems easier to use same ingredients and cooking techniques too.   I rarely offer my kids what’s on these menus other than the games and pictures to draw (although harder to edit now that my son reads).  We prefer to order a smaller or shared portion from the main or appetizer menu.  Or we pay for two adult size portions and take food home.

 

OK…Enough of my ranting.

 

I was impressed on two recent occassions when dining out with my family.  First, we went to  San Luis Obispo where we had a lovely breakfast at Big Sky Cafe.  The kids’ menu did have a drawing to color but the offerings were actually made from the same fresh organic ingredients as the regular menu, just smaller portions.  A stack of blueberry pancakes just wasn’t stacked so high.  A make your own omelet only came with 2 eggs and the steel cut oatmeal was appealing for every age with a selection of dried fruit and fresh berries.  I wish we were staying for lunch and dinner too.  Anyone for a petit filet with potato croquettes?   Mind you this was not a high end restaurant, as everything was under $18 for dinner on the main menu, under $10 on the kids’ menu.

 

Another great local find with a good kids’ menu is Piatti Ristorante.  There are 9 locations in all – most in California, but also in Colorado, Washington and  Texas.  This is a good italian trattoria for family and friends to gather as well as a date night spot when the kids are at home with a sitter.  Each location’s menu reflects the local taste and season.  Their bambini menu is the largest I’ve ever seen with a selection of antipasti, pizza, primi (pasta), secondi (salmon, chicken, steak), verdure (broccoli, mixed veggies) and dolce (gelato, panna cotta).  They started with an antipasti of salami, mozzarella, veggies and olives (so much we brought some home). My daughter loved her spinach and cheese ravioli as did my son appreciate his tomato gnocci.  This was higher end for the main menu but everything on the bambini  menu was a bargain at  less than $10.

 

So, yes.  It can be done.  Any place you care to share with a good children’s menu?

Share

Happy Memorial Day – Corn on the Cob Tip

I hope you and yours had a relaxing Memorial Day.  It’s a tough one to explain to kids.  And when they ask “So what does BBQing have to do with celebrating and remembering the soldiers?”  My answer is “It’s a good way to gather friends and family, and it’s usually nice weather, so you can cook and eat outside”.  Although here in the Bay Area we sure had a mix of weather – rain, sun, clouds, wind.  If you didn’t time things well the annual memorial bbq could’ve been better enjoyed by the fireplace, inside.

Luckily we were able to host some friends and enjoy a bit of the sunshine this weekend.  We did chicken kebobs, corn on the cob, roasted potatoes and strawberry shortcake (more on that in my next cookbook review).

I want to share a corn on the cob tip.  I love corn, but sometimes when cooked on the grill it burns and shrivels.  So now, what works for us, is precooking in the microwave.  I suppose you could precook by boiling as well – but takes so much longer.  Two cobs takes about 4 minutes to precook in the microwave.  Then it gets a brushing of olive oil and is finished on the grill for a few minutes.  Just long enought to get some grill marks and a bit of carmelization.  The kernals are still plump, and the cob doesn’t get too black.  Check it out.

 

wrap corn in wax paper and sprinkle with a few drops of water
microwave about 4 minutes for 2 ears of corn

 

Place over hot grill and rotate a few minutes for grill marks

 

Looking to grill something out of the ordinary?  Here’s a few tips for your next unique cookout.  Grilled avocado anyone?  Get ideas here.

Share