Thai Yellow Curry – Americanized

I am finally posting again after my 6 (or more) month hiatus. I love curry, all kinds. So far the only one I have tried to make is Thai yellow curry after my wonderful husband took to me on a cooking class date night for my birthday a year ago, where we made it. It is actually pretty easy to make the curry paste (if you cheat and use a food processor. If you do it the right way – hand grinding everything with a mortar and pestle it is a lot more work) and if you make a big batch then you can have extras, and at a later date throw it together with some veggies, tofu, chicken, etc and whip up a really easy meal. The hard part is finding some of the ingredients. Some of the staples, galangal, kaffir lime leaves, and lemongrass can be particularly difficult to find in regular American grocery stores and if you don’t have a local Asian market, you could be out of luck. So here is my version of Thai Yellow Curry made with ingredients that are relatively easy to find in American grocery stores. Certainly not authentic, but still healthy and delicious.

 

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Ingredients:

4 sticks celery

4-5 pieces fresh turmeric root

1 chunk ginger about 2 inches long

1 red chili pepper

2 small shallots

2 cloves of garlic

1 lime

1 lemon

1/2 tsp Cumin

1 tsp Coriander

1/2 tsp cloves

1 tablespoon honey

2-3 tablespoons liquid aminos or soy sauce (or consider cured black olives)

2 tablespoons oil – avocado, canola, grapeseed, etc

 

Chop the celery into chunks, no more than about 2 inches long. Wearing some sort of rubber or latex or nitrile gloves so your fingers don’t get stained orange, and using a paring knife peel the turmeric and ginger and chop them into a few chunks. Peel the shallots and the 2 cloves (not whole heads as pictured above) of garlic. Slice the chili lengthwise and scrape out the seeds and discard. (It is a great idea to still wear the gloves for this step so when you accidentally rub your eye later it doesn’t catch on fire even though you have washed your hands 5 times…..). Toss all of that into the food processor.

 

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Grate the zest off of the lemon and the lime using a microplane (pictured) or a zester. Make sure you only get the colorful part which is what contains the flavorful essential oils and try not to get too much of the white rind, which is the bitter part.

 

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Once all of that is in the food processor, drizzle in the honey, and add 1 tablespoon of the aminos and 2 tablespoons of the oil.

 

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Pulse the food processor to blend everything together, stopping periodically to scrape it down off the sides. Once it is partially blended, as long as you do not see liquid pooling, add another tablespoon of aminos and then a third if it still isn’t too soggy. If you pause between the additions and you see liquid pooling, use a teaspoon of salt, or 2 tablespoons of cured black olives instead. Keep pulsing until it is blended and paste-like.

 

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Once this is done all you have to do is pick your protein (chicken and tofu are great), veggies (I suggest some combination of carrots, broccoli, red/yellow bell peppers, and peas), add about 3 tablespoons of paste (more or less to taste) and 1 or 2 cans of coconut milk depending on how much you are making (1 can for up to 4 people, 2 for more or for leftovers). If you use chicken be sure to cook it first, then add the coconut milk, curry paste, carrots and broccoli for about 5 minutes then add the rest of the veggies for another 5 minutes and you are done!

 

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Quick and Easy Breakfast (or lunch or dinner)

The key to maintaining any kind of diet or lifestyle is making it easy (or at least not seeming like its a ton of work). I do love to cook more elaborate, fancy things, but a lot of the time you really need something you can just throw together in 10 minutes. These are a couple options for quick and nutritious breakfasts that get you protein and the plate of veggies that I love. Pictured here with eggs, but just as easy and tasty to make with sauteed tofu or tempeh as well.

Option 1 (the easiest)

20180407_1401211679711706.jpgFry 1 or 2 eggs (or tofu) to your liking – I prefer over medium. With 2 eggs I usually take one of the yolks out because I eat eggs often enough I need to make sure I’m not getting too much cholesterol. As a general rule of thumb keep it to about 1 yolk per day.  Put tofu/eggs atop a nice bed of greens (per usual, I love arugula mixed with some spring greens). Top with a nice dash of seasoned salt, turmeric and olive oil (if you are feeling fancy use garlic infused olive oil – made by putting a couple cloves of crushed garlic in olive oil and letting it hang out overnight). And thats it. Yes there is some bacon in the background of this picture. I haven’t given that up.

 

Option 2

20180408_110150513039521.jpgPretty similar to the tofu scramble, but still quick and easy. Chop some beet greens (including stems) and tomato and a little onion if you like that. Sautee for a minute in olive oil then add egg or tofu, about 1/4 tsp of turmeric, season salt to taste and (garlic) olive oil as above and cook for another few minutes. Place atop greens again. This time without bacon.

Nut Milk

Starting the anti-inflammatory diet I have been mostly just drinking water, but occasionally almond milk or coconut milk. I don’t really like the texture of most of them, and they generally have added sugar and flavor, so when one of my friends mentioned that she makes her own almond milk I was intrigued. I had never thought about making my own, but turns out it is ridiculously easy. And the taste and texture are way better than anything store bought I have had. Generally soak some nuts, drain and rinse, blend them with a 2:1 ratio of water to nuts (ex 1 cup nuts gets 2 cups water) then strain.

Ingredients:

  • Nuts of choice (I use a mix of pretty much everything, almonds, walnuts, macadamia nuts, cashews, hazelnuts)
  • Water
  • Dates (if desired)
  • Salt (if desired)

In a glass container with a wide mouth or a large (at least 2 cup) measuring cup, put a generous 1/2 cup each of almonds, walnuts and cashews, and about 1/4 cup hazelnuts. I have tried hazelnuts but themselves (good for creamer, but didn’t like it for regular drinking) and almonds by themselves which were pretty good but not my favorite. I think the walnuts and cashews balance out the flavor nicely. I also just did a version with 1/2 cup each of almonds and cashews then scant 1/4 cup each of hazelnuts and macadamia nuts, my favorite so far.

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Cover with water – filtered water gives the cleanest flavor – and cover to let the nuts soak. I usually soak overnight, but a couple hours is good enough. If you are doing an overnight soak, put it in the refrigerator.

Once the nuts are done soaking, drain and rinse then put in the blender with water, 1/2 tsp salt and 2-4 dates. I use 4 cups water for the approximately 2 cups of nuts. Use less water for a thicker more rich milk (like 1:1 or even a little less for creamer). Depending on the size of the blender you may need to do it in 2 batches, as it works best if blender isn’t a whole lot more than half full. Blend for 1 to 2 minutes until well mixed, then strain. You can get mesh nut milk bags, or a tight-knit towel or t-shirt works well too.

Adding a little cinnamon can spice it up if you like, or just drink plain, use in recipes, cereal, etc!

Curry Crackers

I forgot to take prep pictures, but will add next time I make them, which is about weekly. These crackers are my favorite way to use the nut pulp left over from making nut milk (recipe to come soon, but essentially 2 cups water to 1 cups nuts, 3-4 dates and 1/4-1/2 tsp of salt; blend; strain). I have tried a few different things including just baking as is (tasted like cardboard), beet chips (tasted like slightly sweet cinnamon fuchsia cardboard) and using in baked goods (that actually worked ok), but this is by far the best I have come up with.

For every cup of nut pulp you have, mix in 1/4 cup olive or avocado oil. Coconut oil is probably good too, but I haven’t tried it and olive and avocado are better for you anyway. I might try adding just a little – maybe a tablespoon unrefined coconut oil because the flavor would go nicely with the flavor of the chips. Add 1/2 tsp salt (more to taste as needed), 3/4 -1 tsp curry powder, 1/4 tsp turmeric, 1/4 tsp paprika – I usually use smokey, but sweet is good too. Mix well then spread out on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. I usually place another piece of parchment paper on top and roll out until it is about 1/2 cm (1/4 inch or so) thick. Place in the oven and turn on to 400F, bake for about 7 minutes then turn down to 250F and bake until it is all dried, about another 20 minutes. If the edges start to brown you can turn the oven off and leave it for an hour or so, that will usually allow it to finish drying without burning. Break in to pieces are you are set. I really like the flavors of the crackers so I just eat as is. If you eat dairy they would be good with a tzatziki sauce, or perhaps a tzatziki-like sauce made from coconut yogurt instead. Ideas for another experiment.

Warm Lentil Salad

Lentils, in the legume family, come in a variety of (small) sizes and colors, including green, brown, red, yellow.  With their good protein, fiber and iron content, they are an essential part of any plant-based diet. You can get them with husk and without. With husk they hold their shape with cooking, without husk they for more of a puree (think lentil soup). This salad uses French green lentils which hold together and is a tasty meal on its own or a great accompaniment.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups French Green Lentils/yellow peas
  • Vegetable broth
  • 1/2 tsp thyme
  • 1/2 tsp savory (if you have it)
  • 4 Carrots, sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 Shallot, diced
  • Mace (or nutmeg is a good substitute)
  • Clove
  • 1/2 to 1 cup walnuts and pumpkin seeds
  • 2 medium golden beets or 1 yam

Cut beets/yams into 1 inch or smaller pieces and put in the oven on a cookie sheet at 400F. Roast until a fork goes in easily, about 20 minutes. While that is roasting, cook lentils/peas as directed on the package, with veggie broth rather than water, and adding in the thyme and savory for a little extra flavor. In the meanwhile sautee the carrot, garlic and shallot until they are fragrant and the shallot is translucent. In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add the carrots, garlic and shallot to the lentils/peas along with a pinch of mace and a pinch of clove, and finish cooking until the lentils and carrots are tender. If needed, add more water 1/4 cup at a time to cook until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Add walnuts and mix. Once the beets/yams are done, add to the lentils. I like to put everything on a bed of greens (as I do with most things), but it is just as tasty without the greens as well.  Sprinkle some shelled pumpkin seeds on top and dress with a 50/50 mix of olive or avocado oil and red wine vinegar and enjoy.

 

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The Power of Purple

We’ve all heard about the wonder of beets and blueberries as superfoods, and that maybe red wine is better for you than white, but I was curious what of this is true and what would bestow these foods with such health benefits. In my initial research about anti-inflammatory things, trying to figure out if corn or potatoes or alcohol are ok, and if there are other foods that are good to eat more of or foods that should generally be avoided, I noticed a pattern. Foods that are of dark red/blue/purple coloring kept coming up as being particularly good. Things like blueberries, black currants, beets, blackberries, purple potatoes, blue maize and even red/black/mahogany rice all have in common a phytonutrient family called anthocyanins or anthocyanidins. There are many different specific compounds that make up this family, but they are generally responsible for the vibrant coloring of these foods and also seem to have some pretty healthy properties. Some of the studies are just under the microscope so it can be hard to know the actual impact on health, but it is inferred.

Many of the studies focus on the beneficial effects beets/beetroot juice have on exercise and blood pressure. Some results are mixed, but it does seem that in general, short term intake of beet juice can improve athletic performance as well as improve blood pressure. These effects may be more apparent with fresh beets/beet juice than cooked beets. I think this is at least in part because heat can degrade nutrients. I actually saw this when I made the Valentine Clementine Cake, as the batter was red from the beets, but after it cooked there was only a thin layer of reddish pink on top, so clearly something changed. There are however some nutrients you absorb more readily when foods are cooked (so this goes back to my stance that a mix of cooked and raw foods is important).

Benefits seen in other studies include blueberries protecting brain health, black currants improving night vision, and purple corn and purple sweet potatoes helping to reduce gut inflammation, promote liver health and helping to reduce negative effects of an unhealthy high fat diet. Again, these studies have to be taken with a grain of salt, but overall it is safe to say that these vibrant fruits and veggies are good for you and there is no harm (unless you are allergic) to having them as a regular part of your diet. So when trying to decide how to eat to reduce inflammation and promote health, these vibrantly colored fruits and vegetables should certainly be included.And in the carb realm, purple potatoes and purple/blue corn make the cut as well as black/mahogany rice.

Bottom Line: vibrant or darkly pigmented foods have anthocyanins which are anti-inflammatory. These include blueberries, blackberries, black currants, purple potatoes/sweet potatoes, blue corn, beets, and black/mahogany rice and they are good for you.

Blueberry, Beet, Fennel Salad

This salad has anti-oxidant rich blueberries and beets, and protein with almonds and/or walnuts, and a touch of sweetness so is great as a meal of its own accord, especially if you prefer something a little sweet for breakfast. It also pairs nicely with the Rosemary Venison or my take on Chicken Marbella.

Ingredients:

  • Equal parts kale and lettuce
  • 1-2 beets, diced to 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • Blueberries
  • Almonds and walnuts (I usually use both) 
  • Almond or coconut yogurt
  • Almond milk 
  • Ginger beet sauce (puree 1 beet, 1 banana, 1 apple and about 1 tsp ginger)
  • Cinnamon

Dice/chop the beets and fennel, enclose in tinfoil and bake at 400F for about 30 minutes or until a fork goes in easily. I usually make a big batch ahead of time and eat the salad a couple times during the week. After beets and fennel are cooked and at least slightly cooled, in a bowl combine equal parts kale and lettuce, and top with blueberries, beets/fennel, and almonds/walnuts. I usually use about equal volumes of blueberries, beets/fennel and almonds/walnuts, around 1/4 cup.

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For the dressing combine about 2 tbs each of coconut or almond yogurt, almond milk (I’m not sure why it looks pink in this picture, maybe reflection off the beet sauce), and ginger beet sauce (I think I need a better name for that). Spoon or pour over your salad and you are good to go.

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Rosemary Venison

My anti-inflammatory diet is not vegan, or even vegetarian. I eat chicken and fish and red meat occasionally as well, but I do try to make sure the meat I eat is clean and healthy as well. Just like people are healthier if they eat naturally and get exercise, the same is true for animals and game. And while I don’t have data to back this up necessarily, it makes sense that wild (fish and venison for example) or pasture raised sources where animals are treated well, eat healthily and have room to roam would produce healthier meat than sources with other practices.

For this recipe I used venison, but it would also be good with pork chops or steak, or even duck probably. It is pictured above with zucchini pesto, roasted brussels sprouts and yams, and polenta. The zucchini pesto isn’t great reheated so better to just make as much as you plan to eat.

Ingredients:

  • Venison (or pork chop, steak or duck)
  • 1/4 cup Red wine
  • 1 tsp Balsamic vinegar
  • Powdered rosemary, sage, savory
  • Salt
  • Date paste

Start by marinating the meat, if you marinate overnight in the fridge you can get more flavor and tenderness, but even just 1 hour is ok. This recipe was enough to feed 2 people. For the marinade mix together 1/4 cup red wine, 1 tsp balsamic vinegar, about 1/8 tsp powdered rosemary, a pinch of sage and savory and 1/2 tsp salt. Mix together and put in small bowl with about 8oz meat. Add 1/2 – 1 cup water to just cover meat. Refrigerate and let stand 1 hour or up to overnight.

After marinating, heat a pan over medium-high heat with olive or avocado oil. Using a fork, remove meat from marinade and place in the pan, cooking for 2-3 minutes on the first side, or until browned then flip over to the second side and brown, again about 2-3 minutes. Add the marinade to the pan and cook until reduced to just a few spoonfuls, if this takes more than 5 minutes, remove the meat from the pan and set aside, covered to keep warm. Adding about 1 tsp of date paste to the reduction gives a nice hint of sweetness, but is not necessary. Spoon reduction over the meat, add your desired sides and serve. I think the blueberry, beet, fennel salad goes well with this meal, but with all the other veggies I served with it, you don’t really need a separate salad.

 

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Ginger Orange Beet Salad

As you have or will notice I eat a lot of salad, and even when I’m not specifically making salad I usually throw whatever I have make on top of some spinach or lettuce or arugula. This is both because it is good to have a combination of fresh and cooked veggies since you process and absorb different nutrients and because I like how it tastes. And when trying to lose weight, having the extra raw veggies helps you feel full and satisfied without a lot of extra calories. This salad is a nice easy lunch, or is great for breakfast if you are someone who likes sweet rather than savory breakfast.

The only thing you need to cook for this is beets and you can cook up a bunch at once and have them ready for this salad or other eating. I usually just cut the beets up in 1/2 to 1 inch pieces throw them in a tin foil pouch and cook in the oven at 350-400 for about 30 minutes or until a fork goes in easily.

For the greens I use a combination of lettuce, beet greens, spinach and kale. Throw on some of the roasted beets, a handful (or about 1/3 cup of lightly salted almonds and walnuts, and a sliced up orange or a couple clementines. Top it with some grated fresh ginger and turmeric to taste (I usually use about 1.5 tsp of each because I really like them). And for the dressing mix 1 part lemon or lime juice – I prefer lime – to 2 parts walnut oil, or other mild oil such as grapeseed, tigernut or refined coconut oil. Toss it all together and you have a quick, easy and delicious anti-inflammatory salad.

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Delicious Basil Pesto

We eat a lot of pesto at our house. It is great for all kinds of things, eat it as a main dish or side with pasta, or anti-inflammatory “pasta” such as zucchini or spaghetti squash, make salad dressing or add it as a flavoring for sandwiches or eggplant, tomato, pesto bites (my replacement for pizza night). I have yet to find a store-bought version that compares to home-made and it is easy to make. I adapted a recipe from my Uncle Joe who is known for his pesto (and Eva Cassidy) dinners.

Ingredients:

  • Lots of basil – a big box is usually about 4 oz or a bit over 2 cups packed basil leaves, I use 3 or 4 boxes
  • About a 1/2 cup olive oil per 2+ cups of basil, so about 1 1/2 cups for 3 boxes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves garlic (or 1 if it is a very large clove)
  • 2 tbs pine nuts and 1/4-1/2 cup walnuts. I also think it would be really good with pistachios, but haven’t tried that yet
  • Original recipe calls for 2-3 tbs Parmesan or pecorino cheese. Omit this for the anti-inflammatory version

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Separate the basil leaves from the stems. Put all the oil, along with leaves from one box and blend until minced. If you mix in the basil leaves in in about 3 batches, it blends more easily. With the third batch of basil leaves add the garlic, nuts and salt and blend on something like the “chop” or a medium setting, until everything is mixed. And thats it!

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Use the pesto for anything you want, and you can put the rest in the fridge for later. It usually lasts 3+ weeks in the fridge, or you can spoon it into ice cube trays to freeze and it will last months. This is my uncle’s favorite way to make sure all his delicious garden basil doesn’t go to waste! I will admit that pasta is definitely my favorite way to have pesto, but spooned over shaved zucchini as pictured below is pretty tasty.

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