Dreamy Curry Chicken Salad

It came to me in a dream…literally.  I had a dream last night about curry chicken salad.  True story.  I can’t remember any other part of the dream, there is no other context.  All I recall is the warm, golden glow of curry stained chicken floating in a creamy bath of mayo.  In the dream it was a sandwich nestled between 2 pieces of gorgeous, thick, nutty whole grain bread.

Dreamy chicken curry sandwich. I didn’t have the bread of my dreams but sprouted Ezekiel bread did just fine.

I can’t think about anything else, so of course I had to satisfy the craving of my subconscious.  I would have made it for breakfast if I didn’t have to teach an early morning yoga class.  And just an FYI, remember those brussel sprouts I made for the Thanksgiving side dish post?  A word to the wise, those are best consumed no where near taking a yoga class……

The dreamy ingredients….

Pssst…this would be a delicious & very non-traditional way to re-purpose your leftover turkey!

Dreamy Curry Chicken Salad

1# cooked chicken breast, chopped or pulled

1 cup celery, chopped fine

1/4 cup onion, chopped fine

3/4 tsp orange zest

2 tsp curry powder

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1/4 cup raisins

1/3 cup pecans, chopped rough

2/3 cup mayo (I prefer Hellman’s)

In a medium mixing bowl combine  mayo, orange zest, curry powder and turmeric.  Add chicken breast, celery, onion, raisins and pecans to mayo mixture.

Serve chilled atop salad greens , in romaine salad “boats” or atop nutty, multi-grain bread like in my dream.

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Sexy Sides….(not obliques!)…for Thanksgiving Dinner. 3 Recipes, 1 Post

I love turkey and the nap that follows as much as the next person, but for me the meal on this big day is all about the sides.  Oozy green beans and burnt marshmallow topped sweet potatoes are no longer my thing.  Oh no, the heavy from-a-can sides are in the past; lets go fresh and pure.  Lets take the traditional foods & amp up the flavor factor & the nutrition.  I know what your thinking…..Thanksgiving/nutritious?  Huh, what, really?  Well, if I’m going to have copious leftovers to devour, my manageable potbelly does not need to turn into a  kettle corn sized drum.

Come and sit down at a table of very sexy sides…..

Lets begin with the sweets.  I’m not a marshmallow hater per say,  just more of a clean food lover.  This recipe is an evolution from my grandmother’s sweet potatoes and apples.  It was beautiful and had the simple ethnic tradition of our Hungarian heritage all over it.  But it was time to sex it up.  I made it less time consuming and created a rich comfort food side. Its buttery, smooth and has that intoxicating mix of salty-sweet.  This is quite possibly one of the most delicious things I ever made.

No marshmallows no mo! Butter pecans is where its at…keep it real!

Butter Pecan Crusted Smashed Sweet Potatoes & Apples

Preheat the oven to 375 F.  In a large stock pot boil 3 sweet potatoes and 2 large apples roughly chopped with the skins on – about 6 – 6.5 cups total.  Drain the sweets & apples once they are soft, add 4 tblsp butter, pinch sea salt, 3/4 tblsp cinnamon, 1/4 tsp nutmeg & 2 tblsp maple syrup. Roughly mash them with a potato masher, it should remain chunky but smooth.  In a small sauce pan over medium heat  melt 2 tblsp butter adding 3/4 cup chopped pecans, heavy pinch of sea salt and 2 tblsp brown sugar – stir to combine and coat nuts.  Place apple mixture in a square or round glass baking dish and sprinkle butter pecan mixture over top.  Bake at 375 uncovered for 15-20 minutes until the nuts brown & a crust forms.

I promise no one will miss the marshmallows…..

While most of us keep on passing anything green when it comes around to our plate, this dish should be tried at least once:  Roasted brussel sprouts.  I can hear you through the internet…”What?! Brussel sprouts?  Not a chance.  Those baby cabbages smell bad.” Yes, you are correct, they do smell bad, but I promise these baby cabbages taste soooo nice….(pssst, there is a secret ingredient).  Here’s how I do it:

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

Pre-heat oven to 425 F.  Using 1 lb of brussel sprouts, cut off the bottoms and then cut in half.  Spread on a baking sheet and toss with 2 1/2 tblsp olive oil, 1/2 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp black pepper and (here is my top secret ingredient)…nutmeg.  Freshly grated is best, but use what you’ve got, a heavy 1/4 tsp plus more for the finishing.  Roast uncovered for 20-25 minutes, tossing occasionally, until they are crusty brown on the outside and tender on the inside.  Sprinkle a pinch more nutmeg over top to finish.

This will put the “green” back on your plate.

The secret ingredient unveiled!!! Put the greens back on your plate!

And finally my Sassy Cranberry Sauce.  I don’t even need anything to eat this with.  Shamelessly, I consume it straight out of the bowl.  Its got zing, its got crunch, its got texture.  What it doesn’t have are those bizarre, unearthly ridges molded from the inside of an aluminum can.  This side has moxy & I surmise if you eat it, you will too.

It will sparkle in your mouth!

Many blessings to you this Thanksgiving & everyday you wake up.  I’m grateful you read my blog!

Sassy Cranberry Sauce

1 cup unrefined sugar

1 – 12oz bag cranberries

3/4 cup water

1 stick cinnamon

1/3 cup raisins

¾ c celery, chopped fine

½ c grated carrots

1 tblsp freshly grated ginger

Juice & zest from 1 orange

Pinch freshly grated nutmeg

Combine cranberries, water, sugar and cinnamon stick in a medium sauce pan and cook on medium high heat.  Once simmering stir in raisins through nutmeg.  Simmer, stirring often until it begins to thicken, about 10-15 minutes.  Let cool before serving.

Note: Cranberries are tangy to the 10th power so you need alot of sugar to balance that.  I tend to lean toward the less sweet so 1 cup of sugar was a bit much, you decide.

Don’t Just Look At It…Eat It!!!!! Pumpkin Curry

Look at how cute and delicious I am. Eat me!

If I see one more recipe that calls for a can of pumpkin I’m going to lose it!!  Yes, of course, I know we are busy, but really, we know the difference in flavor from canned peaches to fresh peaches right?  Yes, we do, exactly my point.  And the last time someone sucked down a pumpkin spice latte or pumpkin flavored anything for that matter, did it actually taste like pumpkin?  My guess is probably not; most likely it tasted like cinnamon, cloves and ginger…no pumpkin to be found!  Did you know that pumpkin actually tastes amazing & not just in pie?!  Oh indeed it does.  And how about those seeds….all warm and salty and toasty.

Pure fall. Don’t waste a thing…eat those seeds!

What a gift to have pumpkins growing this time of year.  Eat them fresh & forget the can!

Pumpkin curry was the first meal I ate at my host family’s house in Fiji.  The pumpkin was familiar but done in a way that my palate had never experienced.  My host mom would always make it for me whenever I came home for visits and it will forever be a nostalgic food.

Pumpkins in Fiji! They are a kitchen staple.

Not in the mood to cook but want to try pumpkin?  Cut a cooking pumpkin (they call them “pie pumpkins”) into quarters, scoop out the seeds (toast ’em & eat ’em!), place the slices in a glass baking dish.  Bake them uncovered with cut side down at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes.  Pumpkin is finished when it is fork tender. Want savory? Sprinkle with sea salt and butter or olive oil.  Want sweet? Sprinkle with butter, honey & cinnamon.  Want curry?  See recipe below……

This recipe is exactly how my host mom made it except that neither of us measures anything so I did my best to note that.  I’ve made this recipe probably over 50 times and only ONCE did it actually taste just like hers (I actually called her rejoicing in my success).  This curry is warm, velvety and a gorgeous color.  In Fiji it was most often eaten with roti (unleavened flat bread) but here I made it with rice.

Prepped and ready to be curried…yummmm….

Eat it with your hands!!!

Kaddu ke Tarkari- Pumpkin Curry

(From the home of my Indo-Fijian host-mom, Sarojni Singh)

4 cups pumpkin, skin peeled, chopped into half inch cubes

1 medium white onion, chopped medium

2 cloves garlic

1 tbsp ginger root, peeled

2-3 small chilies, (adjust quantity according to your heat preference & the type of chilli)

½ tsp fennel seeds

1/2  tsp cumin seeds

½ tsp mustard seed

Sea salt

1 1/2 tblsp coconut or olive oil (I chose a healthier oil as they only use soy or canola)

Optional: 2 tblsp chopped cilantro (mom doesn’t use, but I like it)

Pound garlic, ginger and chilies in a mortar & pestle with a heavy pinch of salt or chop very finely.  In a very hot skillet or pot add oil, then onion, fennel, mustard seed & cumin.  Saute until onions are browned & spices are toasted, about 2-4 minutes. Add garlic-ginger mixture and sauté for another minute, ensuring the garlic does not burn, lower heat if necessary.   Add pumpkin and cook covered on medium high heat until pumpkin has softened, stirring often.   Water is drawn out from the pumpkin as it cooks, so do not add any unless it seems to be very dry even after 20 minutes of cooking. Smash the pumpkin as it begins to soften with the back of a spoon. It should be a thick chunky texture when complete.  Add cilantro if using, stir to combine and salt to taste.

Note: There are alot of variations of this recipe and some people  also use cinnamon, turmeric or masala powder to spice up their pumpkin curry.  Sadly the pumpkins in the US are a bit different then in Fiji & sometimes they just don’t have the same umph of flavor.  If you find your pumpkin to be slightly lackluster then substitute half of the pumpkin for butternut squash.

Cheers!

Backseat Gourmet Series Continues….Did You Know Michigan Tasted So Good?

Here is how the conversation went:

Conor: “Hey Sara, how are you?”

Me: “Im cool, how are you?”

Conor: “I’m good. Do you want to come up to my parent’s beach house on….”

Me: (Excitedly & rudely interrupting) “Hell yes!  Whats the address?  And, are you near a farmers market?”

And so my back seat got packed up once again with my well loved hippie style back pack, a large bag  full of snacks (in the front seat) & several pages of directions thanks to Google maps.  And Conor’s beach house on Lake Michigan was not only near a farmers market it was surrounded by farms.  Acres and acres of apple and pear orchards, dairy farms and corn fields; nature at its finest.

The first morning there we awoke and hit the trail for a hearty 40 mile bike ride on an old railway turned bike path.  Our half way point was a dairy farm and restaurant called Country Dairy & Farm Store in New Era, MI.  The perfect place to re-fuel because with any food purchase you get a free bottomless glass of milk….there’s even a self serve dispenser!

Country Dairy & Farm Store…..they have bottomless glasses of fresh milk!!!

“Think you can handle the Brutus?”  Well with a taunting question like that I’m sure many try, I however still had 20 more miles to ride and wrestling with a 1/2 lb of beef topped with 2 kinds of pork and 3 kinds of cheese didn’t quite sound like it would sit nicely.  But Conor thought it would.

The Brutus Burger. Think you can handle it? 1/2 lbs beef, bacon, ham, cheddar, monterey and pepper jack cheeses.

The morning after an intense country bike ride one feels devoid of all calories & I personally feel the strong desire to consume everything that isn’t nailed down.  So thats pretty much exactly what I did, but consciously of course.  It was a delightful brunch, complete with a homemade gluten free oatmeal raisin muffin and cup of coffee – black.  Yes everything in that picture is all for me and truth be told I could’ve eaten more but I needed to save room for that nights dinner and dessert.  Especially dessert…who wants peach crisp spiked with cognac?

Ohio eggs, green beans, tomatoes and melon, homemade muffins, healthy avocado fats and a nice hot cup of black coffee. BLISS!

That evening Conor and I took a quick drive to get some provisions from a local farm stand.  I didn’t have a concrete plan in mind, more like a “cook what looks good” kind of plan.  And bless my eyes those Michigan peaches were ripe and ready and I seemed to recall an open bottle of booze that those peaches could go for a little swim in.

Putting it all together…don’t worry, the booze is in there, you just can’t see it.

This peach crisp is so simple and requires no cooking ability whatsoever.  And frankly if I wasn’t going to blog about it I wouldn’t have measured a thing.  The outcome is a crusty, crumbly, gooey, tangy dessert that will please everyone who takes a bite.  Good luck waiting for it to cool before you eat it…its almost worth the scalded tongue, correction, its definitely worth the scalded tongue.

The gooey, sticky, crusty final product. Ooohhh yeahhhh….

I realize that in most parts of the US peach season has just ended and my apologies for a late peach dessert, however this can also be made with apples which are beginning to flow in with abundance.

Enjoy!!

Michigan Peach Crisp with Cognac

Filling:

6-8 ripe, but slightly firm peaches, sliced medium

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/8 tsp nutmeg

1/2 cup brown sugar

2 tblsp flour ( I prefer spelt)

1/3 cup cognac

Topping:

1 cup oats

1 tblsp flour (again with the spelt)

1/2 tsp cinnamon

2 tblsp brown sugar

1/2 stick cold butter, cut into small pieces

Pre-heat oven to 350 degree fahrenheit.  In a medium bowl combine peaches through flour and toss to coat.  Add cognac and combine gently.  Spray a 9×9 baking pan with non stick cooking spray or rub with butter.  Pour peach mixture into dish.

In a medium bowl combine oats through sugar.  Add butter cutting cross wise with 2 knives to break it into small pieces.  Pour oat mixture over peaches spreading evenly.

Bake for 25-35 minutes until oats are browned and peaches are soft.  Let cool for 10 minutes before serving.  This is killer with some whole milk vanilla ice cream…let it get melty on your dish..and then lick it up!

The Backseat Gourmet-Roadtrip Through The N.E. 7 States in 7 Days!- Part 1 of 2

Let the driving begin- 7 states in 7 days!  I was graciously invited to travel with my step-mom and sisters to journey to uncharted territories.  With ipods charged, the Prius packed and several bags of eat-with-your-hands snacks, our expedition to the north east began.  We had no reservations and no real plan…except to eat.

Road trip snacks! All to be eaten with your hands!  A little bit salty, a little bit sweet and mostly healthy.

Our first stop was on the US side of Niagara Falls in New York.  Of course the main parking area was next to a multi-level mall with (shudder) a food court.  Tourist trap food courts?!…..NEVER!!!  We passed a corner restaurant that looked suitable to our hunger needs and decided the Red Coach Inn would be our dining destination for lunch.

Our first stop in Niagara, New York.

Now I know in my About Me page it says that you will find, clean, fresh, local, organic foods and 99% of the time that will be true.  BUT I just got back from living in Fiji for over 2 years and there are certain things that I have been craving with inexplicable fervor.  One of these things was a reuben sandwich.  And behold on this blessed menu was just such dish.  Yes, I know, you are right.  It’s not local and it’s not really all that healthy either, but they are my rules and if I make ’em then I can break ’em.  Plus,  I’m on vacation in my own country, everything is new again!!  The toasted rye bread is crunchy, the meat is salty, cheese gooey, kraut tangy and the light shmear of thousand island dressing makes my eyes roll back in reuben bliss.

Gooey goodness.

With the weight of the reuben reminding me the next day of why I don’t usually eat that way, on day 2 I suggest a picnic lunch.  Of course I love gourmet, innovative menus, exotic food pairings and layered desserts dripping in syrup.  But honestly I’m even more happy with a good old fashioned picnic.  We ran into the supermarket picked up some fruit, veggies, hummus, olives, avocado and bread and built ourselves a lovely little picnic in the woods of upstate New York.  I like indulging, but not everyday and especially not when I’m sitting on my rear end in a car for hours on end. Keeping it light and local makes me happier.

Picnic lunch in the woods. Fruits and build your own sandwiches. Yum!

On to our next spot, Lake Placid, New York.  The remnants of the Olympic rings still hang and vacationers saunter up and down the main thoroughfare of small boutiques, cafes and shops filled with outdoor gear for the weekend warrior.  My step-mom is an iphone aficionado and was on the ready to look up the latest trip adviser ratings.  And in Lake Placid, Alegria Garden Cafe was the place to be.   The food was inventive, service attentive and ambiance quiet and relaxed.  I ordered the suggested crab cakes with an orange beurre blanc.  They were indeed amazing as our hostess had said.  The crusty cakes were FILLED with shredded crab from edge to edge and the sauce they were nestled in was a creamy, citrusy delight.  Prior to my crab cakes arriving I perused the drink menu and made a tough decision: I narrowed it down to the Ginger Fizz.   Whew!! A punch to the taste buds, the fresh ginger gave my mouth a wallop and the fizz from the Prosecco nearly made me sneeze.  Calling this drink vibrant would be an understatement.  I also tried the Pisco Sour….its a good thing I wasn’t driving….there was no shortage of liquor there.  Check out the ingenuity of this drink menu, make them at home (but call me up to taste test first!)

Make it yourself!!

After New york we moved on to Vermont, Maine and Massachusetts!  Check out where we went and what we ate on my next post.  I’ll give you a hint…..maple syrup, Ben and Jerry’s factory, wild blueberries and lobster!! (but not all mixed together : )