Coconut Curry Noodle Bowls with Peanut Dressing

I’ve been trying to simplify some of my dinner plans ….. as much as I like puttering in the kitchen for a couple of hours after work (what I call kitchen yoga), there are times I just need to make a quick dinner.  This is one of my favourites …. quick, easy, healthy and most of all, absolutely delicious.  You don’t really have to make the peanut dressing to drizzle over, but honestly, isn’t everything better with peanut sauce?

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Tonight’s version of this bowl included prawns, mushrooms, snow peas, bok choy and lots of colourful peppers.

PEANUT DRESSING:
1 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
1 heaping Tbsp natural salted peanut butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
splash of lime juice
scant 1/4 tsp chili garlic sauce
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, minced or grated
splash of very hot water (only if too thick)

COCONUT CURRY:
1 tablespoon oil
2 shallots
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons red curry paste
1 14-ounce can regular coconut milk
1 ½ cup reduced sodium chicken or veggie broth
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon hot chili paste (sambal oelek)
2 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons soy sauce

2 tablespoons lime juice (optional)

BOWL: (These are suggestions, use whatever veg you have on hand)

4 ounces rice or egg noodles
1 tablespoon oil
half an onion, chopped
1 cup chopped broccoli florets
1 cup shredded carrots
1 cup chopped asparagus
1 cup shredded purple cabbage
sesame seeds & chopped peanuts for topping
limes for serving
a handful of fresh basil & cilantro for serving

I’ve also used snow peas, zucchini, sweet peppers & bean sprouts.

To prepare your peanut sauce combine all ingredients except the hot water, blend well and stir in just enough of the hot water to allow everything to become smooth and creamy.

Preparing the curry sauce is pretty easy.  Heat oil in a sauce pan and stir in shallots and fresh ginger, saute briefly just until translucent and stir i the curry paste.  Fry curry paste for 2-3 minutes, just to allow flavours to wake up.  Stir in the coconut milk, and stock.  Simmer for a few minutes just to allow flavours to get to know each other…… Taste …. if you can handle a bit more heat stir in the hot chili paste.  Remove from heat and add the sugar, fish sauce and soy sauce.  Taste again and adjust.  Remember, every brand of these ingredients will have a slightly different profile, and you need to make adjustments for that.  Last thing is to add the lime juice.  It should wake everything up and make you want to keep tasting …..

The method is fairly flexible, saute your veg in a wok with the oil just until crisp tender and set aside.  Alternatively, if you are using egg noodles, once you have removed the egg noodle from the boiling water, plunge the veg in for just 1-2 minutes until crisp tender and remove.

SERVING TIME:

Place noodles in the bottom of your bowl, layer on the veg, and sprinkle with toppings.  Gently pour over the coconut curry.  You can make this as saucy as you like by doubling up the curry sauce if you want more of a soup.  Drizzle over the peanut sauce and enjoy!

Pumpkins Pumpkins Pumpkins

 

pumpkins-anyone

Pumpkins, anyone?????  It’s October and pumpkin season in the Okanagan.  These adorable little pumpkins are super for decorating, and make the best pumpkin flesh.  Roast up a few, and freeze it for using in the middle of winter when pumpkin season is just a memory.

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I like oven roasting my pumpkins, seems to intensify the flavour and – not only that, super easy!

Cut pumpkins in half, scoop out seeds and turn upside down on roasting pan (I like to cover with parchment paper for easy clean up)

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Set those yummy pumpkin seeds aside for another day …. roasted with some seasoning they are a great snack or addition to salads!

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Once you scoop out the roasted pumpkin flesh, use an immersion blender to puree it all, then turn it into a heavy bottom pot and allow to reduce slightly …. (4 cups pumpkin flesh should reduce to 3).  Removing some of this water makes for more flavourful pumpkin flesh.

 

Gazpacho, Morelia style

The gazpacho we encountered in Morelia was unlike anything we had tried before.  Certainly not cold tomato soup.  We loved that each bite hit all the notes we were looking for; sweet, sour, spicy, salty and refreshing.  Versatility is key here, and in my opinion, so is hand chopping the fruit and vegetables.  Sure, a food processor would make short work of it all, but you might not get such great flavour in every spoonful.

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We first tasted this in Morelia, Mexico – where everything is fresh and delicious!  Even at home though, we have loved the refreshing dish.  Try serving it in small dishes as a palate cleanser for a Mexican fiesta ….

Everything finely diced:

2 cups jicama

2 cups cucumber

1 cup watermelon

1 cup mango

1/2 – 2/3 cup red or white onion

I say 1/2 – 2/3 cup of onion because it will depend on how pungent your onion is, and how much you love onion flavour, play with it.

1 tsp chile flakes

1/2 tsp salt

juice of 1 lime

juice of 1 orange

Stir this all together, and taste!!!  Every little bit of fruit and vegetable should be in each bite and you should love the way it all comes together.  If not – adjust!

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As you can tell, this is no small bite!  – Small version in the market in Morelia.

 

 

Pizza Pockets & Hand Pies

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Following is the recipe for a basic, soft and easy to work with dough.  I used this recipe for making pizza pockets for my granddaughter Sloan’s first week of Grade 1, and then turned leftover dough into meat hand pies for 93 year old Auntie Elsie, who is kind of tired of cooking these days. Leftover dough you say???  Well I didn’t think 8-10 small pizzas would give me enough dough so I doubled the recipe … which yielded 25 pizza pockets, 10 hand meat pies and 1 pizza for our dinner.  Significant yield!!!

Pizza Crust: (makes 8-10 small pizzettas)
Ingredients:

  • 750 g white flour (use Tipo ’00 flour if you can or a strong bread flour)
  • 200 g semolina flour
  • 2 ½ cups lukewarm water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. (or 1 x 8 oz packages) yeast
  • 2 tsp. sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp. olive oil

Directions:

  1. Place your flour(s) and sea salt in a large bowl and whisk together. Create a well in the center.
  2. In a large measuring cup, mix together your lukewarm water and sugar until the sugar dissolves. Sprinkle in the yeast and let it sit for approximately 5 minutes, until the yeast starts to ferment.
  3. Pour the water/sugar/yeast mixture into the well along with the olive oil and stir together with a fork or large spoon until it is well mixed. Once it becomes too difficult to mix together with your fork or spoon, sprinkle extra flour on the dough and your hands and mix with your hands until the dough comes together in a ball.
  4. Place the dough on a well-floured flat surface and knead, pushing the dough using the palms of your hands, for approximately 10 minutes, until the dough looks smooth and stretchy. You may need to add extra flour as you go, being careful not to add too much to keep the dough from being too stiff.
  5. Place the ball of dough in a large bowl coated with olive oil, dust the top of the dough with flour, and cover with a clean dish towel and place in a warm draft-free area for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. Punch the dough down.  At this point you can either refrigerate the dough overnight (or up to 2 days, covered with plastic wrap and occasionally punched down) or divide the dough into 4-6 portions (depending on how big you want your pizzas).  I highly recommend making your dough in advance and letting it sit in the fridge as the longer ‘proof’ really makes a difference.   Ensure that your pizza dough comes to room temperature before cooking (bring it out of the refrigerator 1-2 hours before you are ready to cook).
  6. Once ready to cook, heat your oven to the highest heat setting (500F for most ovens) and place your pizza stone in the oven for at least 20 minutes.
  7. Portion the dough into 8-10 balls and place on a well-floured surface. Using your hands, with your knuckles, (dusted with flour, along with the counter to prevent the dough from sticking) form your pizza crust 15-20 minutes before cooking your pizza on a flat surface dusted with semolina flour until it is nice and thin. Keep stretching it with your hands to make a flat pizza base (it doesn’t have to be round or perfect!).
  8. Remove the pizza stone from the oven, lay your rolled dough on the stone, and add your ingredients ….

If you are using this dough for pizza pockets or hand pies, after step 5 skip to step 7 and form circles of dough.

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For pizza pockets, layer on pizza sauce, your chosen ingredients and cheese, closing the pockets with a fork.  Make sure to prick the top surface with the fork so steam can escape.

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For the meat pies I used an ice cream scoop to get a consistent amount of the meat mixture – centered on the dough, and then brought up the edges to crimp over the middle of the circle.  Brush with beaten egg and poke with a fork.

Bake pizza pockets or meat pies at 400 until golden brown, about 20 minutes.

FILLING FOR MEAT PIE

1 onion, minced finely

1 garlic clove, grated

2 carrots

2 stalks celery

1/2 cup each frozen corn and peas

1 small zucchini, diced

1 lb ground beef

1 tbsp each dried oregano and basil

Saute the onion and garlic until the onion is lightly carmelized, add the carrots and celery, season with salt and pepper, and cook until vegetables are almost cooked through, then add zucchini and saute for another few minutes.  Remove from heat and place in bowl.  Add frozen corn and peas.  Return pan to heat and stir in ground beef – cooking until lightly browned, seasoning with salt and pepper.

Add beef to vegetable mixture and season with dried herbs, adding more salt and pepper if needed.  At this point, if you feel like it needs a bit more flavour, add 1 tbsp of tomato paste.  Stir well and set in fridge to cool down.  When cool, continue on with forming your hand pies.

These pies are only limited by your imagination – use whatever you feel like to fill the pies, making sure to taste the mixture before filling the dough rounds.  Made in a smaller size they make a great appetizer too.

Mexican Chopped Salad

Leafy green saladThis is the best, most refreshing light and lively salad dressing whenever you are having a Mexican style meal – salad may not be something often on a Mexican comida menu, but we usually want a bit of a green, fresh vegetable element on our dinner table!

We love this as a salad dressing on a variety of greens, but also fabulous on an assortment of chopped vegetables, i.e. jicama, cucumbers, radish, red onion, carrot … you get the idea!

¼ cup fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons honey
½ teaspoon cumin
1 clove garlic
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
taste and add salt if needed

Blend all ingredients well and dress your salad only when ready to serve.

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Jewelled Salad

The key to this salad is colour and texture. Make sure you use some fruit (pomegranate seeds are awesome), and lot of different textures. Try a variety of techniques in your vegetables also – some grated, some julienned, some sliced – you get the idea.

Beautiful, right??

Beautiful, right??

Add a cooked protein and you have a simple, whole meal.

We’ve been lucky enough to have Lorellei bring this to a few family dinners now, and it has definitely become one of our requested salads. If you can’t get sumac in your area, grate in a little extra lemon zest.

DRESSING

1/3 cup very good quality extra virgin olive oil
1 lemon (juice of)
3 tsp soy sauce
3 tsp honey
1/2 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 tsp sumac
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Blend all ingredients well and taste – adjust seasoning if needed.

SALAD

Just suggestions really, come up with your own ideas ..

spinach
kale
red lettuce
colorful peppers
cucumbers
beets
carrots
radishes
red onion
toasted slivered almonds

Vinaigrette

Try either of these vinaigrettes, easily done and keeps in the fridge to be your own "house dressing".

Try either of these vinaigrettes, easily done and keeps in the fridge to be your own “house dressing”.

I love making my own salad dressing vinaigrettes – and when the herbs are fresh and growing right outside my back door it is even more fun.

These recipes are written for whisking by hand – but if you have an immersion blender they will create a deliciously creamy dressing.

Here are a couple of my herby delicious faves.

SCALLION VINAIGRETTE

In a small bowl, whisk together:
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
3 chopped scallions (about 1/4 cup)
1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
pinch of salt

Whisk well, and then slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste with more salt and pepper if needed.

HERB & GARLIC VINAIGRETTE

In a small bowl, whisk together:
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tbsp whole grain mustard
3 tbsp fresh herbs (thyme, parsley, tarragon)
1 minced garlic clove
1 tsp honey
1 tsp coarse sea salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Whisk well, then slowly drizzle in 3/4 cup good quality extra virgin olive oil. Taste!! Season with more salt and pepper if needed.