24.4.16

Green Kitchen Tips for Earth Day


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My poor friends. So many of my conversations these days begin with, "So I listened to this really great podcast about....."  

I'll admit it.  I'm a bit obsessed with podcasts. Particularly The Lively Show.  So many of Jess's episodes have given me tidbits of wisdom, spurred self reflection, or changed my perspective.

About a year ago, I listen to this episode about a zero waste lifestyle.  It really challenged me to think about ways to eliminate waste.  Over the past several months, I've taken some small steps to reduce the amount of stuff that I throw away.  Although I still have a long way to go, in honor of earth day, I thought I would share some of the steps I've been taking along with my future goals.


What I'm doing now: 

1. Replacing paper napkins with cloth napkins. Cloth napkins are so pretty!  And this method saves money. It does add some extra laundry, but since napkins are pretty much the easiest thing to fold, it hasn't felt like a lot of extra work.

2. Reusing ziplock bags, aluminum foil, and plastic wrap. As you'll see down below, I want to eventually eliminate all of these items from my kitchen, but for the time being, I've been reusing them as much as I can to limit how much I throw away. 

3. Using plastic or glass containers instead of aluminum foil or plastic wrap. Another easy swap! The small plastic containers are great for snacks. 

4. Recycling.  You're probably doing this one already too. It's easy, especially if someone collects your recycling. When we went on vacation to the mountains over Christmas, the place we stayed did not have recycling. So, like the crazy person that I am, I brought 4 trash bags full of recycling in the car home with us. 

5. Using reusable grocery bags. I keep the grocery bags in the trunk of my car. Although I initially forgot them almost every time, I would make myself walk back to the car to get them. The more you do it, the more easily you will remember.




Future Goals: 

1. Replace plastic wrap with this bee's wrap. It's washable, reusable, and compostable. (I was inspired by this post.)

2. Replace paper towels. I need to buy some cheap washcloths and keep them under my kitchen sink to start to replace paper towels. There's more helpful info about that process in this post.

3. Buy reusable snack bags.  I want these pretty ones

4. Buy a silpat silicone non-stick baking mat for cookies. This will eliminate the need for wax paper when making cookies. :)

5. Start composting. This is hard if you're a renter like me, but I'm going to start doing some research. 

I think to avoid being overwhelmed, it's good to implement these changes one at a time. As you become comfortable with one, you can add in another.  I'd love to hear your thoughts on any of these methods/products. 

Happy belated Earth Day!

17.4.16

Panang Curry with Chicken and Vegetables


I still remember the first time I had curry. It was my senior year of college, and my roommates and I had started a tradition of family dinners.  Each night, one of us would be in charge of cooking dinner. 

One night, my roommate Catherine made curry with chicken, sweet potatoes, and rice, and it was one of the best family dinners we ever had.  I had never had coconut milk or curry paste before, and I was blown away with the deliciousness. 


However, it took several years before I was confident enough to try make curry on my own.

I was recently inspired to make this panang curry after eating excellent panang curry at a local Thai restaurant, finally ordering something other than my beloved pad thai.


My only complaint about the Thai restaurant version is that it has way more chicken than vegetables. (I'm kind of a weirdo about meat, and like to have even proportions of rice, vegetables, and chicken in each bite.) One benefit of making your own panang curry at home is that you can add as many veggies as you like! I added broccoli, red pepper, and jalapeño here.

You can use the regular red curry paste that you find in grocery stores if you like, but I really recommend getting the special panang curry paste for this recipe. You can find it at Asian grocery stores or on Amazon.

I hope you branch out of your normal dinner routine and give this recipe a try--I would love to hear what you think!


Panang Curry with Chicken and Vegetables


Ingredients:
For the curry:
1/4 cup panang curry paste
2 cups coconut milk
1 pound chicken breasts, cut into small pieces
2 cups chicken broth
1-inch knob of ginger, peeled
1 head broccoli, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno, ribs and seeds removed, chopped
3 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp brown sugar
zest from one lime

For serving:
batsami or jasmine rice
fresh basil


Directions:
Add the curry paste to a large sauce pan over medium heat. Pour in a small amount of the coconut milk, and stir vigorously to combine with the curry paste. Once the curry paste has started to dissolve, add the rest of the coconut milk and continue stirring to remove lumps. Continue cooking the coconut milk and curry paste over medium-high heat for 10-12 minutes, then add the chicken.

Cook the chicken for 5-6 minutes, and then add the broth, ginger, broccoli, red pepper, jalapeño, fish sauce, brown sugar, and lime zest. Bring to a  boil and cook until vegetables are just tender.

Remove ginger and serve in bowls over rice, garnished with basil.

Notes:
  • Using 1/4 cup curry powder, this was spicy! (According to my wimpy palate) If you want less spice, add closer to 3 tablespoons of curry paste.
  • Instead of lime zest, traditional panning curry uses kafir lime leaves. You can find these at an Asian grocery store.
  • This recipe easily makes 6-8 servings. 

Adapted from Saveur.

3.4.16

Chocolate Nice Cream


I'm a believer in the 80/20 rule. 

80% of the time, I try to pretty healthy. 20% of the time, I eat whatever I want. 

Thus, I still whole heartedly believe in decadent chocolate desserts


This chocolate nice cream is the type of chocolate dessert you can eat during the 80% healthy eating time. 

"Nice Cream" became a huge sensation in on the internet world a couple years ago. I'm behind the times with this, as with most food trends. 

Initially, my thought was, why make ice cream from bananas, when you can have the real thing?  Also, I don't have a fancy high-powered blender, so I was worried I wouldn't be able to pull it off .  Finally, to be honest, sometimes I'm just lazy about getting out, using, and then cleaning, my blender/food processor. 


However, that all changed over the last month. Adam and I gave up dessert for lent, and there were several days when I was realllllly craving chocolate.

Adam has also been on a bit of a smoothie kick recently, which inspired me to break out the food processor.

Maybe it was because I hadn't had real ice cream for other a month, but when I first tried this chocolate nice cream, I was in heaven. Even if you're not a fan of bananas, give this a try.  When they're frozen and blended with cocoa powder, you really don't taste the banana flavor at all.


You don't have to have a fancy blender to make this. As you can see, my chocolate nice cream still has some rough pieces in it, but that's ok.  A regular food processor or blender should work, as long as you break up the banana in small enough pieces.

Also, I made a step-by-step video for how to make this chocolate nice cream over on snapchat-->
steworastory.

I'm not really cool enough for snapchat yet, but I'm going to post a few recipe videos there from time to time!


Chocolate Nice Cream


Ingredients:
1 large banana, frozen
2-4 tablespoons milk of choice
1 date
1 tablespoon peanut butter (or other nut butter of choice)
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

Directions: 
Add frozen banana and 2 tablespoons milk to the food processor or high-powered blender. Begin processing, adding additional milk as needed until banana is smooth. 

Add the date, peanut butter, and cocoa powder, and process until smooth. 

Topping ideas:
chocolate chips
chia seeds
shredded coconut
strawberries 

Notes:
  • In order for the nice cream to be more like ice cream and less like a smoothie, add less milk. You can also pop it back in the freezer for a few minutes after making it to allow it to solidify more. 
  • The only ingredients you really need are frozen banana, milk, and cocoa powder. The date adds some extra sweetness, and the peanut butter adds healthy fat and protein. Also, I really love chocolate and peanut butter together!
  • Depending on how good your blender/food processor is, the frozen banana may be difficult to break up. You can leave it out of the freezer for a few minutes to soften, or try breaking it up into small pieces. 

27.3.16

Tilapia Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw


Happy Easter, friends. 

During the winter, weekends can be pretty uneventful around here.  We usually cook at home to save money, and I often have lots of school work to catch up on.  Adam travels for work during the week, so he likes to spend time at home on the weekend.  We frequently spend most of the weekend around the house and watch a movie on Netflix Saturday night. 

But, spring is here, and I'm in my last few weeks of school now.  While I certainly have work I could be doing, I'd much rather spend the weekend doing fun things outside. Adam worked from home last week, so there was no excuse not to get out and enjoy the weekend.


Friday night we picked up dinner and drove out to Jordan Lake to watch the sunset, one of our favorite things to do

It had been cloudy all day, and as we drove, I kept saying "It's such a shame it's so cloudy. We won't really be able to see the sunset."

When we got there, we could see a pink sun mostly obscured by clouds, but as the minutes wore on, the sky became more and more colorful, until we were looking out at this:


What a gift. 

Saturday morning, we drove out to Saxapahaw, NC to have breakfast at the Saxapahaw General Store

We walked along the Haw River then ended at the Left Bank Butchery, which sells pork and beef from nearby farms. We bought some meat and some still-warm sourdough bread from the Village Bakehouse.  I've been seriously considering attempting to make my own sourdough starter to make sourdough bread.  Any advice?

Saturday night, we went to Fullsteam and I had a brandy barrel-aged persimmon winter ale that was SO good.  It was also 11% alcohol.  ; )


Today, we went to church and hosted family Easter lunch at our house.  We served the sourdough bread, broccoli cheddar quiche, ham, salad, and strawberries. My mom made a pistachio cake, and we all ate too much Easter candy.

It was perfect. Is tomorrow really Monday?


One thing that will make my Monday better is eating these leftover tilapia tacos with cilantro lime slaw for lunch.

I love fish tacos and order them frequently at restaurants, but I had never attempted to make them at home.  For a long time, I was intimated by the idea of cooking fish at home, but I don't know why. It's so easy!

I used tilapia in these tacos because it's a mild and flakey white fish that is good for non-fish lovers like Adam.  For this recipe, you cut the tilapia into bite sized pieces, dredge it in a mixture of flour and spices, and pan fry in a bit of butter and olive oil.  Super easy.  The pickled red onions and cilantro lime slaw can be made ahead of time, so this could be a quick week-night meal.


I hope your coming week is really good, and filled with tacos and friends and maybe exploring a new place in your neighborhood.

Some comfort for us this week, especially appropriate today:

"The worst isn't the last thing about the world. It's the next to the last thing. The last thing is the best. It's the power from on high that comes down into the world, that wells up from the rock-bottom worst of the world like a hidden spring. Can you believe it? The last, best thing is the laughing deep in the hearts of the saints, sometimes our hearts even. Yes. You are terribly loved and forgiven. Yes. You are healed. All is well."

--Frederick Buechner, The Final Beast


Tilapia Tacos with Cilantro Lime Slaw


Ingredients:
Cilantro Lime Slaw:
juice from 1 lime
2 tablespoons mayo (or sour cream or greek yogurt)
dash of hot sauce
salt & pepper
1/2 head of cabbage, thinly sliced
1 carrot, shredded
handful of cilantro, chopped

Tilapia:
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon salt
pinch of black pepper
pinch of cayenne
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil 
1/2 pound tilapia (or 2 individually wrapped filets) patted dry and chopped into bite-sized pieces


For the tacos:
corn tortillas
chopped avocado
cilantro
crumbed queso fresco
pepitas

Directions: 

Cilantro Lime Slaw:
In a medium sized bowl, whisk together the lime juice, mayo, hot sauce, salt and pepper.  Add cabbage, carrot and cilantro and stir to combine. Refrigerate. 

Tilapia:
In a small bowl, combine flour, cumin, chili powder, garlic powder, paprika, salt, pepper, and cayenne.

Add butter and olive oil to a saute pan over medium heat.

Dredge the chopped tilapia pieces in the flour/spice mixture and add to the pan. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side or until white inside.

Add tilapia to corn tortillas and top with cilantro lime slaw, chopped avocado, pickled red onions, and extra cilantro.




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