Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Curried Coconut Potato and Fish Soup

The other day I was going through some old recipes, and found one I'd come up with a long time ago for fish and corn chowder.  It's funny to read through old recipes I wrote up and see how my own preparation methods and cooking techniques have changed over the years.  Although I still have plenty of cooking experiments that just don't work at all, like the roasted red pepper and tomato yogurt aioli I made one night last week to drizzle on salmon...  just ask Jamie how awful it was!  But he's so sweet, he'd never tell.  :)

We've been enjoying some gorgeous sunny weather this week, but the nights are still getting pretty chilly, so I thought we should have at least one more soup night before it's really spring...  Maybe we can call this "rainy day" soup, good for a cool, drizzly spring day.

It almost never rains in Colorado, something I really miss from growing up in South Carolina.  I wish we had some rain to clean out the air, because the warmth and wind has been carrying an unusually high amount of pollen, and Jamie's been miserable for weeks.  Somehow, I haven't been affected yet, which is strange since I usually have pretty bad allergies in the spring and fall.  But I'm sure my turn will come.

As I was getting ready to make the soup, I found a can of coconut milk in the cupboard, as well as some star anise, which I've been wanting to use just because they're so pretty, but haven't yet as I'm a little wary of the strong licorice scent.  I was afraid they'd make my soup taste like licorice.  But my desire to see them in the soup won out, and my fish and corn chowder evolved into a complex and creamy coconut curry fish soup with star anise.

I'm so glad I made this, because the flavors of the star anise, cinnamon and cardamom were subtle enough to just complement the coconut and curry, the corn added a nice little crunch, and the tender potatoes and chunks of fish were complete comfort food.

Now if only the rain would come...

Curried Coconut Potato and Fish Soup
printable recipe

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 sweet yellow onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 can (14 oz) Lite Coconut Milk
  • 1 can (14 oz) 2% evaporated milk
  • 1 cup fish stock (or substitute chicken broth)
  • 1 pound red potatoes (3-4 small), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 can white or yellow corn, drained
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 star anise (plus extra for garnish)
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 pound white fish, cut into bite-sized pieces (Cod works well in this recipe)
  • 3 cups fresh baby spinach

 In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the coconut milk, evaporated milk, fish stock, red potatoes, corn, curry powder, cardamom, cinnamon, star anise, and salt and pepper.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, then reduce to a simmer.  Cover and simmer until the potatoes are tender and the flavors have developed, about 20-30 minutes.  Taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

A few minutes before serving, add the fish and spinach to the pot.  Place the lid on and let the fish poach in the broth until cooked through and the spinach is wilted, about 5 minutes.

For a dramatic presentation, serve each bowl of soup with a star anise floating on the broth.

Yields 6 servings.
WW Points Plus Value:  7 points per serving

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Sunday, March 25, 2012

    Ugli Fruit .... looks can be so deceiving...

    At my high school, there was a guy in my class who was both physically and mentally challenged.  My graduating class was small - about 25 of us - and we were all good friends with no real cliques in the group.  Everyone liked him, and he was about as nice a guy as there could be, who tried not to allow himself to be limited by the disease he was born with.

    Near the end of Senior year, we had a banquet for the Juniors and Seniors (a Christian school's version of prom).  He asked if I would go with him...  which was the first time in my 17 years anyone had asked me out.  I felt torn - on the one hand, I wanted to say yes to avoid hurting his feelings, but on the other hand, I had an idealized, romantic vision of what my first date would be like.  In my young mind, I somehow thought that a first date with him, or anyone other than the guy I really wanted to go out with, but who I knew would never ask me, would plummet my already less-than-popular status.  And so I said no, and my best friend and I went together, which of course is second best to going with the perfect guy, and maybe even better since most high school guys are far from perfect!

    As it turns out, now I don't even remember my first "real" date, who it was with, or when it was, which goes to show that it was still far from whatever fantasy I had imagined.  As life usually is.

    Most kids worry about being popular, and are so horribly judgmental of each other.  I think I'm lucky that when I was in high school, no one had cell phones, Internet, Facebook, YouTube, or any other methods of social media by which to judge popularity status, and I wonder what I'll be in for by the time I have kids that age!  I hope that I can teach my kids someday to make choices that are kind and selfless, not to judge others by how popular, attractive or athletic they are, but to be able to find beauty and friendship all around them.

    While grocery shopping today, Jamie and I saw the strangest looking fruit called "Ugli" fruit, also known as a Jamaican Tangelo, a wild hybrid of grapefruit, orange and tangerine.  The guy stocking the fruit asked if we wanted to taste it and was nice enough to cut one open for us to try.  To my surprise, it was absolutely delicious - citrusy, sweet and very juicy - so we brought one home to share.

    Just as the Ugli fruit surprised me today with it's pebbly, thick peel but beautiful orange fruit inside, I hope to always keep my mind open to the beauty around me.

    Blueberry Oat Ricotta Pancakes (flourless)

    Spring is approaching cautiously with a few warm days here and there, interspersed with clouds, lots of wind and chilly nights.  The other morning when I left for work it was in the 20s, but then rose to almost 60 by lunchtime.

    I want to see flowers and blue skies.  I have no patience waiting for spring to come!  I have a new pair of pink, flowered sandals just waiting to be paired with my white skirt.

    The other day, my mom sent me a recipe she'd found for flourless blueberry pancakes.  The combination of oats, yogurt and blueberries sounded good, but I was a little skeptical that the makings of a bowl of oatmeal would turn into anything resembling pancakes.  However, I liked the idea of it, and new, healthy recipes are always worth a try.

    I'm not against flour, and use plenty of it in my baking, but since nutritionally it's about as beneficial as sugar, I do like finding substitutes now and then.  Of course, I made some changes - ricotta instead of yogurt.  A thick blueberry sauce to pour over them, so that the butter and syrup wouldn't be missed.

    Even with almost no added sugar, the pancakes were plenty sweet from all the blueberries and completely satisfying for a pancake craving.  The pancakes were cute and little and just the right amount for two people, although I doubled the recipe below for four servings.

    I don't even think they taste like they were made without flour and can see variations of these becoming a staple go-to pancake recipe for us for a healthy alternative to the traditional recipes with lots of flour, sugar, oil and butter.

    Blueberry Oat Ricotta Pancakes (flourless)
    printable recipe

    pancake batter:
    • 2 cups old-fashioned oats
    • 1 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 2 teaspoons vanilla
    • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
    • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries
    blueberry syrup:
    • 1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen (thawed) blueberries
    • 1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
    • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
    • 2 tablespoons water

    In a blender, combine the oats, ricotta cheese, eggs, cinnamon, vanilla, maple syrup and buttermilk.  Blend until smooth.  Stir in 1 1/2 cups blueberries and set aside.

    In a saucepan over medium-low heat, combine 1 1/2 cups blueberries, maple syrup, lemon juice and water.  Cook until the blueberries release their juices, then puree in your blender or using an immersion blender.  Simmer on low while you cook the pancakes.

    Preheat your griddle and spray with non-stick spray.  Using a 1/4 cup measuring cup to measure the batter, cook the pancakes until golden brown on each side.  Serve with the warm blueberry sauce.

    Yields 16 small pancakes - 4 servings.
    WW Points Plus Value:  9 points for 4 pancakes with blueberry sauce

    Recipe adapted from Blueberry Oat Pancakes from The Carb Lover's Diet.

    Friday, March 23, 2012

    Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies with Creamy Mint Filling

    I'm a little late to the St. Patty's Day party...

    Up until last weekend, there was such a craze for food that's minty.  Food that's green.  Food that's minty and green - there's been a lot of that going around lately.  I really like mint myself, especially in Mojitos and mint chocolate chip ice cream.  Nothing's better on a hot summer day than a big scoop of unnaturally green mint chocolate chip ice cream dripping down the side of a waffle cone.  But Jamie's not that crazy about mint, so I don't make minty desserts too often.

    That Saturday was a warm sunny day, although with way too much wind, and we were headed to a bbq.  I made a bright green salad with fresh green beans, honey tangerines, shallot, almonds and dried cranberries, and a light honey tangerine viniagrette.

    And for dessert, what could I do but get into the spirit of the day?  These chocolate cookies have Andes mints baked into the batter, and are filled with a pale green creamy mint frosting.  Although Jamie's not a mint person, he happily ate a couple of these and said he liked that they were soft, light and cakey, not too sweet or too minty.

    Andes Mint Chocolate Cookies with Creamy Mint Filling
    printable recipe

    cookie dough:
    • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
    • 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar
    • 2 eggs, plus 2 egg whites
    • 1 tablespoon vanilla
    • 1 teaspoon mint or peppermint extract
    • 2 cups all-purpose flour
    • 3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1/4 cup low-fat buttermilk
    • 1 package (28 pieces) Andes mints, chopped
    mint filling:
    • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
    • 2 cups powdered sugar
    • 1 teaspoon mint or peppermint extract
    • 3-4 teaspoons skim milk
    • green gel food coloring

    In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.  Scrape the bowl down and beat in the eggs, egg whites, vanilla and mint extract until combined.  Mixture may appear curdled, but will smooth out when you add the flour.

    In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  With the mixer on low speed, add flour mixture by spoonfuls, mixing until moistened.  Add the buttermilk and mix until combined.  Stir in the chopped Andes mints.  Batter will be very thick.

    If you can wait overnight to make the cookies, cover the bowl of cookie dough and refrigerate overnight to thoroughly chill the dough.  (If you don't want to wait, go ahead and drop spoonfuls of dough onto baking sheets, and freeze for 30 minutes prior to baking.)

    After dough has been refrigerated overnight, preheat the oven to 350.  Drop chilled dough by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a Silpat.  Bake for 9 minutes - they may appear underdone, but will finish setting up out of the oven.  Let cool and set for 3-4 minutes on the baking sheet, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

    Repeat with remaining dough, keeping it refrigerated in between batches.

    To make the mint cream filling, fit your stand mixer with the whisk attachment.  On low speed, combine the butter, powdered sugar, mint extract and milk, then beat on medium speed until light and fluffy, 4-5 minutes, adding a few drops of green food coloring to achieve desired shade of green.

    Scoop filling into a plastic zip-lock bag and snip off the corner.  Pipe about 2-3 teaspoons of filling onto the underside of a cooled cookie, then place another cookie on top, pressing down to even out the filling.  Repeat with remaining cookies and filling.  Store in an airtight container.

    Yields 4 dozen individual cookies / 2 dozen filled cookie sandwiches.
    WW Points Plus Value:  3 points per individual cookie / 7 points per cookie sandwich with filling

    Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Thursday, March 22, 2012

    Egg, Onion and Prosciutto Bread Bowls

    I finally stopped into a little cupcake shop here in town to see what cute little treats they had in their display cases.  Red velvet with swirls of cream cheese frosting, dulce de leche with drizzles of caramel, chocolate with more chocolate, carrot cupcakes (my favorite kind of cake as a kid).  I chose a pretty snickerdoodle cupcake with creamy icing and a sprinkling of cinnamon and sugar.  Must make some of those myself someday.

    I love snickerdoodles, and the cupcake was delicious...  but worth $2.99?  I'm not sure.  Seems pretty steep for a few bites of cake.  Makes me think I should get into the cupcake business myself.  Jamie's been urging me to sell some baked goods, but I've been waiting for the Cottage Food Law to pass in Colorado.  Even now that it's officially been signed, I'm not exactly sure of the rules for running a home-based food business.

    It's hard to be creative all the time, although there's no shortage of ideas in my head - I have at least a hundred or more ideas jotted down for cookies, muffins, tarts and cakes...

    When it comes to REAL food, though - you know not just sweets and pretty treats - I sometimes draw a blank.  I saw these little mini loaves of bread at the grocery store and thought how cute they would be with eggs baked right into the middle.

    Even starting off with a loaf of bread that's 6-8 ounces, with the tops sliced off and the insides scooped out, what's left is maybe 3 ounces of bread.  With the eggs, cheese, prosciutto and onions filling the inside, it's a filling breakfast.  Smaller dinner rolls could be used, too, for individual little bread bowl bites.

    And of course, the options for what you can put inside is limited only to your imagination - ham and mushrooms, crumbled sausage, cherry tomatoes and basil, chopped spinach and feta...  And although we ate these for breakfast, they would also make a really easy and simple weeknight dinner.

    Egg, Onion and Prosciutto Bread Bowls
    printable recipe

    • 4 small round loaves of bread or baguettes, 6 ounces each
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • 8 slices prosciutto
    • 4 eggs
    • 1 small shallot, diced
    • 1/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
    • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
    • 1/4 cup grated cheddar cheese, or cheese of your choice
    • 1 green onion, green and white parts, sliced
    • salt and pepper

    Preheat the oven to 350 and line a baking sheet with foil.  Slice the top 1/3 off each loaf of bread and scoop out the inside, leaving about a 1-inch thickness all around.  (Save the leftover bread to make your own bread crumbs later.)  Set the bread bowls on the foil.

    In a large skillet, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the prosciutto and cook until browned and crispy.

    In a bowl, whisk together the eggs, diced shallot, yogurt, parsley and grated cheese.  Season with salt and pepper.

    Place pieces of the crispy prosciutto inside each of the bread bowls.  Pour in the egg mixture, dividing between each bread bowl.  Sprinkle the tops with the green onions.

    Cover with foil and bake at 350 for 35 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or just until the eggs are set.  Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

    Yields 4 servings
    WW Points Plus Value:   7 points per serving

    Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Tuesday, March 20, 2012

    Blood Orange Champagne Sherbet and a Trip to the Asian Market...

    There’s something pretty special about the Asian market here in Denver.  Located in Aurora near Havana and Parker Road, it sees a lot of activity from the Asian community in the area.  The first thing I notice when entering the store is the smell of fish from the live fish counter near the back, and the sounds of Korean and Chinese being spoken all around.  I might not recognize other languages as easily, but those two are very distinguishable.

    The first thing I see is the display of kitchen gadgets, woks, rice cookers, chopsticks, tea kettles, spiders (strainers), bowls and plates, bamboo steamers, and much more.  After wandering through those aisles, picking up items and putting them down again countless times as I decide I really don’t need more gadgets or any more cute little bowls (not to mention, we’re out of cupboard space), I head to the right to the rows of fruit and vegetables, where I’m sure to find something new and different each time.

    I was excited to find blood oranges, which I have never seen at our regular grocery store, so I bought 10, knowing right away I wanted to turn them into a sorbet or sherbet for a light dessert.  I picked up a fresh pineapple as well, to eat with the sherbet.  Pineapple chunks on a stick were one of my favorite snacks to buy from the roadside vendors in China, and it always amazed me how quickly they could slice off the spiny exterior while leaving as much of the fruit as possible.  Honey tangerines landed in my basket, too, for a green bean and tangerine salad to take to a bbq on Saturday.  I’m always tempted to buy some pickling cucumbers, but without the time or other ingredients needed to make homemade pickles, I’ve held off on those so far.  There’s every kind of bok choy and hot green pepper I could imagine.  Other exotic, colorful and spiky fruits and vegetables that I don’t recognize.

    The bins of bulk items hold an array of dried fruit and nuts with or without shells, and every time I walk by, there’s sure to be a child raking their hands through the bin of shelled peanuts while their mom is distracted with her shopping.  Needless to say, I never buy those peanuts. :)

    From there, I head to the fish counter where I take a number and wait my turn.  The counter is piled with about 30 varieties of fresh, whole fish, and several kinds of shrimp.  Underneath the counter, a live fish tank is crowded with fish, just waiting their turn.  While I wait, the fish guys are busy cleaning, scaling and filleting fish to order, every once in a while hosing down the stainless steel counter.  I always wonder how many showers it takes for them to get rid of the fishy smell that's sure to permeate their skin.  They work so quickly, making short work of the scales that would take me a good 15 minutes of work with the back of a knife.  I pick out two beautiful medium-sized fish for our dinner, a red snapper and a striped sea bass.  I request only that they be scaled and then cleaned inside.  We’re going to grill them whole later that evening with some lemons and herbs.

    After leaving the fish counter, the packages of sushi-grade tuna and salmon tempt me, but we’re not making sushi tonight.  There is plenty of frozen seafood to choose from, craw-fish, scallops, soft-shell crabs, lobster tails…  I wish we had access to more fresh seafood, but we’re in Colorado after all.  I do pick up a package of craw-fish, though, thinking we could have those along with the red snapper and striped sea bass.  Bags of frozen, pre-made jiadze (dumplings) and other delicious treats are available for those who don’t want to make their own.

    And then the dry goods aisles, which are so full of packaged noodles, spices, curry powders, canned goods, rice, crackers and candy, that I’m lucky to find what I’m actually looking for.  I spent a good 20 minutes one time just trying to find the Massaman curry paste among the many tins of curry available.  I like looking through the different and unusual snacks and candy, remembering what my friends and I used to eat in China.  “Pocky Sticks”, sort of a cross between a cookie and a pretzel, were another favorite of mine.  They came in different flavors, sometimes sweet or savory, often dipped in chocolate.

    My basket getting too heavy to carry, I head to the checkout where they try to tempt shoppers with displays of sugary items like “choco-sweet cakes”, moon pies or mango popsicles.

    That evening, I roasted an eggplant and a head of garlic, then made a hummus with the eggplant and garlic which was creamy and delicious on some toasted olive bread.  We sampled the hummus while we relaxed before starting on dinner.  With our whole grilled fish and boiled craw-fish that night, I also made a vegetarian dish that I frequently ate in China, but haven’t been able to replicate myself, di san xian (eggplant, potatoes and green pepper).  So this time I used a recipe from Travel China Guide, but unfortunately it turned out really oily, so I might have to give up the notion of making it myself.  I also found that I’m not crazy about craw-fish – maybe it’s because these were frozen and not fresh, but they tasted slightly muddy and freezer-burned, and were an awful lot of work for a tiny little bite of meat.  However, the grilled fish was delicious and fresh.  After we ate one side of the red snapper, Jamie lifted up the head, pulling the spine along with it and laid it on my plate, moving its mouth and saying “why did you eat me?” in his best fish voice.  He took the fish bones and the craw-fish we didn’t eat and put them all in a pot to make some savory fish stock, which smelled fantastic simmering on the stove. 

    And for dessert, slices of fresh pineapple topped with pretty pink scoops of blood orange champagne sherbet, which I adapted from a recipe for blood orange sorbet by Yummy Mummy.  I used Korbel California champagne, which, I know isn’t real champagne, but I like the flavor and it’s affordable.  The champagne really complemented the blood orange juice and it was a wonderfully light and sweet ending to the evening.

    Blood Orange Champagne Sherbet
    • 2 cups freshly squeezed blood orange juice
    • Zest of 1 blood orange
    • 1 1/2 cups whole milk 
    • 1/2 - 1 cup champagne or sparkling wine(depending on how strong you want the flavor) 
    • 1/4 - 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla

    Whisk together the juice, zest, milk, champagne, sugar and vanilla – start with a smaller amount of the champagne or wine and add more to suit your taste.  Chill mixture in the refrigerator until very cold, then pour through a mesh strainer to strain out the zest.  Pour into your ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions, then transfer to a container and freeze until firm enough to scoop, about 4-6 hours.

    Yields about 8 servings, 1/2 cup each.

    Recipe slightly adapted from Blood Orange Sherbet by YummyMummy.

    Roasted Eggplant and Garlic Hummus
    • 1 eggplant
    • 1 head garlic
    • 2 tablespoons olive oil
    • Salt and pepper
    • 2 cans garbanzo beans
    • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
    • 1 tablespoon lemon juice

    Preheat the oven to 350.  Slice the eggplant and the head of garlic in half and place on a foil-lined baking sheet.  Drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Cover tightly with foil and roast for 1 hour, until the garlic is soft and spreadable.  Set aside until cool enough to scoop the eggplant from the peel and to remove the garlic cloves.

    In a food processor, combine the eggplant, garlic, garbanzo beans, tomato paste and lemon juice, and puree until smooth.  Season with additional salt and pepper to taste.  Serve hummus with a drizzle of olive oil on top and freshly cracked pepper.

    Yields about 8 servings.
    WW Points Plus Value:  3 points per serving

    Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Sunday, March 18, 2012

    Coconut Muffins with Kiwi-Lime Curd

    They've rearranged my grocery store and I'm not too happy about it.  I've gone from knowing where everything is to wandering the aisles trying to understand the new and senseless arrangement with canned beans on the baking aisle, items flip-flopped from one side to the other, and the chocolate and candy now being located in the same aisle as the pet food.  So now when I walk down the row of expensive chocolate, all I can smell is dog food.  Don't they know the chocolate is going to absorb that smell?  I don't understand these kinds of decisions.

    The chaos at the grocery store was on the heels of a less than satisfying lunch, which probably fueled my annoyance a little.  Trying to eat healthy and using up leftovers doesn't always yield the tastiest meals.  Usually, we eat dinner leftovers for lunch the next day, but we don't always make very much on Sunday nights, so Mondays are a whatever day.  I was working from home that day (and still in my PJs), so I couldn't go out for a sandwich without actually getting dressed.  Sometimes I almost consider risking an errand in my PJs, if the errand doesn't require me to get out of my car, but then there's always that niggling fear of what ifWhat if I had car trouble.  What if I got pulled over.  And there I would be, on the side of the road, in my PJs.  And so it's a risk I don't take.  If only a spicy chicken sandwich from Wendy's would magically show up at my door.

    There was an ounce or two of swordfish in the fridge from the night before, which I'd already eaten with half a tomato for a snack.  Some cauliflower and asparagus soup which was only okay the night I made it, and not very tempting a few days later.  Some egg whites leftover from using a bunch of yolks to make citrus curd.  A little container of leftover crockpot chicken.

    And so my lunch became scrambled egg whites with a little non-fat Greek yogurt and cheddar cheese, and the crockpot chicken.  Sounds a little weird, but it actually wasn't too bad.  I think I filled my protein quota for the day, too.  But, does anyone else feel a little creepy eating eggs and chicken in the same meal?

    As promised, today I have another recipe for citrus curd - maybe the last one for a while, but you never know.  I'll probably do this with strawberries in a few months when they're in season!

    For a spring recipe, these coconut muffins with kiwi-lime curd are just wonderful.  The tropical combination might even make you feel like you're on vacation.  I made these for breakfast last weekend, and they were so good warm from the oven.

    The muffins are so soft and moist, full of coconut flavor from the lite coconut milk, a little coconut extract, and some shredded coconut.  And the toasted coconut on top adds such a nice crispy contrast to the soft cake-like muffins.

    And the kiwi-lime curd, with a more subtle lime flavor than straight up lime curd and a hint of kiwi, is smooth and creamy and delicious on the muffins.

    Jamie wrinkled his nose at the fibrousy exterior of the kiwi fruit as he was peeling them, commenting that it was like holding a spider.  I discovered that kiwi is one of the few things he won't eat.  I had put a few slices on his plate for breakfast the day before, and he wouldn't touch them.  So it's saying something  about the yummy-ness of this curd recipe that he really, really liked it.  But he still won't eat kiwis on their own.  :)

    Coconut Muffins
    • 1 can (14 ounces) unsweetened Lite Coconut Milk
    • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
    • 1 egg
    • 1 teaspoon vanilla
    • 1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
    • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
    • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1 cup shredded, sweetened coconut, divided

    Preheat the oven to 350.  Prepare 12 muffin cups with non-stick spray or paper liners.

    Whisk together the coconut milk, sugar, egg, vanilla and coconut extract.  In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt and 2/3 cup of the shredded coconut.  Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir just until combined.

    Divide the batter between the muffin cups, filling them about 3/4 full.  Sprinkle the tops with the remaining 1/3 cup shredded coconut.

    Bake at 350 for 18-21 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the tops are golden brown.

    Yields 12 muffins.
    Weight Watchers Points Plus Value: 4 points per muffin 

    Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Kiwi-Lime Curd
    • 1/3 cup freshly-squeezed lime juice
    • 3 ripe kiwis, peeled and chopped
    • 6 egg yolks (reserve whites for another use)
    • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
    • 2 tablespoons grated lime zest
    • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces

    Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium to medium low.

    Using a blender or an immersion blender, puree the lime juice with the chopped kiwis until smooth.  In a heat-proof metal mixing bowl (one that can sit on top of the saucepan without touching the water) whisk together the kiwi-lime puree, egg yolks, sugar and lime zest until smooth (1-2 minutes).

    Place the bowl over the saucepan.  Stirring constantly with a silicone whisk or spatula, cook the mixture until thick enough to coat a spoon.  (Note that this process can take anywhere from 7-15 minutes, depending on how fast the water is simmering, how close the bowl is to the water, etc.  The mixture will not appear as thick and jellied as store-bought citrus curd, but will have the consistency of warm pudding.  It will also thicken more when it cools.) 

    Remove the bowl from the heat, and add the slices of butter, one at a time, whisking well after each slice until the butter disappears, before whisking in the next slice.  Usually, at this point, I would strain the curd through a mesh strainer to remove the zest, but for this recipe, I skipped this step, since I didn’t want to strain out the kiwi seeds as I thought they looked pretty.

    Pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge until ready to use.  It will be at a spreadable consistency straight from the fridge, or you can gently rewarm it for a "pourable" consistency.

    Yields about 2 cups.
    Weight Watchers Points Plus Value: 2 points, per tablespoon 

    Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Thursday, March 15, 2012

    Meyer Lemon Ricotta Tart with a Chocolate Cookie Crust

    It's almost spring, and my feet are tingling with anticipation of wearing flip flops...  but not quite yet.  There are still a few patches of snow - covered in dirt by now - in shady areas where the sun hasn't melted the snow, and although we've been enjoying weather in the 60s this week, you never know with Colorado!  We may still get more snow.  So my boots are still standing by.

    But although the weather is unpredictable and it's still getting pretty cold at night, I'm loving these warm sunny days and the hint of spring in the air.

    We've been enjoying cooking with citrus the past few months, and I've just recently discovered Meyer Lemons.  I've heard of them, but never seen them available in our grocery store before.  So when I saw bags of Meyer Lemons last week, of course I had to buy some.  I wasn't worried that I didn't have a plan for how to use them - how hard is it to come up with something lemony and delicious?  If someone gave me a bag of fruit to cook with every week, it would make me as happy, maybe even happier, than getting a bouquet of flowers!

    Meyer Lemons are a citrus fruit native to China, although I never did hear of them while living there - perhaps because they use them more for ornamental purposes.  They are a cross between a lemon and an orange, named for  Frank Nicholas Meyer who collected samples of the fruit while visiting China in 1908.

    Tart and sour like a lemon, slightly sweet like an orange, they weren't quite sweet enough to eat on their own, although I tried a few slices.  Since they are slightly sweeter than a regular lemon, I knew they wouldn't require as much added sugar, so I decided to make a light, not too sweet tart, using a mixture of part-skim ricotta to keep it light and low-fat cream cheese to keep it creamy, with a chocolate cookie crust.  I love the combination of chocolate and citrus.

    So I made this Meyer Lemon Ricotta Tart last Friday, and couldn't have been happier with how it turned out.  The creamy filling was light and airy and lemony with just the right amount of sweetness, and the contrast of the crumbly, lightly salted Oreo cookie crust was a wonderful contrast to the lemon cream.  Jamie could not stop eating this tart, it was that good!

    Meyer Lemon Ricotta Tart with a Chocolate Cookie Crust
    printable recipe

    • 20 Oreo cookies, including filling, finely crushed
    • 1/2 teaspoon salt
    • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
    • grated zest of 4 Meyer Lemons
    • 3/4 cup freshly squeezed Meyer Lemon juice (from 5-6 Meyer Lemons)
    • 4 eggs
    • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
    • 8 ounces part-skim ricotta cheese
    • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese
    • 4 tablespoons heavy cream
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

    Cook’s Note:  The ricotta adds a very subtle grainy texture to the filling, but the texture is very pleasant and the ricotta keeps the filling nice and light.  The ricotta can easily be substituted with all cream cheese, or even mascarpone cheese, for a very rich and creamy filling.

    Preheat the oven to 350.  Combine the crushed Oreos with the salt, drizzle with the melted butter and toss with a fork to combine.  Press firmly against the bottom and up 1 ½ inches against the sides of a tart pan with a removable bottom, or a pie pan.  Freeze for 10 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes.  Set aside to cool.

    Bring a few inches of water to a simmer over medium heat.  In a metal heat-proof bowl, whisk together the Meyer lemon zest and juice, eggs and sugar, until very well blended.

    Set the bowl over the saucepan.  (The bottom of the pan should not be touching the water.)  Place an instant read thermometer into the mixture, but don’t rest the thermometer against the bottom of the bowl.  Cook the mixture until it thickens and reaches 170 degrees F, whisking constantly to keep the eggs from scrambling.  When it reaches 170, after about 10 minutes, immediately remove from the heat, and pour through a mesh strainer into a bowl to strain out the zest and any bits of cooked egg.

    Cover with plastic and cool for 30 minutes in the refrigerator.  In the bowl of your electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the ricotta, cream cheese and heavy cream for 4-5 minutes until thick and smooth.  Add the Meyer Lemon mixture and the vanilla and beat until smooth and blended.  Pour Meyer lemon cream into the cooled chocolate cookie crust.  Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours, or overnight, until set, before removing the sides of the pan and serving.

    Yields 8 servings.
    WW Points Plus Value:  11 points per serving

    Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

    Tuesday, March 13, 2012

    Margherita Pizza, and making Thin and Crispy Pizza Crust using a recipe for Naan

    For quite a while, I've been on a quest for a recipe for pizza dough that will yield a thin and crispy pizza crust.  I realize that the recipe is only half the solution, and the other half is the technique and preparation.  I haven't been able to achieve a crispy crust without baking the pizza directly on my pizza stone, but even then, haven't been completely happy with the outcome of the many recipes I've tried.

    When we made our curry dinner a few weekends ago, and I finally discovered and mastered a wonderful recipe for Naan, I wondered how that exact recipe would work for pizza crust.

    I decided to find out.

    Making my own homemade pizza dough isn't absolutely essential - I got by just fine for years using the Boboli pizza crusts.  But making my own just makes me feel good.  It's a way of making a traditionally unhealthy and heavy meal into something that can actually be good for you while still satisfying a pizza craving.

    Margherita Pizza is so light with just a few simple ingredients, and it became my experiment for using naan dough as pizza crust.  Since we had cooked each side of the naan in a skillet, I wanted to do something similar with our pizza stone, to make sure the crust was crisp all the way through.  So I placed the very thin circle of dough on a preheated pizza stone for just two minutes.  Then, working quickly to not cool the pizza stone down, took it out of the oven.  I flipped the dough over so the other side could get crispy against the stone, added the toppings on the already cooked side, and placed it all back into the oven just long enough to melt the cheese and heat the toppings.

    And it was really, really good.  A very thin, crispy and flavorful crust, topped with some of my favorite ingredients - tomatoes, basil and mozzarella.  You all know how I love caprese salad.

    A few weeks before that, we had made a Greek-inspired pizza, with tomatoes, artichoke hearts and olives, and while I wasn't in love with the crust on that recipe as that was before I discovered the recipe for naan, I did love all the veggie toppings and Greek flavors.

    I'd love to hear all of your preferences for thin, crispy crust, vs chewy, deep dish crust, and if you've discovered any tips or tricks to achieve what you think is the perfect crust?

    Thin and Crispy Naan Pizza Dough
    printable recipe

    • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, divided
    • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
    • 1/4 teaspoon dry active yeast
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • 1/2 cup plain non-fat Greek yogurt
    • 1 clove garlic, minced
    • 2 tablespoons fresh, chopped parsley.

    In a bowl, whisk together 1 cup of flour, baking powder, yeast and salt.  Stir in the yogurt with a spoon until moistened.  Turn mixture out onto a floured surface.  Sprinkle the garlic and parsley over the dough, then knead the dough for 5 minutes, adding the additional 1/4 cup of flour as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic.  Shape dough into a ball, then place in a lightly oiled bowl, covered with a towel, to rest for about an hour.

    Note: because the yeast is not proofed with warm water, the dough doesn't rise (this is a flat bread, after all).  The yeast simply adds a nice chewy texture to the crisp pizza crust.

    Yields 1 thin pizza crust.
    WW Points Plus Value: 12 points for the whole recipe

    Recipe adapted from Food.com.

      Margherita Pizza
      printable recipe

      • 1 recipe Naan Pizza Dough, or an unbaked thin pizza crust
      • 2 ripe tomatoes
      • 2 teaspoons olive oil
      • 1/4 teaspoon salt
      • 1/4 teaspoon dried oregano
      • handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
      • 3/4 cup grated or sliced mozzarella

      Place a pizza stone in the oven.  Preheat the oven as hot as it will go (our heats up to 550).  Roll out the pizza dough very thin, to 12 inches in diameter, or as large as your pizza stone.  Dice the tomatoes and toss with the olive oil and salt.

      When the oven has preheated for 15-20 minutes, place the pizza dough on the pizza stone.  Bake for 2 minutes.  Take the pizza stone out of the oven and set on a wire rack on the stove, or a heat-proof surface.  Flip the dough over.  Top the dough with the tomatoes (drain off any excess juice), oregano, basil and mozzarella.  If you like, you can brush the edges of the dough with a little more olive oil.  Return the pizza stone to the oven and bake for 4-5 minutes until crispy and golden brown - the oven is very hot, so keep an eye on the pizza so it doesn't burn.  Slice and enjoy!

      Yields 8 slices (2-4 servings).
      WW Points Plus Value:  6 points for 2 slices

      Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

      Greek-Inspired Pizza
      printable recipe

      • 1 unbaked pizza crust, store-bought or your favorite homemade recipe
      • 2 ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced
      • 2 tablespoons olive oil
      • pinch of salt
      • 1 teaspoon Greek seasoning (combination of chili flakes, garlic, lemon peel, dill, oregano, cinnamon, mace, spearmint and chervil)
      • 4 baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
      • 1 shallot, thinly sliced
      • 1 can (14 ounces) artichoke hearts,sliced in half
      • 1/2 cup pitted assorted Greek olives, chopped or sliced
      • 1/4 cup roasted tomatoes, chopped (from the grocery store olive bar)
      • 1 roasted red bell pepper, chopped (from the grocery store olive bar)
      • 8-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
      • 1 1/2 cups grated part-skim mozzarella cheese

      Preheat the oven to 550.  Press the pizza dough into a greased baking sheet or pizza pan.

      Lay the tomato slices on the crust, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with the salt and Greek seasoning.  Distribute the rest of the ingredients over the pizza, ending with the cheese.

      Bake for 5-7 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbly.  Slice and enjoy!

      Yields 5 servings.
      WW Points Plus Value: 10 points per serving / 3 slices (baked in a rectangular baking sheet, cut into 15 pieces, for 5 servings of 3 pieces each)

      Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

      Sunday, March 11, 2012

      Citrus Swirl Bundt Cake and Red Grapefruit Curd

      It had been years since I'd tasted a grapefruit.  The thought of them conjured up memories of fad diets with unappealing dishes like watery cabbage soup and styrofoam rice cakes.

      But a few weeks ago, when it was Jamie's turn to plan our dinner menu for the week, he made a dish using a recipe he found in one of our cookbooks, salmon with a shallot and grapefruit sauce.  He made it with orange roughy instead of salmon, and the result was so delicious.  I found myself stealing little pieces of the red grapefruit segments off the cutting board to sample before dinner, and they didn't have any of the sour flavor I remembered, but they were sweet and tart and completely yummy.

      I found myself to be newly in love with grapefruits.  After finishing what grapefruit we had left for breakfast the next day, I bought a few more, with the intention of making red grapefruit curd - I love making citrus curds, and it's the perfect time of year to use all the wonderful citrus fruit that's available.  I've mastered lemon curd, and more recently orange curd, and soon I'll be sharing a recipe that I made this morning for a kiwi-lime curd!  But you'll have to wait for that one...

      Today is about the red grapefruit, though.  It came together just as easily as I expected, and the citrus left such a nice zingy feeling on my tongue.  (I'll admit that I added a little drop of red food coloring to enhance the color a little, since the red of the grapefruit juice and zest couldn't quite compete with all the yellow of the egg yolks and butter.)  To use it up (there's only so much curd two people can eat on muffins, after all), I made a vanilla bundt cake, with swirls of the red grapefruit curd all throughout.

      The cake turned out beautifully, and a crunchy topping of sugar with grapefruit zest added just the right touch.  Of course, store-bought lemon or lime curd would work just as wonderfully in the cake.  I took the cake to work, and as my coworkers are starting to think I'm trying to ruin their diets, I think I need to make friends with my neighbors.  Any volunteers to sample my next cake?  :)

      Citrus Swirl Bundt Cake
      printable recipe

      • 2 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
      • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
      • 1/4 teaspoon salt
      • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
      • 8 ounces low-fat cream cheese, softened
      • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
      • 4 eggs, room temperature
      • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
      • 1 cup low-fat buttermilk, room temperature
      • 1 cup citrus curd (lemon, lime, grapefruit, orange, etc.)
      • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
      • 1 tablespoon freshly grated citrus zest
      • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
      • 1 tablespoon skim milk
      • 1/2 tablespoon light corn syrup

      Preheat the oven to 350 F.  Thoroughly coat the inside of a bundt pan with non-stick baking spray.

      In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.  Set aside.

      With an electric mixer, beat the butter, cream cheese and sugar on medium speed for 2-3 minutes, until smooth.  Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.  Add the vanilla.

      On low speed, add the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the buttermilk, starting and ending with the flour.  Once all the flour and buttermilk is added, beat the cake batter on medium speed for 2 minutes.

      Pour half the batter into the prepared pan.  Drizzle or dollop half the citrus curd over the batter (if the curd is too thick or stiff, warm it ever so gently for a few seconds in the microwave);  pour the rest of the cake batter into the pan and dollop with the rest of the curd.  Use a knife to gently swirl the curd through the batter.

      Bake for 50 minutes, or until golden and a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  The cake will have a deep golden brown, cracked crust on top, like a pound cake, with a very soft and moist texture to the cake.  Cool in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes, then invert onto a serving dish and cool completely.

      In a small bowl use your fingers to infuse the granulated sugar with the zest, and set aside.  In another bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, corn syrup and milk for the glaze.  Drizzle the glaze over the cake, letting it run down the sides.  Sprinkle the top of the cake with the sugar/zest mixture.  Serve each piece of cake with a slice or two of the citrus fruit you used for the curd.

      Yields 12 slices.
      WW Points Plus Value:  11 points per slice

      Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen

      Red Grapefruit Curd
      printable recipe

      • 6 egg yolks (reserve whites for another use)
      • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
      • 2/3 cup red grapefruit juice
      • 2 tablespoons red grapefruit zest
      • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
      • 1-2 drops red food coloring (optional)
      Fill a saucepan with about 2 inches of water and bring to a simmer over medium to medium low.
      In a heat-proof metal mixing bowl (one that can sit on top of the saucepan without touching the water) whisk together the egg yolks, sugar, grapefruit juice and zest until smooth (1-2 minutes).  (Two red grapefruits will yield enough juice and zest for this recipe.

      Place the bowl over the saucepan.  Stirring constantly with a silicone whisk or spatula, cook the mixture until thick enough to coat a spoon.  (Note that this process can take anywhere from 7-15 minutes, depending on how fast the water is simmering, how close the bowl is to the water, etc.  The mixture will not appear as thick and jellied as store-bought citrus curd, but will have the consistency of warm pudding.  It will also thicken more when it cools.)

      Remove the bowl from the heat, and add the slices of butter, one at a time, whisking well after each slice until the butter disappears before whisking in the next slice. Whisk in the red food coloring if you'd like a deeper color.  Pour the mixture through a mesh strainer, pushing it through with a spatula, to strain out the zest. (Note, it's fine if you want to skip this step, but straining out the zest yields a beautifully smooth and creamy curd.) 
      Pour into a glass jar and store in the fridge until ready to use.  It will be at a spreadable consistency straight from the fridge, or you can gently rewarm it for a "pourable" consistency.
      Yields about 1 2/3 cups.
      Weight Watchers Points Plus Value: 2 points, per tablespoon
      Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen