Coconut Shrimp Soup

Today for lunch I wanted something spicy and creamy. I had a can of coconut milk in the refrigerator and some shrimp in the freezer from testing Robyn Webb's Curried Shrimp Sandwiches.

Here is the Coconut Shrimp Soup I invented.

1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 white onion, diced
3 carrots, peeled and diced
1 inch ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 tablespoons curry paste (store-bought)
a few dashes of curry powder, cumin powder and red pepper flakes
salt & pepper
1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
1 can coconut milk
15 ounces water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 cup frozen shrimp, defrosted (or use fresh shrimp)
1 tablespoon lime juice
1 cup thin glass or rice noodles, cooked

1. Heat the oil in the pan. Add onions and carrots and cook for a few minutes.
2. Add garlic and ginger and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.
3. Add in the spices (don't forget salt!) and curry paste. Cook for a few minutes.
4. Add coconut milk, water, vinegar and peas; bring the mixture to a boil, add shrimp and cook for a few minutes until the shrimp is cooked through.
5. Add in lime juice.
6. Put some of the cooked noodles in a bowl, top with the shrimp soup and enjoy! If you have fresh cilantro, use it.

Confession time: Originally I added shrimp before adding in the coconut milk and water and cooked them for about 3 minutes. The shrimp turned out rather rubbery: that's why you should only add them in the last 2 minutes: see, aren't you glad I made the mistake so you don't have to?

Challah: a story of high hopes and sad let downs.

For the last few months I've been talking about making challah. Unfortunately, time just hasn't been on my side. That's why I was really excited to finally have time this past Thursday to bake challah (Thanksgiving-->no work). Turns out it's been a bit over a year since the last time I made challah with my friends Paige and Jenn.

This time I found a recipe posted on a well-known blogger's website: Jaden's Steamy Kitchen. Jaden has an absolutely beautiful blog with great recipes and amazing photography...and she posted a recipe for Nutella challah adopted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day.

Unfortunately, for whatever reason, this challah was a pain in you-know-what to make! Like a monster, the dough kept on eating up more and more flour...I think I added at least 4 extra cups of flour, and still it did not become smooth and silky. Part of me wanted to give up, but at that point I not only spent my time, but also eggs, flour, yeast, etc. The only reason for this mess I can think of is that I used margarine instead of butter (I did not have any butter on hand), but would 1/2 cup really matter? Oh, I also substituted 1/4 cup of honey for maple syrup because I ran out of honey.

At the end, I managed to form 3 tubes out of the dough, flatten them out, spread some Nutella on each, "close" them up and then braid them to make challah. Anna made 2 Nutella challas too, and I made currant/orange zest buns out of the leftover dough (buns pictured on the left).

My verdict? This was a great idea, but something definitely went wrong. I think I'll try this with another recipe and maybe add more Nutella next time.

The leftover challah made for awesome French Toast.

Tamales from Annie

Friday while most of the people were rushing to the stores for Black Friday sales, I went to work. Ok, maybe I actually did not do too much work, but I was still there. The day was made so much better when my friend Annie brought me some of her home-made tamales for lunch. Delicious!
And luckily I had my camera to take a few photos.

Annie made 3 kinds of tamales: turkey, black bean and shrimp. My favorite ones were turkey and shrimp. I haven't had tamales in quite a while, and these were delicious! Annie even made her own tomatillo salsa: very impressive!

Thank you, Annie!

Challah French Toast for Breafkast

Yesterday was the first Saturday in a few months that I did not have to go to my GRE class (the class is over and I'm taking the test on the 8th: please send me calming thoughts!).

I decided to make something fun for breakfast. Anna and I had a few challahs left over (I will write about that ordeal later), and I thought Challah French Toast sounded great. Then I thought adding cranberry pomegranate sauce and whipping topping will only make the breakfast better!

2 eggs
a splash of milk
6 slices of challah
canola oil
cranberry sauce
whipped topping

1. In a bowl whisk together eggs and milk (feel free to add sugar and vanilla).
2. Heat oil in a non-stick pan.
3. Dip challah slices into the egg/milk mixture, let them soak for a minutes, and then fry them in oil for a few minutes on each side.
4. Plate challah French Toast on a plate and serve with cranberry sauce and whipped topping.


Pomegranate Cranberry Sauce

Yesterday was the 3rd or 4th Thanksgiving I've spent with Cindy and her family. Cindy and I have worked together and have been friends for the last 7 years, and I'm considered to be an older adopted cousin: no complains for me.

This Thanksgiving, Anna came with me, and we were in charge of making cranberry sauce. This was not to be your regular cranberry sauce because Cindy decided to have a pomegranate theme this year.

I'm not a fan of chewing the pomegranate seeds, so Anna came up with an idea of using pomegranate juice make the sauce.

Cranberry Sauce with Pomegranate Juice, Granny Smith Apple and Oranges
(scroll down for the recipe and directions)

1.5 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 cup pomegranate juice
24 ounces fresh cranberries
1 Granny Smith Apple, cored, and cubed
1-2 oranges, segmented and cut into small pieces

1) In a heavy bottomed large pot bring sugar, water and pomegranate juice to a boil.
2) Add cranberries, bring back to a boil, lower the heat and cook 10-20 minutes, adding the apples in the last 5 minutes.
3) Once the sauce is cooled, stir in the oranges and serve.

Note: after taking the photo, I decided to add a dollop of cool whip to the sauce: unbelievably good combination of textures, flavors and colors [I was too busy eating to take a photo].

Fancy Shmancy Breakfast

Yesterday I wanted something fancy for breakfast because it was Thanksgiving and I had a day off. I decided to make asparagus with poached eggs. Unfortunately, I did not have any butter to make BĂ©chamel sauce, but I still wanted something caloric....and then I had a light bulb moment!

The concept for the sauce below was born entirely from the ingredients I had on hand. If you don't have sour cream, just add more mayonnaise or plain yogurt. If you don't have buttermilk, add a bit of milk or water, or use more lemon juice (you are basically using the liquid to thin out the sauce). This sauce would be great on poached salmon, in a potato salad, or as a dip for your crudités platter.

Creamy Caper & Dill Sauce
1 tablespoon sour cream
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon buttermilk
2 teaspoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon minced dill
1 tablespoon finely chopped capers
freshly ground pepper

Whisk all ingredients in a bowl and adjust the seasoning.

And now back to my breakfast: Anna blenched asparagus, I poached some eggs, toasted a few slices of wholewheat bread, and we were ready to eat!

A few notes: to poach the eggs, make sure to add some white vinegar to your poaching liquid to help the eggs "keep it together." When blenching asparagus, remember to salt your water very well, and only blench asparagus for a few minutes if not less...everything depends on how young the asparagus is.

The best part of this breakfast is breaking the yolk and seeing all the yellow goodness spread over the asparagus: mix that with the creamy caper & dill sauce, and don't forget to dip your bread!


Comfort Food Indian Style

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving: plenty of comfort food. But what's for dinner tonight? I decided to make a simple Indian combination of rice and red lentils. The whole dinner takes less than 40 minutes to make, but you'll have to multitask. The flavors of garlic and ginger wake up your spirits in this cold weather, and the lemon juice freshens up the entire dish.

Cumin Rice and Red Lentils

2 tablespoons canola oil
3 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 cup bamatti rice
5 cups water
1 inch piece ginger, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 cup red lentils, picked over and rinsed
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 lemon, juiced

1. In a medium sized pot heat 1/2 oil and add 1/2 of cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for a minute, add basmatti rice, coat it with oil and saute for a few minutes.
2. Add 2 cups of water to the rice mixture, bring to a boil, cover, lower the heat and cook for about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, in a separate pan heat the rest of the oil, add the remaining cumin seeds and cook for about a minute until the seeds release their flavor, but do not get burned! Add ginger and garlic and cook for a few minutes. Add the finely chopped onion and cook for about 5 minutes.
4. Add rinsed red lentils, 3 cups of water, curry powder and chili powder. Bring the mixture to a boil, cover, lower the heat and cook for about 30 minutes. The lentils should be soft and soupy. Add lemon juice as soon as you turn off the heat.
5. Spoon some of the cooked rice in the bowl and top with the lentil mixture. If you have fresh cilantro, definitely use it!


Curried Shrimp Sandwiches

This is the last recipe I've tested for Robyn Webb this weekend: Curried Shrimp Sandwiches.

You basically combine cooked shrimp, apples, mayonnaise, curry powder, onions, raisins, and dill and put it on wholewheat bread: Great combination. You can also do something very similar with chicken.

After eating turkey for Thanksgiving, this will be something different to have for lunch the following day...or you can do the sandwich and substitute leftover turkey for shrimp!

curried shrimp salad

Mini Currant Scones with Lemon Zest

Here is another recipe I tested for Robyn Webb over the weekend: Mini Currant Scones with Lemon Zest. I cannot provide you a full recipe (it will be published in the March issue of the Diabetes Forecast), but here is a general idea:

mini currant and lemon scones

Make your scone dough and then use a 1 inch biscuit cutter to make mini bite-size scones. You can make this recipe with currants and lemon zest, or any other dried fruit, chocolate chips, orange zest, or just keep them plain. If you cut down on sugar, you can make them savory by adding fresh herbs and cheese.

mini currant and lemon scones

These scones are perfect for breakfast, brunch, or as a snack. They were quite a hit at Jason's Cranium night.

mini currant and lemon scones

Cutest Mini Fruit Tarts Ever!

This past weekend I was testing a fruit tart recipe for Robyn Webb, and it came out incredibly well!

I cannot provide you a full recipe (it will be published in the March issue of the Diabetes Forecast), but here is a general idea:

1) Bye pre-made phyllo dough mini tarts
2) Make a filling similar to that of eclairs
3) Fill the tarts with the filling (mixed with whipped topping) and top with a variety of berries. I used strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries.

fruit tart

Green Eggs with Feta

What's for breakfast? That's something that I give a bit more thought on a weekend rather than on a weekday.

This past Sunday I made green eggs with feta. Green eggs? Like from Dr. Seuss? Well, not quite.

Here's what I did: in a mixing bowl, whisk together two eggs, a bit of water and 1 heaping tablespoon of pesto. In a non-stick pan heat a bit of olive oil and quickly saute a good pinch of red pepper flakes. Lower the heat, add the egg/pesto mixture, and let it cook till the eggs are pretty much set. Top with crumbled feta and add a dollop of adjika (or you can use hot salsa). Enjoy!



A new award!

Esi from Dishing Up Delights gave me a Superior Scribbler Award: THANK YOU!

The Rules:
1. Post the award on your blog
2. Link to me for giving it to you
3. Link the originating post here
4. Pass it on to five deserving people
5. Post these rules for your recipients

Here are my five winners in no particular order:

1) Veggie Belly
2) Where’s My Damn Answer?
3) Not Derby Pie
4) Recipes2Share
5) The Cooking Adventures of Chef Paz

Congratulations! :)


Honest Tea: Pomegranate Blue

After a super mediocre dinner last night, I did not feel like eating oatmeal for breakfast, and went downstairs to the cafeteria to see what I could find. I ended up buying some eggs and kielbasa with peppers and onions, and also bought a bottle of Honest Ade Pomegranate Blue.

The eggs were super dry, but the sausage and peppers/onions were pretty good. What I really liked, though, was the tea! I've had several flavors of Honest Tea before, but wasn't too impressed with them.

The Pomegranate Blue variety, however, truly tastes like pomegranate and has just a bit of sweetness and none of the artificial after-taste. Plus, there are only 100 calories in the 16.9 ounce bottle.

The nation's first organic pomegranate drink combines the antioxidant power and great taste of pomegranate and blueberries. It's got fewer than half the calories of those other pomegranate drinks so it has a light, refreshing taste that has everyone asking for more. Honest Ade Pomegranate Blue takes the power of the pomegranate to new heights of refreshment. Certified organic by the USDA.

Got get some to quench your thirst.

Image courtesy of Honest Beverages website.

Slightly Bittersweet...

Ironically, as soon as Cookthink published a little blurb about me, my internship with them has ended. Today, perhaps as the last hooray, they published an article I wrote for them about browning onions (a trick I learned from Edward at Sur La Table).


What happens when you are not satisfied with dinner?

It is 9:30 pm...I've had dinner, I've had a snack, and there was also a bowl of tuna with defrosted corn...but I'm still hungry and want to eat something satisfactory...alas, there is pretty much nothing in my house.

I think that's what happens when I'm not happy with dinner. Today after work I made pasta with roasted red peppers, corn, goat cheese and spinach. It wasn't horrible, but it definitely did not hit the spot. So then I had some tuna....and then an apple with some peanut butter...and still I want something else.

I'd love a spoon of Nutella or a cookie with a glass of milk or a really awesome sandwich. And all that separates me from any of these things is a walk to the grocery store (10 min). But it is really cold and dark outside, and so I'm staying in and stopping looking at Tastespotting and Foodgawker, because that's just painful :(

The question for you then is What do you do when whatever food craving you have is unsatisfied? Do you just go as far as necessary to buy that one doughnut or hotdog? Or do you just find something else to do to stop thinking about food?

I decided to paint my nails and toenails...that way I really can't eat for a while (don't want to smudge my nails).


Lazy Stuffed Peppers

Growing up, my parents often made stuffed peppers. It is a very homey, comforting dish. You can stuff the peppers with a combination of rice, ground beef and vegetables. My parents differ in the final step of the preparation: my dad likes to cook the peppers in tomato sauce, but my mom very much dislikes the tomato sauce.

Last year I made a basic version of stuffed peppers and in the Spring I made Quinoa Stuffed Peppers.

On Tuesday I stayed home from work and decided to make a quick dinner before meeting up with Anna's friend Wendy, and of course Anna, for lunch and dessert.

Instead of stuffing the peppers, I made each part separately, and then combined everything for a simple, but flavorful dinner.

Lazy Stuffed Green Peppers with Spanish Rice

1 pound ground beef
10 ounces Mahatma Saffron Yellow Rice
2 green peppers, sectioned and sliced
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, smashed and sliced
28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
seasonings: salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, coriander powder, cayenne powder, chili powder, dried basil, oregano
1 pitch of sugar
1/4 cup feta, crumbled

1) Cook ground beef, seasoning it with all spices but basil and oregano.
2) Remove cooked ground beef from the pan, leaving a few teaspoons of fat in the pan. Add green peppers, red onion and garlic and cook until the tenderness you want (I left my vegetables with a bit of a bite). Again, season the vegetables with all the spices but basil and oregano.
3) Meanwhile, cook yellow saffron rice according to the directions on the package.
4) In a small saucepan spike up the crushed tomatoes with basil and oregano. Add a pinch of sugar for a bit of sweetness.
5) Once everything is cooked, spoon the rice into a bowl, top with ground beef and vegetables and feta, pour a bit of the tomato sauce around. Time to eat!

The flavors worked very well together because the same spices were used in the ground beef mixture and the vegetable mixture. Keep in mind this is a very versatile dish: you can use the sauce and the ground beef mixture the next day in a pasta dish. You can use the vegetables in an omelet or to top off polenta.

This lazy dish also reminds me of a lazy stuffed cabbage recipe my mom makes quite often. You make a mixture of white rice, ground beef and carrots, and instead of stuffing it into the cabbage leaves, you shred the cabbage and cook it with the rice, ground beef and vegetables. The flavors are the same as in the original version, but you save yourself so much time!

A shout out from Cookthink

I have been waiting for this day for a bit over two months now: that's how long I have been interning with Cookthink. Today they put a really cute shout out to me on their website. YAY!

P.S. Photo courtesy of my friend Stacey.


Sushi at Yamazato with Anna and Wendy

A while ago I wrote about really good sushi at Yamazato, a sushi place my friend Jenn introduced to me. Today I was supposed to meet up for lunch with Anna and her friend Wendy (who is finishing up her studies at the CIA, but is in VA for a few days). The plan was to meet at Gallery Place because it is close enough to my work, but the plans have changed.

I guess I haven't been getting enough sleep lately, and coming home after midnight Monday night (dancing) did not help. After snoozing three times, I turned off my alarm clock and went back to sleep, only to wake up at 10 am. Right. So no work.

Anna called Wendy, and we decided to go have sushi at Yamazato instead. Sorry Jenn...we'll go there with you another time :)

We started with vegetable and shrimp tempura and tom ka soup. The soup was great: spicy, creamy (due to coconut milk) and flavorful. The tempura was pretty good, but needed something other than soy sauce.

It took us a while to choose sushi, so Anna and I ordered Diet Cokes, and Wendy ordered coffee. Turns out, they serve instant coffee! Can you believe it? We were shocked, and Wendy sent her cup back...outrageous.

We then ordered 3 rolls and 2 pieces of flying row. One of the rolls was with eel: not my favorite, but I was a trooper :) The one I liked the best was spicy crunchy tuna (something else I learned from Jenn!). The last roll had avocado, tuna, and yellow tail topped with jalapeno.

The food was great as always, but the service was a bit off. Oh, and I completely forgot the name of a special roll that is not on the menu, but which Jenn always orders for us: it has spicy mayo, avocado, and something else...I'll have to get it next time.

And then it was time for dessert...

Dessert at Buzz with Anna and Wendy

After an awesome lunch at Yamazata with Anna and her friend Wendy, we wanted dessert. I remembered hearing about a relatively new bakery called Buzz and suggested we try it out. Luckily Wendy had her handy iphone and was able to find the address.

Buzz is absolutely adorable. This is definitely not your cookie-cutter Starbucks. The atmosphere inside was happy and the style was eclectic.

From the exposed pipes right below the ceiling, to the baking tools decorating the walls, you could tell this was one-of-the-kind bakeries. And, of course, there was the dessert selection: where does one even start?

I ended up choosing a turtle cheesecake and was not disappointed: the cheesecake was smooth and rich, topped with whipped cream, walnuts and chocolate sauce: delicious!

Anna chose the Buzz cupcake: it was pretty good, but definitely not mind blowing.

Wendy went for the chocolate bread pudding: the texture reminded me of flourless chocolate cake, but it was definitely not as reach.

At the end, I think I chose the best dessert :) Oh, and they also have free WiFi: what else can you ask for?

Next time you are around Potomac Yards neighborhood in Alexandria, definitely check out Buzz: you'll be buzzing about it to all of your friends.

P.S. next door to Buzz there is a Russian food store: we spent $30 on jarred and canned goods that brought memories from our childhood: marinated tomatoes, chocolate candy, Israeli mini croutons (ok, that brought memories from my visit to Israel), sunflower oil, marinated pattypan squash, and sour cherries.

Honestly, who needs to work? I could easily and happily spend every day having lunch with friends and doing some shopping...if only...


Beet salad from Robyn

Do you love beets? If you do, here is a great idea from Robyn Webb: roasted beet salad with fresh greens (the store did not have arugula), shredded carrots and goat cheese dressing. Really, really good!

You could also add nuts, use feta or blue cheese instead of goat cheese, or make a balsamic vinegar dressing.

Internship Update

I have been interning at Cookthink for about 2.5 months now. Majority of my "job" has been entering and coding recipes into Cookthink's database. Lately, however, I started writing reference articles: I find this task a lot more exciting and educational. In addition, this new aspect of my internship allows me to hone my writing skills and to use a bit of creativity when describing a cooking technique or an origin of an ingredient.

Here are a few examples of my reference articles: What is the difference between a yam and a sweet potato?
and Which apples are best for cooking and baking?

I will post more links once they've been approved and published by Cookthink.

Special thank you to Paige, who has encouraged me to ask for more responsibility at my internship, and to Claire and Kristin of Cookthink for letting me expand my duties.