Inga's Indulgence

Friday, September 23, 2011

Hot Stuff

As a new mom tied down with responsibilities, you're not really able to do a lot of the things you used to. That's why it's important to focus on the little things that make you happy, whether it's a mocha latte, or even a shower that lasts more than 5 minutes.
My small guilty pleasure happens to be spicy food. I don't know why, but a bite of spice makes me feel like I'm living on the wild side. Pretty pathetic huh? You take what you can get...

Spicy Chicken Coconut Curry
(yield: 5-6 servings)

1 tbsp canola oil
1 small yellow onion, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
2-inch knob of ginger, julienned
1 1/2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp soy sauce
13.6 oz can coconut milk
1 cup chicken stock
4 oz white button mushrooms, quartered
1 yellow bell pepper, medium dice
1 red bell pepper, medium dice
8 oz canned sliced bamboo shoots
2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into 1-inch strips

Heat the oil in a large, heavy saucepan. Saute the onions, garlic, and ginger 2-3 minutes. Stir in Thai red curry paste, fish sauce, and soy sauce. Cook for another minute. Stir in coconut milk and chicken stock.

Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and gently place the remaining ingredients into the pan. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-17 minutes until chicken is fully cooked. Adjust seasoning with salt if necessary. Serve over Jasmine or Basmati rice.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Baby Gourmet: Conspiracy Green

"That's a shame, Zelli eats just about anything," was what I would boast just a few short months ago to moms burdened by the picky eater bug. Now, just a few months after Zelli's first birthday, I've officially joined Airplane Swirlers Anonymous. Desperate to get Zelli to eat foods with nutritional value, I've taken up a part-time gig as a babyfood mixologist. This entails using virtually anything and everything in my fridge and pantry to disguise the foods that my picky monster won't even allow within a 5 foot radius of himself.

My latest mission has been getting him to eat spinach. Surprisingly, this wasn't too difficult. I was actually able to use another vegetable to disguise the flavor of the spinach. Now that's called skills!

Creamed Spinach & Corn
(yield: 2 cups)

3/4 cup milk
4 cups spinach, washed
2 cobs of corn
pinch of ground nutmeg

Place corn cobs in standing position over a cutting board or large bowl, and shave the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife.

Bring the milk to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add spinach, corn kernels, shaved corn cobs (for added corn flavor), and nutmeg to the pan. Cook, covered, over low heat for 8-10 minutes. Puree to desired consistency, using an immersion blender or a food processor.

Keep refrigerated for up to 3 days, or freeze in a sealed, freezer-safe container for up to a month.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Cut It Out!

While sprinkling pieces of chocolate into my yogurt this morning, I realized that it was time for an intervention.

Though my daily diet is quite healthy, sugar is the one thing that I have never really been able to control. It's not so much an inability to control my sugar consumption that I've been suffering from, but an inability to acknowledge it as a problem. Sugar makes me happy. Aren't things that make you happy generally good for you? Okay, I take that back. Sometimes things that are blatantly wrong sound right in your head until you verbalize them.

So intervention it is, huh? Do it with me...I think I've actually found a way to make it relatively painless. I'm starting with cookies ;)

I know what you're thinking, but my strategy entails pursuing a goal in moderation. Sugar has snuck its way into the cookie recipe below, but it comes in the form of natural sugar. Yes, honey, orange juice, and even peanut butter do contain sugar, but these ingredients also contain vitamins and minerals that table sugar, or sucrose simply does not. Also, since honey is inherently sweeter than sucrose, we don't have to use as much.

The lesson at hand - sometimes you can feel good about eating cookies, as long as they are the sum of their healthy parts (and as long as they taste good of course).

Peanut Butter & Jelly Thumbprints
(yield: 16 cookies)

3 tbsp margerine, melted
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup chunky peanut butter
1 cup All-Purpose flour
1 cup oats (quick-cooking)
1/4 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
2 tbsp sugar-free strawberry jelly

Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a large sheetpan with parchment paper.

In a large bowl, combine first 4 ingredients, until a smooth mixture forms.

Mix together flour, oats, baking powder, and salt in a separate bowl. Add the dry mixture into the wet mixture in 3 increments, mixing just until combined. Roll heaping tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls, and place onto prepared pan, spacing the cookies about 2 inches apart.

Using the back of a wooden spoon, make holes in the center of each cookie, making sure not to pierce through the bottom. Fill each hole with 1/4 tsp of jelly, reserving whatever remains of the jelly for later. Bake 14-16 minutes. Once cool, spoon a little more jelly into the hole of each cookie.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Rustic Spinach Gnocchi

Fall is here, and though my menu hasn't taken a complete 180 toward soups and stews just yet, I do find myself in the mood for something warm and comforting a lot lately.

Enter the gnocchi - a rustic potato dumpling pasta that's satisfying all year round. I decided to lighten mine up with some greenage.

Rustic Spinach Gnocchi with 10-Minute Marinara
(yield: 4-5 servings)

1, 10 oz package frozen spinach, thawed
2 large Idaho potatoes, peeled & cut into medium dice
1 egg
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 of a small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups (16 oz) crushed tomatoes
1/4 cup basil leaves, chopped
salt & pepper, to taste
3 oz goat cheese

Place potatoes into a medium pot filled with cold water, and bring to a boil. Reduce to low simmer, and cook 12-14 minutes, until fork tender. Drain and Transfer to a large bowl. Drain the thawed spinach, squeezing out every last drop of water, and add to potatoes. While the potatoes are still warm, mash together with the spinach. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool slightly, and mix in the egg. Begin to incorporate 1 cup of the flour, until a dough forms and ceases to stick to your fingers. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1 hour.

Make the Marinara Sauce: Warm a saucepan over medium-low heat, and add olive oil. Add onions and garlic to the pan, and sweat 2-3 minutes. Place crushed tomatoes and basil into the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper, and use either an immersion blender or potato masher to smooth out any chunks of tomato that remain.

Roll the dough: Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (keep the rest refrigerated in the meantime). Flour your work surface and hands with some of the remaining flour, and gently roll the dough with the palms of your hands to form a long cylinder, about 1 inch thick. Cut the cylinder into 1-inch pieces, adjusting the shape of the gnocchi with your fingers. Repeat with remaining dough. Place gnocchi into a large pot of boiling, salted water. You may have to cook them in batches so as not to overcrowd the pot. Cook 3-4 minutes, until they begin to float. Drain gnocchi and toss with the marinara sauce. Crumble some goat cheese over the top, and dig in.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pancakes in the PM

Personally, I can eat breakfast for all meals of the day. There's something inherently optimistic about it. Breakfast inspires feelings of beginning and airiness. So when I had myself a stack of pancakes for dinner yesterday, any end-of-the-day heaviness I may have had was magically erased by my flapjacks.

Of course I had my pancakes with the works - berries, butter, maple syrup. You know, for sustenance. It was dinnertime...

Blueberry Pancakes
(yield: 2 servings, about 8 pancakes)

1/2 cup milk
6 oz blueberry yogurt
2 tbsp melted butter
1 egg
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
butter, for greasing
1 cup blueberries
Whisk milk, yogurt, melted butter, and egg together in a medium bowl.
In a separate large bowl, combine remaining ingredients, whisking well so that there are no lumps.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry, and mix just to combine.

Heat a griddle or non-stick pan over medium heat, and grease with a little bit of butter. Ladle the pancake batter i
nto the  pan to form medium pancakes, and sprinkle each with a few blueberries. Once bubbles begin to form along the edges, flip the pancakes,  about 2-3 minutes. Continue to cook on other side for another 2 minutes, until pancakes are set and golden brown. Serve with maple syrup, or whatever your heart desires.

Turns out, I'm not the only one fond of pancakes at any hour. Zelli enthusiastically participated in clearing off my plate.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One Last Horrah

I'm having a very difficult time watching summer slip away. The hardest part about the whole thing is probably parting with all the refreshingly light and colorful treats the season has to offer.

I know it's time to move on, but what's the hurt in celebrating the end of a wonderful season with one last spoonful of something that throws you right back onto that beach, backyard, or rooftop and fills your nostrils with aromas of char-grilled barbecue, pies, and ice-cold watermelon? But my way of celebrating entails a little bit of rum...

Summer's not over until I say it's over, you hear?! Okay, I guess now that I've had some Mojito Sorbet, it's over.

Mojito Sorbet   

1 cup fresh lime juice (5-6 limes)
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh mint
zest of 2 limes
1/2 cup rum

(yield: about 1 quart)

Stir water and sugar together in a saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, and stir until sugar is completely dissolved. Add mint and lime zest, remove saucepan from heat, and let steep 1 hour.

Once the mixture comes to room temperature, cool in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Remove mint leaves, and stir in the rum. Pour mixture into ice cream machine, and freeze according to manufacturer's instructions. (My cuisinart took about 30 minutes). Transfer to a freezer-safe container, and freeze until ready to eat.

Who says you can't do mojitos via spoon?