Banana-Coconut “Smash” Cookies

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Oh dear LORD, I have missed this blog. The past couple of weeks have been absolutely nuts with studying, finals, doctors’ visits, mental breakdowns, etc, etc. I also recently traveled to Atlanta, via a long road-trip with my family, to attend my uncle’s one-year death anniversary memorial mass. When we came back, the week was filled with relative-related activities, final wrap ups for graduate school applications, and work.

I honestly was not even sure when I was going to be able to cook for a while and it saddened me. I used to have dance as a release for my emotions but ever since I have “retired” from dancing, cooking served as my palate for my emotions and to carry on my nostalgia. Imagine my rush of happiness when my mother, who had been flitting around the kitchen for days cooking a festive meal for my relatives, came up to me and pleaded me to make dessert (okay, well not pleaded, but I’d like to imagine I saved the day).

My problem was I was lazy and I did not want to go out and buy ingredients for a dish that I haven’t even begun to think of in my head. So there I was, in my ratty pajamas, looking into my open kitchen cabinet, urging my mind to think of something, anything, to save the relatives of the house and serve them a dessert worthy for royalty. I saw shredded coconut, I saw my one can of sweetened condensed milk, I saw bananas, I saw soy nuts.

And I thought…why not just throw them all together and make a platter of blob-shaped cookies and just pray it tastes good (at least edible).

So for the sake of the spontaneity of the moment, I have the ingredients but not the measurements.

Ingredients:

  • A bag of unsweetened shredded coconut
  • A can of sweetened condensed milk
  • Brown sugar
  • Flour
  • Mashed bananas (I used two)
  • Soy nuts
  • Dried cranberries
  • Vanilla extract.

Procedure:

  • I mashed the bananas with my hands on a separate bowl and left it aside.
  • In a separate bowl (a large aluminum bowl), I combined the coconut, flour, sugar, soy nuts, and cranberries together.
  • Then I added the milk, vanilla extract, and the mashed bananas and mixed thoroughly.
  • On trays lined with aluminum and greased, I took clumps of the cookie “dough” and mashed it down to undefinable shapes.
  • I popped them into a 350 degree oven for about 20-22 minutes or until the bottoms were golden brown.
  • When they are done, let them cool, harden a bit, and bon appetit!

You know…they felt like soft cookies, they did not crumble, and they did not taste bad. I am not a huge fan of bananas so I could only handle two cookies but I sincerely liked them. The flavors were reminiscent of the banana-coconut fritters that my mother used to make frequently in the past. Additionally, I am pleased to share that my relatives thoroughly enjoyed the cookies. By the time of their departure, when I was hoping to sneak in a cookie for breakfast, I was happy to see that the cookies have ran out (happy but a little bitter as well, ha-ha).

Banana-Coconut "Smash" Cookies

The name was a collaboration of LaM’s and my crazy, creative minds.

I think…if I were to make this happy accident in the future, I would add a layer of caramel on top – transforming the flavors to be similar to a banana foster – a dessert that would be such a hit with Terra Recycled.

This goes to prove that an accident in kitchen could just be one happy and delicious one.

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Italian-o!

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I have a friend – a very close friend of mine. Whenever he and I get together, we would almost always go out for Italian food. He was an extremely picky eater and Italian is one of the very few cuisines he likes and even then, his choice of dishes are few. Anyway, we went out for Italian so often that I soon got tired of it. I am the type of person that likes a little variety in my food (in case you couldn’t tell). Even living in an Indian household, as much as I love Indian food, eating it all the time is really not my cup of tea. To give my friend credit where it is due though, he does try once in a while to venture out of his comfort zone and try other types of cuisines like Greek food but he usually came back to the Italian (mind you, he is Indian! But perhaps he is an old Italian man reincarnate).

These days, I rarely see my friend because he lives in a different state for school. But he will be coming back to New York relatively soon for the summer vacation. I am pretty excited. Funnily enough, I suddenly had the craving for Italian food. Maybe in some strange way, this is conditioning? I began to start imagining the best Italian food I have ever had. There were quite a few. The two that came to mind was this one place in Poughkeepsie called Amici’s. They were a little more expensive than usual but my God, it was definitely worth it. The last time I dined there had to be around two years ago so I don’t really recall what I ate. The other restaurant that pops up from my memory is Yonkers’ A&V Family Restaurant – an extremely small mom-and-pop eatery that has the best selection of sauces to go along with your pasta. The best part about the place (besides the actual food and the atmosphere) was that it was cheap!

As a tribute to my sudden desire for Italian food and my friend’s obsession with it (since he is also an avid reader of the blog – Thanks, Al!), I decided I am going to make some Italian food and only hope to make the grandmas of Italy proud. However, I wanted to make something I never really had nor made before. I was always the typical Italian eater – had something that was absolutely festooned with cheese like lasagna or stuffed shells. But this time, I wanted to try out something with chicken. Combining my love of chicken and lemons, I thought I should try out chicken piccata. I was not entirely sure of the specifics of the recipe so I actually looked it up. The sauce looked simple enough and I would add my own “flair” by also adding in mushrooms, capers, and red bell peppers. Chicken is always simple for me. I also thought, since this was something my younger brother cannot have, I will make my homemade mashed potatoes with scallions and garlic – made with rice milk.

Ingredients for [My] Chicken Piccata:

  • Chicken breasts (regular or thin ones – I got both) – the amount depends on how many you’re serving. My family eats a lot and we like to pack some for lunch so I made a lot!
  • 1 can of reduced sodium chicken broth
  • White wine (about a cup or so, whatever you would like)
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • A half pack of baby portabello mushrooms
  • Half of a red onion – diced
  • As much minced garlic as you want
  • 2 tablespoons of capers
  •  1 cup of flour
  • 2 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt & pepper
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil

Procedure:

  • The recipe called for the chicken breasts to be flattened out by hammering whatever life it has out of it. Instead of making scary noises, I decided to just go ahead and buy the already thin chicken breasts. Those that were still thick, I just halved them length-wise to make it thinner.
  • I marinated the chicken for about an hour or so with some lemon juice, olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic.
  • Meanwhile, I chopped up the onions, mushrooms, and red bell pepper.
  • I mixed together, on a clean plate, the flour, the garlic powder (be careful not to confuse it with garlic SALT), and the cheese.
  • The recipe called for one egg and breadcrumbs but I didn’t want to make it unnecessarily heavier so I thought the oil from the marination process would be enough to help coat the chicken. After heating up some oil in a large skillet, I floured the chicken lightly and placed it on the pan.
  • Cook all the chicken thoroughly. I am a bit paranoid, I cut into the deepest part of each chicken to make sure it was not pink before I transferred it onto another plate.
  • When the chicken was all done, I added more oil to the pan and then added in the chopped onion and the garlic until it was softened.
  • Then, I added the wine, lemon juice, and chicken broth, scraping up the bits and pieces of the chicken pieces that were left behind.
  • I let it go for a while, watching the flavors marry together and become one.
  • After a while, I added the mushrooms, the diced bell pepper, and the capers. The capers were salted so I had to rinse it out first before adding it to the sauce.
  • Some time had passed and the sauce didn’t seem to be thickening so I added some cornstarch. I know the sauce is typically supposed to be a little runny but I dislike runny sauces (or curries for that matter).
  • The recipe didn’t call to do it but I added the chicken back into the sauce so it could have the double duty of flavoring the sauce as well as letting the sauce penetrate through, allowing it to stay moist and flavored.
  • I did not add any salt at this point because the sauce was seasoned enough but I did add some pepper.
  • After about 20 minutes, the dish was done.

The mashed potatoes did not take as long as the chicken did – probably because I did this so many times, it became like second nature to me. Which is probably why I did not measure out most of anything for this dish…

Ingredients:

  • 8 or 9 Russett potatoes – peeled and diced
  • Rice milk (or whole milk or even cream)
  • Scallions
  • Minced garlic
  • About a tablespoon of sour cream
  • Salt.

Procedure:

  • I peeled the potatoes and chopped them up in medium-sized pieces. The idea is to increase the surface area of the potatoes so they cook faster.
  • I started them in a pot of regular water and brought it up to a boil. That is really important to do! If you just add them to boiling water, the potatoes will not cook all the way through!
  • Meanwhile, I chopped up a few stalks of scallions.
  • Boil them until they are fork-tender.
  • After draining the potatoes, mash them up with your nifty masher while adding in the milk, minced garlic, and scallions. To make it tastier, add a few dabs of butter in there too.
  • Serve immediately – it is best when fresh and piping hot.

The chopped potatoes soaking in water...

The final dish!

Now…the chicken piccata – it was good, but it wasn’t GREAT. The recipe sounded great, it really did but I suppose the actual execution wasn’t all that fantastic. When I tasted the sauce while it was bubbling, it was a little too tart for my taste (which is saying something since I love lemons). To try to balance it out, I added a bit more chicken broth but it was still too sour. So I left it alone, thinking there was nothing else that could possibly be done. However, when paired with the chicken, it actually tasted good. Also, the addition of the red bell pepper complimented the sauce and the chicken so well – it was a great “creative flair” decision. The mashed potatoes (left a LITTLE chunky for my own preferences) was the real stomach pleaser. My brother ate a big bowl of it in five minutes! It is safe to say he likes it!

The dish came out well. However, if I were to make this in the future again (which in the near future, I probably would not), I would make it less sour, more gravy-like, and add more of my own style (but then again, it wouldn’t be called piccata, right?). There was so much sauce leftover. I’m going to use that sauce later in the week to make pasta with it. How suddenly versatile!

My stomach is still doing its happy dance though…

So here’s to you, Al! I can’t wait until you get here already and we go out to yet another Italian restaurant! 🙂

UPDATE: Soooo…the chicken tastes SO much better when it’s been sitting for a while! When I had the chicken for lunch the next day and the day after, it was amazing! I suppose the sauce needed time to sit and get even more delicious as time goes on…like aging wine!

Coconut Macaroons!!

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First off, let me wish you all a very hearty Happy Easter! To some, this holiday is known as the holiday to gorge on classic dishes like leg of lamb and go hunting for chocolate eggs as well as harassing the poor bunnies into leading them into a hole to a wonderland…did I go too far? To others, this holiday celebrates one of the most important Christian events – the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Either way, we all celebrate with some delicious food and post-dinner comas. I am currently falling asleep as I write this so this is actual talent – being able to type this out in a hopefully coherent manner.

For Easter, we normally do a large-ish celebration. Invite tons of family members over and have them go nuts with the food, the alcohol, and the corny jokes. However, this past year, my uncle died of esophageal cancer (caused by excessive periods of acid reflux. I’ll take a moment to warn you – if you know anyone who has periods of acid reflux, have them go to the doctor!). The grieving tradition in India is to not celebrate any major holidays for one year following his death. Thus, this year was relatively quiet. However, that did not stop us from making scrumptious foods. My mother took over the main dish and the side dish which were her classic ham (one of the very few pork items I’ll eat) and baked red potatoes with herbs. I made the dessert – which I was thoroughly eager to do because my Lenten promise had been to give up all forms of sugar (EVEN the sugar in my coffee! The atrocity!). So combining my love of coconut and chocolate, I decided this year’s Easter dessert would be chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons sprinkled with chopped nuts. I was unbelievably excited to make this – waiting this week was absolute torture.

Okay, I have a little confession to make as to how I got the idea to make it in the first place. There is this little thing called Facebook. On this Facebook, there are these things called games. One of these little games that I had gotten hooked on was a  game called “Gourmet Ranch” – which is much like Cafe World except you grow your own ingredients and then cook them for the people of your restaurant. I am currently at level 20 (if you MUST know). Anyway, I digress – one of the dishes I seem to cook a lot on this game are coconut macaroons. After a long time of making this dish and desiring after the cartoon style cookies, I made the call that I was just going to make the damned thing.

So…the coconut macaroons only needs a few ingredients, surprisingly so if you’re on a budget, this would be a great dessert to make (and if you’re not, you know, allergic to any of these things):

Ingredients (this makes about 33-34 macaroons):

  • Unsweetend flaked coconut (I used 2 bags)
  • 1 can (14 oz) of sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 cup of all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 3 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 3/4 of a bag of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 4 tablespoons of milk (I used rice milk for my brother)
  • Chopped nuts (I used a combination of almonds, walnuts, and cashews).

Before I start explaining the procedure to you, I do want to mention that I made this yesterday so the cookies could harden a bit in the fridge before I could bake them the next day. That way, I was positive the cookies would stay together and not completely fall apart on me. I figure this is the best way to save some time too, if you think you will be making this for a large group of people.

Procedure:

  • I mixed the flour, coconut, condensed milk, salt, and the 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract together until it was a sticky mess. When it got too arduous with the spoon, I just gave up and used my hands instead.
  • I rolled it into smaller-than-golf-ball sized balls and laid them out on the sheets to stick into the refrigerator for a day. (Note: your hands will get sticky! Use oil or cold water or a bit of flour to help you out. I used coconut oil).
  • Once you are ready to bake them, bake them at 350 for about 20 minutes or until the cookies feel firm enough and the tops are toasted.
  • Take them out to cool.
  • Meanwhile, melt the chocolate with a LITTLE bit of salt, 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract, and some milk on the stove under medium-low heat. Keep stirring until it melts and thickens.
  • At this point, work semi-fast. Dip the cookies halfway through and lay them back on the sheet to dry.
  • After the cookies have been dipped and placed, sprinkle some of the chopped nuts on top.
  • Place it back in the fridge to allow the chocolate to harden which will probably take about an hour or so.
  • GORGE YOURSELF!!

How can I even begin to describe the feeling that rushed through me when I finally had that bite of sweet therapy?

Chocolate-Dipped Macaroons

A tray of them 🙂

My mother’s ham (which had been marinated with a variety of sauces and spices, none of which I can remember off the top of my head) was crunchy, hearty, and filled me up just right. And I can never say no to her potatoes 🙂 –

HAM!

Baked Red Potatoes with Herbs

Oh dear god, gastronomical pleasure galore…

Now excuse me, I need to lie down and let this food finally have its chance to digest. I sincerely hope all of you had an excellent holiday.

Happy Easter and Happy Spring!

Chilled Salad and Thai-like Curry

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Ever since I had my first taste of Thai food in college, I could not get enough of it. There was a restaurant near Poughkeepsie, NY (about 20 minutes away from my college) that my friend and I would go to all the time called Aroi. It was a homey type of restaurant set in a very quaint village but the food there was phenomenal. I still dream of the many dishes we had tried there. To this day, I have yet to find a restaurant that have matched their quality.

Ever since I moved back home after graduation, I find myself craving Thai food on random days. What little Thai food I had in the city did not satisfy my cravings and I was dying.

Last week, I took my mother out to Times Square to see Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum because she has been asking to go for the longest time. Seeing that it was her birthday, I thought, why not? I haven’t been there either. I decided after the visit, I could treat her to an early dinner. My mother loves Thai food too but she does not get to have it as much as I do. After the visit to the museum (it was a BOATLOAD of fun), we walked over to a little restaurant on 9th avenue called “Breeze” – a Thai-French fusion restaurant. For appetizers, we ordered something called “Golden Bags” – which are essentially fried wontons stuffed with ground chicken and other spices and served with a sweet/spicy dipping sauce:

Golden Bag

The name does not sound very appealing but the dish itself wasn’t bad. I wasn’t a big fan of the sauce because it was more sweet than spicy and I can get picky like that. My mother thought the same. For the main entree, she ordered Royal Panang Curry with beef served with jasmine rice:

Royal Panang Curry with Beef and Jasmine Rice

It was yummy! The only complaint was that the sauce for the curry was a little too…coconut-milk-y. The balance seemed off. And they served very little rice for that massive dish. But other than that, delicious! Even the beef was good and I usually dislike beef from restaurants.

I ordered the classic Pad Thai. My friend once told me that if the restaurant can make Pad Thai well enough, then the restaurant was probably well worth the price. What can I say? It was great. Still not as good as Aroi’s, but it’s up there:

Pad Thai with Chicken

Overall, the restaurant was pretty good and the bill wasn’t too bad for the food. The service was excellent – the waiter was very observant and nice. The atmosphere was quiet but comforting. The decor was cute – a little bit of orange, white, and gray.

I feel like a restaurant critic now…

Anyway, since then, I have been craving Thai food once again. With the beef. With the chicken. With some delicious type of white fish…maybe salmon. Then I realized…today marks the first day of the Holy Week – Palm Sunday. Therefore, during this whole week, my family, being the devout Catholics they are, will not be eating meat – especially on Good Friday. So if I had to make something today, it had to be vegetarian.

With my brother’s restrictive diet in mind, I set out to make two separate types of dishes because, I don’t know about you, but my body burns through vegetarian dishes quickly so I usually eat more when there is no meat involved. A chilled salad recipe came into my head first – something made out of corn, mushrooms, black beans, etc, etc. Then the dressing/marinade would be lemon, red wine vinegar, and some teriyaki sauce. Seasoned with some salt, pepper, and minced garlic. Then it would be chilled in the fridge so the flavors can dance and meld with each other to create something delicious – and HEALTHY! Anyhoo…

Ingredients:

  • Two cases of white button mushrooms, cut
  • Corn
  • Black beans (rinsed)
  • Half of a white onion, sliced
  • Black olives
  • 2-3 teaspoons of minced garlic
  • Salt and pepper
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Half of a lemon
  • 2-3 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce

Procedure (it was very simple really):

  • First, I coated the mushrooms in olive oil and some salt and pepper and baked them in the oven for about 20 minutes so they get browned and cooked. I didn’t want to risk anything with my brother (I can be protective!).
  • While that was baking, I started marinating the corn, tomatoes, black beans, onions, and olives in extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper. Meanwhile, my brother came by to steal one or two tomatoes while my mother stole the olives.
  • When the mushrooms were done, I added it to the salad, leaving maybe a half a cup left for the other dish.
  • I added the lemon, red wine vinegar, and teriyaki sauce and tasted it. I determined it needed a little bit more salt. When it was to my liking, I left it in the fridge to chill.

The Chilled SaladMy brother kept coming back to steal a few bites. I took that as a good sign.

Then I started on the task of preparing the Thai-like curry. So why Thai-LIKE and not just THAI? Okay well – the actual curry recipe (the panang curry that is) calls for shrimp paste and lemongrass. And quite frankly, I did not know where to go to buy it nor did I really want to waste my gas hunting around for one (the price is $4.15 a gallon now! Kill me!). When I do eventually find a store that carries the authentic Thai ingredients, I will be more than happy to make authentic Thai cuisine.

For now, I’ll settle for the mock Thai cuisine. It was still quite mouth-watering.

Ingredients:

  • One tofu – diced
  • Half of a medium white onion, diced
  • A can of coconut milk
  • Coriander leaves
  • Paprika
  • Tumeric powder
  • Chilli powder
  • 3 or 4 seeded dried chilli peppers
  • A bay leaf
  • The rest of the mushrooms, diced.
  • Garlic
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure (also ridiculously simple):

  • I browned the tofu first in vegetable oil then placed it on top of a paper towel for it to drain and dry up a little.
  • I then sauteed the onions and garlic together until they were soft.
  • I slowly added the coconut milk, the spices, and the herbs until they all became one.
  • While it was simmering, I added the mushrooms and some of the mushroom juice that was at the bottom of the baking dish.
  • After about 10 minutes, I finally added in the tofu and simmered it for about 10 more minutes.
  • VOILA!

I spooned it over some rice and chowed down. Hmmm! Family seemed to have liked it too 🙂

Yummy Curry!

Sighs, my tummy is happy.

Now I’ll shut up and let you relish in the images of deliciousness, tehe.

As the gang from The Weekenders would say – “Later Days”!

Moroccan-Inspired Beef Stew over Mushroom and Corn Couscous

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When I was a little girl (a long, long time ago), I saw pictures and scenes from Morocco on television. Ever since then, I was stricken with the strong desire to go to Morocco to experience it myself, through my very own eyes. I thought the culture was rich and gorgeous. Their history was so colorful and their legends were…well, legendary. It was my number one travel destination for a while. It was emphasized when my parents went through a “couscous” phase. I remember constantly having it when I was younger. I imagine it was cheaper then and just as easy to cook. We eventually phased OUT of couscous.

Over the years, I changed my number one travel destination to Greece (for the same reason I love Morocco – the culture, the history, the scenery, and the mythology). Morocco, sadly got bumped down to number two. However, not too long ago, when I was staying over Terra Recycled’s place, we were brainstorming ideas on what to make for dinner. We eventually settled on some sort of Thai sauce over chicken. While we were browsing through the super huge supermarket aisles, my eyes caught onto couscous. She never had it. I convinced her we should have this with the chicken. She ended up loving it.

Ever since then, I had been itching to cook something with couscous because my love for it has re-grown. The other day, I thought of Morocco and thought, as a tribute to my childlike fascination with the country, I would make a dish inspired by the wondrous country. A recipe started to formulate in my mind…a beef stew that has been cooked over a low flame for a couple hours – flavored with onions, tomatoes, tomato paste, garlic, etc, etc. Spoon that over the quick-cooking couscous…hmm, my stomach was growling at the thought of it. It was one of the rare times I craved red meat.

Morocco and India share the same spices when making dishes so a lot of the ingredients that were needed to make the stew I already had on hand. I just had to buy beef, couscous, and stock.

Ingredients:

  • Chuck beef cut into bite-sized pieces
  • Half of a large carrot
  • Half of a can of sweet peas
  • Half of a can of sweet corn
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Chives
  • A large tomato
  • Half of a small can of tomato paste
  • 4-5 red shallots (or 1 large onion) – diced
  • 6-7 garlic cloves (chopped)
  • 1 pack of baby portobello mushrooms (or whatever mushrooms you want) – I sliced the mushroom caps and diced up most of the mushroom stems.
  • 2-3 boxes of couscous (depends on how many you are feeding)
  • Low-sodium beef broth
  • Olive oil
  • Paprika (about 2-3 Tb)
  • Cumin (1 Tb)
  • Chilli powder (3 Tb – adjust to your spice tolerance)
  • Tumeric powder (2 Tb)
  • Salt and pepper

Procedure:

  • After chopping everything up, I first sauteed the onions, garlic, and chopped mushroom stems for about a minute or so, or until they’re soft. Meanwhile, I let the beef marinate in salt, pepper, and some red wine vinegar (don’t use too much!)
  • When I felt like the marination time was up (in my mind, it might have been 15 minutes), I slowly added the beef to the pan with the shallot, garlic, and stems mixture. I wanted to brown the beef on all sides first.
  • I removed the beef to a separate bowl and kept it warm while I added about half the container of beef broth (or two cans) to the pot. I added carrots, the spice mixture, tomato, and the tomato paste and brought it up to a boil, making sure the paste became close friends with the sauce.
  • When it was all nicely incorporated, I added the beef back in to let it cook for a couple of hours on medium-low heat. I added salt and pepper according to the taste. A little later, I added the chives.
  • Towards the end, I added 3/4 of the sliced mushrooms into the bubbling stew.
  • Meanwhile, I cooked the couscous by simply following the instructions except instead of adding water, I replaced it with beef broth and added in the corn and sweet peas and the rest of the mushrooms to the boiling water. I added the couscous and fluffed it up until it looked deliciously golden.
  • The stew should be done in a couple of hours. If you think that it looks a little runny, add a little cornstarch and mix it until it thickens up. If you do not have cornstarch, you can make a little roux with flour and butter and add it into the stew.
  • Prepare a plate of couscous, spoon over the stew, and go to town, my loves!

Now…some pictures to make you guys salivate…

The spice mixture - so colorful!

The beef stew...stewing.

Now the moment you have all been waiting for…

Moroccan-Inspired Beef Stew over Mushroom and Corn Couscous

My gosh…it was amazing. I finished the entire plate in just 5 minutes, despite the fact it was steaming hot. This is my idea of nostalgic, comfort food.

Go ahead, warm yourself with your bowl of comfort food and take a trip down memory lane.

Carrot-Tomato Soup & Cornbread w/ Sun-Dried Tomatoes

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I am not a fan of soup. In fact, I borderline dislike them. The only one that I really liked in the past (and to this day) was miso soup. The other one I could possibly tolerate is chicken-noodle soup. I am the type of person that never craves soup. I always thought food was something you had to physically chew on – not drink/slurp at it like a common beverage.

Until…one day, about two years ago, my friend’s mother made carrot soup. Now – I am not the biggest fan of carrots either. If I had to have them, I’d rather have the washed and raw – not cooked. So, when my friend offered some carrot soup, I was quick to say no. Carrots…pureed into soup? Gah! Noooo thank you. After a certain amount of pushing and guilting me (“my mother worked so hard on this soup!”), I finally tasted it.

I LOVED it. My God, it tasted like the best thing I ever put it in my mouth. I asked for more then a bowlful then another and would have asked for another when my friend stopped me saying, “well ok, this soup is really for me, so ease up, huh?”. Afterward, I harassed her into telling me what the recipe was. She said it was top-secret! What?! People still do that? I decided not to bug her any more and just went along my way.

To this day, I still think of that soup. Sadly, my friend and I do not speak as much anymore so bugging her for the recipe was out of question. So…I decided to try to imitate the flavor of the soup. After a hellish week of graduate school applications (hope, hope, hope I get in somewhere!), examinations, and work, I finally got the time today to buy my ingredients and get to cooking.

Then I thought…well, I don’t want to make it JUST carrot soup because the majority of my family feels the same as I do – they are not huge fans of carrots. My mother loves it and she loves soup so she was easy to cook for. I also had to find a way to cook it according to my brother’s restrictive diet. After some finagling, I finally put together some recipe in my head. Not only will it be carrot soup, it will be infused with tomato and coconut milk. Would it work? In my head it worked, I only hoped it would work in real life. Alongside the soup, I was going to serve cornbread with sun-dried tomatoes.  However, I had to make sure to find a recipe for egg-less cornbread since Kannan (my brother) was allergic to eggs.

First, I made the cornbread. It was easy enough.

Ingredients for Cornbread with Sun-Dried Tomatoes:

  • 1 cup of corn flour (I couldn’t use all-purpose flour)
  • 1 cup of cornmeal
  • 1.5 cups of rice milk
  • 1 tablespoon of vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon of salt
  • .5 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 3/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 10 slices of chopped sun-dried tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons of oil (I just used the oil that came with the tomatoes)

Procedure:

According to the directions, the milk and the vinegar was supposed to be mixed and I had to leave it alone for a few minutes while I mixed together the dry batter. After I had done that, I incorporated the wet ingredients until it was all mixed.

Cornbread batter

After pre-heating the oven to 350 degrees (the recipe called for 450 but my oven is stuck at 350, so bear with me), I stuck it in there until the toothpick came out clean – it took about 20 minutes, I’d say.

While that was baking, I started my carrot-tomato soup:

Ingredients for Carrot-Tomato Soup:

  • Two bags of baby carrots
  • Half a can of tomato paste (the small can)
  • Half a can of coconut milk
  • Half of a small, white onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves of minced garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Oregano

Yeah – that’s all I really needed. It wasn’t a complicated recipe. I think the typical recipe calls for vegetable broth, but I dislike broths from the store because they usually have too much sodium for my taste – (or I really forgot to buy it from the store, shh).

Procedure:

I washed and boiled the carrots until fork-tender. When I drained it and let it cool, I sauteed the garlic and onions together until softened. Then, I chopped the carrots up, added the garlic and onions, and liquified them in the blender with some water. I poured it into a large pot and added my coconut milk and tomato paste. While it warmed up, I tasted it and added salt and pepper to my taste.

When that was done – the cornbread was done. Voila!

Carrot-Tomato Soup w Coconut Milk - garnished with sour cream and dried parsley

Cornbread with Sun-Dried Tomatoes

Yum! Yum! Yum! Dare I say it tasted better than my friend’s mother’s soup?! I DARE!!

I would’ve liked the cornbread to be thicker and fluffier but I’m guessing this is because it is lacking the eggs. Ah well, tasted great anyway!

Now excuse me, I’m going to sneak in some more…Enjoy!

Homemade Peanut Butter

Standard

The other day, I had such a strong craving for peanut butter. At the time, it had felt like I haven’t had peanut butter since I was a child but in reality, I had it not so long ago at my friend’s house, slathered all over a piece of toasted bread, topped with slightly sweetened mango jam (drools). I knew for sure there would be no peanut butter in my fridge at home because it was considered a “luxury”, an added cost for something my mother thought no one could eat. When I asked her why, she thought peanut butter contained actual butter – therefore way too fattening and unhealthy for any one us. When I looked through the ingredients for peanut butter at the grocery store, it seemed simple enough – peanuts, sugar, and some form of oil to help bring it all together. An idea started to form in my head to just make homemade peanut butter. It would be so much more delicious, rustic, and I could make it to our preferences. I could also make damn sure that it was something that was safe for my brother to have.

So, peanuts were bought and stored away during the week. I had been busy, studying for a dreadful exam that was scheduled yesterday. After the exam, I just wanted to relax. Today, being my only free day, I set up all the ingredients and began to work:

Ingredients:

  • Raw peanuts (about 12 to 15 oz)
  • Less than half a cup of honey
  • Extra virgin olive oil – added according to the texture of the peanuts.

Procedure:

  • I toasted the peanuts on the stove with just a little bit of oil – it didn’t take too long.
  • After letting it cool, I first pulsed the peanuts in the blender to make it smaller then gradually started adding in the olive oil and the honey – tasting it along the way.
  • When I was done with the first batch, I moved on the the second one
  • That’s it.

As you can see, it is pretty simple to make. It does not look fancy at all – I would call it rustic. A certain friend of mine will compare it to something very repulsive. But all in all, it was so good. I wish I was exaggerating but something about warm, fresh, homemade peanut butter makes all the difference!

Homemade peanut butter - freshly made

Again…it doesn’t look appetizing – but then again, neither does store-brought peanut butter.

Drizzled with honey

I had it my favorite way – slathered on toasted and drizzled with a bit of honey. My mother’s exclamation: “It’s better than the butter you buy from the store!”

I’m sure my brother will be happy. Then he’ll make it magically disappear by chowing it all down before anyone else really had a chance to eat it.

So go ahead, indulge in this simple pleasure!