Monday, August 26, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Vegan Ceviche

I am not vegan or vegetarian, however, during the week I try to limit my meat intake. A while back I was in search of a fun, healthy, and light summer meal when I came across a recipe for vegan ceviche in Vegan Cooking for Carnivores by Roberto Martin (Ellen DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi's personal chef). I love ceviche! My viejito (what I called my grandfather) would make the best red snapper ceviche, but honestly I don't have the time to marinate the fish in lemon juice. Martin's recipe promised to leave me satisfied with hearts of palm so I thought I'd give it a try. Now it is my go-to summer recipe!

Hearts of palm are literally the heart, or inner core, of a palm tree. They are supper yummy! They have a bit of tartness to them, which makes them perfect for ceviche. And for those of you who don't know what ceviche is, it's a seafood dish of raw fish "cooked" in lemon or lime juice.

2- 14 ounce jars hearts of palm, cut in half lengthwise, then cut again crosswise into 1/4" strips
Juice of two limes (about 2 ounces)
2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 medium red onion, diced small
8 firm plum tomatoes, centers removed, cut into medium dice
1 bunch cilantro, minced
1 firm avocado, halved, pitted, removed from skin and diced medium
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Chipotle cream (recipe below)
10 corn tortillas sprayed with olive oil cooking spray and backed at 450 degree for 10 minutes, or ten store-bought tostadas
1 jar picked jalapenos

Chipotle Cream Recipe
One 7 ounce can chipotle chiles in adobo sauce
1 cup vegan mayonnaise
Kosher Salt

In a small bowl, mix 1 1/2 tablespoons of the thick red liquid sauce in the can of chipotles with the vegan mayo. Season with salt. Refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.


  • I skipped the tostadas. Instead I placed the ceviche in a bowl, topped with avocado, and saltines on the side. I didn't want to buy a whole pack of tostadas and end up with stale, funky leftovers. However, it is just as yummy on tostadas, for those of you who choose to use them.
  • I skip the chipotle mayo. I've tried vegan mayo and that stuff is NASTY! Plus what's the point of eating healthy if I eat super processed stuff like mayo? Instead I add a dollop of sour cream *do a dollop of Daisy is currently playing in my head* on top of the ceviche (since I serve it in a bowl instead of the tostada). You can also sub the vegan mayo with sour cream in the Chipotle Cream recipe. It adds quite a kick to the sour cream. Note that in my mind sour cream is healthier then vegan mayo. I can't explain it, it just makes sense to me!
  • I bought pre-sliced hearts of palm because they were actually a little cheaper and every penny counts! I've sliced them before and it's no big deal. You can slice them as the recipe instructs or you can cut them into rounds, which I find easier and more aesthetically pleasing. As they say on Food Network: "You eat with your eyes first." 0_0
  • I add lime zest to the ceviche. Long ago I learned that the best way to add lemon, lime, or orange flavor to anything is to grate a little rind into the recipe. It makes a big difference.
  • I used a yellow onion instead of the red onion. The first time I tried this recipe I used red onion and it bled into the rest of the ingredients. It was weird to eat ceviche with red lemon juice!
  • Instead of pickled jalapeno I top the ceviche with a little Sriracha. I think those of you who have been following my blog may have noted a Sriracha trend by now. What can I say? When we like something we stick with it!
Clearly I've made a lot of changes to this recipe. But that's what we do right? We make it our own. Here's how it all comes together:

I opened my cans of hearts of palm, drained them and placed them in a bowl. This is what they look like:

I then grated in a little lime zest, squeezed in the juice of two limes, and added the seasonings. I forgot to take a pic of the garlic salt, sorry!

Mix, cover, and place in the fridge to marinate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, I chopped my veggies: cilantro, onion and tomato.
Note the paper towel with the cilantro. My abuela always taught me to rinse, dry, and wrap the cilantro in a paper towel when storing it for future use. It will stay fresher longer.

Then it's as simple as mixing the veggies with the marinated hearts of palm.

Spoon the ceviche into a bowl, top with fresh avocado, and a dollop of sour cream *yup the song is still playing in my head * with a side of crackers. David added a little Sriracha to round it off. I would recommend some lemonade (spiked if you prefer) or a beer to go with this. It's a must try!

If you decide to use tostada: Spread a thin coating of the chipotle cream on each tostada and top with a few tablespoons of ceviche. Garnish with avocado and jalapeno.

I hope you love it as much as we do!

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Stuffed Figs

Once in a while David and I make dinner out of appetizers. This isn't an unusual phenomenon, it usually happens when we can't agree on what to eat. So instead of settling for one meal we each choose an appetizer we are craving and, let's just say, it may lead to a little overeating! Let me contribute to your inability to stop eating with this recipe for stuffed figs from Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite. 

8 ripe figs
3 1/2 oz (100g) soft goat cheese
handful of chives, finely snipped
good quality balsamic vinegar, to drizzle
few thyme sprigs, leaved stripped
2 tbsp (30ml) toasted pine nuts

Honestly I didn't measure a single thing for this recipe. I just used the amount that looked right. Let me show you...

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Trim off the tip from each fig. Cut a slit down the middle and squeezed the base of the figs so it "blooms" like a flower.

Stuff the figs with goat cheese. I just used the amount of cheese the fit into each fig. Some are bigger, which require more cheese, some are smaller, these will obviously allow for less cheese. Place in foil. The foil should be large enough to completely seal in the figs.

Sprinkle with chives and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with thyme leaves and pine nuts (I forgot to buy thyme, so no thyme for me). Try to keep the figs standing upright.

Bring up the sides of the foil and fold together to seal the package. Bake for about 12 minutes. Unwrap the package and serve immediately.
Note: You can also grill them on a bbq for the same amount of time.

This is what they look like:

Gorgeous aren't they? And they pair so well with a glass of wine! It's a match made in my oven. ;)

Things I would change next time 'round:

  • Add more goat cheese. Since goat cheese can sometimes have an overpowering flavor I didn't want to over stuff the figs and loose the flavor of the fruit. However, while I was enjoying these bite-sized flavor bombs I found myself wishing they had more melty, delicious goat cheese. So next time I will add more cheese.
  • Toast the pine nuts. I'm obessesed with toasting nuts, it really does develop their flavor. I didn't pre-toast the pine nuts because I figured they were going in the oven and they would toast alongside the figs. That was not the case. So next time I will pre-toast them for an extra boost of flavor and crunch. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Avocado Gazpacho

I continue in my attempts to eat healthy, at least before I go to Maui. After that I make no such promises! Tonight's dinner was Creamy Green Gazpacho from Eat your vegetables: bold recipes for the single cook by Joe Yonan.

The recipe is meant for a single person so I quadrupled the recipe. Hey (say that like Si does in Duck Dynasty) I refuse to go through all that effort for it to be over in one sitting! I am always looking for ways to maximize my time, so I make one big pot that will last me for a couple of days. As long as the food is delicious David doesn't mind eating it two nights in a row. So I always try me damnedest to make a scrumpdillyicious dinner. This Creamy Green Gazpacho was truly scrumpdillyicious!

1 medium tomato, cored and cut into quarters
1 small cucumber, peeled and cut into large chunks
1/2 avocado, cut into large chunks
3 large basil leaves
1/2 jalapeno (optional)
3/4 cup lightly packed watercress or baby spinach  leaves
1 small celery stalk (optional)
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, or more to taste
1 tablespoon honey
2 ice cubes
Filtered water (optional)
Kosher or sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon  extra-virgin olive oil

What I changed
I didn't change much in this recipe. I obviously quadrupled the recipe. I did use a little less jalapeno and used all the optional ingredients, except for the water. I skipped the, as Rachael Ray says, EVOO. This has more to do with the fact that I forgot the EVOO, as opposed to purposely excluding it. Sorry EVOO!

Ready? Here is how I put it all together:

I learned my lesson from my last cooking adventure and I tried to be more organized about my cooking. I first collected all my ingredients. I'm so proud of myself!

I then went about peeling, chopping, and coring all my veggies, as called for in the recipe. Hey (again in Si's voice) I don't know if this is just a Mexican thing, but whenever I peel and chop a cucumber I first cut off the ends and then rub them against the cut part of the cucumber. In this photo I should be rubbing those two parts together. Clearly I need someone to hold the camera so I can take action shots. Meanwhile you get to use your imagination. Just don't go too crazy!

Do you perform this cucumber ritual? Most Mexican families do. That's what my abuela and mom taught me. It's suppose to remove the bitterness from the cucumber.
After chopping and setting everything up for easy access I set aside some cucumber, basil, tomato, jalapeno, and avocado to top the gazpacho when I serve dinner. Just a little not too much. The recipe calls for setting aside one quarter of the tomato, two cucumber chunks, two avocado chunks, and one basil leaf ( x4 if you quadrupled the recipe like I did).

Now I am ready to blend. I tried to strategically place my ingredients into the blender. I put all the honey, ice, and balsamic in first. I then layered in the tomato and spinach and blended. As more room becomes available in the blender I layer in more veggies (without removing the liquid already in the blender). I want to make the most of the juicy veggies. If I put the spinach in by itself I would have a hard time blending it since it's dry.

I then poured it into a pot and seasoned it aggressively. It really needed salt, a little extra balsamic vinegar, and pepper. Refrigerate until cold, then pour into a bowl and top with reserved veggies (tomato, cucumber, basil, and avocado).

This was healthy, fresh and yummy. It has a slight sweetness to it, thanks to the honey, yet it's pleasantly spicy and fresh. I've tried other avocado soups before and this is the best one yet. Despite being super healthy it was still very filling. If you'd like you can add a little feta or goat cheese for an extra layer of flavor. A side of French bread would complete the meal.

Lessons Learned
  • Don't be a chile scaredy cat, add more jalapeno. The recipe originally called for half a jalapeno and even though I made 4x the recipe I still only added one jalapeno. Self-proclaimed chile scaredy cat here! I regretted it. I think a little extra heat would have been lovely against the sweetness of the honey.
  • Don't cut the avocado you will be using to top the soup until you are ready to eat. There is nothing worse than a browned avocado. Sure you can add a little lemon or lime juice to hold it over, but it's still better to wait and enjoy it fresh. 
Hope you try this recipe and enjoy it as much as my husband and I did!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

My Cooking Attempts: Rice Noodle Salad

David and I have been trying to eat healthier, we are going to Maui in a month so we are VERY motivated! I found this recipe in Gordon Ramsay's Healthy Appetite and thought it looked delicious so I gave it a go.

Here's the recipe:

  • 3 1/2 oz thin rice noodles
  • drizzle of sesame oil
  • 7 oz snow peas or sugar snap peas
  • 1 large  red sweet pepper
  • 1 large sweet yellow or orange pepper
  • 2 green onions
  • 7 oz peeled, cooked shrimp
  • handful of cilantro leaves
  • 1tbsp toasted black or white sesame seeds, to sprinkle
  • 1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely crushed
  • 1 small red chile, seeded and minced
  • 2-3 tbsp lime juice, or more to taste
  • 2 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 1/2 tbsp jaggery (or soft brown sugar)
  • 2 tbsp toasted sesame oil

I changed a few things:
  • I added carrots.
  • I skipped the yellow/ orange bell pepper. The red bell pepper was enough for me.
  • Was out of lime so used lemon instead. Yes, I know they don't have the same flavor but I'm working with what I got people!
  • I was out of cilantro so I used basil. Please see above comment and don't judge my lack of ingredients!
  • No chile for me! Those who know me, know I have never developed an immunity or love for chile. So instead I used red pepper flakes. 
  • The recipe called for jaggery or brown sugar. Instead I used organic coconut sugar. I figured it went with the Thai theme and David assures me it has more nutritional value than regular sugar. *Okay Baby, whatever gets you through the day ;)*
First I chopped the veggies, 'a la julienne:

I then boiled (2-3 minutes in boiling water), blanched (ice cold H20) , and chopped the sugar snap peas. BTW sugar snap peas taste so much better cooked! I've tried  to eat them raw on multiple occasions and I'm just not convinced that's the best way to eat them.

Then I soaked the rice noodles. I've never used rice noodles before and Albertsons only had rice sticks. I'm gonna assume they are the same thing. But you know what happens when you assume! You make an ass out of you and me! Hahaha I crack myself up! *Wipes tear away.*

I boiled water in a tea kettle. Placed the noodles in a heatproof bowl and soaked them in the hot water for 5 minutes. Drain and coat with a drizzle of sesame oil.

I then chopped some green onion. (I forgot about them when I chopped the other veggies.) I also made the sauce. Another first for me: I used fish sauce! Notice the ominous feel of the picture below? It correctly reflects how I felt about using fish sauce! Surprisingly the smell and taste were milder than I expected. If I can do it, you can do it! Just mix all the dressing ingredients together.

I then cooked the shrimp. The recipe assumes you have cooked shrimp laying around your fridge or freezer. I do not. Actually, I NEVER use precooked shrimp! So I used a little lemon zest, salt and pepper to season the raw shrimp. Of course, it goes without saying, I cleaned their poop line. *That's right I said poop on a post about food!* In other words I deveined them. Then off to the skillet to cook. *You better watch those crazy little bastards cause they cook really, really fast and there is nothing worse then rubbery shrimp!*

Mix all the ingredients together. I first sauced the noodles and then added the veggies. You can refrigerate the salad and let the flavors meld, as a refined lady with self control would. Or you can dig in, like I would! Tastes good either way. :)

Here is the final product:

Lessons Learned
  • Pay attention to the amount of rice noodles/ sticks you use. I may have over done it!
  • Keep the shrimp and veggies separate from the noodles until it is time to serve. Think topping pasta with pasta sauce and meatballs. 'Cause it is way too hard to try to properly mix all those veggies and shrimp with the rice noodles. Note the one lonely shrimp that made it to the top of the mixture. *Or it could have something to do with the fact that I used way too many noodles. Who's to know?* **Shrug**
  • Enlist help from David! Take a look at all the dishes I had to wash afterwards:

To be fair those dishes aren't all from this meal preparation. Note the blender that was not used in the making of this meal. I'm just a notoriously messy cook! It took me like 30-45 minutes to make the salad, which isn't too bad. If you employ mis en place *Look at me and my Food Network lingo. Fancy Lady Alert!* and don't cook your own shrimp then it will be even faster.

FYI David loved the salad! Let me know if you loved it too!