Slow It Down

That’s exactly what we need to do – in a week or so – slow down. Right now we are in the midst of an all out crazy few weeks. Last week was a major event at work – that came off with much success, then we rolled into a great weekend – a girls’ trip for me (more on that another time) and a busy, tiring weekend of chasing the kids for Mike. I have mentioned how much I love this man, right?! And this week, well it’s tech week for Mr. N. In theater-speak that’s when they begin practicing on stage, with lights, sound effects, costumes, etc. They are perfecting all the technical aspects of the show before the big performance this weekend (five performances that is).

So what’s in order when things get crazy? Easy cooking – low and slow. And we just so happened to find a fabulous Thai recipe that fit the bill. Not only that, it happens to be #1 on CNN’s “World’s 50 most delicious foods.” meat and potatoes

There are many recipes for massaman curry, the most common including beef, potatoes and onions. It also features coconut milk, massaman curry paste, tamarind concentrate, and for our version we opted to add a little bitter orange. flavor

Another common ingredient – peanuts and Mr. N was in charge of toasting those for us. In fact, this was Mr. N’s first lesson in how to use the oven. He’s very interested in learning to be self-sufficient in the kitchen. cooking peanuts

Mike managed the cilantro. cilantro chopping

And as for our other sous chef. Well, she despite our schedule (actually likely due to our schedule) still managed to find a way to slow down. Chipper doesn’t often get to see Miss A when she’s motionless – because she’s never motionless – so he decided to see what she’s all about. sleepy girl

In the meantime we prepared the remaining ingredients for the massman – cinnamon, bay leaves, palm sugar, fish sauce, tamarind concentrate, massaman curry paste and our bitter orange juice. curry ingredients

As I mentioned there are many, many recipes for Massaman Curry so we blended together a few to make this dish. First we toasted the peanuts. Then we heated a bit of the coconut cream (The creamy stuff that rises to the top of the can of coconut milk – so don’t shake the can!) and tossed in the massaman paste. Next we browned the meat and added the remaining coconut milk and water. Then, everything else went into the pot. massaman boil

Once the pot reached a simmer, and this is not common to all massaman recipes, we covered it and transferred it to the oven where it baked at 375F for 2 hours. (Enough time to get some things done around the house!) And lastly, once finished, the massaman was garnished with toasted peanuts and served over rice. massaman curry

Now I will say this – our house smelled amazingly good! How Miss A slept through that I don’t know. Mike and I were pacing through the kitchen salivating. Even Mr. N was hooked by the smell. beef curry

So how did it rank among the troops? Well, many of you know, I’m not a big meat and potatoes gal. So take my vote for what you will. I came in at 2-1/2 spoons. While it wasn’t something I’d choose to eat often, it’s not a bad way to eat meat and potatoes. The flavors are incredibly complex – sweet, savory, spicy – and the textures are widely varied too. This dish really has it all. Thai curry

In fact, Mike was over the moon about our massaman. He gave it the full 4 spoons – and you know he doesn’t hand those out lightly. He said he could eat this all day long, every day. It was right up his alley. Massaman Beef Curry

The kids, well, they were a little less enthusiastic. Mr. N felt about how I did – he liked it, but wouldn’t put it on his list of must-haves. And Miss A…simply put, she was not a fan. So 2-1/2 and 1 spoons respectively. This one was really a mixed big for our house, but one we’re glad we made. The process was easy and fun, and it really did smell amazing!

Print this recipe: Massaman Beef Curry

Have a great week everyone! We’ll have our final Thai recipe for you next, and I can tell you this one was a fan favorite. In the meantime, here’s hoping you all have the opportunity to slow down a little – however you can. sleeping Miss A

Fifteens

Remember this classic scene from Seinfeld?

Well, thanks to Mr. N we now know that this would be illegal in Thailand. Yep. That’s right – there’s no going commando in this part of the world. You see, as promised, Mr. N is going to share little facts about each of the countries we visit through our culinary adventures. First we learned that three common ingredients in Thai food are green onions, cilantro and lime. Thai ingredients

And thanks to his new book from Friend Sue, we also learned that leaving the house without underwear is in fact illegal in the Land of Smiles. As you can imagine this made for a nice little chuckle around the dinner table. Not only did it raise the question, how do they know if you aren’t wearing underwear, it also reminded us of little Mr. N.

You see back when he was just three years old and learning to count he would often forget the number 15. He would go from 14 to 16 without fail, no matter how many times we tried again. It also just so happened, that around this time, Mr. N was learning to dress himself each morning. Well, without fail he would forget his underwear. He’d have shorts, t-shirt (usually backwards), and socks. So it became a little inside joke that Mr. N’s underwear were “fifteens.” So every morning we’d remind him, “Mr. N, don’t forget your fifteens!” Not only did this make him chuckle, but he started to remember every article of clothing! It was fortunate for him that this wasn’t illegal in Minnesota.

Needless to say, we had some fun conversations around the dinner table with our first recipe from Thailand. And what did we opt to go with first? The decision was easy – at least as far as Mike was concerned. He’s been waiting for this dish since we began our adventures – a Shrimp Pad Thai. Now with every new cuisine we add all kinds of different ingredients to our kitchen, and while cilantro, lime and green onions aren’t really newcomers, these next few ingredients certainly were. The first up…palm sugar. Palm sugar

We found palm sugar sold in a cone and sliced off what we needed. Next up, fish sauce, IMG_6460

and tamarind concentrate, which is a little bit sticky (think molasses). tamarind concentrate

We dissolved and mixed everything together with a some garlic and red pepper flakes to create our pad Thai sauce. Pad Thai Sauce

In the meantime, we soaked our rice stick noodles according to the package directions in some water. rice stick noodles

Next, Miss A took care of cooking our shrimp. Or should I say our rock star (note the outfit change – the third of the day). cooking shrimp

We removed the cooked shrimp and set it aside. Then Mr. N swooped in and cooked the onions, garlic and noodles. making pad Thai

Next we tossed in some of the pad Thai sauce along with the shrimp which we then moved to one side of the wok, then cracked and scrambled an egg on the other side. egg in pad Thai

Finally we tossed in some cilantro, a squeeze of lime juice, green onions and mung beans. We tested the noodles and were good to go. Shrimp pad Thai

We were really excited with how our first Thai dish turned out. It smelled great and was even pretty to look at. We didn’t even get any groans from the kids – I’m guessing thanks to the shrimp on the plate. pad Thai

So how did the new cuisine fair? Well, Mike and I both enjoyed the dish. The tamarind flavor comes through with intensity and there are all kinds of texture and flavor sensations happening. It’s definitely a complex dish which rang in at 3 spoons for both Mike and I. Thai food

Surprisingly Mr. N, our resident Asian food lover, wasn’t as thrilled with this dish. It was 2-1/2 spoons for him. And Miss A, well, she gave the shrimp 10 spoons and the rest 1 spoon. These ratings kind of baffled us. It wasn’t the flavor because they both enjoyed the shrimp. So perhaps it was a texture issue? Or maybe the sprouts that soured them on the dish as a whole. Still they ate up their dinners and didn’t complain and that’s always a win in my book!

Print this recipe: Shrimp Pad Thai Pad Thai Shrimp

All-in-all, not bad for our first Thai cooking adventure. Next up, another well-known and renowned Thai dish. Until then, we’ll leave you with this philosophical thought of the day: As to why a three-year old Mr. N always put his shirts on backwards… “It’s so people will know it’s me when I’m walking away.” Out of the mouths of babes…

 

Rejuvenation

Today’s post is going to be quick and easy. You see, you may notice a few changes on the blog today – a new look, new features and finally…index pages! As most bloggers know, changes like that are not so quick and easy. They take time…lots of time. But we had some this weekend and we figured it was time to liven things up a bit around here, make some improvements, get around to the things we’ve been procrastinating. Frankly, we were ready for a little rejuvenation. So was this recipe…

Seafood enchiladas have long been a favorite summertime dish for us. My grandpa passed along a recipe to me years ago after clipping it from a magazine in the lobby of the hospital where he volunteered. He saw it, knew my affection for seafood, and thought I would like it. He was right. (He found at least 50 recipes…perhaps he was trying to tell me something.) Well, my cooking skills have much improved since then and I opted to scrap the pre-mixed seasoning packet and put my own spin on these babies.

cream cheese enchiladas

The original recipe calls for regular cream cheese, butter and a ranch dressing seasoning packet. I typically swap out the regular cream cheese for reduced fat cream cheese. I’ve even used the fat-free or a mixture of the two and the results don’t vary at all. I also usually switch out the butter for oil. Now this time, having worked my way around a kitchen a bit more these past few years, I decided to bag the ranch seasoning mix and all its sodium for my own mixture of spices. So in place of the ranch dressing mixture I combined parsley, dill, chives, salt, pepper, cumin, garlic powder and onion powder.

enchiladas

As for the recipe, it’s simple. Mix the cream cheese and spices with a bit of milk in a large bowl. Reserve about a 1/4 of the mixture in a small bowl to the side. Next saute the cayenne, onion and garlic in a skillet. Toss in the crab meat, sliced black olives and Salsa Verde. The original recipe called for green chilies, but we’re rejuvenating, remember. :) (Next time, I’ll make my own salsa too….) Cook this mixture for a few minutes and then add it to the large bowl with the cream cheese and spices. Fold in some Colby Jack cheese and spread the mixture evenly in the center of about 8 to 12 tortilla shells.

Crab and dill enchiladas

Next roll the enchiladas, place them in a baking dish seam-side down and top with a bit more Salsa Verde, the small bowl of cream cheese mix and some more Colby Jack. Bake the enchiladas covered for 25 minutes at 350F. Finally, uncover and bake for another 5 to 10 minutes. And you’re done…see, quick and easy.

Seafood Enchiladas

Mike and I have enjoyed these enchiladas numerous times over the years, but this was the kids’ first experience with them. I was a little skeptical. I knew they would enjoy the crab, but I wasn’t so sure about the salsa and dill flavor. Well, I should have remembered Mr. N’s affection for ranch dressing, he really liked the enchiladas and gave them 3 spoons. Miss A liked them too, but not as much as her brother. She rang in with 2 spoons. Mike and I both really enjoyed the freshened up version of the dish. I gave them 4 spoons and Mike a strong 3 spoon vote. Overall, a very successful meal. I bet Grandpa would have enjoyed them too – or at least the fact that I still make them!

Have a great week everyone. We’ll be back next week with our first recipe from our Thai cooking adventures. In the meantime, we hope you have as much fun checking out the indices as we had making them. We didn’t realize just how many states and countries we’ve visited – and just how much the kids have changed!

Print this recipe: Seafood Enchiladas

Like kissing your…brother?

An oft-repeated quote in sports goes like this: “A tie is like kissing your sister.” A google search attributes the origin of the quote to former Texas football coach Darryl Royal, Alabama coach Bear Bryant, Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty, or Navy coach Eddie Erdelatz, but regardless of who said it first, it sure fits. A weird combination of completely unsatisfying, and could have been worse. We had a tie in last year’s Banana Bread challenge, and needless to say, we weren’t eager to repeat that again in our French Toast Challenge this year.

The final showdown pitted the top two seeds against each other, with #1 Bermuda French Toast taking on #2 Blueberry Stuffed. Bermuda struggled in the first round, but ultimately just had too much and managed to avoid the upset. Blueberry Stuffed prevailed in a tough battle in its previous match-up to earn its spot in the finals. Both recipes were at their best on challenge day, and it was clear when we got them both on the plate that we were in for an entertaining and enjoyable challenge. Continue reading