Thai Red Curry

I had braised a pork roast for several hours in the oven to use half for pork tacos/burritos at my friend’s New Year’s Fiesta.   We had the other half left over so my husband and I decided to turn it into a Thai Red Curry; it’s a great quick meal.  The flavors are so wonderful, but you might have to be careful of the heat from the spices for kids. 

 Thai Pork Curry

1 tsp red curry paste (or more for added heat)

1 can coconut milk

1 onion, diced

2 carrots, diced

2 bell peppers, diced (orange, yellow, green and/or red) (we used frozen peppers)

1 Tbsp oil (canola, safflower, sunflower, grapeseed)

1 tsp fish sauce

Tbsp soy sauce

handful fresh cilantro, chopped (or 2 frozen cubes)

Heat oil and add paste.  Stir over medium high heat for a minute then add vegetables and coconut milk.  Bring to a boil and simmer on low for 5 minutes.  Stir in fish sauce and soy sauce.  Add pork.  Simmer for another few minutes.  Finish with cilantro and serve over jasmine or basmati rice.


You can substitute chicken, shrimp or fish for the pork.  If you add raw meats/fish do so before the vegetables and make sure it’s cooked through.

We served it with a side of snow peas finished with sesame oil and soy sauce. All three of my kids loved it, though I did give some extra rice for my spice-sensitive middle son.  My eldest wasn’t too fond of the peppers so he ate around them, but still declared the meal, “Delicious!”

I’ll post the braising and taco part later.

Quick, Quick, Quick

I am often challenged to prepare a meal quickly and healthily for my kids.  That’s because I am not the best meal planner, unlike some who write down their upcoming meals on their calendars and buy the ingredients at the beginning of the week. I do try to buy things that I will use together in many ways and figure it which way on the day.  This way of shopping is sort of like picking out clothes that are mix and match instead buying a complete outfit.  And even if I do plan out some meals in advance, every so often a day goes awry and can lead to what-to-cook-for-dinner-panic.  Especially when our day has gotten busier than expected and dinner should have been on the table not still in the fridge/pantry. So, here are a couple of suggestions for those kind of days: what to cook when you only have a few minutes to cook.  (I’ve got it listed by protein as most in U.S. consider that the focus— I can touch on that another time.These are separate ideas and recipes not all for one night.

Fish: I use several types as go-to meals.  Most fish is quick, easy, delicious and nutritious.  I mostly steer clear of the bigger fish (tuna, swordfish) especially for the kids because of mercury.  I also won’t buy many farm-raised because of antibiotics, PCBs and other harmful chemicals.  Here is a good resource for what to buy.


It is winter here so I don’t grill as often.  I will instead pan fry (in a little canola or safflower oil) some firm, thin fish like tilapia; pan roast (start on the stove, finish in the oven) thicker fish like salmon and snapper; and roast or braise other really thin or flaky fish like sole, cod (a little lemon, butter and white wine make a great combination for those). Serve the fish with rice, potatoes, and several vegetables and/or salad. 


One suggestion is firm white fish (tilapia, catfish), lightly coated with Eastern spices and a little dried lemongrass, pan fried in canola oil for a few minutes on each side.  I use Penzy’s Singapore Spice blend which combines curry flavors with citrus. 

Chickpeas (Garbanzo beans): my staple for either all-vegetarian or partial-vegetarian dishes.  I often use chickpeas to stretch the meat in a recipe.  I put them in chili, Moroccan dishes and curries.  I usually buy canned ones since they’re ready to use in a moment.  Cumin, cinnamon, turmeric, paprika, garlic and ginger are all wonderful with chickpeas (in any combination).  Throw in some tomatoes, kale and potatoes and you’ve got a complete meal.


To be continued….

Braised Chicken with Tomatoes, Zucchini and Mushrooms

Thankfully I write this in Word first.  Tumblr didn’t actually post my entire post with photos and all! 

Continuing on a cheap dinner theme, I bought 4 Springer Mountain chicken thighs on sale for under $3.  They aren’t perfect, but fairly good chickens- no antibiotics and humanely treated.  I wish they were outside getting greens and bugs, like I said, they aren’t perfect. 

Anyway, I decided on a dreary summer day that stewing or braising the chicken in a tomato based sauce would be perfect.  My youngest had picked out wagon wheel-shaped pasta, so I thought this would go well with it.  Since I still had some ratatouille left I knew it would go great with the chicken, but how to have it so all the kids would eat it… I added only about 1/2 cup full toward the end.  It added a wonderful subtle smokiness to the dish.  So, also using a CSA zucchini I’d forgotten that I had put in the fruit drawer since I had no more room elsewhere in my fridge and mushrooms I bought, I made a wonderful meal that everyone loved.  And since all of this was made in one pot (besides boiling the pasta), it was an easy clean-up.

Chicken Zucchini and Mushrooms

4 Chicken thighs (I used with skin & bones on)

1 large (or 2 small) zucchini- sliced

1 cup shiitake and crimini mushrooms- destemmed and sliced

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 shallot (or 1/2 white/yellow onion), minced

1/3 cup white wine

1 tsp chicken base (Knorr Roasted Chicken Base)

1/4 cup water

2 cups chopped tomatoes

2 Tbsp fresh thyme- chopped

1 Tbsp parsley- chopped

olive oil

salt and pepper

Optional: I added 1/2 cup of grilled vegetable ratatouille that I had left over. 

Heat olive oil in hot pan, brown the chicken (seasoned with salt and pepper) skin side down first for about 4-5 minutes each side.  Set aside.  Pour off excess fat.  Sauté shallot, garlic and mushrooms (if necessary add a little more olive oil) over medium high heat and set aside when done (not brown).  Keep stove on med-high and pour wine into pan and let boil off for a minute.  Scrape sides of pan to get chicken bits and then add chicken base and water.  Stir well.  Add chopped tomatoes, herbs, shallots and garlic.  Add chicken so that skin side is down, cover with sauce and salt and pepper to taste. Cover pan and reduce heat.  Let simmer for 30 minutes, giving it an occasional stir.  Add zucchini and mushrooms (and ratatouille if you have it) Cover.  Simmer another 10-15 minutes.  You can either take chicken off the bones or leave whole. 

Serve with pasta or rice.  We took ours off the bones (since there were 4 pieces but 5 people) and also added the pasta to the pan. 

This can be done with various different vegetables and without mushrooms.  It’s very delicious the next day too! My middle son whined so long that he didn’t want it.  I even tried to record him… he loved it and finished it without fuss. 

 They all did!

Cooking Together: The Whole Fish

There are times when cooking is easier for me—the nights my husband is doing it. I am lucky how often he cooks considering he does this for a living and is at work most nights, especially weekends. I will often defer the cooking to him when he’s home. But, I really enjoy cooking with him, because I often learn something and because we enjoy being together and we work well together. There’s a reason or two I married him.

Today we shopped for dinner at Stew Leonard’s and I picked out the Bronzino (Bronzini) as our main. Bronzino is a Mediterranean sea bass and the ones we purchased were sustainably farm-raised in Greece. If you haven’t noticed, I love fish and because I do and cook it often, my kids do as well. I am careful what I buy and try to pick something sustainable that’s also in my budget. Fish is expensive. It was on sale today and looked fresh. Stew’s is one of our favorite places to buy fish, because the turnover is so great, the fish is very fresh. My husband told me to look at the eyes, if they’re clear and not cloudy, it’s fresher. Ok, yes, the eyes. This fish is whole, head and all. Daunting? Maybe, but not necessarily. Off-putting? That’s up to you. Continue reading

Grilled Seafood and Baby Bok Choy

While shopping my sons the other day, my middle one requested some shrimp.  I saw some beautiful diver scallops there as well and decided a few of each would be great for grilling.  When I showed the boys the baby bok choy they actually hoorayed!  My brother joined us for dinner so I included an approximately pound-sized filet of salmon to grill with the shellfish (or else it wouldn’t have been enough for 5, especially with my brother’s appetite).  Salmon and seafood are great to grill for clean up convenience and also so you don’t have the smell lingering around the house the next day! 

After putting the jasmine rice on the stove and starting up the grill I put the baby bok choy on to stea m.  With baby bok choy you can steam the whole thing together, with the larger size you should cut the stems off to steam a minute longer first before adding the leaves.  Once the leaves are wilted, they’re done.  Shock with cold water.  Keep to the side to finish later.  

I then shelled the already cleaned shrimp, put a 2-3 on a soaked bamboo skewer, then  drizzled them with olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper.  I repeated skewering, etc. with the scallops.   I then put some olive oil on a plate and the salmon on top, flipping it over to coat it, then added salt and pepper.

I put the salmon on the grill first since it takes longer.  Once it had cooked a few minutes I added the shrimp and scallops.  I took them off after turning and the shrimp was just pink and scallops had more whitish-solid appearance.  You don’t want to over cook either as they’ll become tough.  It only takes a few minutes. The salmon doesn’t take very long either- it should still be dark in the center to be flavorful and tender. 

After the seafood and fish were done I finished the bok choy.  In a pan I heated 1 tsp sesame oil, a Tbsp canola oil and 1/2 tsp soy sauce.   I added the bok choy (I chopped mine into approximately inch pieces which make the leaves easier for the kids to eat) until warmed and coated.


Delicious for all!  My kids love this meal!

We use Tamari (by San-J and others) soy sauce which is richer in flavor and has no wheat, unlike the most popular types of soy sauce.  Perfect for those on gluten-free diets.  It also has no artificial flavors or preservatives and is naturally fermented.  Shoyu soy sauce (think Kikkoman’s) is made with a combination of soy and wheat.  There even are some cheaper soy sauces that use acid hydrolyzed soy protein instead of traditional brewing methods.  They have a longer shelf-life but you sacrifice quality, taste and possible health benefits.

© 2010

Best laid plans… or no plans

I wanted to go to bed but I also knew my sons want some toast in the morning.  All three love a slice of toast or bagel before they have the rest of their breakfast (eggs, oatmeal, cereal).   We ran out of bagels and toasting bread and I had picked up fresh eggs, rhubarb and milk from one farm and our shared harvest (CSA) from another but forgot about bread.  I just searched online for the bread recipe (wish I’d had more time to do the no-knead one that Mark Bittman featured in the NY Times recently). Since I am not a huge baker, my yeast might be a little old because the dough didn’t rise.  Ugh.  So, I put the dough in a preheated to 100F convection oven for twenty minutes. That didn’t work.  Next I took 2 different yeasts I had and tested them with some water and sugar.  Both bubbled and rose.  So I added more of it with some more flour.  I want it to rise once, punch it then go to bed.  Boy do I want to punch it.  It’s rising now at least.

So not every dinner works out as planned.  Or I mean not every dinner is enjoyed as much as I would wish.  Tonight I made a pasta because with chaperoning a field trip, driving over 2 towns for pick-ups and drop-offs, and making it back after 5 pm I just didn’t have dinner planned.  So I thought I’d use some of the spinach, parsley and garlic scapes in my CSA bin (the center of the young garlic shoot- great grilled).  I sautéed a chopped scape in olive oil, added two chopped plum tomatoes, chopped parsley, sea salt and pepper.  Tossed the pasta with them and added steamed spinach and some Trader Joe’s party meatballs.  I thought it was great.  The kids thought the spinach was too bitter and mostly just ate the pasta and meatballs.  Oh well.  Not every meal can be a success.  At least we ate together, talked about the day and I tried to get them to eat all their veggies.   In the end I warmed up some of last night’s peas just so they got some more greens without me having to spend more time in the kitchen…. before bedtime.

Mahi-Mahi with Mango Salsa

Today I was at Whole Foods and got so many wonderful fresh foods. I chose the Mahi Mahi for dinner and picked up a mango to make a salsa to go with it. Years ago, before kids, we used to shop regularly at Hay Day (now Balducci’s) and once got their tropical fruit salsa to go with Red Snapper. Since then we’ve been making different combinations of fruit salsas for certain fish. I love the firm sweet-tartness of mangos, but sometimes we add cantaloupe, honeydew and /or pineapple. With a little red onion, cilantro (try mint if you hate cilantro), lime juice, orange juice, hot pepper (habanero goes nicely with fruit, but be careful as they can be extremely hot. Use a surgical glove as I previously suggested so you don’t burn your eyes later if you forget you’ve got hot pepper juice on your fingers!), it makes such a great topping for fish, pork or chicken. We add the hot peppers last, so that we can separate some for the kids, then have ours as hot as we’d like. Prepare salsa before the fish or vegetables as it should sit in juices and pepper — for the flavors to come out. Basmati Rice, green beans and beet greens rounded out the meal.

I try to always buy my beets with the greens attached, but they don’t always sell them that way unless they’re really fresh. I lop the greens off the top the day I purchase them but the roots (beets) can stay another day or two. Chop the greens with stalks attached into one inch strips and steam until wilted. You can do this anytime during the meal preparation, as you will reheat when it’s time to serve. You also probably want to leave the leafless stalk for a juicer if you have one (unfortunately right now I don’t). Once you are ready to serve, just reheat in sauté pan with pat of butter, pinch of sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. (You’ll see a pattern here with veggie preparation). Beet greens are similar in texture and color to chard but less minerally and sweeter. My kids really love them.

For the Mahi-Mahi preparation: cut into approximately 5-6 oz size portions, discarding any bloodline (the dark colored section in the middle of the filet), then season with sea salt and pepper. On high in a sauté pan get canola oil (or other mild vegetable oil) hot then add the Mahi-Mahi and reduce heat to med-high. Turn over when fish is nice and golden brown. Reduce heat further to med-low so it’s not getting blackened, but cooking through. It is a bit messy with the splatters, but it only takes a few minutes to cook this way. If you are cooking rice, time the rice and when you see there’s 8 minutes left, it’s a perfect time to cook the fish.