Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Coconut Green Curry

I really love Thai food and all the fabulous flavors they use. Coconut, chilis, fresh vegetables, lemongrass, lime....oh man! Flavor bursting all over the place.

One of my favorite dishes is Coconut Green Curry. While it’s nice to eat out, it’s really not difficult to make at home. It’s just a few ingredients and can be whipped up in no time, even on a busy week night. 

Plus, you can customize it a little by changing up the protein, sometimes using chicken, sometimes pork, sometimes tofu or a ton more vegetables, but 2 things remain unchanged: the coconut milk and the green curry paste.

There are a lot of brands of green curry paste out there and I haven’t really tried many of them. The Thai Kitchen brand is the one I usually reach for. But if you shop at an Asian market, I’m sure the selection is much larger and you can experiment with how different ones taste.

When it comes to the coconut milk, though, be forewarned. If you’re at all concerned about the quality of ingredients you use, you’ll want to read the labels. I am often fairly surprised at what all gets put into a can of coconut milk. You’d think it would be as innocuous as just coconut milk (what a concept!) but alas, it is not always so.

I prefer no-nonsense brands without artificial ingredients or thickeners that can upset my stomach, and the best for the price that I’ve found is at Trader Joe’s. Even my health food store coconut milk has stuff in it I like to avoid.

Go for the full-fat version if they have it. They also offer a reduced fat version but I tell you it’s not the same. Go for the real deal. There is no need to fear the fat in coconut milk. It’s one of those “good fats” we are supposed to be eating. The creaminess, by the way, also takes food to another level of wonderfulness.

So grab a can of TJ’s organic coconut milk and make this.

Coconut Green Curry
Snap Peas

1 head of broccoli, divided into florets
1 small handful of snap peas
Coconut oil
1 small onion, or 2 green onions (green parts only if following a low-FODMAP diet)
1 lb. protein of your choice, cut into cubes (the equivalent to 2-3 small chicken breasts)
3 baby bok choy
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can full-fat coconut milk
1 Tbsp. green curry paste

Let’s start with the broccoli. I need to eat this veg pretty well-cooked, so I steam this separately and then add it to my dish later.  Steam the snap peas along with it. 

While this is steaming, chop the onion fine and add to a sauté pan of heated coconut oil. Cook until translucent (if using green onion, add after the protein has been added). Add your protein (I like to use cubed chicken breast) and brown on all sides. When almost cooked through, add chopped bok choy and finely minced garlic and sauté another 3-4 minutes.  Now add the whole can of coconut milk along with the curry paste (whisking to dissolve). Bring to a boil, then simmer a few minutes. Turn off heat, add the broccoli and peas, and stir everything together well.

You could serve this over a bed of steaming rice, or if you’re on a grain-free plan like me, over a bed of “cauliflower rice”.

Thursday, August 4, 2016

South of the Border Bean Salad

I love bean salads. All kinds of beans actually, from fresh green beans to dry ones like pinto, black and canellini beans. And I especially like them in cold salads, which are perfect to eat during the summer.

I had given up all dry beans since developing stomach problems last fall. As most of us know, beans have a rather gassy reputation. Since I've been feeling better this last month and starting to experiment with adding foods back in, I decided to try beans and am glad that I seem to be doing okay with them.

You can use beans either from a can or cook them from dry yourself,  but either way, beans need to be soaked in order to make them easier to digest. Beans, as well as grains, contain phytic acid, an organic acid that blocks mineral absorption in the intestinal tract. This might not be a major problem for those of you with excellent digestion (provided you don't eat beans and grains that often) but for those of us with compromised digestion, we are already having trouble absorbing nutrients as it is, so we don't need any more problems. 

Phytic acid is neutralized in as little as 7 hours of soaking in water with small amounts of an acidic medium  such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar. Soaking neutralizes enzyme inhibitors and increases the amount of nutrients present, especially the B vitamins.

Soaking your beans overnight will do the trick. Just make sure to rinse them well and toss the water they were soaking in.

Even if you use canned beans, who knows if they were properly prepared before they were cooked. I would soak them for a few additonal hours just to be on the safe side.

If you think beans are boring, they don't have to be. The secret is incorporating ingredients that add flavor. Think of pungent, spicy or really bold flavors. I made a salad and tossed in all kinds of stuff from my fridge and pantry and came up with this:

Mexican Bean Salad

1 can pinto beans
1 can black beans
Frozen roasted corn
Red onion, sliced
Red bell pepper
Zucchini, chopped

For garnish:

Tomatillo salsa
Avocado oil
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper

Soak beans for a few hours. Drain.
Add to a large bowl.  Slice onions and saute in a little coconut oil until slightly carmelized. Add jalapeño, bell pepper and zucchini and cook until tender.  Add corn till just warmed up and thawed out.  Add to the bowl along with the chopped tomatoes.

Mix all the dressing ingredients in quantities to your liking. Add to the beans and vegetables. Stir. Add sliced avocado and chopped cilantro for on top.

Along side it I made a cheese-stuffed chili relleno without all that batter you usually get at a restaurant. Simply take an Anaheim chili, cut off the top and scrape out all the seeds with a spoon. Stuff it with Monterey Jack and a little tomatillo salsa, or just simply some Pepper Jack cheese. Bake 30-40 minutes at 350 or until your level of preferred doneness of the chili is achieved.  Soft with just the slightest bit of crunch is best.


Friday, July 22, 2016

Cauliflower Rice

A grain-free diet can help many of us with health issues. It’s been found to help those with not only digestive trouble, but also conditions like fatty liver, diabetes and autoimmune issues. When you decide to cut out things like wheat, oats, kamut, rye, spelt, rice, corn, and the like, you start becoming creative with substitutions. Something I’ve come to enjoy despite my initial reservations is “cauliflower rice”.

I won’t pretend and tell you it tastes like rice, because it certainly doesn’t. But it does look a little like rice, hence the name. Cauliflower rice makes a nice accompaniment to Asian dishes. I use it under stir-fried vegetables and chicken, for instance, to soak up the sauce.

What’s nice about this side dish is that it doesn’t fill you up with all that useless starch like rice does. I know a lot of people say they couldn’t give up rice, especially Asians. Likely introduced at birth and served with nearly every meal, rice has become comfort food to them - a  link to family, culture and tradition.  I get that.

But to say that rice is nutritious is inaccurate. There is very little nutrition in it and even the Whole Grains Council admits that rice is a processed food and highly refined. This is because the germ and bran have been stripped off it. Ok, brown rice is better, but it’s still pretty starchy. With white rice, all that's left is a shell of its former self, technically a grain but not even considered a whole one at that. It’s got a ton (45g) of carbohydrates per cup and very little to offer in the way of fiber and nutrients.

In contrast, cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cabbage, kale, mustard greens, bok choy and our friend cauliflower offer wonderful benefits to our health. Cauliflower, actually, is nearly a superfood; that’s because it:

1. Fights cancer with it’s sulphuric compound called sulforaphane.
2. Boosts heart health, again because of its sulforaphane.
3. Is anti-inflammatory because of its 13C, indole-3-carbinol, an anti-inflammatory compound
4. Is rich in vitamins and minerals: Vitamin C, Vitamin K, and B, potassium and manganese.
5. Boosts brain health because of its choline.
6. Offers detoxification support
7. Has digestive benefits
8. Contains antioxidants and phytonutrients.

Hopefully I’ve sold you on why rice is out and cauliflower is in. Now, on to the recipe.

Cauliflower “Rice"

1 whole head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp. sesame oil
1/2 cup finely diced yellow onion
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 cup water

Feed the cauliflower florets into the feeding tube of your food processor which has been fitted with a grater disc and process until grated into a rice “grain". Heat oil in a large skillet or wok and add onion and garlic, sautéing for 5 minutes over medium heat. Add the cauliflower and cook 5-7 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add water, then cover and steam for 5 minutes until the veg is cooked and the water has been absorbed.

Alternatively you can make the following substitutions, especially if serving with something like mango salsa over fish (yum!):

Use coconut oil instead of EVOO;
use 1/4 cup coconut milk in lieu of the water;
use green onions instead of yellow;
omit the garlic and add 1 Tbsp. chopped cilantro, 1Tbsp. lime juice, 2 tsp honey and 3/4 tsp sea salt instead.

I hope you enjoy it!

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