Friday, December 21, 2012

0 Healthy Holiday Menu Ideas

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Here are a few sample holiday dinner menu ideas to help you plan and organize your holiday food prep. Of course, you'll need to adjust the number of courses you'll be making to suit the number of guests you'll be serving. Please note that each menu section is grouped by skill/difficulty level. Generally, the easier the recipe, the less time it'll take to make it; and of course, the reverse is often true as well. And of course, every menu has links to recipes from this blog. :)

Happy Holidays!
-C


Healthy Holiday Menu Ideas:

Level: EASY (Requires beginner level cooking skills and minimal prep time)

Sample Menu #1 (Carnivores): (French-Style Holiday Dinner)
Note: This French-themed menu has enough hearty dishes to make sure that no one goes hungry. :) Not only does this meal satisfy, it also has an air of sophistication about it as well.
Appetizer(s): Black Olive Tapenade, served with crudités and crusty, toasted slices of French bread. (Baguettes are the perfect size for slicing into bite-sized rounds.)
First Course: Wild Mushroom Soup.
Second Course: Lemon-Thyme-Tarragon Vinaigrette on a Bed of Watercress Greens.
Main Course: Filet Mignon au Poivre et au Lavande (Lavender & Black Peppercorn Crusted Steak).
Side Dishes: Lavender-Infused Potatoes with Garlic & FennelCranberry Sauce Spiked with Cointreau, and Celeriac Remoulade (Céleri Rémoulade / Rémoulade de Céleri-rave).
Dessert(s): Cherry Clafouti with Almonds & Pistachios and Blueberry-Lemon Pots de Crème.

Sample Menu #2 (Vegan/Vegetarian):
Appetizer(s):  Creamy Red Hot Pepper Dip, served with crudités, crackers, &/or baked chips of some sort, and Italian-Style Marinated Vegetable Salad (Antipasto).
First Course: Kale-Potato-Leek Soup.
Second Course: Cucumber, Tomato, & Artichoke Salad.
Main Course: Mushroom-Olive Quinoa Pilaf with Fresh Herbs.
Side Dishes: Ginger-Garlic Baby Carrots and Quick & Easy Italian-style Beet Greens.
Dessert(s): Apricot-Papaya Pudding Parfait and Pear & Apple Crisp.


Level: MEDIUM (Requires intermediate level cooking skills and a moderate amount of prep time)

Sample Menu #1 (Carnivores): (Italian-Style Holiday Dinner):
Appetizer(s): Caponata Siciliana, served on ciabatta (or grilled zucchini, if you'd rather not eat bread).
First Course: Zuppa di Spinaci (Italian-Style Spinach Soup).
Second Course: Insalata Caprese con Finocchio e Olive (Caprisian Salad with Fennel & Olives).
Main Course: Chicken with Lemon-Caper Sauce (Pollo con Salsa di Capperi e Limone).
Side Dishes: Savory Stelline with Fresh Herbs & Sun-dried Tomatoes and Italian-Style Sautéed Broccoli with Fresh Herbs.
Dessert(s): Tantalizingly Transcendent Tiramisù and Baked Figs (in Marsala Wine).

Sample Menu #2 (Vegans/Vegetarians):
Appetizer(s): Avocado-Edamame Dip, served with crackers.
First Course: Beet and Fennel Soup.
Second Course: Grilled Hearts of Romaine with Caper-Avocado Dressing.
Main Course: Pumpkin Risotto.
Side Dishes: Cauliflower Mash and Grilled Carrots & Turnips Seasoned With Fresh Herbs & Spices.
Dessert(s): Mango Pie Flavored with Cardamom and Saffron, served with vegan ice cream, and Poached Persimmons.


Level: ADVANCED (Requires advanced level cooking skills and significant prep time. Prep is labor-intensive and elaborate.)

Sample Menu #1 (Carnivores):
Appetizer(s): Mushrooms Canapés Stuffed With Goat Cheese, Kalamata Olives, & Fresh Herbs and Dill-Avocado Dip with Fresh Tarragon & Chives, served with crackers or toasted bread.
First Course: Pumpkin Soup with Fresh Sage, Rosemary, and Basil.
Second Course: Hearts of Romaine with Tri-Colored Roasted Bell Peppers, Eggplant Croutons, & Lemon-Sumac Dressing.
Main Course: Herb-Encrusted Rack of New Zealand Baby Lamb.
Side Dishes: Mashed Red-Skinned Potatoes with Roasted Garlic & Fresh Herbs and Grilled Marinated Vegetables.
Dessert(s): Pumpkin Pie and Cherry, Apple, & Pear Tart (Made with Asian & Bosc Pears). (Serve each slice with a scoop of lowfat vanilla ice cream, but of course. :-D)

Sample Menu #2 (Vegans/Vegetarians): (Asian-Style Holiday Dinner)
Appetizer(s): Southeast Asian Summer Rolls with Peanut Dipping Sauce and Avocado with Sweet Soy Bean Paste.
First Course: Chinese-Style Vegetable Soup.
Second Course: Gimesamwata Sarada (Japanese Salad) and Japanese Ginger Salad Dressing.
Main Course: Stir-fried Chinese Eggplant in a Spicy-Sweet Garlic Sauce.
Side Dishes: Chinese-Style Black Rice Noodle Salad and Asian Jicama Slaw.
Dessert(s): Coconut Sticky Black Rice Pudding with Poached Asian Pears.

Note: If you need beverage/cocktail ideas, feel free to browse the respective tags on this blog.

0 Holiday Entertaining 101: Easy Ideas to Help You Simplify Your Holiday Food Prep

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I wrote the below excerpt (as a draft post) a while ago with the intention of covering the topic of entertaining in general. However, since it's now the holiday season, now seemed like the perfect time to post it. :)



Whether you’re just having a few friends over to watch the game, throwing a birthday bash, inviting guests over for dinner, or hosting a cocktail party, entertaining doesn’t have to be stressful or scary. There are a few, very easy things you can do to ensure that your event will be a smashing success. For starters, let’s first cover some general entertaining tips, and then we’ll get into some specific, event-related food preparation tips.

First of all, no matter what the event or what happens during the event, hosting is all about putting your guests at ease and making them feel welcome. As guests, we all know which kind of hosts and hostesses we tend to gravitate towards – the ones who are kind, considerate, relaxed, gracious, and confident, and can roll with the punches. And, should things go awry, as they sometimes do, they can still laugh at both the situation and themselves. People can forgive almost any party mishap if it’s accompanied by a good sense of humor.

In general, the keys to successful party planning are simple: (1) prepare well in advance, and (2) keep the party prep as quick and easy as possible.

Unless you’re an advanced level chef with a lifetime of culinary experience, now’s not the time to test out that elaborate recipe you’ve always wanted to try. Save the creative experimentation for another time, i.e., for when you can unhurriedly test out your dishes ahead of time in a relaxed atmosphere. And, be sure that any recipe trial runs (and tastings!) are done well before the day of your event. That way, you can work out the kinks beforehand and serve your guests in a timely fashion. As a result, you’ll feel relaxed and confident about the preparation and presentation of the food you’ll be serving to your guests.

The reality is that you’re not going to have as much time as you think to prepare on the day of the event, because you’ll need to take care of much more than just the cooking and setting the table. You’ll need to take care of your guests as well. So, don’t leave too many general to-do’s, cooking, and kitchen tasks to the last minute. (You’ll probably want to clean or at least tidy up your house before the guests arrive too, so you’ll want to carve out some time for that as well.) Also, during the event itself, you’ll most likely be multitasking and moving around a lot, so anything you can take care of in advance will be one less thing you’ll have to do on the day of the event. Take into account that you’ll want to have enough time to pull yourself together and decompress a bit before your party begins as well. The last thing you’ll want to do is to start frantically running around and freaking out about something that hasn’t been done yet only moments before your guests arrive. Guests can sense the type of energy a host or hostess gives off like a heat-seeking missile, and they typically take their cues from them too. So, if you relax, your guests will relax too. Advanced preparation is not just good for your guests, but it’s good for your blood pressure too.

So, with that in mind, try to get as much of the prep work done in advance. A lot of dishes – like sauces, soups, and casseroles -- can be made well ahead of time and then refrigerated, or in some cases, even frozen up until the day of the party. Again, anything frozen will require thawing time, so remember to plan for that as well.

If you’re pressed for time or just don’t have the wherewithal to make all of the food for a party yourself, keep in mind that it’s perfectly OK to take the easy route: For dips, crudités, and other simple platters, you can often find selections at your local grocery store, or at wholesale stores with deli counters and grocery aisles like Costco, BJ’s, or Sam’s Club. For any unlabelled product from the deli counter, be sure to ask about its ingredients, so you can inform guests, should they have any dietary restrictions. Also, whenever and wherever possible, enlist help, whether it be your family, friends, or a professional. Chances are, the people in your life will be happy that you asked. Or, if it’s a sizeable event and you have the means, hire a caterer and/or events planner. If you have a particular nutritional lifestyle, many caterers will prepare special food (i.e., vegan, gluten-free, kosher, etc.) upon request.

Plan out your menu in advance and figure out how much food to make or supply. To help you out in that regard, consider the following guidelines:

(1) When estimating amounts per person, always round up versus down. If you have a large guest list or will be entertaining for several hours, make sure you make enough food. You can always offer leftovers to the guests as they’re leaving, or just refrigerate or freeze them whenever possible. Homeless shelters and other relief organizations will also typically accept fresh surplus food as well.

(2) It’s easier to offer less courses and provide more food per course than to provide more choices and less servings. For the items you anticipate will be popular, offer them in bulk.

(3) Use these general portion size guidelines for figuring out how much to serve to each guest:
  • Beverages: about 1 - 2 c. (8-16 fl. oz.) per person per hour. (Usually 3 c. total per person will do for most events.)
  • Hors d'oeuvres: about 4-6 servings per person total when followed by a full meal, and about 4-6 servings per person (per hour) when they are the only selections offered at a party.
  • Soup: about 1 c. per person as a first course, and about 1 1/2 - 2 c. per person as a main course. In the latter case, if you are serving a lot of different appetizers, you might want to consider dropping that amount to 1 – 1 1/2 c. per person.
  • Salad: about 1 c. per person for raw salads and about 1/2 c. for cooked. (The standard estimate is 1 oz., but for most people, it’s too much trouble to weigh each portion of salad.)
  • Side dishes: 1/2 c. vegetables or rice per person and 1/4 c. pasta or legumes (as a side dish) per person.
  • Main course: about 4-6 oz. (or about a deck of cards) per person. If there are multiple main courses, about 2-3 oz. (or 1/2 a deck of cards) per person. (Normally, 3-4 oz. per person is the recommended amount for an everyday meal, but with parties, that calculation goes straight out the window. Also, athletes can be some particularly hungry guests, particularly after working out.)
  • Desserts: 1 slice of pie, tart, cake, or other pastry per person. If you’ll be serving multiple desserts, reduce each serving to about 1/3 – 1/2 c. per person. Calculate about 1/2 c. of ice cream, pudding, mousse, or other soft and creamy dessert per person.

The next post will provide a list of healthy gourmet menu ideas, to help you plan your holiday feasts accordingly.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

0 Recipe #332: Muscle-Building Protein Recovery Shake

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As mentioned in the previous post, I'm posting a protein recovery shake from our book, 7 Weeks to 10 Pounds of Muscle, to celebrate the fact that our manuscript is now finally heading off to the printers. Of course, as you can probably tell from the book title, this recipe is especially geared towards those of you who want to build some serious lean muscle mass.

This post-workout recovery shake is meant to be taken within 15 minutes of finishing your strength training workout. It contains the ideal mix of muscle-building elements:

  • Easily digestible contents (in liquid or pulverized form). By making this shake in a blender, you’re breaking down solids into liquids, which means your body doesn’t have to do so, and so, more quickly absorbs its nutrients.
  • Lean, high-protein sources containing 3 out of 3 branched-chain amino acids (leucine, isoleucine, and valine) and Omega-3 fatty acids. The first aids in protein synthesis while the latter helps reduce post-exercise inflammation. 
  • Fast-acting, high GI/GL carbs, which favor pure glucose sources to aid in the production of insulin, in order to move nutrients to muscles and vital organs. 
  • Minimal fat. Minimal post-exercise fat intake is generally recommended, unless you’re having trouble gaining weight.
  • Alkalizing (i.e., acid-buffering) ingredients to aid in muscle tissue repair and recovery, and thus, counter the effects of a high-intensity workout. Alkalizing foods help build muscle, whereas acidizing foods will actually break it down. This is why it’s so important to consume highly alkalizing post workout foods. 
  • Antioxidants, for removing toxic free-radicals that interfere with muscle-building (and can actually cause muscle damage). Eat antioxidative foods for improved muscle tissue repair.


Muscle-Building Protein Recovery Shake

Ingredients: 
1/2 c. crushed ice
1/4 c. deglet noor (i.e., common) dates
1/4 c. dried Turkish (i.e., common) apricots
1/4 c. banana, broken into quarters (1 large banana)
1 pint (2 c.) red raspberries
1/3 c. whey protein isolate powder (about 1 scoop)
1 pint (2 c.) milk
1/4 c. pineapple juice (not from concentrate)
1 Tbsp. honey

Directions: Add all solid ingredients to a blender first, followed by liquid ingredients and pulse until smooth and creamy. Pour into glasses and drink up!

Yield: About 24 oz. (or 3 servings of 1 c. each).

0 What's to Come: Books, Books, and More Books!

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To celebrate the fact that our 7 Weeks to 10 Pounds of Muscle manuscript is now finally heading off to the printers, I'm going to post a protein recovery shake especially geared towards those of you who want to build some serious lean muscle mass. That recipe's up next.

As for the other book projects, The Vegan Athlete is now in print, and so now that both of these two books have been completed,  there are only two more books (that is, books with upcoming deadlines), left to write. :) Currently I'm in the process of testing the recipes I've written for Paleo Fitness while simultaneously creating new recipes for The Athlete's Cookbook as well. It's nice to finally have only two books to write &/or edit at once. Lol. Then, after these projects, my tentatively titled healthy gourmet cookbook, Cooking with Corey: Healthy Gourmet Recipes Packed with Flavor, Humor, & Attitude, is (finally!) up next. So those of you who've asked me 5 zillion times when the heck this book is coming out will probably be very happy about that. :) I really didn't mean to string you along for so long, but other book projects with actual deadlines cropped up along the way. :)

And then after that, I have at least three more cookbook titles in mind -- a cookbook + sports nutrition guide geared towards (athletic) performance-based cooking and eating for runners/endurance athletes, which is tentatively titled Cooking with Coach Corey: High-Performance Recipes for Runners, an as yet untitled healthy cookbook for college students on a budget (one part cooking primer, two parts resourcefulness, and three parts recipe repository), and then if there's enough interest, perhaps also a mixology cookbook, which would include cocktails and mocktails that actually contain some healthy ingredients in them (i.e., Blue Fog Cocktail and the like), so you can feel better about drinking them afterwards. Lol. I couldn't see putting those drinks in any of the other, above-mentioned books (for obvious reasons), so they'll need to go into a separate book of their own. I've slowly been amazing a collection of these original cocktail recipes and have been stashing them away for this very purpose. These aren't your usual cocktails; they are unique drinks I've created that you won't find anywhere else.

Then after that, I might take a break from writing cookbooks, because I know I have at least one sci-fi fantasy novel in me. Sure, that might seem like a huge departure to some, but really, when it comes right down to it, creative writing is creative writing. And who knows, maybe I'll toss in a three-eyed Martian chef into the book. ;) It's not like I haven't ever done what most of you would probably think of as "traditional creative writing" before. Bet most of you didn't know that I wrote screenplays for my university's filmmaking club and and am also a published poet. :-D

OK, as promised, the recovery shake recipe's up next.

0 Recipe #331: Lentil & Black Bean Chili

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People keep asking me for a recipe for vegetarian chili, so finally, here it is. :) Admittedly, there are a lot of backlogged requests in the queue at present; however, slowly but surely, I'm getting around to them, one by one. Time is of the essence, so I have to be very strategic about the way in which I check them off the list. For example, a friend of mine recently requested that I bring a vegetarian dish to her holiday party, so I decided to create a special recipe for the occasion, hence the below creation. :)

Not only is chili super easy to make, but it's great for fall and winter holiday parties (especially when served with baked tortilla chips!) and in cold weather, really hits the spot. Plus, you don't have to be a vegetarian to enjoy vegetarian chili, so that means that this dish can be enjoyed by a wide array of people. An empty chili bowl at a party is always a good sign. :)

If you click on the chili tag on the left sidebar of this blog, you'll see that this blog already has several turkey and beef based chili recipes, but no vegetarian ones, that is, until now. This is highly ironic, considering that, when I first started making chili, I only cooked vegetarian chili. (If you're curious to know why that is, you can read that story here.)

The great thing about chili is that it tastes even better the next day, and the day after that, etc. (Just don't extend that day-after-day analogy to a whole month of refrigeration, or you might find it no longer holds true. Lol.) It also freezes well, so if you're not in the mood to cook, all you have to do is wave your magic wand, and "Poof!" an instant meal will "magically appear" on the table. ;)


Lentil & Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:
1 c. red lentils, rinsed and picked over for stones (and other debris)
2 c. boiling hot water (for soaking the lentils)
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. yellow onion, peeled and diced (1 small onion)
2 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced (about 4 large cloves)
1 large bay leaf
1 c. red bell pepper, diced (about 1 medium-sized red bell pepper)
2 c. fresh vine-ripened tomatoes, diced (about 3 large tomatoes)
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
2 c. water (or organic, low-sodium vegetable broth) (for cooking the chili)
1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
1 15.5 oz. can black beans, rinsed and drained
6 oz. can tomato paste
2 Tbsp. Dutch processed cocoa powder
1 Tbsp. paprika
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
1 Tbsp. (mild) Mexican-style chili powder
1/2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground oregano
1/8 tsp. ground cloves
1/8 tsp. ground allspice
1/2  tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. black pepper, or to taste (optional)
1/4 c. masa harina de maiz (corn flour)
1/4 c. fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish

Directions: An hour in advance, soak lentils in 2 c. boiling hot water for 1 hour (or until softened). (You can do this while you're prepping the vegetables.) Then, rinse and drain lentils in a colander and set aside. In a large pot, heat olive oil on high until glistening. Then reduce heat to low, add onion, garlic, bay leaf, and red pepper, and saute for about 5 minutes or until tender. Next add fresh diced tomatoes, followed by the canned, crushed ones, and cook for about a minute. Stir in all of the remaining ingredients, minus the  masa harina de maiz (corn flour) and fresh cilantro, cover with lid, and simmer for 10 minutes. Then, uncover lid, stir, and check liquid levels to make sure chili isn't sticking to the bottom or burning. If necessary, add more water (or broth). Cover again, and cook for another 5 minutes. Uncover again and stir in masa harina de maiz (corn flour). Cook, uncovered for 5 more minutes (or until lentils are soft), then let chili cool for about 5-10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Stir in cilantro until evenly distributed. If desired, garnish with additional fresh cilantro and serve.

Yield: 7 c.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

0 Recipe #330: Cauliflower Mash with Rosemary & Roasted Garlic

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As promised in the previous post, here's a quick and easy recipe you can make for the holidays. In fact, this is actually one of the dishes that I'll be making for an upcoming holiday family gathering.

Cauliflower mash makes a great alternative to dishes like mashed potatoes and lots of other not-so-healthy side dishes. In fact, cauliflower mash almost tastes like mashed potatoes (and the consistency is very similar!), but of course, it's much more nutritious. :) And the great thing about cauliflower mash is that it goes amazingly well with all sorts of main courses, whether they be fish/seafood, meats like chicken, turkey, beef, or lamb), or vegan/vegetarian courses.

So, instead of serving starchy, food coma-inducing side dishes like potatoes, stuffing, and rice, try substituting cauliflower mash instead. Not only will you be squeaking a vegetable into the meal, but you'll also avoid eating foods with little to no nutritional value; not to mention, those items can really put on the pounds. ;) For a lot of people, the holidays often mean "starch-fest city," so the less empty calories you eat, the less time you'll need to spend working it off afterwards. :) It's always a great feeling knowing that you can still zip your pants after your holiday meal. Lol.

This recipe will appear in the upcoming 7 Weeks to Fitness book, Paleo Fitness. Not only is it Paleo, but it's also vegan, vegetarian, kosher, and gluten-free as well. :) It contains Omega-3-rich walnut oil, instead of butter or olive oil. (The Omega-3's in walnut oil are great for reducing post-exercise inflammation. Olive oil only has Omega-6's, which don't provide the same type of benefits.) The funny thing is that the walnut oil in this dish doesn't even taste like walnuts. It just makes the mash taste creamy and delicious!


Cauliflower Mash with Rosemary & Roasted Garlic

Ingredients:
1 1 lb. head cauliflower, quartered and then broken into florets
1 Tbsp. walnut oil, plus a little bit more for roasting garlic (or if unavailable, use extra virgin olive oil)
1 tsp. dried rosemary leaves
1 medium garlic clove, unpeeled (should make about 3/4 tsp. mashed, roasted garlic)
1/4 tsp. paprika
1/4 tsp. salt (omit for Paleo prep)
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground nutmeg

Directions: Preheat toaster oven to 400°F. Place unpeeled garlic clove onto a small piece of aluminium foil, then drizzle with a small amount of walnut oil. Completely wrap garlic in foil, then place onto toaster oven tray and roast in toaster for about 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Meanwhile, place a steamer basket into a large pot, fill it with water until it reaches the bottom of the basket, and then bring to a rolling boil. Then add cauliflower florets, cover, and boil for 15-20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender. Turn off burner, then pour cauliflower into a colander, and drain. Let it rest there for 1-2 minutes to dry. When garlic has finished roasting, remove it from toaster oven and let cool for 5 minutes, or until cool to the touch. Then peel and mash garlic. Measure out 3/4 tsp. of the mashed garlic, and place this amount into a food processor, followed by the steamed cauliflower. Add remaining ingredients, and process until fluffy. Serve immediately.

Yield: 4-6 servings.

Chef's Notes: You can find walnut oil at places like Whole Foods, etc. And although I haven't yet checked, there's a good chance that places like Wegman's and Trader Joe's might also carry this item as well.

Due to the quantity of cauliflower and/or the size of your food processor, you may have to process the cauliflower a few florets at a time, and then add the remaining ingredients after that.

0 Ho, Ho, Hold on a Minute! :) Helpful Tips for Preserving Your Sanity Over the Holidays

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The holiday season has begun and so has the holiday cooking. :) People everywhere will be cooking like mad to prepare for their holiday gatherings and feasts. And on top of that, they'll be simultaneously trying to juggle a zillion other holiday-related tasks. I often wonder, with all of those to-do's on our holiday checklists, how do we manage to get it all done every year?! But then, when the holidays roll around, quite amazingly, we somehow manage to pull it off. I don't know about you, but sometimes preparing for the holidays feels like this: Alright everybody, on your mark, get set, go! :-D

Amidst the holiday bustle -- from gift shopping and sending out holiday cards to decorating, baking, and cooking -- it can sometimes feel like there's an insurmountable, endless list of things to do and not enough time to do it all. That's where I come in. Never fear, Cyberpenguin is here. :)

For starters, always remember this: if you ever feel like you've taken on a bit too much, you have a few options to keep from losing your mind: do less, simplify, or delegate tasks to others. :) (There might be a fourth or fifth option as well, but hopefully it won't involve beating someone over the head with a spatula. Lol.)

So, in the spirit of preserving your sanity, over the next few days, I'll be providing some useful, sanity-saving tips to help you get thru the holidays. For example, I'll show you how to simplify holiday food prep. I'll also be providing you with some super-quick and easy, holiday-appropriate recipes. So, that way, you can spend less time in the kitchen and redirect your attention elsewhere, like checking off some of those other holiday to-do's on your list. :)

I'll also be posting some holiday menu ideas to give you some healthier options for the holidays. Maybe that way, you won't feel like you'll have to permanently chain yourself to a treadmill for the next two weeks to work it off. ;) Don't get me wrong; holiday food is meant to be enjoyed, but that doesn't necessarily mean that enjoyment must solely be equated with eating unhealthy things. ;)

And so, on that note, I wish all of you a happy, healthy holiday season!

-C

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

0 And the Lucky Winner Is....

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The Cooking with Corey giveaway contest has now officially come to a close. So it's time to announce the lucky winner!

(I know I said I was going to announce the winner on December 16th, but things got a bit hectic on my end with holidays events, work, and other happenings, so please pardon the delay. Anyhow....)

And the lucky winner IS.... Drum roll, please.... Jane Ducey! Congratulations, Jane! When you get the chance, please email me your postal address, so I can mail out your gift basket. Hope you will enjoy it, and happy holidays as well!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

0 Reminder: Only 3 More Days to Enter the Giveaway Contest!

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Just a reminder that you have 3 more days to submit your entries for the Cooking with Corey giveaway contest. :) And, you get not one, but two, chances to win the grand prize!

I saw that several people had liked the previous giveaway post via Facebook, and thank you for liking that post, but please know that those "likes" aren't counted as actual entries, since there's no way for me to track people's names as contestants that way. Just so people understand how to enter, I'll explain once more how the contest works:

HOW TO ENTER: To enter, simply retweet this post on Twitter and/or "like" the Cooking with Corey Facebook page. In order for your entries to count, you must "like" the actual Facebook PAGE and NOT related blog POSTS or Facebook POSTS. Liking this post (or any other related posts about the contest on Cooking with Corey Facebook page's wall or elsewhere) doesn't count as an entry, although by all means, you're welcome to "like" these posts. :)

Also, please note that I am keeping track of contestants' names for giveaway contest purposes only, so if you "like" the page and then "unlike" it, that entry won't count either. ;) That's the Facebook equivalent of entering and then un-entering the contest. Lol.

All entries must be received before midnight on Saturday, December 15. A maximum of two (2) entries are allowed per person. So, in other words, the entries can either be one (1) Facebook page like and one (1) retweet OR two (2) retweets total.

PRIZE DETAILS: And the prize? One lucky winner will get a bountiful gift basket that includes the following:

--A Cooking with Corey "sweets sampler" of homemade, all-original, healthy gourmet treats, packaged in a lovely gift box that includes some special desserts and snacks, including several top secret selections that will ONLY appear in upcoming cookbooks. That's right, you'll be able to you'll be able to sample these rare treats firsthand, before anyone else, and all without having to lift a finger to cook or bake. :) Gift basket samples will include tantalizing selections like White Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies and Gourmet Almond Bon-Bons (both of which will ONLY appear in my upcoming cookbook), as well as Almond Cherry Sesame Crunch Bars, and other special goodies.

 --An assortment of gourmet herbs and spices AND high-quality kitchen tools from Corey's Amazon store (worth $50).

 --A gift certificate for two (2) FREE weeks of online sports nutrition AND fitness consultations (worth $90) with coach Corey Irwin, courtesy of her running and wellness company, Rock It! Running Company, which includes an initial, in-depth, 1-hour consultation to determine your current fitness level, nutritional intake and eating behaviors, fitness and sports nutrition goals, and address any other related issues. You'll also receive a detailed training plan (that includes flexibility and strength training exercises) and a customized meal plan to suit your training and sports nutrition needs. You can either use the gift certificate for yourself or gift it to a friend or family member. It's your choice! [Gift certificates are also available to purchase as holiday gifts for friends and family members for longer periods of time. It's a great way to give the gift of health and fitness to your loved ones! Unlike some other types of gifts, health and fitness never go out of style. :) Please contact the company via Rock It! Running Company's website contact form or Facebook page (via the message button) for further details.] 

HOW TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE: One lucky winner will be announced in a blog post on Sunday, December 16th. The winner will literally be picked out of a hat by random, blind selection. :)

To claim your prize, please use the contact form on this blog and include your email and postal address in the body of your message. Please note: All information contained in your message will be kept confidential (it won't be shared with anyone!) and will only be used to contact you and send you your prize.

 Happy Holidays and good luck to all of you!

-C

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

0 Recipe #329: Shirazi Salad

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This Persian salad -- from where else, but the region of Shiraz  -- is a delicious and healthy dish that's quite simple and easy to make. It's sort of like a Persian pico de gallo. :-D This no-cook dish consists of only three vegetables -- tomatoes, cucumbers, and onions. They're all chopped to a uniform size and marinated for a short period of time. Typically served in the summer, this salad goes particularly well with other dishes like pita spread with hummus or babaganoush, falafel, or grilled shish kebabs like jujeh (chicken) kebabs.

A Paleo version of this recipe will be appearing in the fitness and nutritional lifestyle book, Paleo Fitness, by Brett Stewart, Darryl Edwards, and Jason Warner. Although this version is non-Paleo, it can easily be made Paleo with a few simple modifications, which have been detailed below:


Shirazi Salad

Ingredients:
1/2 c. red onion, peeled and diced (about 1/2 small red onion)
1 1/2 c. Persian or English (seedless) cucumbers, unpeeled, scored lengthwise with a fork, and diced (about 1 1/2 Persian cucumbers or 1 medium-sized English cucumber)
1 1/2 c. vine-ripened tomatoes, diced and drained (about 2 medium-sized tomatoes)
2 Tbsp. fresh mint, finely chopped and densely packed (if unavailable, use 2 tsp. dry mint)
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lime juice (the juice of about 2 large limes)
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (Paleo Fitness version of this recipe uses walnut oil, for Omega-3 content)
1/8 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1/8 tsp. salt, or to taste (omit for Paleo prep)
2 tsp. ground sumac (for Paleo prep, be sure to use salt-free sumac)

Directions: Combine onion, cucumbers, tomatoes, and mint in a large bowl and set aside. Combine the remaining ingredients in a blender and pulse until well-combined. Pour dressing on top of salad, and toss until vegetables are completely coated with dressing. Cover and refrigerate, allowing salad to marinate in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before serving. Serve cold.

Chef’s Notes: Be sure to dice the onion first, followed by the cucumbers, and lastly, the tomatoes, in that particular order, to keep your cutting board as dry as possible. And, make sure to dice them to a uniform size.

Please note, traditionally speaking, garlic is NOT used in this salad. Any so-called Shirazi salad containing garlic is really NOT a Shirazi salad. It is something else. ;)

To make this dish into a meal, simply add a protein source like tofu, grilled chicken, beef, or shrimp, etc.

Sumac can be purchased at most Middle Eastern or Mediterranean stores. If you don't have a local resource, you can always purchase it online.

Yield: 4 servings (of 1 cup each).

0 Recipe #328: Italian-Style Marinated Vegetable Salad (Antipasto)

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This colorful, tasty antipasto is perfect for parties and picnics. Not only is it a real people-pleaser, but the prep work barely takes any time at all. Even better, there's no actual cooking involved, just a bit of chopping and mixing, et le voilà, you're done! It can't get any easier than that. :)


Italian-Style Marinated Vegetable Salad (Antipasto)

Ingredients:
1 14 oz. can hearts of palm, drained and rinsed
1 14 oz. can quartered artichoke hearts, drained and rinsed
1/2 c. (pre-cut) julienned sun-dried tomatoes, plain (not the kind packaged in oil)
2 c. fresh mushrooms, sliced
1 c. yellow bell pepper, diced (about 1 medium-sized yellow bell pepper)
1 c. red bell pepper, diced (about 1 medium-sized red bell pepper)
1 c. mix of Kalamata and Greek olives, pitted and halved (about 32 large olives)
1 1/2 Tbsp. garlic, peeled and finely minced (about 3 large cloves)
3 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp. red chili pepper flakes (for medium heat), or to taste
2 tsp. dried thyme leaves
2 tsp. dried basil leaves
1 tsp. dried oregano leaves
1 tsp. dried marjoram leaves
1/2 tsp. dried parsley leaves
1/4 tsp. ground black pepper
1/4 tsp. salt

Directions: Toss all of the ingredients into a large (1 gallon) resealable plastic bag. Seal and thoroughly massage ingredients together from the outside of the bag until well combined. Place into the refrigerator and marinate overnight or a minimum of at least an hour before serving.

Yield: About 9 1/2 c., or roughly 10-12 servings.

Chef's Notes: If desired, this dish can be make several days in advance. It will keep for up to a week or longer.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

2 Giveaway to Celebrate Cooking with Corey's 500th Post!

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This is just a little blurb to announce that this blog has officially reached 500 posts today, since it first began back in July 2007. To celebrate this milestone, I'll be holding a giveaway contest.

HOW TO ENTER: To enter, simply retweet this post on Twitter or "like" the Cooking with Corey Facebook page. All entries must be received before midnight on Saturday, December 15. A maximum of two entries are allowed per person.

PRIZE DETAILS: And the prize? One lucky winner will get a bountiful gift basket that includes the following:

--A Cooking with Corey "sweets sampler" of homemade, all-original, healthy gourmet treats, packaged in a lovely gift box that includes some special desserts and snacks, including several top secret selections that will ONLY appear in upcoming cookbooks. That's right, you'll be able to you'll be able to sample these rare treats firsthand, before anyone else, and all without having to lift a finger to cook or bake. :) Gift basket samples will include tantalizing selections like White Chocolate Almond Butter Cookies and Gourmet Almond Bon-Bons (both of which will ONLY appear in my upcoming cookbook), as well as Almond Cherry Sesame Crunch Bars, and other special goodies.

--An assortment of gourmet herbs and spices AND high-quality kitchen tools from Corey's Amazon store (worth $50).

--A gift certificate for two (2) FREE weeks of online sports nutrition AND fitness consultations (worth $90) with coach Corey Irwin, courtesy of her running and wellness company, Rock It! Running Company, which includes an initial, in-depth, 1-hour consultation to determine your current fitness level, nutritional intake and eating behaviors, fitness and sports nutrition goals, and address any other related issues. You'll also receive a detailed training plan (that includes flexibility and strength training exercises) and a customized meal plan to suit your training and sports nutrition needs. You can either use the gift certificate for yourself or gift it to a friend or family member. It's your choice! [Gift certificates are also available to purchase as holiday gifts for friends and family members for longer periods of time. It's a great way to give the gift of health and fitness to your loved ones! Unlike some other types of gifts, health and fitness never go out of style. :) Please contact the company via Rock It! Running Company's website contact form or Facebook page (via the message button) for further details.]

HOW TO CLAIM YOUR PRIZE: One lucky winner will be announced in a blog post on Sunday, December 16th. The winner will literally be picked out of a hat by random, blind selection. :)

To claim your prize, please use the contact form on this blog and include your email and postal address in the body of your message. Please note: All information contained in your message will be kept confidential (it won't be shared with anyone!) and will only be used to contact you and send you your prize.

Good luck to all of you! Hope you all had a happy, healthy Thanksgiving!

-C

0 All-Natural Watermelon-Coconut Sports Recovery Drink

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I'm happy to announce that, about a week ago, the final draft of The Vegan Athlete manuscript went off to the printers! In honor of this event, I'm going to post a special sports recovery drink recipe from the book, just for all of you athletes out there. :)

This super-effective recovery drink has got all the bases covered: It’s rich in Omega 3’s, zinc, and powerful antioxidants that help reduce post-exercise inflammation, as well as essential electrolytes like potassium and magnesium, both of which are key to post-exercise recovery. It also contains the recommended 4:1 carbs to protein ratio to replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle. The fruits in this drink also naturally have a low glycemic load (GL), which not only stabilizes one’s blood sugar and increases one’s energy level, but is also helpful for losing pounds and maintaining one’s weight. When an athlete consumes low GL foods, they are slowly digested and metabolized, which provides a sustained source of energy for muscles. For maximum effectiveness, be sure to consume this drink within the first 15-20 minutes after a workout.


All-Natural, Watermelon-Coconut Sports Recovery Drink

Ingredients:
1/4 c. pitted medjool dates
1/2 c. seedless watermelon, rind removed and sliced into small chunks
1/8 c. red raspberries
1/8 c. freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 c. coconut water
1/2 c. green tea, brewed and then chilled*
1 c. organic, unsweetened soy milk

Directions: Place all solid ingredients into the blender and pulse until just combined. Then add liquids and pulse until smooth. Pour into a pitcher and cover with lid. Store in fridge and use throughout the week for post-exercise recovery. For maximum effectiveness, consume within the first 15-30 minutes after a workout.

Yield: 3 c.

Chef's Notes: *I recommend using Salada Green Tea with Purple Antioxidants, which provides extra antioxidants and also naturally enhances the drink’s flavor and reddish-pink color.

Friday, November 23, 2012

3 Kitchen Conquests "Bucket List"

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While it's true that I've made a massive variety of dishes in my gobs of time spent cooking (and to a lesser extent, baking) thus far -- from the most common to the most obscure and from just about every continent, save Antarctica, which doesn't possess its own native cuisine due to a lack of a native population ;) -- contrary to popular opinion, I haven't baked or cooked everything under the sun. Lol. That would probably require a few lifetimes to accomplish, or maybe one lifetime spent doing nothing else but cooking. ;)

However, I'd still like keep exploring and expanding my repertoire to take it as far as my palate and time spent here on earth (or anywhere else in the universe for that matter -- Hey, BBQ on Mars, anyone? ;) ), will allow. After all, you never know when île flottante or perhaps something even more exotic -- say, ants à la mode or sautéed sheep's eyeballs?! ;) -- might come in handy. JUST kidding about those last two suggestions, although I wouldn't be adverse to trying something daring, albeit maybe not going to quite such an extreme. Think I'll leave that type of culinary exploration to Andrew Zimmern and Anthony Bourdain. ;)

Anyhow, towards that end, I decided to make a culinary "bucket list" of sorts, which was inspired by Brown Eyed Baker's post entitled "My 100." Don't worry, I'm not going to make a similar list of 100 items here (that would make for an extremely long post!), nor am I going to just copy her list and check stuff off [because most of her selections are either quite fattening or dessert-centric, or both (!)], but I'll start with a much smaller list of my own ideas, and then maybe move it over to a blog tab if the list becomes too unwieldy. Some of these will probably be made into original recipes for the blog &/or some of my upcoming books and cookbooks, while others probably won't for reasons that will soon be made obvious (below). So, here goes (by continent/cuisine type, with each cuisine listed in alphabetical order):

African cuisine:

  1. Matoke. I keep talking about making this one and then immediately forget about it 5 seconds later, after resuming whatever else it is that I was doing at the time. ;) Got to remember to make this! So, that's why it's going on the list. :) Matoke is basically considered to be Uganda's national side dish; it's made with green plantains that are mashed for about 8 zillion hours (yes, that's a rough estimate - Haha!) in a large churn and then served in a savory "groundnut" sauce (usually made of ground peanuts). However, just because the dish calls for plantains, don't expect it to be sweet; green plantains have a savory taste, unlike their ripened (i.e., yellow) form. The dish tastes a bit like mashed potatoes. And, oh yeah, it's absolutely DELICIOUS! :-D Had the rare and wonderful experience of eating this dish for the first time at an Ethiopian restaurant in Uganda. (There are a lot of Ethiopian expats/refugees in Uganda.) Even though matoke is Ugandan and not Ethiopian, the restaurant was in Uganda, so that probably explains in part why it was on the menu. :) I actually ate it multiple times during an extended, work-related stay there. Anyhow, that's a story for another time.
  2. Lentil sambusas, i.e., Ethiopian lentil turnovers. They sort of resemble samosas or fatayers in that they look like a popover, but have completely different fillings. Meskerem (a restaurant in DC) makes some mean lentil sambusas. Of course, they taste best when washed down with some Ethiopian mead (i.e., honey wine). :-D
  3. Injera, a.k.a. the spongy, fermented, crepe-like bread that's used to pick up whatever foods are part of your Ethiopian meal. :) It's typically placed on a platter underneath a selection of various wat, or little piles of meat &/or vegetable that have a stew-like consistency. Have to admit, never had the patience to attempt this one before, but who knows, maybe I'll get some (patience, that is) and then make it. ;)
Asian cuisine:
  1. Bao/baozi. Love these! Bao (or baozi) are Chinese steamed buns that often have sesame seeds stuck to their exterior, with various savory &/or sweet fillings), specifically doushabaozi (bean paste filling), naihuangbaozi (sweet yellow custard filling), and zhimabaozi (black sesame paste filling).
  2. Cheung fan. These are Chinese steamed wide rice noodles rolled with various fillings and sprinkled with sesame seeds. Can we say YUM?! Have had these at many a dim sum. :)
  3. Egg custards. Yes, if you haven't guessed, there are going to be lots of Chinese/dim sum selections on this list. :) This one's probably not going to be on this blog, unless I can find a way to make it in a healthy way and still make it taste like the real deal. The butter in the pastry shell alone is probably a lethal dose that would block one's arteries like an offensive lineman at the line of scrimmage. ;) Oh well, will save this one for a special treat, to be eaten after a 14-mile run. :-D
  4. Kung pao chicken. Another Chinese restaurant standard, made the healthy way, but of course.
  5. Sesame chicken. Yes, more Chinese food. Big surprise. ;) Again, I'll be making the healthy version.
  6. Peking duck with spring onions, plum sauce, and pancakes. Duck is very fatty, so again, this will probably be a one-time deal saved for a special occasion. :)
  7. Moo shu vegetable pancakes with plum sauce. And speaking of Chinese pancakes, this one's another long-time favorite that I still haven't made from scratch. :)
  8. California rolls. I have the nori sheets, rice, pickled ginger, wasabi, and the bamboo mat, but have just never got around to making sushi before. Yes, I know that's incredibly lame and almost embarrassing to admit. ;) I've eaten it a zillion times before, and so this project is really way past due. This grave culinary oversight is almost enough to make someone want to take away my "chef's card" and then beat me over the head with it. ;)
  9. Ramen. Of course, I've made ramen noodle soup before, but now just need to create a recipe for it. And no, I'm not talking about those "el cheapo" instant ramen noodle soups in a styrofoam cup nor those ramen noodle blocks with seasoning packets wrapped in brightly colored, plastic packaging. ;) Ramen is a high art form in Japan -- chefs who get the balance of flavors and texture right are treated with a Zen-like reverence. So, when it comes time to post the recipe, I really better not screw this one up. Lol. It's got to be nothing less than sublime, or else it's not getting posted. How's that for some self-imposed pressure?! Ever see Tampopo or The Ramen Girl (starring Brittany Murphy)? Then you'll know what I'm talking about. ;)
  10. Moo guk, a.k.a. Korean beef and radish soup. OK, I made this once before and had even created a recipe, but has that recipe ever seen the light of day?! Nope. :) Well, the ugly truth of the matter is that I still need to rewrite the recipe and do another take, because my first attempt just didn't cut it. So, this one's not scratched off the list until I get it right. It was just one of those "off" cooking days (hey, it happens to everybody) in which I forced myself to cook when I really wasn't in the mood. And that's almost always a really bad idea. ;) Better to eat raw, cut-up veggies and fruit for dinner than to attempt to cook when you're feeling rushed and uninspired and would do almost anything to get out of cooking. ;) Yes, Julianne, I know you've now been waiting three thousand light years for me to publish this one, although you've most certainly forgotten about it by now, and clearly so had I. Oops. ;)
  11. Phở, or Vietnamese beef noodle soup that comes with all sorts of condiments (sriracha, fish sauce, lime wedges, mung bean sprouts, cilantro, Thai basil, etc.). That'd have to be a #12, preferably. ;) A friend of mine says she makes a mean bowl of phở, so I might have to take her up on her standing invite to cook it together the next time we happen to be in each other's neck of the woods. :)
  12. Shrimp shu mai. Probably self-explanatory for most, unless you've never been to dim sum before. ;) If you still have no clue what I'm talking about, here's the answer: they are Chinese steamed (or pan fried) dumplings with shrimp inside. :-D
  13. Cantonese/Hong Kong-style salted shrimp in their shells, also sometimes simply referred to as salt shrimp, or salt and pepper shrimp. City Lights of China in DC makes some of the best I've ever had. Consuming them in their shells makes for a delicious, if somewhat loud, eating experience. :)
  14. Bean paste (or pineapple) buns. We used to get these at a Chinese bakery after eating at the phở restaurant next door. :)  OK, talking about all of these dishes is making me hungry for Chinese food. :)
  15. Tinolang manok (Filipino-style chicken soup with green papaya). Several friends are still waiting for this one to manifest itself on this blog. :) Made this dish eons ago but it needs a revamp and a recipe rewrite. I didn't have the chicken on hand at the time, so it was only made with chicken broth, papaya, and most of the other essential ingredients. #fail #do-over
  16. Triple Delight Soup. It's practically on every Chinese food menu in America. ;) Beef, chicken, shrimp, and vegetables in a fragrant broth that's been simmered to perfection. What more could a person want? :)
Asian Subcontinental cuisine (India, Pakistan, etc.):
  1. Cabbage kofta, a.k.a. Indian cabbage fritters. A long, long time ago, I'd actually attempted to make them once before with besam/gram flour (a.k.a., chickpea flour), but it turned out disastrously. So, clearly that doesn't count, since it wasn't a successful attempt. Wasn't in the mood to cook that night, so that didn't help. ;) Didn't want to fry the kofta either, since I don't make a habit of frying food (as in, EVER), which also made cooking it a bit tricky. Note to self for future attempts: Use a binding agent or else you'll have to get out the broom and dust bin, yet again. The last time, there were basically little kofta crumbs everywhere, and let me tell you, it wasn't pretty. Had to clean it up quickly before our cats got curious. ;)
  2. Daal mahkhani, a buttery tasting Indian, legumes-based dish, often made with kidney beans. I've been cooking Indian food since 1997, but don't ask me why I haven't made this dish yet, which is standard fare as far as most Indian restaurant menus go. I've made a ton of other Indian standards but, for some reason, just missed checking this one off from the list. There are a TON of standard dishes in Indian cuisine, so it can take a while to get around to all of them. :)
  3. Dosas. These are Indian "crepes" which can be stuffed with all sorts of yummy fillings. At a South Indian restaurant Erik and I sometimes frequent, they offer potato dosas, which contain other vegetables and are seasoned with cumin seeds. They are simply delicious!
  4. Kulfi, i.e., Indian "ice cream." :) I've made other Indian desserts (like kheer and carrot halwa/halva, etc.) before, but not this one.
  5. Naan. (I would love to make it in a tandoor, but since that's impractical, I'd settle for a trip to India. Lol.) Eons ago, a friend of mine (who was born in India) once promised she'd show me how to make this, but then I left the company where we both worked and we lost touch a year or two afterwards. If I prepare this at home, I usually "cheat" and just buy the frozen kind at an Indian grocery market. And you might not believe it but the frozen kind can be surprisingly good. However, when I do this, it doesn't take long before the little annoyingly perfectionistic gourmet chef angel perched on my left shoulder can't take it anymore and yells at the "slacker chef" devil perched on my right. ;) Then, inevitably, the battle ensues. They usually end up trying to throttle each other and then I have to break it up. Lol. The tie-breaker argument usually goes something like this: shortcuts are only worth it if they don't "shortcut" your lifespan. ;) Sure, we've all felt tired and not in the mood to cook, but I'm a big believer in the idea that health should trump convenience in the end. Pay now or pay later. ;)
  6. Biryani, a (basmati) rice-based dish made with spices, vegetables, and frequently also meat, seafood, &/or eggs. The catch is that I want to make it the authentic Rajasthani/Mughal way, i.e., in one of those big-ass metal drums that are filled with alternating layers of meat/vegetables and rice, and then sealed with dough. If you've ever seen this method, it's quite a production. Thus far, I've only witnessed it on international travel-cooking shows. :) First, I'd need to find a way to get a hold of one of those drums, and secondly, I need to find someplace where people wouldn't mind me making a fire pit. ;) In the DC area? Yeah, right. Maybe that one would be best saved for when I visit friends and family that live in rural areas. :)
  7. Mukhwas. OK, don't ask me why I want to make this. I just do. Mukhwas is an Indian post-meal "snack" that's used as both a breath freshener and digestive aid. So, for example, if you've eaten way too much garlic, onions, legumes, or curry, and now are the olfactory equivalent of a flatulent, fire-breathing dragon that hasn't bathed in a week, then you'll probably want to reach for the mukhwas as soon as possible after your meal, lest all of your dinner companions run away screaming and holding their noses. ;) There are many different varieties, some of which are made with ingredients that can only be found in (or, if you're lucky, special-ordered from) India. However, the kinds commonly found in Indian restaurants will typically contain fennel and anise seeds coated in sugar, and betel nuts, all of which have been seasoned with peppermint oil and a pinch of salt. It has an almost indescribable perfumed scent. You'll usually see these after-dinner "mints" placed in small metal dishes by the exit/entrance of most Indian restaurants. If you've ever noticed these little trays of seeds, nuts, and brightly colored, candy-coated "licorice"-flavored pieces before, and have wondered what they were called, now you know. :) Just a word to the wise: mukhwas are supposed to be eaten after the meal. So unless you want to look like an uncultured idiot, it's probably best to grab them on your way out the door. Hahaha.
  8. Lassi, particularly the mango and rosewater flavored varieties. I've made similar drinks but never an authentic lassi before. Shameful, I know. ;) They're so easy to make, so there's really no excuse, aside from the fact that they have to get in line, in back of the other bucket list items. ;)
  9. Garjar ka halwa (carrot halwa/halva). When made correctly, this stuff tastes great. My first attempt? Not so stellar, but that was a long time ago, as in the late 90's. ;) Think I can do a LOT better now. :)
  10. Mushroom masala. I've already got it in my head which exact version I'd like to make. A few years ago, we used to go to this so-so Indian restaurant down the road. However, there was one amazing dish. You guessed it: the mushroom masala. :) It was made in a style similar to mattar paneer (peas with Indian cheese), which I typically don't like. However, instead of the thin, soupy sauce used in mattar paneer, the dish had a much richer tasting, slightly thicker sauce. There was no cheese, but the spices were very similar. It was fantastic! If I could, I'd kidnap the cook and tickle them mercilessly until they relented into giving me the recipe. ;)
Eastern & Central European/Eurasian cuisine:
  1. Chicken Paprikash. But only because it makes me think of the movie When Harry Met Sally. ;) I've had this dish before in a Hungarian restaurant. It was decent, but nothing to write home about. All the same, I'd like to try making it myself, just for the heck of it. Clearly, not high on the priority list. ;)
  2. Topik, i.e., Armenian "meatballs" made with chickpea paste, flour, and tahini, etc.
  3. Simit, i.e., a circular bread with sesame seeds that's both crunchy and chewy. If you need any more convincing of its potential for yumminess, just look at this picture. :)
  4. Turkish Delight, or "Locum" as they're known in Turkish. To this one I say, "Yes, please!" There are so many different varieties that it can be a bit overwhelming at times to contemplate them all. With ingredients like pistachios, chopped dates, hazelnuts, rosewater, etc., it'll be hard to choose just one. :) The first time I had these, I was on vacation with my family. About half-way through the trip, my mother decided to open a small box of them she'd gotten as a gift (a rare treat!), and it was almost impossible to stop eating them. I swear these things should come with a warning label. :) On second thought, I'd better make a batch, eat a few, and then quickly give the rest away. Lol.
  5. Homemade farfel (for matzo ball soup). Now, I'm not talking about the kind of farfel with the noodle-like consistency that some people think of when they hear the word "farfel." I mean the really good, crunchy stuff that's made by companies like Streit's that's now almost impossible to find at a local grocery store. If I ever get this recipe right, there'll be no more need to search, and this will also make several people I know very, very happy. :) Another somewhat related item is soup nuts, but at least those you can still find at the store.
Western European cuisine:
  1. Buffalo mozzarella. Not too long ago, a friend of mine named Charlie was telling me about his first few cheese-making attempts, which intrigued me. Normally, I probably wouldn't bother making my own cheese, as my free time is limited/precious (and even more so now!). I mean, seriously, most people, myself included, would probably rather go to the supermarket/deli to buy fresh mozzarella versus making it from scratch. It can be a rather time-consuming and labor-intensive process. However, I might be more tempted to make it with friends on a low-key weekend afternoon, which would definitely be a lot more fun. Nothing like a bunch of friends who have zero idea how to make cheese putting their heads together to try and figure it out. :) A little reading, a little guesswork, some experimentation, and a little bungling here and there -- isn't that what experiential learning's all about? ;) No matter if you make it or buy it in a market, after you've had fresh, it's hard to go back to eating those big, tough mozzarella balls that they sell in the refrigerated aisles next to all of the cheeses which aren't gourmet. Lol. Heck, if I'm going to expend the effort to make buffalo mozzarella from scratch, then maybe I'll just make burrata instead. :) Oh wait, that stuff is solid mozzarella made with a cream filling. So much for the "healthy" in healthy gourmet. Lol. On second thought, maybe it's safer to just sample that one from an Italian deli display case and then keep moving along. ;)
  2. Paella. Another "I-can't-believe-you-haven't-made-this-yet, wall-of-shame selection." ;) I really should've made this one by now, but if you look at all of the other recipes on this blog and see all the dishes I did cover, then maybe it won't seem like such an omission. :) I was going to get around to making this one anyhow (there's actually a draft post for it on this blog -- it's been there forever), but now that I'm drawing up this list, it does seem like a glaring omission. After posting 327 recipes, I guess this one just slipped through the cracks. ;)
  3. Italian, French, and German breads, particularly Italian sourdough, focaccia, and ciabatta, boule, ficelle, pumpernickel, and rye.
  4. Sauerbraten mit kartoffelklöße, spätzle, und rotkohl (pickled roast beef with potato dumplings, noodles, and braised red cabbage). This meal selection is very traditional German fare. Erik's paternal grandmother used to make this for him, and apparently, it was legendary. :) Like a lot of German cuisine, the ingredients in these dishes are the stuff of offensive linemen, Olympic weightlifters, and sumo wrestlers. ;) If you're trying to pack on the starch for a super heavy-duty carbo load, you'd better have a marathon lined up first before making and eating (!) this kind of food. Lol.
  5. Orange scones. How very British. :) I owe Steve S. this recipe from many moons ago. No doubt he's completely forgotten about it by now, but nonetheless, this project has yet to be completed. Early on, I attempted a sugar-free, fat-free version (as a first attempt), but completely botched it. (Ah, yes, the early days. Lol.) And, lucky you, I've got the pictures to prove it. :) Be forewarned; they are not for the faint of heart. ;) I submit into evidence, Exhibit A, the title of this post: "The Case Of The Botched Orange Scones Experiment -- Or, Attack of the Killer Scones, Part 1." Now, do you still want to see the photo?! :) There's nothing like a good old-fashioned kitchen disaster to keep oneself humble. :) Or, if you'd prefer to play it safe, you can always view this amusing scones-related anecdote instead. However, even though I'd completely forgotten about this recipe until just now, I'm not beaten just yet. A future attempt will be scheduled at some as-yet-undetermined date. Yes, there will be scones. :)
Middle Eastern/Mediterranean cuisine:
  1. Labneh. (Labneh is a strained Mediterranean yoghurt 'cheese' of sorts, which has been more recently marketed as "Greek yoghurt.") Sure, why the heck not. :) I'll try making almost anything once, within reason. Lebneh is apparently a LOT easier to make than mozzarella. And how would I know that, since I haven't made either yet? The answer: cooking shows and YouTube demos. :)
  2. Burma, a Lebanese/Middle Eastern dessert made with pistachios and phyllo dough. Yum!
  3. Börek/bourek/burek, baked phyllo pastries filled with cheese (i.e., feta),  vegetables, or meat. I'd more likely make it with the first two fillings. Very similar to spanakopita in some ways. This dish is probably not a good candidate for the this recipe blog, due to its artery clogging potential, but nonetheless, I'm curious to try it as a special, one-time treat.
North American cuisine:
  1. Traditional baked beans (with molasses and tomatoes, etc.). Yes, believe it or not, I've never made these before. I've eaten the ones my mom used to make us as kids, but then grew out of them as an adult. This one will not really be much of a challenge to make, but I just want the satisfaction of being able to say that I've made them before. Also, I've watched Jamie Oliver make them in a large kettle on an outdoor hearth during one of his "American Road trip" episodes, and it looks kinda fun. So, that's why I started thinking about them again after about 5 zillion years. ;)
  2. Poi. I've never eaten it before, let alone made it. (It's made from taro.) Why didn't I try this the last time I was in Hawaii?! No idea. Note to self: You'd better try this the next time you go there! :) (My mind is now wandering to Poi Dog Pondering. Haha.)
  3. Shrimp and grits. The old Southern classic. I've never eaten it before and have never made it either. My friend, Michael recently tagged me in a Facebook picture of this dish in order to point it out to me, and it actually sounded pretty good. So, it's going on the list. :) Thank you, Michael!
  4. Po' Boy (fish) sandwich. Another one of Charlie's favorites. :)
  5. Dandelion tea (or soup). Never tasted it or made it before, but have always been curious. Guess it's better than letting those 'weeds' in the yard go to waste. Lol.
  6. Recipes with unusual herbs, spices, and berries I've never used before, i.e., elderflower, juniper berries, lemon balm, etc.
  7. Oven-fried buffalo wings with blue cheese sauce. (Add carrot and celery sticks and you're good to go!) Specific flavors I'd like to attempt: Cajun-style, atomically hot (doused with lots of hot sauce!), terriyaki, and garlic-Parmesan. It's very hard to make these in a healthy way, but I'm up for the challenge. :)
South American cuisine:
  1. Jugo de maracuyá con leche (passion fruit juice with milk). I had this South American drink in a Colombian restaurant a few years ago. It wouldn't be an exaggeration to say that the experience was transformational. :)
  2. Caruru de camarao com coentro (shrimp and okra with nuts and cilantro). This is a Brazilian dish that I'd planned to make eons ago, but was missing the manioc meal and dried shrimp, that is, until now. :)
Wow, I just counted and there's a whopping total of 51 items on this list! I'm sure there are plenty more food ideas I could think of to check off the list, but I'll spare you, since this post was a lot longer than I'd originally intended. :) Let the crossing off begin!

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