Madras Chicken Curry with Cauliflower Rice

This simple chicken curry dish is all about the fresh spice blend (recipe below). Control the heat with the amount of chili peppers added to the mixture. And don’t do this:

Madras Curry Chicken with Cauliflower Rice

  • 3 Tbsp preferred cooking oil
  • 1.5 lbs boneless skinless chicken thighs, 1/2″ dice
  • 1 small yellow onion, 1/4″ dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, fine dice
  • 4 slices ginger, about quarter size, fine dice
  • 1 carrot, 1/4″ dice
  • 1/2 bell pepper, 1/4″ dice
  • 2 Tbsp madras spice blend (recipe below)
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 cauliflower head, “riced” in food processor (see step 1 below)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • 3 green onions, finely sliced
  • Salt & pepper to taste

Madras Curry Spice Blend (from Raghavan Iyer)

  • 2 Tbsp coriander seed
  • 1 Tbsp cumin seed
  • 2 tsp mustard seed
  • 1 tsp black peppercorn
  • 1/2 tsp whole cloves
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 5 to 7 whole dried red chili peppers

Mix spices in coffee grinder and pulse until finely ground. Makes about 3/4 cups.

Preparation

  1. Fill large sauce pan 2/3 with water and pinch of salt and set on back stove burner on medium. Cut cauliflower into large florets and pulse in food processor until size resembles that of large rice. Set aside.
  2. Heat half the oil in a sauté pan on medium-high heat, add diced chicken, season with salt & pepper and cook until pink is removed. Set aside in strainer (don’t eat as it’s probably not cooked thoroughly).
  3. Add remaining oil to same sauté pan and turn heat down slightly to just above medium. Add onion, garlic and ginger, and cook for 2 mins. Next add the carrot and bell pepper, and cook for 3-4 minutes or until soft.
  4. Add spice blend to veg mixture and cook for 30 seconds to a minute, ensuring spices are fragrant and toasted.
  5. Add chicken back into sauté pan with vegetables and toss together. Pour coconut milk into pan, stir to incorporate and bring to a simmer. Turn heat to medium low and let simmer for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally.
  6. Meanwhile, crank the burner with pot of water to high. When boiling, add your cauliflower and boil for 3-4 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender. Strain over the sink and get as much water out as possible before dumping into a serving bowl. Season with salt, pepper, cilantro and green onion before plating.
  7. Layer cauliflower rice into serving bowl with a healthy scoop of curry on top. Garnish with cilantro and green onion. Take a seat.

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Red Pepper, Bacon and Swiss Keto Egg Bites

In the spirit of Larry David I’ll keep this simple. Here’s how to make these Starbucks-esque egg bites that are great for low carb and keto diets.

Red Pepper, Bacon and Swiss Egg Bites

Makes: 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 7 large eggs
  • 1/2 cup full fat cottage cheese
  • 2/3 cup swiss cheese
  • Pinch salt & pepper
  • 5 strips bacon, chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, fine dice
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, fine dice
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • Cooking spray (depending on cook setup)
  1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. If you have a convection setting, turn that on to reduce cook time.
  2. Fill a 9″ x 13″ Pyrex dish about 1″ full of water and set in the oven to warm up.
  3. Heat oil in sauté pan on medium high heat. Add onion and cook for 2 minutes, then add red bell pepper. Sauté until tender, about 3 more minutes. Add the diced bacon and set aside.
  4. Combine eggs, both cheeses, salt & pepper in a blender and whip on high for 20-30 seconds until nicely incorporated
  5. Pour 1″ of the egg mixture into all 12 muffin cups your silicone baking sheet (if you don’t have one you can just spray a muffin tin and omit the water). Scoop a small amount of the bacon mixture into each cup.
  6. Set the silicone mat inside of the glass water dish in the oven. Bake for 30-40 minutes until the eggs set. You can test by poking with a fork.
  7. Remove the eggs from the cups using a butter knife. It may help to store them in a lightly oiled container so they don’t stick.
  8. Enjoy. They should last 3-4 days.

When your little one is (all of a sudden) not so little…and a recipe

Every parent experiences a moment (slash hundreds of them) when their child says or does something that inspires a double-take. Just this morning, Rowan and I were preparing for a walk. She always insists on bringing at least one (if not multiple) stuffed animals or dolls on our excursions. This particular morning, she decided to bring her Our Generation foal.

As we got our warm clothes on for the walk, she turned to me and said:

When we walk, we can put the blanket on my horsey to keep her warm and when we get to the store we can take it off!

While it may not seem significant, it’s these little trains of thought that I’m noticing more and more with Rowan as she is getting older. She is extremely conscientious with everything she does – whether it’s setting up her dolls so they can all “see” or how she goes about cleaning her room.

As a parent, I observe these little nuances in her character and attempt to relate them to what her personality may be like some day. With the level of control and obsessiveness that Rowan sometimes displays, this exercise can be terrifying…(just kidding but not really).

Then I come to my senses and realize she’s just a three year old girl and I have plenty to worry about between now and her teenage years…and beyond (gulp!). Might as well just enjoy the ride.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Caribbean Pork Tenderloin with Carrots

This recipe was inspired by one of those random thoughts one Sunday afternoon…I haven’t had jerk chicken in forever…or something along those lines. Undoubtedly inspired by the cooler weather we’ve had recently, the second I started thinking about the spicy goodness of tender, flavor-packed jerk chicken it was bound to make it onto our plates this week.

But as I began to think of how to prepare the dish, I decided to call an audible and use pork tenderloin. It’s cheaper, just as flavorful and pulls apart really well when cooked low and slow.

This dish serves like a stew, which can be served over white or brown rice, or ketogenic alternatives such as cauliflower rice or sautéed spinach.

Ingredients

  • 2-3 pork tenderloins, depending on size (about 2.5 lbs)
  • 1 large yellow onion
  • 3 carrots
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 28oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1-2 tbsp jerk seasoning paste (or desired spice level)
  • 1 chicken bullion cube (2 cups)

Start by slicing the pork tenderloin into approximately 1-2” thick medallions, attempting to create uniform pieces where possible. Season the pork with salt and pepper and set aside in a bowl.

Dice the carrots, celery, onion and garlic and set aside in another bowl. I strive for approximately ¾” chunks of carrot and similar sized celery, while you can go finer with the dice on the onion and garlic. Set all of the vegetables aside in another bowl.

Depending on your cooking setup, heat 2 tbsp olive oil in you dutch oven or crock pot set to a “sear” setting. When the oil is hot, cook the pork medallions on each side until golden brown, about 3-4 minutes per side. Remove the pork from the pan and set aside.

Next, add the vegetable mix to the sizzling pan and cook down until somewhat tender, about 6-8 minutes. At this time, add your preferred amount of jerk paste to the vegetable mix. This will largely depend on the spice level of your seasoning and how hot you want the end product. Mix the vegetables with the seasoning for about a minute and then add your diced tomatoes. Sauté for one more minute and then add the pork back into the mixture. Add the chicken broth and stir. Set the crock-pot to the low temperature setting, or transfer your dutch oven to the preheated 300-degree oven.

Cook for 3-4 hours or until pork is pull apart tender. Serve over desired accompaniment.

Struggles with silence and self-doubt

My family has endured a lot of change in the last six months. First, there was preparing for the move – immigration forms, getting the house ready for sale, and various other logistics. These ‘tasks,’ while certainly daunting, were all relatively prescriptive – just get them down on a list, and start knocking them off.

Next was the move itself. Picture this: the date, Sunday, September 9, 2017.

Our bags are packed and in the rental car that we had arranged for our final days in Minnesota (we had sold Lani’s Volvo because, of course, she can’t just drive her American car over the Canadian border without fees, fines and paperwork). The house in Bloomington, MN is finally ready for sale. It has literally NEVER looked better, cleaner or more “move-in ready.” Just as we’re walking down the stairs, we realize the baby gate is still attached to the walls.

Without missing a beat, Lani and I divide and conquer. She takes Rowan and Kona (our cat) down to the front yard and distracts her while I begin to dismantle the gate and store it in the garage. We have some leftover paint from various touch ups that I slap on the walls and boom, we’re good to go.

As we hop in the car to head to the airport reasonably on time, Kona lets out a few groggy whimpers from her cat carrier. She doesn’t like the carrier, nor is she partial to riding in the car. We had given her a mild sedative from the vet for our 1.5 hour flight, and we figured that would be setting in shortly.

As we arrive to the Hertz return at the airport, I find one of those $5 luggage carts and begin piling our bags on in the most strategic way possible. We had six bags (2 per passenger to check) and three carry-ons, including Rowan’s stroller and car seat. Oh, and our cat. I can’t imagine what it must have looked like to watch us push that cart across the airport. Actually, I can – and I’m sure it was ridiculous.

We finally make it to the elevator that takes you up to the terminal and Lani turns to me, saying, “Ben, did you fart?!” In one of the few times I can remember, I could truthfully respond, “No, I didn’t!” People are always farting in airports and pretending it’s the next guy, so I shrugged it off as some previous elevator passenger.

As we get to the Delta check in counter, we notice the smell is still with us. Both coming to the same horrible realization simultaneously, Lani and I reluctantly turn toward each other, one of us saying “did Kona shit in her crate?!”

Yes, our cat shit herself in the airport. On the way to another country. While we’re pushing 9,754 bags on a card designed for maybe six. But this picturesque performance didn’t end here. We began speaking with the agent at the Delta counter and as she’s reviewing our passports she sees that Rowan has a US Passport Card. She points to some tiny text on the back that says the card is only valid for “land and sea travel.”

After a few not-so-nice comments back and forth, we step away from the counter, defeated, shitty cat in-hand, and walk back towards the turd-stained elevator. Lani was (rightfully) pissed. I was stunned, but at that point I was thinking to myself, there is no fucking way we are going back to that house to wait for another flight. We are going to Canada, today! 

We ended up renting a one-way Dodge Caravan from the airport to do the drive straight through to Winnipeg that afternoon and evening. After an hour-long stop at the border, we made it through to Stonewall, Manitoba, where we’d reside with Lani’s folks for the first couple months.

Now that the dust has settled

As we’ve been in Canada now for several months, my role as part-time employee/stay at home dad has morphed slightly. I’m now working less in a consultant role for my company and Rowan is in daycare two days a week. This leaves an opportunity for me to look inward to think about new pursuits.

I’ve always struggled with these times of contemplation. I am someone who likes to have work to do, tasks to complete. Perhaps this is why I didn’t get rattled when we were staring at about a thousand things to do before we had to make the move to Canada. Maybe that’s why I now feel anxious as the ‘work’ coming in has dried up.

Lately, Lani and I have been discussing my interests and how now is the time for me to pursue something that aligns with my passion for urban agriculture and entrepreneurship. Being a good partner, she is encouraging me to explore as many resources as possible and start putting together a business plan. I love that she’s encouraging me like this, yet I still struggle with my next steps, sometimes to the point where I’m rejecting her support for reasons I can’t even understand.

There is a voice inside my head (not that kind of voice) that doubts my every next move. I say to myself, how can I start on this business plan if I can’t see the complete picture? Don’t I need ______ (insert any excuse) before I can really get going?

What I realize now is that Lani is telling me to ignore that voice. She’s telling me, it doesn’t matter if you fail…the important thing is that you try. Perhaps this internal doubt that I’ve held all this year isn’t even me doubting myself – maybe it’s just me giving myself an excuse not to do the work.

Either way, I think I’ll ignore it for a while and see what happens.

On trying to live a healthier life

It didn’t dawn on me in some sort of ah-ha moment. It wore me down, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. Perhaps this is because when you’re new to parenting everything is so exciting, terrifying, and mind-numbingly surreal that you feel as if you’re living in an alternate reality. The universe has a new center point: an approximately 8-pound ball of life with seemingly simple, but almost always present needs.

Daily routines are not just thrown out the window – they’re obliterated – and it’s not for lack of trying. During our first year of parenting, Lani and I participated in a CSA share, had a YMCA membership, Core Power Yoga Groupons, recreational sports leagues and other health-centric commitments. Despite our most honest intentions, that quickly growing 8-pound nugget chipped away at our energy levels and left our extracurricular gas tanks running on fumes almost daily.

Now that Rowan is two and a half, we still struggle with finding the balance that we need to live healthy lives. From her beige-colored diet to a revolving preference for when meals should be served, it makes family dinners emotionally frustrating and logistically challenging.

An ever present topic of discussion in our family surrounds weekly meal prep. How can we set ourselves up for success each week by planning healthy meals that will appeal to both ourselves and our daughter?

Enter, the grain bowl

Generally speaking, our meal prep consists of three core food items: protein, carbs and a veg. The slow cooker is often involved, as it’s a great way to produce tender, flavorful meat (especially if using cheaper cuts). We reach for whole grains like quinoa, farro, brown rice, cous cous and more, sometimes mixing in nuts, dried fruits or herbs to add a bit more flair.

I’ve long wanted to incorporate more beans into my diet (much to Lani’s disdain)… I purchased this book, Bean by Bean, a while back to learn more about the health benefits and preparation process for making different types of bean dishes. Beans offer a great way to round out a meal and reduce dependency on proteins or starchy carbs to “fill you up.” Additionally, the protein derived from beans contains no cholesterol (contrary to animal protein) and they’re packed with fiber and vitamins.

If you have a desire to learn more about bean-based cooking, I strongly suggest the book above. And here’s a great recipe to get you started.

Recipe: Farro grain bowls with slow cooked honey garlic pork tenderloin and ginger bean medley

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This recipe is intense, but I promise it’s pretty simple. It doesn’t all have to be done at once either – the items standalone great themselves.

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 cups dry farro – this can be cooked and cooled at any time, according to the package instructions (FYI I use a 1/2 mix of chicken or veg stock and water for more flavorful grains)

For the Pork:

  • Crock pot (for slow cooking, could also use dutch oven on the stove)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons Chinese Five Spice
  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Two pork tenderloins, approximately 3-4 lbs
  • 1 yellow onion and one shallot, diced
  • 1/3 cup honey garlic sauce (I used VH Honey Garlic sauce)
  • 1 cup chicken stock

Using a bowl large enough for the pork, coat with one tablespoon of the oil and season with the Chinese Five Spice, soy sauce and salt & pepper, enough to coat all sides. Set the bowl aside and heat the remaining oil in a skillet big enough to hold the pork. When the oil is hot, add the pork, browning all sides (don’t be afraid here…see pictures below). Remove the pork from the pan and the diced onion and shallot. Cook for 3-5 minutes and then transfer onion mixture and pork to your final cooking place (crock pot, dutch oven, etc.). Add the honey garlic sauce and 1 cup chicken stock. Cook for approximately four hours. My crockpot has a few settings, so I cooked on high for two hours and then low for another 2. Basically you want to get the pork to a point where it starts to shred with a fork when you pull on it. Be sure to rotate the meat every hour or so to make sure all sides are submerged.

Once the pork is finished, shred the meat and remove from the broth. It’s ok to save some of that broth to pour on the meat but all of it will not be needed.

For the Beans:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cloves garlic, diced
  • 1 serano pepper, diced and seeds removed
  • 1/4 cup loosely grated FRESH ginger (will take a chunk about 1/2 the size of your hand)
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (keep the juice)
  • 1 can chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 cans kidney beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can white beans (navy or similar – drained and rinsed)
  • 1-2 cups chicken or veg stock
  • 1 bunch cilantro, stems and leaves separated and diced
  • 1 bunch green onion
  • Salt & pepper

In a large pot, heat the oil on medium high heat and add the onions, sautéing for 3-4 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, serano and ginger to the pan and sauté for another few minutes. Add the diced tomatoes and bring to a simmer (this won’t take long). Add all of the beans and stir them in to the mixture. You’ll find that there is not a lot of liquid…and that’s OK. This is not meant to be a stew. Add a cup or so of chicken stock to the bean mix and bring to a simmer. Stir often, for about twenty minutes as the flavors mellow. Add chicken broth if needed or a soupier texture is preferred, but know that the beans will break down over the twenty minutes and release some of their juices. In the final minutes, add the chopped cilantro stems to the bean mix and simmer for 2 more minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Assemble your bowls and top with fresh green onions and cilantro. Enjoy!

The parallels in parenting and hummus

How what we learn as parents can offer new perspective on tedious tasks.

There are many opportunities to take the easy road as parents. Every day comes with challenges – some new – but mostly those which we can expect (temper tantrums, not eating vegetables, blazing little trails of dirt everywhere they go). Patience is not just a skill, it becomes a core value, and one necessary to not only our everyday sanity but also for the sake of the child.

Toddlers are demanding, exhausting, time consuming, daily routine-shattering little life forces. Without patience, we’d lose grasp of reality in the days after our kids first learn to say, “no,” and our children would be destined for a life in front of a screen.

Our two and a half year old daughter Rowan takes everything to the extreme. From her insistence on climbing (and jumping) everything in sight, to her boisterous demeanor and one-track mind, she is a 30-inch tall Ph. D program in patience.

Her latest course offering has been her decision to wake up before 6am most mornings. It starts with a subtle whine at 5-something and quickly escalates to “mama or dada-geeb up!” (she can’t quite enunciate “get up” correctly).

It almost feels like she’s trolling us – successfully at that. It’s so close to when we actually need to get up that it completely ruins that last 20-30 minutes of sleep we might have enjoyed getting but now certainly won’t (whether she goes back to sleep or not).

At this point, rather than fight her every morning, we purchased a toddler training clock called the Gro Clock. The premise is simple, at night, the clock shows a large blue-lit star surrounded by a series of smaller ones. At the time of our choosing, it transforms to a yellow sun, signifying daytime and time to “geeb up.”

Rowan may be a bit too young to understand the full concept (at least in the wee hours of the morning when she’s still hardwired to wake up and insistent on doing so). But in just two days of practice she does enjoy the idea of the clock and is saying things like “sun go night-night” and “stars, it’s dark.”

All this to say that sure, we could go on getting up at 5:45 and it wouldn’t really change our daily routine. We could also let Rowan cry it out and fall back asleep a few mornings in a row (we do, however, live in an apartment for the time being and this isn’t really a desirable notion). Instead, we’re using this as an opportunity to teach Rowan about a boundary that she needs to learn: one that challenges her first instinct when she wakes up in the morning and forces her to think logically (for herself, and us).

I’m hopefully optimistic that she will take to the clock within a few weeks. It will be one of those rewards of parenting that radiates positive effects throughout our family. In the meantime, it will take all of the patience we can muster to keep Rowan from “geeb’ing up” at the ass crack of dawn.

Into the kitchen – Peanut Butter Hummus

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Rowan and I cheers’ing a shared piece of hummus toast

Little did I know that when I started making homemade hummus two days ago that I would have to channel that very patience of which I speak. While simple in terms of ingredients, the process took about 16 hours start to finish (granted, most of that is just waiting for the chickpeas to soak and cook).

I’ve made hummus from canned chickpeas before – and I can say that this recipe yielded superior results. The base ingredient list is small, but like any hummus there are a variety of add ins or toppings you can inject to make it your own.

Patience will be needed during the chickpea skinning portion of the recipe – I’ll describe the technique below. I’m sure there is a sweet spot to cooking the chickpeas to a point where the skin falls off yet they aren’t broken down, but I did not hit that sweet spot. However, like parenting, taking the long road had delicious rewards.

Ingredients

  • 3 cups cooked, skinned chickpeas (prep method below)
  • 1/4 cup reserved chickpea cooking liquid
  • 3 tablespoons natural peanut butter (traditional recipe uses roasted tahini)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, extra drizzle for garnish
  • 3-4 cloves garlic
  • Juice of 1-2 lemons
  • Salt & pepper
  • Smoked paprika for garnish
  • Other optional garnishes include: olive tapenade, roasted garlic, harissa or roasted red peppers, etc.

Preparation

  1. Chickpea prep: Rinse 1.5 – 2 cups dry chickpeas (this will yield more than enough). Pick through any broken or green peas and discard. Put the chickpeas in a pot and cover them with water an inch over the peas. Leave to soak overnight (8-12 hours), adding water if necessary. Drain the peas and fill the pot once more so the chickpeas are covered with water by an inch. Place on the stovetop and bring to a rolling boil. Cut the heat to low and let the peas simmer for at least 2 hours, stirring every 30-45 minutes. Check for doneness.
  2. Patience needed: Drain the cooked chickpeas (save 1/4 cup of cooking water) and lay out a clean dishcloth on the counter. Working in shifts of one cup at a time, lay out the chickpeas, fold the cloth over and roll them around with soft pressure. This will loosen the skins and make them easier to peel. Discard the skins and set aside the chickpea meat in a small bowl. Do this for three cups of peas.
  3. To the bowl of chickpeas, add the reserved chickpea water, peanut butter (or tahini), oil, garlic, juice of one lemon, and salt and pepper. Add mixture to food processor and run until smooth. Check the consistency at this point. It’s really a personal preference from here – do you want a thick, chunkier dip or a smooth, creamy spread? Either add more lemon juice and water or leave it as is.
  4. Portion hummus into a bowl and top with your favorite garnishes. From here, the world is your oyster. Enjoy!