We are three sisters united in our search for the divine - in food, libation, literature, art, and nature. This blog will capture the true, sometimes decadent, at times humorous, and every so often transcendent adventures of the Salvation Sisters.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

A Tale of Two Curries: Part Two- Vancouver and Chicken in Yellow Curry

by Michelle

   Through the years I have encountered a common (although incorrect) impression that friends and acquaintences harbor of me, which is: because I like to cook, every dinner served at my house is naturally a multi-course gourmet affair that takes hours to prepare. The perception likely stems from my propensity to over-entertain, to have a "wow factor" attached to my dinner parties. The truth is, I grind out dinner during the week just like everyone I know, whether cooking is a personal passion or not. Creativity is generally lacking in the meals that I prepare Monday through Friday, although the entrées served are tried and true and family favorites (and can be prepared in under an hour).

My traveling gear: Dansko clogs, rain coat and camera bag disguised as purse.
One of my favorite things: a night stroll in Vancouver, Canada.
   I have discovered over the years that children and the men in my life (my husband and my friend's husbands) appreciate predictability. There is comfort knowing that familiar fare is forthcoming throughout the weekdays: Spaghetti Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, Chicken Piccata Wednesdays, and Turkey Burger Thursdays. Friday night's are usually reserved for going out to eat at family friendly restaurants, particularily dining establishments serving pizza, pastas and burgers. On weeknights I am often heard saying, right before clearing the dishes from the dining table, "Another dinner down." The comment is directly related to the feeling that getting dinner on the table Monday through Thursday can feel like any other mandatory task, such as washing the laundry or cleaning the bathrooms. Saturday and Sunday's are my days to shine in the kitchen and push the culinary boundaries. I take extra care on weekends to enjoy the process of cooking and to enjoy a cocktail or two, while putting together a great meal, making the event of cooking a pleasurable experience instead of a mundane chore.

The view of the top-of-the Fairmont from my 22nd floor hotel room in Vancouver.
   Over the past year, I have been traveling more than usual for business, predominately to Vancouver, Canada, but I also find myself in NFL cities, like Atlanta and San Francisco, and less predictable places such as Portland, Maine and San Antonio, Texas. Last year I spent more than my fair share of time in Las Vegas (on my own and with my sisters for a "sistercation"). One of the benefits of traveling is that I continually find Saturday and Sunday meal inspiration on the menus I read around the country such as chimichurri in Orlando or mint pesto in Niagara Falls.

Have a seat and enjoy the view in Vancouver, Canada.
   On a recent trip to Vancouver, it seemed as if Chicken Curry was on every menu. Toward the end of one particularily tiring day, my CEO and I decided to grab a quick bite at White Spot, a diner-esque establishment that serves comfort food and earns rave reviews by locals for tasty hamburgers. After a quick scan of the menu, I zeroed in on Bishop's Curry: "Chicken breast simmered with sweet bell peppers and mushrooms in a delicately spiced orange, apple and organic tomato coconut milk curry sauce over Jasmine rice. Served with naan bread, mango chutney and cilantro." It hit the spot, alright. The next night, at my company's local watering hole, Earls Kitchen and Bar, an upscale sports bar and restaurant (I wish Hooter's would take a page out of Earls' book, but it is probably wrong for me to even compare), I once again ordered the Chicken Curry. I guess I didn't quite get my fill because upon returning home, I began to think about making Chicken Curry for a Saturday night dinner.

Whale watching in Vancouver, Canada.
   While spending leisurely time perusing a new cookbook purchase, Canyon Ranch Cooking, I came across a Chicken Curry recipe that looked very similar to the dish I enjoyed at White Spot. Canyon Ranch is a world famous spa located in the foothills of northeast Tucson, Arizona. There is also a sister location in the Berkshire Mountains in Massachusetts. When the rich and famous descend upon Tucson, their destination is often Canyon Ranch (or else a well-known rehab center located in town).
   This recipe for Chicken Curry is easy enough to make mid week, if it won't agitate your family's expectations of a "safe" weekday meal. To make things even easier, you can open a jar of Major Grey's Mango Chutney to serve alongside. On the weekend, the Fig and Apple Chutney favored by Canyon Ranch is worth making and is quite delicious served at room temperature.

Chicken in Yellow Curry

Apple and Fig Chutney

by Michelle

"This chutney is a tasty accompaniment to any curried dish."
                                ~Jeanne Jones, Canyon Ranch Cooking

   Try this condiment with creamy chicken curry. It is a very nice alternative to mango chutney which, by the way, I love to put as a base for a pizza covered with shrimp (the subject of a future blog post)! I wonder what the apple and fig chutney would taste like on a pizza the features prosciutto? There is only one way to find out... and that's to try it. Stay tuned.
   This recipe hails from Canyon Ranch Cooking by Jeanne Jones (Harper Collins, 1998).

Apple and Fig Chutney

4 cups chopped unsulfured dried apples
1 cup finely chopped dried figs
1 cup raisins, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 cups granulated sugar
1-1/4 tsps ground ginger
1/4 cup pickling spice, tied in a cheesecloth bag
2 cups filtered water
2 cups apple cider vinegar (we prefer Bragg Organic Raw and Unfiltered)

Pickling spice ready to be secured into a packet tied with twine.
1. Combine all the ingredients in a large, non-aluminum saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, for 2 hours.
2. Let cool to room temperature. Remove and discard the cheesecloth bag containing the pickling spice. Store the chutney in a tightly covered container in the refrigerator where it will keep for months. Yield: 4-3/4 cups.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Incredible Coconut and a Tale of Two Curries: Part One

 by Linda

   If you are among those who love coconut, but still think of it as a fatty shredded addition to some of our most beloved desserts, and therefore is something to be indulged in sparingly because of its high saturated fat content, then the news that I have for you just might make your day. Coconut is not only delicious, but it is a nutritional super star, and the fat that the coconut provides might be destined to be your new best friend because surprise... it is good for you! The humble coconut has sustained large populations of peoples in the tropical world for generations, who are for the most part, not obese, and do not have heart disease. They are also known for their beautiful skin and hair. Globally, the coconut is the most extensively grown and used nut in the world and is the most important palm.
It might look like ice cream, but it's not. Coconut oil is solid under 76°F.
   Most of the objections that I have read concerning coconut, condemn it because the oil is comprised of almost completely saturated fat. First, a word about saturated fat. Saturated fat is stable. Therefore, unlike vegetable oils, which are made up of mostly polyunsaturated fats, saturated fats are resistant to mutation. This means that saturated fat is less subject to very unhealthy changes over time (as it sits aging on your pantry shelf) or when it is subjected to heat when cooking, which is also very important. More importantly most people do not realize that these ubiquitous vegetable oils (canola, safflower, corn, sunflower... you name it), are heated up to very high temperatures when processed. They are basically "pre-rancidified" in order for them to be able to sit on the grocery store shelf for years at a time. Most fats are very perishable, require refrigeration and have short shelf lives unless they go through this unhealthy processing. Although the topic is controversial, I am in the camp that believes that high quality saturated fat is essential to your health. If you would like to read more about the benefits of saturated fat, please check out "Love Thy Saturated Fat" written by my friend and co-worker, Misty, who is our Nutritional/Wellness Educator at work (Whole Foods Market). I realize that the information provided in Misty's article is the exact opposite of what most of us continue to be told about fats, but much of what we are told about fats is... how shall I say this delicately... misinformation that has been promulgated by very large corporate interests who produce products with poor quality oils because they are inexpensive. These unstable oils are often (adding insult to injury) altered again and chemically changed into evil trans fats in order to extend the shelf life of the commercial product. On the other hand, consider the following information from the Coconut Research Center:

Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, vitamins, and minerals. It is classified as a "functional food" because it provides many health benefits beyond its nutritional content. Coconut oil is of special interest because it possesses healing properties far beyond that of any other dietary oil and is extensively used in traditional medicine among Asian and Pacific populations. Pacific Islanders consider coconut oil to be the cure for all illness. The coconut palm is so highly valued by them as both a source of food and medicine that it is called "The Tree of Life." Only recently has modern medical science unlocked the secrets to coconut's amazing healing powers. 

   Another interesting fact about the saturated fat of the coconut, is that the oil is comprised of mostly medium-chain fatty acids (MCFA), also known as medium-chain triglycerides (MCT). This is important information. Most of the oils that we consume in our Western diets come from, whether they are saturated or unsaturated or come from animals or plants, are composed of long-chain fatty acids (LCFA). Some 98 to 100% of all the fatty acids we consume are LCFA. The fats in the coconut, which are short chain, do not require pancreatic enzymes to break them down, resulting in much more efficient and quick digestion. Since the fat in coconut can be used easily by the body, it can be burned readily for energy. This is why it has become a favorite with those who would like to lose weight

   Since I have always loved coconut for its delicious flavor, discovering that the coconut that I have always adored is really good for me is an added boon. These days I am on a mission to find new ways to use coconut in recipes that do not use refined carbohydrates (white sugar and white flour), which are the real culprits in our obesity, heart disease and type 2 diabetes epidemics. My pantry is stocked with the proverbial coconut milk and shredded coconut, but you will also find coconut oil (purchase extra virgin cold pressed), coconut butter, coconut flour, coconut water and coconut milk ice cream.

   The winter season in Northern California this year has brought unaccustomed dry weather and very cold temperatures. Recently I was in the mood to warm myself up with a hot Panang curry, so I looked up a recipe for it on one of my favorite food blogs featuring Thai cuisine... She Simmers. Having purchased a pressure cooker recently, I adapted the recipe (and a few of the ingredients). It was yummy, if I do say so myself. Using the pressure cooker allowed me to have a steaming bowl of curry on the table in just over an hour.

Panang Curry with Beef~ Using a Pressure Cooker 

Products We Love: Kaffir Lime Trees

by Linda

   I don't know that a lime tree should be referred to as a product, since it is a living thing created by Nature herself, but I did want to call attention to the benefit of growing your own Kaffir lime leaves if you are a devotee of making your own Thai food.
   I purchased a small tree at a local nursery, and I have been growing it in the same ceramic pot that I transplanted it into four years ago. Just like growing your own rosemary, thyme, oregano and other culinary herbs, it is convenient and a money saver to have the tree available year round. I really dislike trying to find the leaves when I need them, because they are not always available at a regular grocery store, and they are expensive. Place the tree in a sunny spot, water, fertilize occasionally and protect from frost, and you will be rewarded with a carefree little tree that offers up beautifully aromatic leaves any time you need them.

Products We Love: Harmless Harvest 100% Raw Coconut Water

By Linda

   Coconut water has been popular for at least the last five years, but I wasn't really a fan until now. All of the coconut waters that I tried previously were either canned or came in aseptic packaging. That means that they are heated up to fairly high temps, which causes a loss of both nutrients and flavor. Fresh coconut water is full of electrolytes and has the same mineral nutrient balance as your blood plasma. It is a great choice for hydrating your body, and it is so much more satisfying than a sugary soda.
   With the arrival of Harmless Harvest on the market, coconut water is now available in a bottle that is raw and has never been heated. It tastes like it was just poured out of a young green Thai coconut. Yum!  

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Linda's Buttermilk Biscuits (Food Processor Method)

by Linda

"Poetry is the synthesis of hyacinths and biscuits." -- Carl Sandburg

   Since one of the goals of our blog is to be a virtual recipe box for future generations, it is my personal opinion that our collection of recipes would not be complete without a biscuit recipe. I would have to say that buttermilk biscuits are one of my all time, in my top ten, comfort foods… right up there with mashed potatoes, ice cream, chocolate and chicken-fried steak. And while I do freely acknowledge that buttermilk biscuits made with white flour are nutritionally bereft, there are occasions, when this one time (and perhaps still) staple of the Southern table will satisfy like nothing else.

   I may not have been making biscuits as long as a Southern Granny, even so, I have made many a biscuit in my day. I began making biscuits regularly as a teenager. I still remember the drinking glass whose mouth had just the perfect size circumference that I used to punch the biscuits out with on the floured board in our small farm kitchen. These days, even though I now use a stainless steel cutter with a nice sharp edge to release perfect circles from the round of dough, I still love to bake them... however infrequently. I confess that I do not make them very often anymore due to my quest to reduce my consumption of white flour. However, when I do have occasion to bake them these days, there is something so satisfying about rolling out the white buttery dough that smells of buttermilk, brushing them with cream, and then watching as they puff up as if under a magic spell while they turn golden brown in the oven.

   A few months back I had a very long, tense and tiring day at work. Very much in need of a little TLC… and knowing it would need to be provided by yours truly if I was to have any, I decided to splurge and prepare three of my top ten faves for a quick dinner. This plan brightened my mood considerably. In under an hour I had mashed potatoes, chicken-fried steak with pan gravy and buttermilk biscuits drizzled with raw honey on the table. I sipped a rich Sonoma County Cabernet while I prepared my dinner and put together a salad (my concession to healthy eating for that meal), and when dinner was served, I patted the chef on the back, and surrendered to the feast saying, “Thank you, Linda… that will do. Yes, that will do.”

No, I did not eat this all myself... but there were some yummy leftovers for the next day.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Sautéed and Caramelized Mushrooms

by Michelle

   To cook really well, one must be patient. It can take time to build flavor. Chef Ann Burrell would certainly agree. Her mantra, "brown food tastes good" certainly applies here. I have noticed that novice cooks like to stir, turn, or flip quite often. Relax. Sometimes food likes to sizzle nicely in the pan before being touched again.
   I love these mushroom so much. Sure they are fantastic with a steak. But, they are also great at room temperature as part of an appetizer tray alongside salumi and olives. Leftovers make me estatic. That means I can sprinkle the tasty morsels on top of pizza, tuck into an omelette, stir into a weeknight marinara, or layer into panini. You get the idea. Now I have a hankering for caramelized mushrooms. I think I'll make them right now!

Sautéed and Caramelized Mushrooms

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Linguini with Super Easy Clam Sauce

by Michelle

   I keep canned clams as a staple in my pantry. For some reason it feels as if I'm exposing a dirty little secret. I don't know why. There's no shame in canned clams lounging around with the canned albacore tuna, jarred anchovies and tins of sardines. Yes, I love me some fresh clams, but much to my chagrin, recently dug bivalves are not always available here in the desert. So, canned to the rescue on those nights that I must have Linguini with Clam Sauce. And, no false advertising here. Super Easy is the truth.
   I am pretty sure that this recipe is an adaptation of a Cooking Light recipe. Therefore, it is lower in fat than some clam sauce recipes. You'll be happy as a clam at high tide to discover that there is no sacrifice in flavor. Sorry, I just had to add a little clam humor to the end of this post. Happy New Year to one and all from your friends, the Salvation Sisters!

Linguini with Super Easy Clam Sauce

   In a pinch, spaghetti is also an excellent choice for the sauce. Although Italians do not garnish fish dishes with Regiano Parmigiano, I certainly do. It might be a faux pas, but I find the addition of the cheese quite satisfying.
   Along with the pasta, I like to serve Juliette's Focaccia or Sourdough bread. For a more formal gathering, I'll serve a Salad of Leafy Greens with Joan's Vinaigrette as a first course, or if more casual, passed at the table.
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