DJ’s Vindaloo Ragout

Standard
DJ's Vindaloo Ragout

DJ’s Vindaloo Ragout

The flavor knocks your socks off when you first cook it. The next day? Hold on to your skivvies!

This dish is a slow-cooked stew of chickpeas and potatoes, simmered for hours in a well-seasoned tomato sauce. You could make this dish using a crock pot or a stove top sauce pan; either works well as long as you have the lid or cover. You can make the vindaloo as spicy as you want, but don’t make it any less.  In India, they have two other versions much “hotter” than this. So we can’t really complain, can we? Besides, if you need a little zippity in your do-dah, this will do it for you!

Time required:  prep 15 minutes &  cooking 2 hours or more depending on size of diced potatoes and cooking temperature

Serves: 10 or so when accompanied with rice as a side dish. Naan or flatbread works well, too!

Ingredients- Part 1:

(1) 14 oz. can diced tomatoes with green chilies

(1) 6 oz. can tomato paste

(1) green bell pepper, cored and diced

(1/2) yellow onion, diced

(4) cloves garlic, minced

(1/2) cup water

(2) Tablespoons Sherry vinegar

(2) Tablespoons olive oil

(1) Tablespoon parsley flakes

(1) Tablespoon finely chopped, fresh ginger (if you don’t have fresh ginger, go get some. There is no subbing on this one!)

(1) Tablespoon crushed red pepper

(1) teaspoon curry

(1/2) teaspoon turmeric

(1/4) teaspoon cardamom

(1/4) teaspoon coriander

Ingredients – Part 2:

(2) cups cooked chickpeas

(2) cups diced raw potatoes

(1) cup water

(1/2) cup pineapple chunks. You know – chunks. Not too small, but not too big? Fits on your fork, and in your mouth for one bite? Yeah, that’s the size you want.

Directions:

Mix the ‘part 1 ingredients’ in a large sauce pan for the stove top method, or slow-cooker / crock pot.

Using medium heat, warm the sauce, stirring frequently to prevent scorching on the bottom of the pan. Note: if using a slow-cooker, just stir to mix the ingredients, then set on low heat and leave it alone.

For stove top pans, when the sauce starts to bubble, reduce heat to low.

Now add the ‘part 2 ingredients’ and gently stir until the potatoes and chickpeas are covered by the sauce.

Cover and simmer on low heat for 2 hours using the stove top method, or 4 hours on low heat if using a slow-cooker.

Stir occasionally for both methods.

<tick tock tick tock – 2 or 4 hours later >

The Vindaloo Ragout is done!

Serve with white rice, couscous, or quinoa. Some sauteed fresh green beans, seasoned with garlic of course, makes the meal complete.

Except the wine. You need wine. Lemonade works, too. I prefer, well, you know.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Azar’s Market and Cafe

Standard
The Maza Appetizer from Azar's.

The Maza Appetizer from Azar’s.

As a line cook, I would often receive a request for a substitution, i.e. potato salad instead of fries. Not a big deal, really; happens all of the time in restaurants all around the world. Sometimes these requests were made for dietary reasons, other times to avoid allergy issues. It was all good, although one time I had to ask the server to double check the request when the ticket stated 1 quesadilla, 86 (remove) the cheese. Since the root of the word was queso, Spanish for cheese, I wanted to make sure the guest understood they would be receiving a grilled tortilla stuffed with a few sauteed vegetables. They did so that’s what they got.

In the food service business, it all about food and service. To survive, you have to serve great food and offer even better service. Makes me wonder why Burger King has just dropped it’s slogan Have It Your Way. I guess you can’t have it your way anymore?

Regardless of BK’s reasoning, the point is this: successful restaurants have to have a great concept, a menu to satisfy everyone from Atkins-style carnivores to vegan/gluten free Eat to Live folks, and  flawless execution in both the kitchen and the front house. No secret to many of you, but finding a place that hits the mark in all categories is becoming more difficult these days.

Azar’s Market & Cafe (subtitled Natural Foods and Mediterranean Specialties) is just such a place.  Recently, we had an awesome dinner at the Virginia Beach restaurant, located in the Hilltop area. I had always been a fan of the Norfolk cafe of the same name and found the sister restaurant to be equally as nice, with attentive service that was not over-intrusive and excellent food plated in a most appealing fashion. And for a Saturday early-evening, the place was not too crowded making the ambiance perfect for conversation.

While I usually order the can’t-miss felafel, this particular evening I decided to be adventurous and order something new (for me.) Taking advice from the server, I chose the Maza appetizer. The menu will tell you the Maza serves 2 – 4 people, but the dish is used as an entree quite often. I gave it a try. Here’s what was presented:

Hummus – made from chickpeas, of course, and seasoned with tahini, not too much lemon, and a bit of garlic. The best in the city, IMHO.

Baba Ghanouj (pronounced bah bah gah-noosh) – think hummus made from roasted eggplant instead of chickpeas.

4 Stuffed Grape Leaves – available either cold or warmed, these are stuffed with rice, vegetables and chickpeas.

Tabouli – a light salad of chopped parsley, mint, tomato, and onion, tossed with some Bulgar wheat, lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt.

Lebane Tzatziki – a dab of dip made from strained yogurt (Greek yogurt before it was cool to be Greek yogurt,) garlic, a touch of mint and olive oil.

The plate was garnished with olives (watch out for those pesky little pits) and bite-sized slices of pickle and tomato.

All this was served with a basket of light, soft but not too chewy grilled flatbread.

The verdict?

I wasn’t a fan of the baba ghanouj. I am sure it was made correctly, and Azar’s version is probably among the best around. I’m just not a baba ghanouj kind of guy.

Everything else was a hit to my taste buds. When the server came to remove our dinner plates, she saw I had only tried the B.G. and commented that next time I could always ask for a substitute. More hummus, more grape leaves, whatever I wanted. This substitution policy was not a one-off deal made in an attempt to garner a higher propina (tip, sorry – thinking in Spanish for a moment) but the normal restaurant policy.

Great food and even better service, remember? This is what it looks like.

And for you vegans out there? This means you can order the Maza and sub more hummus for the Lebane Tzatziki dip.

For carnivores, split the Maza since it’s really a large appetizer plate, and order one of the grilled kebab plates.

Azar’s has great food and even better service – for everyone.

And no matter what you order for lunch or dinner – you have to get the pistachio baklava for dessert. I think it’s a law. If it’s not, it should be.

Happy eating!

 

 

 

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Peppers

Standard
Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Viggies

Black Bean Corn Salsa-nated Lentils and Peppers (with stir fried vegetables)

After you cook several “big” dishes, such as Mango Lentil Dal, or Artichoke Lentil Loaf, you may come to realize you still have uncooked lentils left over. Looking in the soak pot, I found we had “a lot” of lentils left. If the zombie apocalypse started today, and all access to the grocery store had been cut off by the horde of brain-eating walking dead, we would be fine with the one bag of dried lentils. It never seems to run out. But since the Eastern Shore, for the moment at least, is devoid of zombies, it would be poor form to leave said lentils to slowly die a horrible death inside the refrigerator.

What to do. Hmmm.

Why not take those lentils and add some left over bell peppers and a snit or two from the jar of Amy’s Black Bean & Corn Salsa? You know, the jar that always seems to be in the door of the refrigerator? Could end up with a tasty meal, me thinks.

Turned out to be a great idea! I also stir fried some fresh cut vegetables to give the meal a little more bulk and color. Here’s the easy lentil recipe:

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked lentils (uncooked but soaked overnight, then drained)

Water – enough to cover the lentils once they are in a sauce pan

1 each – red, green and yellow bell pepper. cored and seeded, then rough chopped

1 snit of Amy’s black bean corn salsa (no ‘snit’ mark on your measuring cup? 6 Tablespoons is about the same amount)

1 Tablespoon cumin

Directions

Put the uncooked lentils in a medium sauce pan.

Add water, enough to cover the lentils by a half inch or so.

Add the chopped bell peppers, salsa, and cumin.

Stir gently, then cover.

Heat over medium high until the liquid starts to boil.

Once boiling, reduce heat to medium. You want a simmer only.

Uncover and stir occasionally.

The goal is to allow the liquid to soak into the lentils and to create a “salsa reduction.” In other words, as the liquid cooks down, the salsa and cumin flavor will be brought out for the better. Once you stir the lentils and don’t see any more liquid at the bottom of the sauce pan, you are done!

Remove from heat and cover until the rest of your dinner is done cooking.

(I stir fried veggies while the lentils were cooking. There are a plethora of options for you. Go with your favorite!)

This lentil recipe makes 3 good sized main servings or 4 side servings.

Enjoy!

 

Dr. Lucy and the Cookies

Standard
Gluten Free Vegan Ginger Snaps

Gluten Free Vegan Ginger Snaps

Have food allergies? Need to be gluten free? [Gasp] Vegan, even?

A tough road to live on, but it can be done. That said, there is one problem remaining:

Where are the cookies, right?

Of course. Who doesn’t like cookies? Everyone like cookies. Those in the UK even have a different word for them: biscuits. And I’m sure the Brits love their biscuits just as much as we love to snarf down our cookies here on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.

Since changing my eating habits last month, I’ve lost over 20 pounds and three inches off my waist line. But nary a dessert has made it onto my plate. Alas, no cookies for this guy.

Until a few days ago.

That’s when I came across Lucy’s Cookies.”  The cookie’s namesake, Norfolk Virginia medical doctor turned cookie entrepreneur Dr. Lucy Gibney and (I presume) her daughter were at my place of business the other day, handing out samples. When I introduced myself as a gluten free/vegan person they let me know that all of their products would work for me. Wow!  All means more than one – and I don’t even have to check the label. Although I did for fun. You should, too.

The package spells it out for you: all natural; non-GMO; no peanuts, tree nuts, milk, or eggs; gluten free; zero cholesterol; and zero trans fat. But what about taste?

I have had the chocolate chip cookies, the chocolate cookies, and the ginger snap cookies so far. And the have all been great. The ginger snaps even have a tiny bit of Tabasco in them to bring out a nifty bite at the end of the crunch. Who knew? Good choice, ladies.

Full of flavor, a great crunch, wonderful aftertaste. These cookies have it all. And with 3 – 4 cookies per package, you get enough to satisfy your sweet tooth, but not too many calories – in case you are counting them.

Check the website; order some cookies! And, they are available in over 7,000 stores and specialty shops through the US and Canada. You are probably near a package right now and don’t even know it!

* Legal disclaimer: I have not received any remuneration (of any kind) from Dr. Lucy or her cookie company. The review above is based simply on my desire to have cookies that meet my dietary restriction and Lucy’s Cookies satisfying that want.

** If, by chance, Dr. Lucy would like to send me some cookies for a more comprehensive evaluation, I would be more than happy to entertain the idea.

DrLucys dot com – check it out, people. Good health and nutrition doesn’t have to be bland!

Here's the package!

Here’s the package!

No time to be a vegetarian?

Standard
Dinner Salad with Pumpkin Seeds

Dinner Salad with Pumpkin Seeds

Spare time is one of those things we never seem to have in abundance. We always have somewhere to go, people to meet, planes to catch. The pile of work never seems to get smaller and the phone never seems to stop ringing. Maybe that’s why we have grown to love our fast food restaurants. Drive up, speak into a microphone on a pole, pay a few dollars and then have your “meal” handed to you as you keep on driving.

“I know,” you say, “fruits and vegetables are more nutritious. The school nurses have been telling me that since I started school as a little tyke.”

“But I just don’t have the time to prepare all of that healthy stuff.”  That’s what many of us say, at least.

I used to say the same thing. However, today we spent about 30 minutes in the grocery store, shopping for mangoes, bananas, apples, and all of their friends in the produce section. Then I spent another 30 minutes or so washing, chopping and bagging the vegetables. The result? My wife and I had two very nice dinner salads, and I still have six more bags of romaine lettuce, a package of fresh spinach,individual bags of red onion and broccoli, plus a super-sized bag of my vegetable medley. This is a mix of carrots, yellow squash, green zucchini, celery and yellow and green bell peppers.

Now, to make a salad I just grab a bag of romaine, a handful or two of medley, and a little bit from each individual bag. Add a few cherry tomatoes from the fridge and a quarter cup of seeds from the pantry and I am all set for a huge (a delicious) salad. Dressing? A little balsamic vinaigrette works wonders. Crack some pepper on top and I am set.

I spend about 5 minutes in the morning putting my lunch salad together before I get in the car for the drive to work. Think you don’t have 5 minutes to spare in the morning? Time yourself next time you go through the drive through at your local burger joint.

Think of it this way: with one hour of work on a Sunday, and 5 minutes a day, you can have a great salad every day for the next week!

And for those who are worried about protein – many vegetables have protein in abundance. A quarter cup of pumpkin seeds has 9 grams of protein! Who needs a chicken breast when you can have the flavor and crunch of pumpkin seeds on top of your healthy salad?

And for another layer of flavor and texture, add some cooked quinoa or brown rice seasoned with Bragg’s Amino Sauce!

Try this meal planning technique and see how you like it!

It’s working for me – it can work for you, too.

 

 

 

Artichoke Lentil Loaf

Standard
Artichoke Lentil Loaf

Artichoke Lentil Loaf

22 days into the vegan diet and the good food just keeps on coming. Who knew? Aside from the health benefits (which I started noticing a few days into it) it is just plain fun to cook some of this stuff. I am planning two big entrees a week and tonight was my foray into the world of artichokes and lentils.

Courtesy of Chef Christine Waltermyer, who graciously gave her recipe for Artichoke Lentil Loaf to the book, Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman, we now have a savory meat(less) loaf for dinner. The aroma of the sautéed onions, garlic, and celery, mixed in with the seasonings has kept the kitchen a happy place.

Here’s my version:

Ingredients

½ cup onion, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup celery, diced

3 cups mushrooms, finely chopped (I used a variety package)

1 tablespoon, dried parsley

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning (don’t freak out about the name. No chicken byproducts allowed)

2 1/2 – 3 cups of cooked lentils

4 artichoke hearts, chopped (I used the kind in the small bottle)

1/2 cup raw pecans, finely chopped

1/4 cup rolled oats

2 tablespoons of wheat flour

2 tablespoons of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of Bragg’s Amino Sauce

Cracked black pepper to taste

1 small can of low salt tomato paste

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sauté the onions, celery and garlic in a dash of olive oil until the onions start to become translucent. Add the mushrooms (and a little water if needed) then stir, cover and wait 5 minutes. Uncover and stir again. Add the parsley and the poultry seasoning, mix and remove from heat.

Get a large bowl. Put the seasoned vegetables in, then mix in the cooked lentils.

Now, mixing as you go, add the artichoke hearts, pecans, oats, flour, lemon juice, and Bragg’s sauce.

Add some black pepper as you go; if you want. I wanted. So I did.

Now – after you are done enjoying the awesome smell, get a loaf pan and spray it / lightly grease it.

Spoon the whole mixture into the loaf pan and press it down.

To finish the task, spoon a thin layer of the tomato paste on top. Some would say this is optional.

I didn’t.

Bake for 1 hour. Once done, let rest for 30 minutes before slicing. Good luck on the waiting part.

Now slice a slice and eat up!

Wine is vegetarian, right?

A Quick Chicken Dinner for One

Standard

And I’m the sole carnivore in the house right now, so I know. Here’s the gouge: It was time to eat some dinner and I had one baked chicken breast left over from yesterdays salsa-nated chicken dinner, some leftover rice, and no desire to play like I was on Food Network’s “Chopped.” What to do? We have no chain restaurants in our area, save the Mickey D on the highway. The local places had all closed for the night. Then it hit me.

Here’s what you need:

You know that jar of Mandarin oranges that has been sitting in the back of your refrigerator for a while? Yeah, that one. Take that, and the canned pineapple slices next to it, too. Now, while no one is looking, nick the bowl of leftover rice on the bottom shelf. Before you close the door, pull the low-salt soy sauce bottle out from behind the old Worcestershire sauce. On the way back to your work area, stop by the pantry spice rack and find the cayenne pepper. Really. Do it.

Here’s what you do:

Chop the backed chicken breast into bite sized portions. Add to the bowl of cooked rice and dab in a few shakes of the soy sauce, to taste. Now add the cayenne pepper to give the dinner a little zing. Want more zing? Add more pepper!

Cover the bowl with some cling wrap and reheat in the microwave oven for a minute or two. The exact time will depend on the strength of your microwave.

Once heated to your specification, remove from the microwave and discard the cling wrap. Be careful, there will be steam – AND STEAM IS HOT – IT CAN BURN YOU. (There, the lawyers should be happy now.)

Mix in a few spoonfuls of Mandarin oranges and top with a slice or two of the pineapple.

Not something you will find at a five-star, Zagat-rated restaurant, but it beats the heck out of plain old baked chicken. Try it!

Happy eating from the Eastern Shore of Virginia and have a happy, prosperous New Year!

2014 – the year in review

Standard
TARDIS Mk VII

TARDIS Mk VII (Photo credit: Rooners Toy Photography)

(Sans a TARDIS, I have mentally jumped ahead one year to see what has happened to this blog. Kind of like making your New Year’s Resolution after the fact. Hmmm. This may merit further investigation.)

Well, 2014 was a heck of a lot better than 2013. And 2013 wasn’t too bad. This past year, the culinary-themed mystery novel (The Apple Pie Alibi) was completed, as was the sequel (Burger Bytes and Jail Breaks.)  And the newest cookbook is almost on the shelf (“Time to Pray – The Pastor’s Husband is Cooking Again”.)

It took some doing, but there was a new blog post every week. And the blogger himself actually interacted with other bloggers and food professionals, moving beyond the nice interview in the Dallas Morning News in late 2013. Exploding Potatoes has, in 2014, put more social in the social media construct.

And we had healthier recipes, smaller carbon footprints, less to no genetically modified anythings and greater emphasis on locally sourced, renewable fare. And wine. More wine.

Thanks for reading these past few years. WordPress tells me Exploding Potatoes has been read by people in over 90 countries. That tells me we all like to eat. And there’s nothing wrong with talking about that.

I can’t wait until 2015!