Life is good when your taco runneth over

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FAJITASSSSS!!!!

I know, I know. They’re buried under a mountain of guac. Sorry not sorry, you gotta do what you gotta do…

Please excuse the excessive letters and capitals. I’m not shouting, promise. I’m just reeeeeally excited that I made something resembling a fajita in my own oven. Because I a) love fajitas, if you couldn’t tell and b) thought they might be too difficult or some other lazy excuse. But, I proved myself wrong.

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And in return, I got tacos. Mmmmm. With homemade guac falling out all over the place because I always break rule number one and overstuff my fajita or taco tortillas. Whatever, when your taco runneth over, life is good. I seem to have this problem with quesadillas too, their innards are always falling all over the place because I insist on shoving half the vegetable drawer into them, along with obligatory beans. You think I’m exaggerating… but actually not. I have witnesses, they can vouch for me.

Also yes. I do put chia seeds on my fajita-tacos. Because, crunchy.

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Yesterday was another day of food prep, though I definitely didn’t cook as much as last week. Split pea soup (with bacon. natch) is chillin in the fridge for dinner tonight (side note, the slow cooker is fab for these kinds of recipes), and I also did some chickpea-cashew butter- oat bars for dessert, which are pretty fab, and coming to the blog soonish, whenever I can find time and can write some chuckle-inducing thing to accompany them…

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More of this trashed-up dessert coming soon {watch this space for further developments…}.. I was channeling some Jackson Pollack ice cream styling in the above photo. Try it sometime, playing with your food is fab.

This is about as easy as it gets. Chop chop chop toss toss pour spread clank (that was putting them in the oven, ha) tick tick tick ding! boom done. Just like that, though you’ll have to provide your own sound effects…
Though I made these for a food prep day, they would actually be easy for a weeknight meal. The prep work doesn’t take long at all, especially if the chicken is already defrosted, and they finish cooking in about a half an hour, giving you plenty of time to mash up homemade guac.

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Sheet Pan Chicken Fajitas

Gluten free with corn tortillas (which is what I use). Serve with homemade guac (so-called ‘recipe’ below) for a good dose of healthy fats! Recipe serves 3 generously, with leftovers for one. Only slightly adapted from Whole Foods, here.

  • 1 pound of chicken breasts, cut into 1/2″ strips
  • 3 bell peppers, sliced into strips (I used red/orange/yellow)
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 tbsp avocado oil
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • corn tortillas, for serving

Preheat the oven to 400, and procure a large rimmed sheet pan.

In a large bowl, toss together chicken, peppers, onion, garlic, avocado oil, chili powder, and sea salt, making sure the oil and spices are decently distributed. Spread all this out onto the sheet pan, and bake for 25 – 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are tender. I like to toast my tortillas over the gas burners on the stove, but you can also wrap them in foil, and heat them in the oven during the last five minutes of cooking.

Serve with tortillas, guac, and anything else your taco-loving heart desires.

Homemade Guacamole

I mildly feel like I’m insulting your intelligence by calling this a recipe, so let’s just lay out the basics:

  • 3 large avocados
  • juice of two limes
  • garlic powder to taste
  • sea salt to taste
  • a handful of cherry tomatoes, chopped

No one in my fam is a big fan of raw onions, but I do like them occasionally in guac — let red onions marinate in the lime juice prior to making the guac, which takes away a bit of their bite. I didn’t use them here, but go ahead if that’s your thing!

In a bowl, mash together avocados and lime juice. I like to leave my guac chunky, but you do you. Stir in garlic powder and sea salt to taste, followed by the tomatoes. Store in a covered container in the fridge to prevent browning, and eat on EVERYTHING. This amount serves 3, plus leftovers for one (or at least that’s what happened in my family…).

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Corn husks are obnoxious little suckers

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Okay so there’s this unwritten rule/trend thing in the food blogger universe that you’re apparently supposed to make red, white and blue food on Memorial Day. Barring that, at least burgers. And probably alcohol. At least barbecue-outside-summer-food. For heaven’s sake, grill SOMETHING.

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I charred something, does that count??

Oops.

Sorry.

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Except not really because um HELLO, TAMALES AND FLAN?!

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I just like to be different.

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This was sort of like a Carneval meets Cinco  de Mayo meets Memorial Day mash-up kind of feast. And I wouldn’t have it any other way in my nutty food universe. Straight up homemade green chile chicken tamales + coconut sugar flan + vegan, gf, refined sugar free peanut butter date-oat cookies (because there was time in between roasting the tomatillos, soaking the corn husks, and pureeing chilies and garlic and rolling/tying/otherwise fighting with the tamale wrappings—who knew corn husks were so freaking stubborn?!). But SO fun to make. Talk about feeling accomplished with your Sunday—tamales, cookies, homemade chicken stock, and flan all in about 4.5 hours? Boom.

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And even better, I had a cooking buddy! My friend Jill (of the blog Halfway There) and I have regular baking-cooking-kitchen shenanigans get togethers, and this was the latest. We both decided that tamales are WAY more fun with friends. Those corn husks are obnoxious little suckers… [isn’t there some saying to the effect of ‘shared pleasure in increased, shared pain is decreased’?? Something like that, which DEFS applies to tying tamales. Oi. We almost busted out the twine].

IMG_0422And then I had a FAB dinner… AND lunch o’ leftovers on Monday when I got to work for time and a half (yippee!!). Happy belated holiday weekend! Aren’t you glad you’re invisible internet friends with this weirdo who doesn’t bust open the grill on Memorial Weekend? Yeah. Me too.

And okay okay I know this picture is suuuuper inelegant but whatever. This was one of those “OMG! I have a thousand pretty pictures of the wrapped tamales and I’m hungry and OMG WAIT I JUST TOOK A BITE HOW IS THIS SO GOOD must share with my invisible internet friends but my food looks… um questionable by this point?! But they want to know!!! Snap snap snap” moments. You know. I promise that mess down there was mega delicious. Promise.

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Green Chile Chicken Tamales

Recipe only mildly adapted from Epicurious, here. Jill and I got about 18 good-sized tamales out of our batch, with a bit of leftover masa dough and chicken filling (we ran out of decent husks, which was fine by me since then I got leftover filling for lunch… and we got sick of tying them, haha). We also doubled the amount of the sauce, which are the amounts I’ll include below.

  • 1 6 oz bag of corn husks, soaked for at least 3 hours [place in a large pot, pour water over, and weight with a small pan so they stay submerged]
  • 1 pound of tomatillos, husked+rinsed
  • 4 jalapeños, seeded with ribs removed
  • 4 serrano peppers, seeded with ribs removed
  • 8 small garlic cloves
  • a good glug of olive oil
  • 2 c low sodium chicken broth
  • 4 c packed, shredded chicken [we used the meat off of an entire rotisserie chicken]
  • 2/3 c chopped cilantro
  • 1 1/3 c organic vegetable shortening
  • 1.5 tsp salt*
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder*
  • 4 c freshly ground masa flour
  • 2 c low sodium chicken broth

*only if your masa DOESN’T have these

This only looks complicated… it’s just time consuming!

Method can be found here [ugh I’m just too lazy to type it all out and we followed it exactly sooo…. yeah. Laziness ensues].

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Coconut Sugar Flan

Again, not too difficult, though I for some reason always thought it would be. Yield: 8 ramekins or custard cups. It is refined sugar free and gluten free, but that’s about all you can say… sorry I’m not sorry this isn’t good for you! Ha. Sometimes you just gotta indulge. The recipe is adapted from Food 52, here!

  • 1/2 c coconut sugar
  • 3/8 tsp sea salt, divided
  • 5 eggs
  • 3 c half and half
  • 1/2 c coconut sugar (no, that’s not a typo…)

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Move your oven racks to the lower third, and preheat the oven to 350. Start a pot of water boiling on the stove. You’re going to need a water bath for this, so find a casserole dish or a baking dish that can comfortably hold all 8 of your ramekins. Set it all aside.

Whisk together 1/2 c coconut sugar+1/4 tsp sea salt in a small bowl. Pour the sugar/salt mix into the bottom of each ramekin, making sure the sugar is relatively evenly spread (I found it helpful to shake the ramekin slightly so the sugar would settle).

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, the other 1/2 c of coconut sugar, and remaining 1/8 tsp of salt until well combined. Heat the half and half in a saucepan until just steaming—you should be able to stick a finger in just barely, but it should be too hot for you to want to leave it there. Let the half and half cool for just a few minutes, then temper the eggs by pouring a ladleful at a time of the hot half and half into the eggs, whisking vigorously the whole time (nobody wants scrambled eggs in their flan. Ewwww), until you’ve poured in all your half an half. If you’ve ended up with egg bits, strain the mixture now (Jill and I have super whisking skills, there were no egg bits to be seen, yessss). Carefully skim the foam off the top of the liquid, then ladle the mixture careful into the ramekins, being careful not to disturb the sugar. Some will float up, but if you do it slowly enough most of it should stay down.

Remember that pan of boiling water? Yep, we need it now. Pour it carefully around the ramekins, until it comes about halfway up the sides of the dishes. CAREFULLY place this whole thing onto the bottom rack in your preheated oven. Bake until the flan is *just* wobbly in the center—-the very center should wobble, but it will look like it’s wobbling under a more solid top—-about 25-30 minutes, depending on your ramekin size and depth. Remove from the water bath with tongs, and let cool for 15 minutes before moving them to the fridge to chill for at least 4 hours.

To serve, run a thin knife around the edges of the custard and invert onto a plate. Ogle the amazing saucy, custardy deliciousness that has just appeared on your plate, and thank all the gods you decided to make tamales and flan on a random Sunday. Mmm.

Leftovers can be stored in the fridge, but wait what?! You have leftovers?? Hold the phone, I’m coming over…

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Talking bananas and some chicken

Well firstly, Jessie wants to say hi.

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And she also wants me to tell you how incredibly helpful she is when I blog. Like… soooo helpful. See?

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And also (and slightly more to the point),  my bananas are talking to me again.

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So I did them a favor and made banana bread with spouted quinoa flour and honey and coconut oil, which in reality did ME a huge favor because whatever, banana bread is maybe my favorite food thing ever. evereverever.

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And then I made this chicken thing… and put it in direct sunlight to photograph it because I was feeling sassy. Sorry I’m not sorry I’m breaking all the food photography rules…

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It’s delicious and an easy way to fix chicken—I do it on the regular when I want a fast lunch. This time I ate it with quinoa and avo because really—everything just gets better with avo.

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Coconut Amnio Marinated Chicken

Serves… however many you like, depending on how much chicken you use! The so-called ‘recipe’ is from somewhere deep in the depths of my brain. Healthy, fast and delicious (also gluten free!).

  • chicken breasts, thawed and sliced into thin strips
  • 1-2 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 1 tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp coconut oil (per 1 chicken breast), or other high heat oil for sautéing

Defrost chicken, and slice it into small bits or thin strips. In a small bowl, combine coconut aminos and rice wine vinegar, and add thawed chicken. Let it marinate for however long—I’ve left it for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour (usually I’m hungry). Heat a skillet over medium and toss in a bit of coconut oil (or your preferred high heat oil). Once the pan is heated, add chicken, stirring periodically so all sides are dooone.

Eat with whatever! I like it in sushi, over faro, veggies, or another grain…. or really any way. But make sure you add avo, whatever you do!

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This is how I roll: Like a BOSS!

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GUYS.

I MADE SUSHI!!!

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You have no idea how excited I am about this. Well, maybe you do, given the excessive use of capitals and exclamation points, but really. I feel like a proud parent of my little sushi children. What’s more, I didn’t use a tutorial (ain’t nobody got time for that) but just used the instructions on the back of t the nori wrapper. Like. A. Boss.

I know you’re not supposed to say your own food is amazing but I’m going to flagrantly break this rule as a) they were freaking delicious and b) I wasn’t the only one eating them and thinking they were delicious and c) my birthday is tomorrow so I can do what I want! Ha.

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I’ve always loved sushi anyway—my parents started me early, and I was always asking to go to this sushi bar that had revolving boats in front of you with fresh sushi. Totally dangerous, because you end up going from ‘dang I’m hungry’ to ‘does a wheelbarrow come with this??’ in about thirty seconds. At least my dad introduced me early to raw fish and these little crabby things that he told me were like potato chips. So I ate them. Such trickery. And I always thought the orange fish roe was interesting looking, so I probably ate that too just because I liked the glowing orange globs. Such a visual child…

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I do love raw fish but I wasn’t about to expend that much energy or resources to source some (especially on a Friday, noooo thank you I’m tired and lazy) so these are chicken rolls! Not terribly traditional, but I really don’t care–they were awesome and they look like authentic sushi rolls so who’s judging? Besides, the chicken is marinated in rice wine vinegar and coconut aminos, so really—what more could you ask for?! But seriously. These are startlingly easy, they just require some prep time. Make them!! Be a proud parent of your sushi roll-lets. They’re adorable, and delicious. And your cats might be interested in them too…

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Um, Nosh?? You’re casting a shadow..
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hahahhaha. These are sanitary, I promise!

Forbidden Rice Sushi

Makes approximately 6 rolls—I had a nori packet with 7 sheets but I was only feeding three, so I made 6 and we ate the leftover nori sheet plain. I had a bit of leftover quinoa and made a roll that was combined rice/quinoa—also delicious!

  • 1 c Forbidden (black) rice
  • 2 c water
  • 2 Persian cucumbers, sliced very thinly
  • 1 large avocado
  • 3 chicken breasts, defrosted
  • 2 tbsp coconut aminos
  • 3 tbsp seasoned rice wine vinegar+3 tsp (approx)
  • 2 tsp refined coconut oil
  • toasted nori sheets
  • sushi mat for rolling
  • extra sharp serrated knife
  • Bragg’s liquid aminos or soy sauce for dipping

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Sometime earlier in the day (so that your rice has time to cool), make yo’ rice! Bring 2 c of water to a boil in a medium saucepan, then add rice and stir once or twice before covering and reducing to a simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes, until the rice is still a little chewy and the water has been absorbed. Once rice is done, season it with a bit of salt and about 3ish tsp of rice wine vinegar. Let sit until fully cooled.

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Combine coconut aminos, rice wine vinegar, and a bit of water in a bowl (I approximate the measurements, so taste before you toss in the chicken). Prep chicken by cutting it into thin strips, and let marinate while the pan is heating. Heat coconut oil in a skillet over medium heat—when hot, toss in chicken and cook until chicken is fully cooked, with none of that pink business going on. Let it cool a bit while you prep the other roll ingredients.

Slice avocado and cucumber into thin strips. Place a piece of nori (rough side up) on your sushi mat. Spread rice evenly across the lower 3/4 of the nori, leaving the edge farthest from you rice-free. Lay strips of cucumber, avocado, and chicken across the middle of the rice, and begin rolling from the side closest to you. I found it easiest to guide the roll by rolling the mat back on itself as I began to compress the roll. Wet the far end of the nori with a bit of water so that the roll will stick together once it’s completed. Use the mat to tighten the roll, then let it rest on it’s seam for a minute before cutting. Use a very sharp, serrated knife to cut the rolls, wetting it each time you cut a new roll.

Roll, repeat, roll, repeat!

Obviously there are lots of ways to customize this—I made some veggie rolls and some with chicken, but the chicken ended up being my fave! Roll to your heart’s content, then slice and serve. I ate mine with a bit of Bragg’s liquid aminos for dipping. These best the day they’re made, but would probably keep fairly well in the fridge for a day or so.

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Lightning-fast mooching abilities and other skills

Mmm. Kebabs.

Why is it way more fun to eat things on sticks? Is it some kind of childish relapse I’m having? I doubt it, considering I hated (no wait, loathed is waaay more accurate) corndogs as a child. Which is like the quintessential kid-food-on-a-stick. Gross. I STILL think they’re gross. Probably even more now than I did. Anywayyy. There’s something about eating chicken on a skewer which makes it waaay more fun than just eating chicken. Boooring.

Besides, then when you’re finished, you can poke your dinner partners with your skewers. Muahahhaa.

Not that I would ever do such a thing…

You know what that makes me think of?! The Mooch Fork!!! I WANT one of these: they’re basically a telescoping fork that can be used for swiping choice bits of food off of your unsuspecting dinner companion’s plates!! What a genius idea. They take poaching to an entire new level. No longer will I have to do one of these: “WAIT! Ohmygosh there’s a METEOR outside, look look look!!” *semi-spastically points out the window while simultaneously gesticulating wildly and sneakily swiping bread or whatever while no one is looking*. Oh no. With a mooch fork, I could just telescope away. No one would able to stop my lightning speed mooching. It might also be useful in the grocery store around the holidays—perhaps to fend off those crazies who try to steal the last can of pumpkin (long range poking might come in handy, you never know…). Does anyone know where to get one of these?! Because I want one, pleaseandthankyou.

Anyway. Food on a stick.

These kebabs are deceptively simple. All they really require is a bit of advance planning and some time. But they make a fab change from everyday chicken…AND you get to play with your food! Winning all around.

uh huh. MOOCHING

Caribbean Chicken Skewers

My family usually makes 6 skewers, so 2 per person. We use wooden skewers that we soak for at least an hour beforehand (to prevent them from burning), with 4 sticks per person (if you use two sticks per kebab, the meat can be flipped evenly on the grill without sliding around…does that make sense?!). I’ll include the amount of food we use for 3 people, so adjust according to your needs.

The marinade recipe is from The Cooks Illustrated Guide to Grilling and BBQ, and is delicious. It makes more than we need, so we’ll usually save some.

Whatcha need:

  • enough skewers to feed your peeps
  • 2 large or 3 smallish chicken breasts, defrosted and cut into chunks
  • 2 large bell peppers (I used one red and one purple), cut into chunks
  • 1 onion, sliced into skewer-able pieces
  • 2 apples, cut into chunks
  • mushrooms, halved
  • zucchini is good too, if you have it!

Marinade:

  • 1/2 c good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon

Whisk all ingredients together in a small bowl.

About an hour before, soak the skewers in water.

Heat the grill to about 500 (ish), enough to get a sear on the meat.

Defrost the chicken, and cut into smallish cubes. Let it sit in the marinade for at least a half an hour, preferably an hour for the best flavor (although that never happens around here). While meat is marinating, cut up veggies so you’re all ready for blastoff…

Once meat has sat for a bit, thread the meat and veggies onto the skewers, alternating so they look pretty! Use two skewers, as I said before, so that you can rotate the meat on the grill without it just spinning on the skewer. Grill for 2 minutes per side, uncovered, rotating the kebabs a quarter turn every 2 minutes, until meat is fully cooked and meat/veggies/fruit are lightly browned (about 8 minutes total for white meat). Remove when there is no pink at the center and the meat is opaque. Serve immediately! I like mine with a sweet potato and mo’ veggies on the side :)

Boatloads of rain? Make mountains of curry!

mountains of curry in exchange for boatloads of rain!

The best way to combat boatloads of rain?

Make boatloads of curry!

Since Salem and the Willamette Valley are in the process of attempting to become the new Atlantis and submerge completely under water, we’ve had (by some estimates) about 6 inches of rain in the last 57 hours. Apparently the weather gods have gone completely nuts… there are creeks flooding all over the place, and according to the Statesman Journal, this is a once every hundred year occurrence, where the Willamette River rises about 30 feet. Excellent. At least I live on the second floor… Perhaps I should start constructing an ark? I’ve rather resigned myself to being damp for the foreseeable future. Forget about wet feet, I’ve been damp all over for about 4 days! Yeeesh.

Anyway, because I didn’t work today (the kiddies at Bush Elementary, where I work, got sent home due to extreme weather) I ended up with a strange amount of free time. And a headache. Which meant that I wanted nothing to do with my thesis. Consequently… baking/cooking explosion! Why would I spend the afternoon doing anything else when it’s beyond nasty outside? Right. That’s what I thought too.

Which means that mega dinner happened. Because boatloads of rain calls for boatloads of curry! And because curry is spicy, sweet, and warming all at the same time: a good thing to consume when it’s semi-monsooning outside. And then flatbreads. And cookies. I wasn’t just going to make curry, with no accoutrements, now was I?! How boring. I am now feeling quite productive and refreshed. And full. (I would perhaps like to digest just a wee bit faster… I want cookies!)

So. Without further babble, here is tonight’s din din! Deeeelicious. Go make yourself some. I would invite you over to eat some of mine (since Kira and I will now be eating curry for the next million years, hahah oops. I made a lot!), except you might have to locate a boat to come see me… maybe paddle upriver like a salmon?

curry isn't curry without a HUGE BLOB of chutney

Mega-ton of Chicken Coconut Curry, with Oregano-Yogurt Flatbread

Curry adapted from the blog Including Cake, here! Flatbread recipe adapted from here! This makes… a lot of curry. Which is a good thing! Helloooo, leftovers! And look how good it is for you! Lots of beta carotene from the sweet potatoes and orange pepper, and garbanzo beans are high in fiber, antioxidants, and minerals like molybdenum and manganese. Plus coconut is good for you on all levels :)

For the curry:

  • 1 large, 1 small (or 2 medium) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into small pieces
  • 1/2 a large onion, diced
  • 2 tbsp Madras curry powder (only the best!)
  • 1 orange bell pepper, sliced (or whatever color you have)
  • 1 can of chickpeas, rinsed
  • 1 can of light coconut milk
  • cornstarch mixed with water, if needed to thicken
  • cooked chicken (if you want. I added a broiled chicken breast to mine for extra protein)
  • I would have added spinach, if I’d had any! Next time :)

Heat olive oil in a saute pan over medium high heat. Add onion, cooking for a few minutes until soft. Add curry powder, stirring to combine. Cook for a minute more. Toss in sweet potato chunks, bell pepper, chickpeas, and coconut milk! Simmer for about 15 minutes. At this point, add cornstarch if not thick enough for your taste. I tossed in my chicken pieces and let it simmer for about 5 more minutes. Serve hot, over flat bread, naan, or rice. And be sure to top it generously with shredded coconut (if you like that sort of thing), and mango chutney. I like me some spicyyyy curry!

Oregano Yogurt Flatbreads

I made half the recipe, which yielded 4 cute little breads. I would definitely make the whole recipe if not cooking this for just two people, so I’ll include the full measures here. I also used oregano tonight, but any spice is fine! It appealed to my olfactory sensibilities tonight :) AND it went well with the curry, bonus!

  • 1.5 c whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2.5 tsp herbs of choice (I used oregano)
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 3/4 c yogurt (I used nonfat plain, not greek, as it was what I had on hand)
  • a bit of canola oil, for cooking

Whisk together flour, herb of choice, baking powder, salt, and baking soda. Add in yogurt, and stir to combine. The dough will be shaggy-ish, so add a little yogurt if it looks to dry. Mine seemed fine with the amount given, but I might make it again, and see what happens with a bit more. I found my breads to have a nice consistency as is.

Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface until it holds together and is not sticky. Divide it into the number of breads you want, and roll it into balls. Using a rolling pin, roll out the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.

Swirl a bit of canola oil in the bottom of a nonstick skillet. When the oil is hot, plop the flattened dough into the pan, and cook until golden brown on each side. Serve hot, preferably with a mountain of curry!

Best dinner for a rainy day/week!