Day 60 – Recipe: Jackfruit Thai Curry with Bell Peppers and Cashews (vegan, gluten-free, corn-free)

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The first (and only time) I’ve ever had Jackfruit was at a little vegan restaurant in Los Angeles called Pure Luck. I read on Yelp that it is now closed, which is unfortunate because that place was such a find. Their entire menu was built around jackfruit, they didn’t have any soy or fake meats, just jackfruit (Just Jack! fruit LOL). I think I had some kind of BBQ jackfruit sandwich… I don’t remember exactly what it was but I know it was delicious.

I started looking for Jackfruit recipes online last week because I’d remembered seeing cans of it at the Asian market. The first recipe to catch my eye came up on about.com, Jackfruit Curry with Bell Peppers, Cashews and Lime Leaf, by Darlene Schmidt. Even though I’m not a huge fan of bell peppers I decided to go for it. I’ve made a few of Darlene’s recipes before and they were all amazing, I figured this one would be too.

So I went to Lee Lee’s Market looking for cans of “jackfuit in water or brine” (which I really thought I’d seen there) and all I could find was “jackfruit in syrup”, which wasn’t the right kind. So I went to the frozen section and after 10 minutes of looking I finally found frozen jackfruit (why is it so difficult to find anything at Asian markets?!). But I found both green jackfuit and ripe jackfruit, and unfortunately had a brain fart and couldn’t remember which one I was supposed to buy so I grabbed the ripe jackfruit. Wrong one. This is why I ended up at the store again the next day, to return the ripe jackfruit and get the correct one. This is what I finally ended up with:

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Completely frozen solid. I put it in hot water to defrost and it was fine after 30 minutes. I ended up using 2 packages because it didn’t seem like there was much fruit in one package. So here is the recipe I followed, it is slightly different from Darlene’s only because I couldn’t find vegetarian fish sauce, but nevertheless it turned out absolutely delicious. I will definitely make this again. I don’t know if it was the brand of jackfuit I used or what but it was different than I’d remembered. This time the texture was more like a canned artichoke heart or hearts of palm, and kind of tasted like that too… but it was still really good.

Jackfruit Curry with Bell Peppers and Cashews

  • 2 packages frozen jackfruit, preferably unripe/green, OR 2 cans prepared jackfruit in water or brine (not syrup), drained

  • 1 large yellow onion, cut into 12 wedges

  • 1 large green bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped/sliced

  • 1 large red bell pepper, de-seeded and chopped/sliced

  • 5 dried black mushrooms, soaked in water for 2 hours to rehydrate then drained, thinly sliced

  • 1 cup dry roasted (unsalted) cashews

  • 1 can coconut milk

  • generous handful of fresh basil for garnish

  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil for stir-frying

  • white wine (or white cooking wine) for stir-frying

PASTE:

  • 3 large green onions (or 6 small), sliced thin

  • 2 fresh red chilies (or more if you want it ultra spicy), sliced thin

  • 8 whole lime leaves, fresh or frozen, snipped into tiny strips

  • 8 cloves garlic, minced

  • 1 Tbsp lime juice

  • 2 Tbsp coconut aminos

  • 1 Tbsp dulse, snipped into flakes

  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves

  • 2 Tbsp coconut oil

  • 4 Tbsp tamari sauce

  • 1 Tbsp coconut sugar

PREPARATION

  1. First, prepare the curry paste. Place all paste ingredients together in a food processor or mini-chopper and process well. Lime Leaf Tip: Prepare the lime leaves using kitchen scissors to cut out (and discard) the hard central stem. If lime leaves are frozen, you can quickly thaw them by running under some hot water. Set paste aside.

  2. Cut jackfruit into desired bite size pieces, either in strips or cubes/chunks (as you would with chicken). Set aside.

  3. Place 2 Tbsp. oil in a wok or deep frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and stir-fry 3 minutes. Add a little of the wine (1/2 to 1 Tbsp. at a time) instead of more oil whenever wok/pan becomes dry.

  4. Add the bell peppers. Continue stir-frying another 3 minutes, or until peppers have softened and turned bright in color. Again, add a little wine when wok/pan becomes dry to keep ingredients frying nicely.

  5. Add the green jackfuit and black mushrooms. Stir-fry another 3 minutes and add wine for stir-frying if needed.

  6. Add the paste you made earlier, plus the coconut milk. Stir well to combine.

  7. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low, allowing curry to gently simmer 2-3 minutes, or until ingredients are nicely cooked, but not overcooked. Tip: Try not to overcook this curry, or you will lose the fragrance and taste of the paste.

  8. Just before serving, add the cashews, gently stirring them in. Now do a taste-test, looking for a balance of salty, sour, sweet and spicy. If not salty enough, add more tamari, or a little salt. If too salty for your taste, add another squeeze of lime/lemon juice. If not spicy enough, add more fresh chili. If too spicy, add a little more coconut milk. Add a little more sugar if too sour.

  9. To serve, either portion out in bowls or on plates, or ladle the curry into a serving dish. Sprinkle with generous amounts of fresh basil, and serve with brown rice or quinoa. ENJOY!

Serves 4 – 6, depending on how much they like curry!

 

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Day 59 – Eggplant revisited. A much better recipe: Hot & Sour Eggplant Stir-Fry

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Okay I know this looks pretty much the same as yesterday but it’s not, it’s so much better! I don’t usually make the same thing 2 days in a row but circumstances led me back to the Asian market today and for whatever reason I decided to try this again. Yesterday it was good, but the eggplant didn’t cook down enough so it wasn’t really that good. After looking at some other recipes on the internet, I made some adjustments and this time it turned out fantastic. I could eat the entire pan… and I’m not even that hungry! I renamed it Hot & Sour because today it tasted more hot and sour than sweet and spicy… I don’t really know why, I used pretty much the same ingredients.

But anyways if you’re looking at this now and craving eggplant, don’t make yesterday’s recipe make this one! It took a little longer but it was worth it. Oh and “mushroom broth” isn’t really a broth, it’s the liquid leftover from soaking dried black mushrooms. I only used it because I had some leftover in the fridge and I wanted more sauce. You can substitute vegetable broth or water, or just omit it completely if you want less sauce.

Hot & Sour Eggplant Stir-Fry

  • 1.5 lbs Japanese Eggplant (about 3 medium)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4.5 T tamari
  • 3 T coconut sugar
  • 3 T brown rice vinegar
  • 3 T mushroom broth (or vegetable broth or water)
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 inch fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 fresh red Thai chilies, thinly sliced
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 T arrowroot powder
  • 1 T filtered water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Place cubed eggplant in a colander and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Toss. Let stand 30 minutes. Rinse thoroughly and drain on paper towels.

Heat 2 T coconut oil in a wok over medium high heat til hot. Add half of the eggplant cubes and stir-fry until eggplant becomes very soft and turns semi-translucent and green-ish in color, 10 to 15 minutes. Remove cooked eggplant and set aside. Add more oil to the wok and repeat with the rest of the eggplant. Remove and set aside.

While the eggplant is cooking, in a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together tamari, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, mushroom broth and sesame oil. This is the sauce. Set aside.

Add a little more oil to the wok and throw in the red pepper slices. Stir-fry 5 minutes til slightly carmelized and remove.

Add a little more oil to the wok and toss in garlic, ginger, red chilies and green onion. Stir-fry 1 minute until fragrant, then pour the sauce into the wok. Stir well. Carefully mix in eggplant and peppers and stir well.

Turn the heat up to high and bring the sauce to a boil. While the sauce is heating, whisk the arrowroot powder with 1 T filtered water in a small bowl. Pour the arrowroot slurry into the boiling sauce and stir well to combine. Immediately turn heat to low once the sauce has thickened (it will thicken very quickly) and stir to coat vegetables evenly in the thickened sauce. Throw in half of the basil leaves and stir to combine.

Remove from heat and serve over brown rice or quinoa. Garnish with sesame seeds and the rest of the basil. Enjoy!

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So it’s kind of the same recipe but the technique is different. I think cooking the eggplant in 2 batches really helps to ensure it will end up tender. I also felt that the peppers tasted better when stir-fried separately. All in all, this is the better recipe. See for yourself!

 

 

Day 58 – Recipe: Sweet and Spicy Eggplant Stir Fry (Vegan, Gluten-free, Corn-free)

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I can’t believe it’s been almost 2 weeks since I’ve written a post! Woops, it really didn’t seem like that long. I do have an excuse though, I went to visit my parents in Sedona for 10 days and took a break. I did cook a lot, but I didn’t make anything new. I don’t mind trying new recipes for my boyfriend and I in my own home but for whatever reason I didn’t want to make anything new for my parents that might have potentially sucked. So I made a few of my favorite dishes from the past couples months, including M Cafe’s Kale Salad, M Cafe’s Quinoa Salad, Indian Roasted Cauliflower and Potatoes, and the Moroccan Carrot and Chickpea Tagine I made a couple weeks ago. I added some fresh apricots to the Tagine this time and it was so good, I’m doing that from now on.

Now I’m back home and back to experimenting. As the weeks have gone by I’m finding it harder to stay excited about this diet, so I’m constantly looking for recipes that excite me. While I was away I found a bunch of great looking new recipes, including this one from the Shiksa in the Kitchen, Sweet and Sour Eggplant. I changed a few things and the sauce turned out amazing, however I cooked the eggplant according to her recipe and it just didn’t cook down enough. Next time I make this I will cut the eggplant smaller and cook it in the wok a lot longer. So this is what I did and also what I will do in the future to make this dish perfect:

Sweet and Spicy Chinese Eggplant Stir Fry

  • 1.5 lbs Chinese or Japanese Eggplant (about 2 large)
  • 1 large red bell pepper, quartered and thinly sliced
  • 4.5 T Tamari
  • 3 T coconut sugar
  • 3 T brown rice vinegar
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 T fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 2 fresh red Thai chilies, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • 1 T arrowroot powder
  • 2 T filtered water
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh Thai basil
  • sesame seeds for garnish

Cut eggplant into 1/2 inch cubes. Place cubed eggplant in a single layer on a cutting board and sprinkle generously with sea salt. Let stand 30 minutes.

Thoroughly rinse salt off eggplant in a colander, then pat dry.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together tamari, rice vinegar, coconut sugar, garlic, ginger, red chilies, and sesame oil. Reserve.

In another small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together arrowroot powder and 2 T filtered water. Pour into reserved sauce and whisk til well combined.

Heat coconut oil in a wok over medium high heat til hot. Add eggplant cubes and stir fry until eggplant gets very soft and begins to fall apart, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add the red pepper slices and continue to stir fry 5 more minutes.

Pour the reserved sauce over the eggplant and peppers, and stir until veggies are evenly coated. Mix in half of the basil leaves. Bring sauce to a boil then reduce heat and continue to stir until sauce thickens, about a minute.

Remove from heat and serve over brown rice or quinoa. Garnish with sesame seeds and the rest of the basil. Enjoy!

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Yum! Better for you than at your local Chinese restaurant. And much less oily.

 

 

 

Day 17 – Vegan Thai Green Curry, with fresh curry paste

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A couple months ago I was looking for a Thai Curry recipe that included an authentic paste from scratch. I found this recipe by Darlene Schmidt at About.com, here ,  it took quite a bit of time but it was fantastic. I doubled the recipe and we ate it for a week.

I decided to make it again because I finally came across some fresh Kaffir Lime Leaves at the Asian market. Last time I went to 3 different stores, driving myself crazy cause I couldn’t find them anywhere, fresh or frozen. It was a little ridiculous. I ended up using fresh lime juice instead and it worked just as well.

Last time I made it with fish sauce, but this time I wanted to make it vegan so I used a mix of Coconut Aminos and Bragg’s Liquid Aminos. It didn’t turn out as sweet, but it was still really good. I put 3 chilis in it too so it was reeeeeaaaaaalllly spicy, next time I will probably only use 2.

These are the changes I made, I don’t take any credit for this recipe though. I also changed the prep and cook times, cause it literally took me 2 hours to make this (I might be a slow chopper, who knows). I also found that it takes much longer to cook the yams than she says:

Vegetarian Thai Green Curry (Vegan/Gluten-free)

Prep Time: 50 minutes

Cook Time: 50 minutes

Total Time: 1 hour, 40 minutes

Yield: SERVES 3-4

Ingredients:

  • GREEN CURRY PASTE:
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, sliced finely and minced
  • 2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 3.5 T Coconut Aminos
  • 2 – 3 tsp. coconut sugar (to taste)
  • 1 – 3 green chilies, minced (to taste, 1=mild, 2=medium, 3=spicy)
  • 1 small yellow onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 thumb-size piece galangal OR ginger, sliced
  • 2 kaffir lime leaves (fresh or frozen), snipped into thin strips with scissors, OR substitute 1 T fresh lime juice
  • 1 loose cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and stems
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil
  • 1 T Bragg’s Liquid Aminos

OTHER:

  • 2 kaffir lime leaves, OR substitute 1 bay leaf
  • 1 can good-quality coconut milk
  • 1 cup vegetable broth
  • 1 can unsalted garbanzo beans, drained
  • 1 small yam or sweet potato, cut into small cubes
  • 10 baby carrots, each cut into 4 pieces
  • 1 crown broccoli
  • large handful fresh baby spinach
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, roughly chopped
  • 2 T coconut oil for frying

Preparation:

  1. To make the green curry paste, place all paste ingredients in a food processor. Process well.

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  1. Place coconut oil in wok or deep frying pan. Turn heat on medium-high and add paste. Stir-fry until fragrant (about 1 minute), then add the coconut milk. Add Garbanzo Beans and stir to combine.
  2. Add lime leaves then reduce heat to medium-low. Cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes.
  3. Add yam/sweet potato and carrots. Add up to vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer 25 min, or until yam is soft enough to pierce with a fork.
  4. Add Broccoli. Cover again and simmer 10 minutes.
  5. Add Spinach, stir and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes, or until spinach is wilted.
  6. Do a taste test for salt and spice. If not salty enough, add up to 2 Tbsp. more Bragg’s, soy sauce, or sea salt. If too salty, add a little fresh lime or lemon juice. If too spicy, add more coconut milk until desired taste is reached.
  7. To serve, transfer to a large serving bowl or plate up individual portions. Sprinkle generously with fresh basil. Accompany your curry with Brown rice or quinoa. Enjoy!

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I know the numbers got kind of messed up but I couldn’t fix it once I put the photo in. Ah well. Above I threw in 1/2 of a red bell pepper and 1/2 of a green bell pepper, just cause I had them laying around and didn’t want them to go bad. There ended up being so many vegetables in it that I didn’t have room to put in the spinach, but I included the spinach in the recipe cause I made it with spinach last time and really liked it. You can change up the vegetables to whatever you like too, this is just what we like. You also don’t have to throw in the vegetable broth, but I like lots of sauce so that’s why I used it. I ate mine with quinoa but I also made brown rice for my boyfriend, as pictured – just making more work for myself, as usual.

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Note: Woops just realized I used coconut sugar, not brown sugar. If you haven’t tried coconut sugar, it’s granulated and just as rich as brown sugar, but way better for you!

Day 10 – Zucchini Pad Thai, Sort of

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Pad Thai is one of my absolute FAVORITE things. If I was on Death Row and was given a choice for my last meal, I would ask for Pad Thai. I was actually getting quite good at making it right before I went on this diet. But now that I am not really supposed to eat meat, rice, soy, processed sugar, eggs, or fish sauce, the recipe I was getting good at is not going to work for me anymore.

While looking at other blogs and sites, I came across a few recipes for Raw Pad Thai made with zucchini noodles. I decided I’d try to make a cooked version with zucchini and a more authentic sauce. It’s not the perfect recipe. The zucchini didn’t quite soak up the sauce like I’d hoped it would, it was super runny so I added some arrowroot powder to thicken it and put the whole thing over quinoa. It definitely wasn’t Pad Thai, but it still tasted really good and was kind of like a Pad Thai Stir-Fry. I followed this recipe here, http://thaifood.about.com/od/vegetarianthairecipes/r/padthaiveg.htm but changed a few things to fit my needs better.

Ingredients

  • 8 oz. zucchini noodles from 2-3 zucchinis
  • 4 green onions, white parts sliced and kept separate from green
  • 4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger
  • 1 fresh red or green thai chili, sliced
  • 2-3 cups bean sprouts
  • 1/3 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1/4 cup chopped unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
  • lime wedges for serving
  • 1 – 2 T coconut oil for stir- frying
  • 1 T arrowroot powder (or corn starch)

     PAD THAI SAUCE:

  • 1 T tamarind paste
  • 1/4 cup vegetable stock
  • 3 T coconut aminos (or tamari)
  • 1 tsp chili sauce (sambal)
  • 3 T coconut sugar
  • 1/8 tsp. ground black pepper

Directions

  • Make zucchini noodles. I used a Benriner slicer that my boyfriend found at a garage sale for $2. You can also use a mandolin or a vegetable peeler that makes ribbon slices.

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  • If you bought a block of seedless tamarind paste, you will need to strain the pod pieces out before cooking or you will have large chunks of pod in your sauce.  Heat a 2-inch chunk of paste in a small pot with 1/4 inch of water and simmer until paste is soft, about 5 minutes. Push softened paste through a mesh strainer. The paste will stick to the back of the strainer. Push and scrape strained paste off the back until you have at least 1 tablespoon usable paste.
  • Combine ‘pad Thai sauce’ ingredients in a cup, use a small whisk or fork to dissolve the paste and coconut sugar. Note that this sauce should have a very STRONG-tasting flavor that tastes sour-sweet first, followed by salty and spicy. Set aside.
  • Make sure all of your ingredients are chopped and ready before you start cooking
  • Warm a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add 2 T coconut oil plus the white parts of the green onion (reserve the rest for serving), garlic, ginger, and Thai chili. Stir-fry 1 minute to release the fragrance.
  • Add zucchini noodles and 1/3 of the sauce. Stir-fry everything together 1-2 minutes using tongs and gently toss. Keep adding sauce and continue stir-frying in this way 2 more minutes.
  • Make a slurry with 1 T arrowroot powder and 1 T cold water. Add to the sauce and bring to a boil, stirring constantly til sauce has thickened.
  • Switch off heat and add the bean sprouts, folding them into the zucchini noodles. Taste-test, adding more aminos for more salt/flavor. If too salty or sweet for your taste, add a good squeeze of lime juice. If too sour, sprinkle over a little more sugar. Serve immediately over rice or quinoa. Sprinkle with reserved green onion, cilantro, and ground nuts. Add wedges of fresh-cut lime on the side.  (Thai chili sauce can also be served on the side for those who likes their noodles extra spicy). Enjoy!

It sounds harder than it is, the most labor intensive part is the chopping. And scraping the tamarind paste. If you find thin tamarind paste you will not have to do this part, but I could only find the seedless block at the Asian market.  This will serve 2- 3 people. As I said before,  it’s not quite Pad Thai, but it’s really tasty.