Creamy coconut rice with lentils and greens

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This is one of those oh-so-easy and fast, inexpensive, satisfying dishes that also has the “Wow!” factor to it. By “Wow!”  I mean a) you’re never going to find this pre-packaged in a bag on a store shelf, b) there’s a touch of the exotic and different, and c) your taste buds will be happy.

Ingredients

1 cup brown rice

1 (13 oz) can coconut milk

1 ½ tsp chili powder

¼ tsp nutmeg

1 tsp salt

¾ cup cooked brown lentils (about ½ can)

½ cup fresh or frozen and thawed green peas

1 – 1 ½  cup chopped leafy greens (kale, spinach, chard etc.)

¼ cup toasted cashews and/or unsweetened coconut (Optional but delicious and why deny yourself deliciousness when life is so short?) *

Coconut Rice Close

Directions

Put the rice in a small pot. Add 1 cup water, 1 cup coconut milk (save the rest of the milk for later in the recipe), the chili powder, nutmeg and salt. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then cover and simmer for about 15 minutes until the rice is fully cooked.  Don’t lift the lid on the pot. Just let the rice simmer. When the rice is cooked, add the rest of the coconut milk and stir together.

Mix the cooked and now creamy rice in a large bowl with the lentils, green peas and greens.

Serve immediately sprinkled with the toasted cashews and coconut.

Enjoy!

*To toast cashews and coconut, heat your oven (I use my toaster oven) to 425. Spread the cashews and coconut in an even layer on a baking sheet or even a piece of foil and toast for 4 minutes. Watch that the mix doesn’t burn, which can happen in a flash! Know thy oven and do NOT leave the kitchen while the nuts and coconut are toasting.

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Mango coconut quinoa

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This dish is so simple and easy yet tasty beyond belief. It has it all – chewy, crunchy, savoury, sweet and loaded with nutrients to fuel you through the day. It’s also one of my favourite lunches to tote to work.

Ingredients

1 cup uncooked quinoa

1 mango – peeled and diced

1 red pepper – diced

¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut

½ cup fresh or frozen edamame (let the edamame thaw if you use frozen)

1/3 cup almond slivers toasted

1/3 cup diced onion (red onion makes for a prettier salad)

The zest of two limes

¼ cup balsamic vinegar*

2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro (optional)

MangoQuinoaSaladClose.jpgDirections

Rinse and cook the quinoa in 2 cups of water. When the quinoa is cooked, fluff it with a fork and let it cool. You can do this step ahead of time – even the day before.

Toss all the ingredients together in a large bowl. I like to let the dish sit for an hour in the fridge to let the flavours blend before serving.

Makes 4 meal-size servings.

*I have a coconut balsamic vinegar that I used in this recipe. If you’re into flavoured vinegars, this is a great dish to experiment with some of the different flavours.

Cauliflower Chickpea Curry with Coconut and Sweet Potatoes

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Here’s a fragrant, flavourful curry that is just as delicious in summer as it is in winter. For winter cooking, I use frozen cauliflower, which is both affordable and appealing to lazy cooks like me.

There’s a little bit of chopping, a few cans to open and then all you have to do is let the curry cook itself. Easy!

Ingredients

1 Tbsp coconut or olive oil

1 onion diced

1-2 cloves garlic minced

1 red chili minced – see TIP below

1 Tbsp grated ginger root OR 1 teaspoon powdered ginger

1 Tbsp garam masala

½ Tbsp curry powder

1 ½ cups cooked chickpeas (that’s one 15 oz can drained and rinsed)

2 cups canned or boxed tomatoes (If you have any leftover tomatoes, just freeze them in a freezer bag).

1 sweet potato peeled and diced

2 cups cauliflower cut into florets

1 can coconut milk (397 ml or 13 oz)

1/3 cup vegetable broth (optional)

1-2 teaspoon salt (depending on your tomatoes and tastes)

1 cinnamon stick

1 lime leaf – see TIP below

1-2 cups chopped spinach – see TIP below

Directions

Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven. Add the garlic, chili, onion and grated ginger, if using. Sauté until the onion is soft. Add the garam masala and curry and powdered ginger if using and stir to coat the onion/garlic mix and let the spices heat through.

Add all the other ingredients except the spinach and stir to combine. Bring to a boil, and then reduce to a simmer. Let simmer for 40 minutes. Add the spinach in the last few minutes of cooking.

Fish out the lime leaf and cinnamon stick.

I love this dish served over rice, especially jasmine rice. Enjoy!

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TIP – This recipe is a study in foods you can keep in your freezer so you always have them handy.

I buy my red chilies in bulk and then freeze them in a freezer bag. They’ll last for months in the freezer and are much easier to mince or grate frozen than they are to chop fresh.

If you have leftover fresh spinach or kale, throw it into a freezer bag and store it in the freezer. When I need a cup or two of spinach/kale for a cooked recipe like this, I just crush the greens before adding them to my recipe. There’s no chopping involved and I always have greens on hand for soups, stews, even omelettes.

I buy my lime leaves at an Asian grocery. They come in a bag with a couple dozen leaves in them – far more than is ever needed for any one recipe. The grocer told me to freeze the leftover leaves and use them as needed. Works perfectly!

You can always store other leftover fresh herbs (Do you ever use a whole bunch of cilantro because I don’t!) in freezer bags and then use the frozen herbs as you would fresh ones in stews and sauces and even salad dressings. As with the spinach or kale, you won’t even need to chop – just crumble the frozen herbs. Frozen herbs do not work well as garnishes.

Chewy chocolate-coconut bites

ChocolateCoconut

If you like chewy, sweet coconut treats combined with chocolate, then this is the recipe for you! Taste, texture and the tropics come together for delicious vegan treat that’s quick and easy to make. The hardest part is waiting for the chocolate to set.

Ingredients

2 cups shredded, unsweetened coconut

¼ cup coconut oil, melted

¼ cup agave nectar

¼ teaspoon salt

1 cup vegan chocolate chips or other dark vegan chocolate (Remember to buy fair-trade chocolate. Child slavery should not be involved in a compassionate diet!)

Directions

Line a 9”x 5” dish or pan with wax paper.

In a blender or food processor (my ancient blender did the trick just fine), combine all the ingredients except the chocolate. Grind together until you have a chunky paste. This can take a couple minutes. You still want some coconut-y texture.

Spoon the mixture into your wax-paper-lined container, smooth it out and pop into the freezer to let it harden.

While the coconut mixture is cooling, get your double boiler ready for melting your chocolate.

I highly recommend the double boiler method over using the microwave since it’s waaaaay too easy to burn your chocolate in the microwave. I’ve done it. I’ve had chocolate so hot it’s eaten a hole in my microwave-safe dishes.

If you don’t have a double boiler, you can make one. Simply heat a couple inches of water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. You can switch the heat off or reduce to simmer when the water is boiling. Place your chocolate chips/pieces into a metal or heat-proof glass bowl that is big enough to sit on top of the saucepan of water (not in the water). Stir constantly as the chocolate melts.

When you chocolate is melted, pour it over the coconut mixture and smooth out. Return the dish to the fridge and let the chocolate harden. That takes about 1 hour.

If you can, cut into the chocolate coconut mix into squares, or just break cut into bite size pieces… I find a good-quality chocolate has so much snap, it will cut itself however it pleases.

Dig in and enjoy! Maybe even share.

Squash and coconut soup – spicy, exotic and velvety

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I receive a weekly produce box from a local farmers’ co-op. Every week is a surprise; we get whatever is in season and ready for harvest. As the season passes from June to November, we move from strawberries and rhubarb and endless lettuce to cabbages, apples, potatoes and squashes. And squashes. And squashes.

So, I made up a huge pot of this soup to share with my neighbours and to enjoy myself. The soup is flavourful and with a touch of heat from chilis. The coconut milk makes it velvety and creamy. I think this is the best soup I’ve ever made.

Ingredients

4 cups of uncooked yellow-fleshed squash – butternut, delicata, spaghetti, buttercup – whatever you have or prefer.

2 cups of peeled, diced sweet potato and carrots. I used 1 medium sweet potato and 2 carrots.

1 large white onion diced

2 cloves garlic minced

1 red chili pepper – minced but don’t remove the seeds; they provide nice heat

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon curry powder

½ teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Salt to taste

1 Tbsp maple syrup

1 can coconut milk (approximate 500 ml or 2 cups – it’s okay if it’s a bit more or less)

6 cups of vegetable broth

1 Tbsp olive oil or coconut oil

Directions

TIP: True to their name, delicata squash are delicate and don’t travel well so you probably won’t find them in a large grocery store. However, they are a wonderful, mild, thin-skinned squash that you can cook simply by removing the seeds – no peeling required.

To easily remove the flesh of other, firmer squashes, pierce the whole squash a few times with a knife (this allows steam to escape) and microwave the vegetable for 4 – 6 minutes. That should be enough to soften the squash and make it easy to cut open, deseed, peel and dice.

Sauté the onion, garlic and chili in the oil until just soft. Add the curry powder, ginger and cumin and stir through to heat the spices. Add the ground black pepper, broth, squash, carrot and sweet potato and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer for 30 minutes. You want all the vegetables soft enough that they will be blend-able. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.

Using an immersion blender or a regular blender, puree the vegetables and broth.

Once you have a smooth mixture, stir in the maple syrup and taste. Add salt if necessary. Add the coconut milk and stir.

Get a BIG bowl and a BIG spoon and enjoy!

This recipe makes about 9 cups of soup. Mmmm.

Thai one on – Coconut curry soup with noodles and tofu

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I love to Thai one on now and then and find that Thai cuisine is especially amenable to being veganized, if it’s not already vegan.

Here is a spicy, flavourful coconut yellow curry soup that’s a complete meal in a bowl thanks to my addition of tofu and glass (a/k/a bean thread) noodles.

The beautiful thing with this dish is that, because you make this soup from scratch, you can change it up any way you want. Make it hotter, spicier, veggier, no-carb-i-er – whatever suits you.

Here’s the version that suits me, closely adapted from The Thug Kitchen. This makes 3 pho-sized (i.e. very big) bowls of soup.

This recipe is easy to make and comes together quickly. You can be sitting down to a fragrant big bowl of coconut curry heaven in less time than it takes delivery food to arrive.

Ingredients

2 tsp coconut oil

½ large onion coarsely chopped

4 cloves garlic minced

1 large carrot cleaned and sliced in thin coins (I used a box grater’s slicing side)

1 yellow pepper coarsely chopped

1 cup broccoli florets cut into spoon-sized pieces

3-4 cremini mushrooms sliced

I packed cup spinach leaves

1 15oz can coconut milk (I use Arroyo-D)

4 cups vegetable broth

A thumb size piece of ginger root, peeled and grated (approx. 2 Tbsp)

2 Tbsp soya sauce or tamari

2 Tbsp sriracha or other hot sauce. Okay, I used that AND added two hot chilis but that’s just me

Juice of one lime

1 Tbsp yellow curry powder

2 Tbsp yellow curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand)

¼ cup fresh basil chopped – if you don’t have it, leave it out.

¼ cup fresh cilantro chopped – if you don’t like it, leave it out.

6 oz plain tofu, cut into cubes

2 bundles (about 4 oz) bean thread (a/ka/ glass) noodles. If you don’t have/want these, you could add 1 cup of cooked rice or 4 oz of cooked spaghetti (about 1 cup cooked) or just leave omit this starch component. You are going to add already-cooked noodles or rice to the pot, so in the case of the glass noodles – rehydrate them by soaking them in hot water for 5 minutes and drain.

If you had kaffir lime leaves, it’d be awesome to throw one or two in as the soup simmers.

Directions

In a large pot, saute the onion and garlic in the coconut oil until the onion is transluscent. If you are adding extra chilis, add them at this stage.

Add the carrot, pepper and mushrooms and saute for maybe a minute. Keep your veggies crisp because they will cook more in the broth.

Add the ginger, curry powder and curry paste and stir around to incorporate and let the spices get fragrant.. TIP – never use your curry powder in any dish without letting it have this cooking step. It will give your dish a finished flavour.

Add the broth, soya sauce, coconut milk, broccoli, basil and cilantro. Bring everything to a boil and then reduce to a simmer. Simmer for 3-5 minutes (depending on how mushy you want that broccoli). If you are using lime leaves, add them at this stage.

Add the lime juice, srirachi sauce, and spinach and stir in. Add the tofu and noodles. Let simmer one more minute to give the spinach time to wilt.

Remove the lime leaves. Taste and adjust flavours to suit yourself. Because I used homemade broth, my soup was not salty at all so I added more soya sauce.c

Black rice with coconut, fruit and pistachios – ooooh, mama this is good!

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I spotted a bag of black rice at the Asian supermarket near me, not having a clue what it was or what to do with it…. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Black rice is glutinous or sticky so it’s great for pudding-y type dishes. It’s loaded with antioxidants and has the essential amino acid lysine and tryptophan and vitamin B1, vitamin B2, folate acid and is a good source of minerals including iron, zinc, calcium and phosphorus.(from Wikipedia).

It’s also called purple rice or forbidden rice, and frankly, if I were the despotic ruler of ancient China, I would forbid anyone from eating this rice but me. But I’m not. So here’s my recipe for black rice with coconut milk, fruit and pistachios. Prepare to lose your mind over the deliciousness!

1 cup black rice
2 cups water
4 cardamom pods (or about 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom)
1 cinnamon stick (or about 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon)
Some sweetener – I used 1 Tbsp agave nectar, but you could use sugar and as much or little as you like.
A can coconut milk (optional)
1 mango peeled and diced
2 kiwis peeled and sliced
– Use any fruit you like, but I find the tropical fruits work nicely with the coconut… so would strawberry or raspberry though.
½ cup shelled pistachios

Rinse the rice then put it in a pot with the water. Add the spices and sweetener, stir and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce and simmer. Black rice takes a while – about 40 minutes. Patience – it’s worth it! Don’t keep lifting the lid on your rice pot… let it do its thing. The rice is done when the water is all absorbed… the rice will not be fluffy. It’ll be sticky when done. If you used cardamom pods and a cinnamon stick, fish them out and dispose.

When the rice has cooled, add a can of coconut milk. This is optional. The rice is good enough just as is, but the coconut milk adds delicious decadence that life requires, in my opinion.
Top with the diced mango and kiwi (I also added a few slices of cherry) and pistachio. Enjoy!!
The rice makes 4 servings.