Monday, December 28, 2009

Gourmet Gin is Simmering a Pot of Tom Yum Soup

I am surrounded by people with the flu, people with Mono (for over an entire YEAR) people that are now on their second cold, people that are plagued with allergies, people who claim their immune systems are "just out of whack" and then there is me.

I happy, healthy, smiling merrily on my way.  Well, I might not be smiling "merrily" on my way, because I am the one taking care of all these people. (Which explains my lack of blogging.  Well, that and the fact that I have a new camera that might take me all of 2010 to learn how to use!)

This brings me to the topic of the day.  Tom Yum Soup.  Tom Yum Soup is being studied has you read this blog for it's ability to boost your immune system.  It is thought that the soup can fight cold and flu viruses and quite possibly cancer.   I really can't say enough on how scrumptious this soup is.  Here is my recipe, but there are one hundred different ways to prepare Tom Yum Soup.

Gin's Tom Yum Soup Recipe

•4 cups good-tasting chicken stock (I used homemade)
•1 stalk lemongrass, minced, OR 3 Tbsp. frozen prepared lemongrass (available at Asian stores)
•3 kaffir lime leaves (available fresh or frozen at Asian stores)
•10 cloves garlic, minced
•1-2 red chilies, finely sliced, and 1 teaspoon dried crushed chili
•3 Tbsp. fish sauce (available at all Asian/Chinese food stores and some supermarket chains)
•12 medium raw shrimp, shells removed
•1/2 cup coconut milk (more to your taste)
• 2 packages of ramen noodles, spice packets saved for another day
• fresh limes
• fresh cilantro 
•optional: extra vegetables of your choice (I put none in this batch because of Mr. Picky Head) 
(1.)Pour stock into a deep cooking pot and bring to a boil.  (2.)  Add the lemongrass and boil for 1-2 minutes. If using fresh lemongrass, also add the tops of the stalks for extra flavor.  (3.)Add garlic, chili, lime leaves and Ramen Noodles. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until Ramen is cooked.  (4.)  Add the shrimp (plus other vegetables if using). Simmer 3-4 minutes, or until shrimp is pink and plump.  (5.) Reduce heat to medium-low and add the coconut milk plus fish sauce and lime juice. Stir well to combine and gently simmer until hot. Test the soup for salt and spice and adjust to your taste.  (6.)  Serve in bowls with fresh cilantro and lime slices. For an extra hit of spicy add some Thai chili sauce.  (7.)  ENJOY!
I have to tell you that this soup isn't worth making without the kaffir lime leaves.  These leaves are a little bigger than bay leaves and have such an unique smoky flavor.  I am in search of other recipes that would use kaffir lime leaves.  They are extremely hard to find unless you are "lucky" enough to live by Jungle Jims in which case you just walk in and get yourself a little pack. I did find out that you can order these leaves on Amazon.  They would be well worth the hassle and you can freeze them for future use. 
A wise man (my favorite Sushi Chef) recently told me that Tom Yum Soup is also thought to bring luck to one's life.  I am adding to my New Year's Day menu along with my Peppered Black-eyed Pea Salad.  Food traditions are so much fun and it is a way to get picky eaters to at least try one BITE!
I am wishing everybody the best 2010 EVER!

Now, on to my new obsession which is Bento Box Lunches. Who is in?

Stay tuned for a blog post brought to you by Red Gold Tomatoes.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A Breakfast Bowl for Champions Served to You by Gourmet Gin

When it comes to breakfast (brunch) I tend to take many chances with my family's menu.  My culinary inventiveness (actually it is just a desire to use all leftovers) trumps traditional breakfast fare on most days.

This week, for some odd reason, we had fresh delicious corn on the cob at the market.  Go figure, I have never seen it in December EVER!!  It has been nice here (Cincinnati) so I fired up my grill.  I treated my family to a summer dinner of steak, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes.

I am using family loosely here because my oldest son is away at college, and my senior in high school has a job, a girlfriend, and a schedule that on most days has me feeding him separate.  This has been hard because family dinners have been an important tradition through the years to me and my husband.  Times change, and I am going to change with them.

 I can see that I am really going to have to practice cooking for two!  I had several ears of corn left and there was no way I was going to let those go to waste.

The breakfast bowl consist of my 2 packets of low fat Ramen Noodles, fresh corn on the cob, fried egg, spicy relish and fresh limes.

Gin's Spicy Relish

4 jalapeno peppers, thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil

(1) Mix all ingredients and let marinate  for 1/2 hour.  (2) Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, add oil and then sear remaining ingredients for 4 to 5 minutes stirring frequently.  (3)  ENJOY!

I use this relish on just about everything.  I love it, guess who doesn't?

That's right, Mr. Picky Head.  Imagine that??  His loss!  While I am enjoying perfectly cooked fish with a spicy topping, he is just eating fish.  While I am enjoying a taco with an additional fresh topping,  he is eating the same old "boring" taco.  (I think I will stop here since he is helping me with the purchase of a new camera!)

I divided the Ramen Noodles in three bowls and topped mine with the spicy relish, corn, fried egg and fresh lime slices.  The other two bowls were topped with corn and fried egg.  Why?  Mr. Picky Lucas Head is his father's son.

They are two picky peas in a pod.  The apple doesn't fall far from the tree.  Here the two are at a picture taking event at his girlfriend's (Betsy) house for senior Homecoming. Betsy's Mother ( in the background) was kind enough to host this event at her house.

This dish is perfect anytime of the day.  I want to serve it with poached eggs, but I am terrible at this process!  The relish gives it just enough kick to get your taste buds going and the lime adds a subtle fresh flavor.

So go ahead, dare to serve this "different" breakfast to your family.  Hopefully you don't have Picky Heads in your house!!


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

One Potato, Two Potato, Sweet Potatoes Galore. . . .

Everybody in the Cincinnati area is talking about White Castle Sweet Potato Fries. . . .

If you want to read my take on them go here, if not continue on for a tradition of sweet potato fries inspired by healthy eating.

Gin's Baked Sweet Potato Fries

3 medium sweet potatoes
Chinese Five Spice, to taste
Salt and Pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon Virgin Olive Oil

(1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Put your baking pan in oven to also preheat.  (2) Peel and slice sweet potatoes in thick fries. (3)  Coat fries in olive oil.  Mix fries with Chinese Five Spice, salt and pepper.  (4)  Remove heated baking pan and spray with cooking spray and add fries in a single layer.  (5)  Cook until tender crisp (for my oven it was 25 minutes) and then turn broiler on and brown fries for 3 minutes each side.  (6)  ENJOY!

This cooking method is "perfect" for sweet potato fries.  They are tender crisp and quite fresh and mouth watering.  You lose none of the outstanding nutritional value that sweet potatoes offer and they are a great value for your grocery dollar.   What more could you ask for? A dipping sauce?  The combination of the aromatic Chinese Five Spice, salt, pepper and olive oil has such a flavorful twist; you won't miss the dipping sauce. I promise!

These fries are a blank canvas for your culinary creativity and taste for different spices. You could coat them in a Spicy Stir Fry mix, an Oriental Blend, or a Hunan Sweet and Sour Blend.  Your spice cabinet is the limit!

Quite possibly you might like your sweet potatoes fried, and in that case if you have a White Castle in your area, I do suggest that you give them a try.