Thursday, May 28, 2015

Cashew With Coconut Chicken

That sounds so mild and innocuous, doesn't it? IT'S NOT.

This all started when I wanted to make a special meal or three for Calmer Half. He loves Indian food. A Lot. So I picked up a cookbook called Indian Home Cooking that promised to simplify the ten thousand ingredients and 15 hours per dish into something Americans could cook for their South African husbands. (Sourcing some ingredients is still a challenge. "12 fresh or 16 frozen curry leaves? Arrrgh. Thank goodness I live in a city that has a Patel Brothers Import Grocery near the zoo....")

The first dish was a korma, and it was a great success! Yay!

Then I tried Murgh Kaju, or Coconut Chicken with cashews. My husband was in heaven. My stomach, after about the 8th bite, was trying to bodyslam me against the gates of hell, screaming "Why did you do this to me? WHY?" So my husband happily ate his bowl, my bowl, and heroically refrained from thirds in the name of diet while I fled the field with tums, ginger ale, and eventually giving up low-carb to see if ice cream might help.

If you have a higher spice tolerance than me, and you have a food processor to make it, enjoy!

Murgh Kaju

1 cup roasted cashews for grinding into a powder
1/4 cup roasted cashews for garnish
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut (Bob's red mill brand at Kroger's, down in the baking section by their rye flour and gluten-free mixes)
4 dried red chilis (I used 1/2 tablespoon of red pepper flakes, as I was sadly out of chilis for some strange reason, like NOT COOKING THINGS THIS SPICY)
1 inch piece of cinnamon stick
6 whole cloves
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
3 tablespoons coriander seeds (Which roll all over if you bump the spoon. Just saying.)
8 garlic cloves. (or 10. or 12, if they're small.)
2 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
1 medium onion, diced

1/3 cup canola oil (or coconut; you're looking for a high smoke point)
1 teaspoon black pepper

2-1/2 pounds chicken breast or thighs, sliced crosswise into sections
2 cups water
1 teaspoon salt, "or to taste"

Grind 1 cup of cashews to powder in a food processor. Dump 3/4 of that cup and all the rest of the first chunk o' ingredients into a nice huge saucepan over low heat. (I used a smaller dish than I should have, forgetting this turns into a one-pot meal.)

Toast everything, stirring, until the cashews and coconut have turned light golden. (About 10 minutes on low.) Then, find a bowl big enough, dump everything in it, and grind it all to a paste in your food processor. Wipe out the pan if you didn't get all the bits out, and dump the paste back in with the oil and black pepper. (If your food processor is small, like mine, just keep the heat low while you're processing in batches and dumping it in.)

Cook for about 10 more minutes, stirring frequently, until everything turns deep golden brown. If using a nonstick pan, life is good. If not, keep a cup of water by the stove to splash about a teaspoon at a time and deglaze (scape up the spices what stick.)

After it's all deep golden brown, add the remaining cashews and cook, stirring, 5 more minutes. Add the chicken, trying to nestle the slices down to the bottom of the pan with all this spice paste running around, and cook until the chicken is opaque (5 more minutes).

Add the water, salt, and bring it back to a boil. Then simmer 15-20 minutes until the chicken is tender. If you slices the chicken into medallion-sized slices, keep it to the 15-minute end of that. If you cut giganto Sam's Chicken Breasts of Doom into 3 pieces, maybe 25 minutes. A lid helps here, because it spatters!

Garnish with that last 1/4 cup of cashews, and serve. I suggest over rice with peas or spinach as a side, but that's because that's how my husband blissfully fixed it.

But beware, he described it as "A lovely curry! About medium, to my taste; it didn't have me perspiring buckets."

...Yeah, I'll just leave ALL the leftovers for him.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Memorial Day

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.

When I was very young, I learned to play the trumpet. One of the first songs I was set to, after learning scales, was Taps. It is all open C, all in the position of your jaw and lips, no valves pressed. This makes it very challenging for the beginning student, because you have to learn position, breath, and tone to play it. And I could never get it right, because I knew, deep in my heart, what it sounded like. It was right out of memory, one of the first sounds I can remember, and I was so close, but not there even when the teacher said I passed.

Dad would leave the house when I tried to play it. No matter if it was right before dinner; if I was going to practice trumpet, dad was suddenly... elsewhere. He also became a staunch supporter of me switching to piano lessons - possibly the only time in my life when I got frustrated and wanted to quit something, and he didn't even try to get me to tackle it harder instead.

Years later, I figured out that I never could get it right because I was trying to play the bugle with a trumpet, and waiting for the crack of firearms, the sound set to a splash of vivid green of grass and white of the folding chairs' seats right at my eye level as I toddled past white stones taller than me.

And I learned why dad left in a hurry. Oh, G-d, did I learn.

We will remember them.

Thursday, May 21, 2015


Day 1 of self-employment.

Laundry, laundry...
ok, time to think very hard about changing the cover on the newest book, in order to better match with the first Laredo book.
While folding clothes.

New art found; Peter's readers asked which they prefer

More Tea.
And now for something completely different: sorting mail!
Brain break: making a loaf of bread from scratch.

...the sudden blinding realization that I can have poppy seeds again, without worrying about random drug tests!

Followed by the call to ask if I can help medicate Gremlin, as he is putting up a very effective feline protest. "When you're off work." Ah, the temptation to say 'I'll never be off work again!'

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Low Carb Hot Chocolate

It's come to my attention that there are women out there who are desperately unhappily under-chocolated, because they think the low carb diet precludes chocolate. However, if you remove the sugar, it's not that carb heavy. So, here, make yourself and the rest of the people in your life happier!

Hot Chocolate:

1 Tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup half & half (or cream)
1/2 cup boiling water
1 squeeze from a bottle of sucralose, or packet of splenda if you must
salt (kosher is best)
vanilla extract
optional: 1 Tablespoon protein powder, vanilla

Boil water.
Dump cocoa & pinch of salt into mug (Salt removes bitterness.) Add water, stir. Add dairy goodness. Stir. Add splash of sucralose or the splenda packets, a tiny bit of vanilla extract, stir. Taste. If bitter, add more salt. If not chocolately enough to satisfy, add more cocoa & salt.

It's 8 grams usable carbs per mug, which is quite low for chocolate. If you add the protein powder, you can call it a breakfast shake at 15 grams of protein to balance the carbs. If you add a little bourbon (or rum), it's a happy, happy way to take an edge off. Instant coffee crystals make it a mocha...