Garam Masala Chicken

We really like our Indian cuisine, well the kids maybe not so much, but the husband and I definitely do!  After a recent meal at an Indian restaurant I decided to try to cook a dish myself.  Chicken masala is one of my favorites, so naturally this was the first recipe I attempted.  I looked up a few variations, but in the end, melded them together to make my own.  I kept it fairly mild to make it more palatable for the children, but feel free to add some cayenne pepper if you like extra heat.  I served this dish over yellow turmeric rice and it was perfect!

Garam masala, the dishes' key ingredient, is an aromatic blend of ground spices used extensively in Indian cooking.  It translates from Hindi as “hot spice mix.”  The mixture of spices varies from region to region and household to household, but commonly includes cardamom, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, black pepper, coriander, nutmeg and bay leaf.  It can be purchased from an international market or just about any grocery store with a decent spice selection.

Apart from adding flavor, garam masala also has many health benefits.  The spices offer powerful anti-inflammatory, antimicrobial and anti-oxidant properties which can improve cholesterol levels, lower blood sugar levels, improve memory, aid in digestion and enhance metabolism.

1 ½ - 2 lbs skinless boneless chicken breast or thighs
Sea salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
4 Tbsp butter
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp garam masala
2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp ground ginger or 2 tsp fresh ginger, minced
2 cups tomato sauce
½ cup water
Cayenne pepper, to taste
Fresh cilantro, chopped for garnish

1. Season both sides of the chicken with salt, pepper, cumin and coriander.  
2. Melt a tablespoon of butter in a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Fry the chicken until cooked through, turning once or twice.  Remove chicken and set aside.  
3. In the same pot, melt the remaining butter and cook the garlic for about 1 minute, until fragrant.  
4. Add the garam masala, turmeric, and ginger.  Cook for an additional minute.  
5. Add the tomato sauce and water.  Let sauce come to a boil, turn down heat and simmer for about 5 - 10 minutes.  Adjust sauce for salt.  For extra heat, add cayenne pepper to taste.  
6. While sauce is cooking, shred or cut up the chicken into bite size pieces.  
7. Add the chicken to the sauce, mix well, cover and simmer for about 30 minutes until the sauce thickens.  Garnish with fresh cilantro before serving.

Gluten-Free Pumpkin Spice Bundt Cake

This, dare I say, healthy dessert will easily satisfy any sweet tooth and fill your home with the aroma of warm pumpkin spices this winter.  It is free of refined sugar and flour, yet it is so decadent that no one will ever believe it's grain-free.  So this holiday season, prepare to have your cake and eat it too!

My sister, Veronika, introduced me to this recipe, which can be made into muffins, a simple loaf, or in my case, a bundt cake.  If you don’t have a pumpkin spice mix, you may substitute with 2 tsp cinnamon and ½ tsp ground nutmeg.

2 cups almond butter
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup honey or maple syrup
2 1/2 Tbsp pumpkin spice mix
1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking soda
½ cups dark chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 F.  
Mix all ingredients together and pour into a well-greased and floured (use a GF flour mix) bundt cake or loaf pan.  Bake for 45 – 50 minutes, until a knife comes out clean.  For muffins, decrease baking time to about 30 minutes.  Enjoy!

Red Lentil Soup

I realize I have been missing in action on the blog lately, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been cooking...au contraire!  Despite my desire to share more recipes, I have been busy with the daily routines of taking care of my family.  On that note, here is an easy and quick soup recipe for those of you who don’t have the time to fuss in the kitchen.  It's hearty and comforting – perfect to enjoy during the cold months.

Red lentils are seeds from legume plants that split in half after hulling.  Unlike beans, they cook quickly and are perfect in a soup. Lentils are inexpensive yet they are rich in plant protein. They are a good source of fiber and also contain folate, manganese, iron, phosphorous, copper, vitamin B1, zinc, vitamin B6 and potassium.

2 cups red lentils
8 cups water or broth
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp turmeric
1 large onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 Tbsp butter
Sea salt and pepper, to taste
Juice of one lemon

Rinse and drain lentils.  Combine lentils and water (or broth) in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for ½ hour, stirring occasionally.  When lentils are tender, add cumin and turmeric to the pot.  Sauté the onions and garlic in butter until golden brown, then add to soup mixture.  Simmer for 5 additional minutes.  Remove from heat, add lemon juice and stir.  Garnish with parsley and/or paprika before serving.

Roasted Eggplant Soup

This is an old favorite that I almost forgot about.  As my tomato harvest started to dwindle I began thinking about what I could add to my pureed soups and eggplant came to mind! Eggplant is a vegetable from the nightshade family, which also includes bell peppers, tomatoes and potatoes.  According to Dr. Mercola, eggplants don’t have an overwhelming supply of any one specific nutrient.  They do however contain fiber and an array of various vitamins and minerals, including folate, potassium, manganese, vitamins C, K, and B6, as well as phosphorus, copper, thiamin, niacin, magnesium and pantothenic acid.  Eggplants also contain powerful antioxidants which neutralize damaging free radicals in the body.  

This recipe is adopted from the Smitten Kitchen.

1 large eggplant, cut in half lengthwise
3 – 4 large tomatoes, cut into halves
1 medium onion, cut into large wedges
6 garlic cloves, peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp. each ground cumin and coriander, optional
4 cups bone broth
Sea salt and black pepper, to taste
Feta or goat cheese

Preheat oven to 400 F.
Arrange eggplant, tomatoes, onion and garlic on a baking sheet.  Brush with olive oil and roast for 20 minutes.  Remove the garlic cloves (to prevent them from burning) and set aside. Continue roasting for an additional 20 – 30 minutes.  Remove from oven and allow to cool. Remove skin from eggplant.  Place eggplant, tomatoes, onion, garlic, spices, and broth into a large saucepan.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for about 45 minutes.  Once slightly cooled, puree soup to a desired consistency and season with sea salt and pepper.  Sprinkle with feta or goat cheese prior to serving.

Grilled Whole Fish

Whole grilled fish is one of the most delightful meals, especially on a hot summer day when you don’t want to do any cooking in the house, besides throwing together a quick salad to accompany the meal.  Grilling fish whole enhances its flavor and juiciness because the skin and a thin layer of fat beneath it are left intact; these serve to insulate the meat (muscle tissues? doesn't sound that great, but meat is not the right word either) during cooking.  Any whole fish will do, but you generally want it small, about 10 inches or so.  Our favorite is the mild, white-fleshed Mediterranean sea bass also called branzino or branzini.  It has relatively few bones which are simple to remove.  Make sure your fish is scaled and gutted prior to cooking.  I used fresh dill and parsley for seasoning; you may also try cilantro and basil.  Recipe adopted from Martha Stewart Living.

2 whole fish, cleaned, heads and tails intact
Extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and pepper

1 lemon, thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh dill

1 lime, thinly sliced
3 sprigs fresh parsley 

Preheat grill to medium-high.  Drizzle cavity of each fish with olive oil, season with sea salt and freshly ground pepper.  Stuff one fish with lemon slices and dill, the other with lime slices and parsley.  Make long ¼ inch-deep diagonal slits on both sides of the fish to insure even cooking and to allow the seasonings to penetrate the fish.  Rub both sides with additional olive oil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Brush hot grill with oil and place fish directly on the grill or you may also use a grilling basket, like we did.  Cook uncovered about 5 to 7 minutes.  Flip fish over and grill on the other side for another 5 to 7 minutes or until cooked through and opaque.  Serve fish with lemon and lime wedges, and a favorite salad for a light and oh-so-satisfying meal!