Thursday, February 26, 2009

Vegetarian Okra Stew

Vegetarian Okra Stew

I have been trying to workout more and eat healthier this year and so good. I'm not saying that I am limiting my diet in any extreme way...I will never give up any food group or style of food (i.e. no fried white white flour...etc) sorry I just can't do that. I live life to enjoy it and one of the biggest enjoyments in my life is well.....eating. But I do believe in moderation and I feel if you do include some very healthy items in your diet well then the bad stuff doesn't hurt you as much....I'm no doctor and this may not be true at all....but it sure does make me feel better! :)

One of the changes I've been making is trying to eat more vegetarian dishes. I don't mind eating vegetarian as long as there is FLAVOR! And there's no better way to add flavor than to add ethnic spices to dishes. This okra stew is a variation of a stew my mom made a lot when we were growing up. I remember thinking okra was horrible the first time I ate it....but as I got older and as I ate it more....I've slowly fallen in love with this very unique vegetable. And even if you don't like okra....please try this stew and see if it changes your mind. It is so delicious with the flavors of cumin and nutmeg and if you eat it over rice........oh wow.....the sauce is soaked up by the rice and's hard for me to eat just one serving! But if you are not eating carbs then skip the's still delicious on it's own.

My mom always used lamb or beef in this stew but I've added some extra spices and skipped the meat in this version. You can always add some lamb or beef stew meat if you'd like. I have to admit it is spectacular with meat in it, too!
Okra Stew
16 oz frozen or fresh baby okra
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2-3 cups water
2 cloves chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon red hot pepper (optional) I like everything a little spicy
salt and pepper to taste (about 1-2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper)
Saute the chopped onion and garlic in the olive oil just till soft. Add the tomato paste and saute for another 30 seconds and then add the diced tomatoes and mix well. Season with the nutmeg, cumin, allspice, hot pepper and salt and pepper and stir.
Add the water to the mixture, mix and bring to a slight boil. Add the okra, cover your pan and lower the heat to simmer the stew. Let the stew simmer until it has thickened and the okra is nice and soft, continue to mix during the simmering process.
Taste the stew before serving to make sure your seasoning is right as the flavors should intensify as the stew reduces. Add more water if your stew is overwhelming or add more spice if it is not to your liking. Serve over rice or just in a bowl with some naan or pita bread.

I buy frozen baby okra from the Middle Eastern market for this stew (especially when I can't find good fresh okra) but you can use regular frozen okra or if you can find fresh okra...that's great, too!

The flavors in this stew get even better as it continues to simmer and reduce.

I love using the baby okra because it is so if you can find baby okra....use it!

The final product is a rich and healthy stew that you can keep in the fridge for up to 5 days or freeze it in batches to enjoy later!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Curried Potatoes n Peas

Curried Peas n Potatoes

I love Indian inspired foods and this curried peas and potatoes recipe is very simple and can be eaten as a side dish but is hearty enough to eat as a main dish. I love eating it with plain white rice. The rice soaks up the flavors of the sauce and it is so good for you! You can adjust the amount of curry and spice to your liking....I like it really hot so I add a bit more when I'm making it just for myself.

Curried Peas n Potatoes
4 tablespoons Ghee (you can find this in nice grocery stores with an ethnic food aisle or in Middle Eastern grocery stores (or you can make your own clarified butter or use 3 tablespoons butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil so the butter doesn't burn)
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 Bay leaves
1 tablespoon Curry Powder
2 teaspoon Cumin seeds (or you can use ground cumin)
2 teaspoon ground red hot pepper
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/2 teaspoon Coriander
pinch of cinnamon
3 Potatoes, peeled, cubed
1 cup green peas (fresh or frozen)
Salt to taste
2-3 cups water

Heat ghee or clarified butter in a medium sauce pan and saute the onion and garlic over medium heat until golden.
Add cumin seeds, bay leaves and cinnamon. Stir fry for 2 minutes. Then add the tomato paste and saute for another minute before adding the red pepper, turmeric, coriander, and salt. Mix well and saute for another minute.

Add potatoes and peas and stir. Pour in water and bring to a boil. Lower heat, cover the pan and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened.

You can use fresh potatoes and peas or canned potatoes and frozen peas if that's what you have on hand for this recipe. Just adjust the cooking time if your potatoes are canned because they will not need to cook as long or they'll get super mushy.

The peas are packed full of nutrients, including Vitamin K, folic acid and Vitamin B....all very good for bone and heart health!

So maybe you can get your family to eat peas by adding more flavor to them. Doesn't this look much better than a bowl of plain peas?

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Very Easy Peanut Butter Fudge

Peanut Butter Fudge

So I had to make peanut butter fudge for my son's class and I don't make fudge that often so I was a bit worried. I am not a huge fan of fudge....mostly because a lot of times it is dry and brittle. I don't enjoy fudge that falls apart as you bite into it. I enjoy a creamy piece of fudge so if that's what you like, then try out this is very creamy and so simple (as I used the microwave instead of doing it on the stove....I had no time that night to use a candy thermometer...etc)! I also like my fudge to be tall....I don't mess around with flat pieces of fudge so this recipe may seem like it makes a lot but if you use a 9 x 13 will make nice, tall pieces. If you are using a 8 x 8 pan...then you can half the recipe and it will be fine.

One more thing....I know there's corn syrup in this recipe and that is kind of controversial right now....but I believe (as in is fine) plus it really does help in the consistency here....and if you make this recipe you'll understand what I'm talking about so again....MODERATION is always key.

Quick & Easy Peanut Butter Fudge
8 cups powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups creamy peanut butter
1 cup light corn syrup
2 sticks melted butter (unsalted)
1 tablespoon vanilla
In a microwavable bowl, mix together all ingredients the best you can. Microwave mixture 1-2 minutes at a time and after each time, pull out the bowl and mix well. Repeat this step until your mixture is smooth and creamy (usually takes about 2-3 times in the microwave depending on your microwave's strength). Pour mixture into a buttered or sprayed pan and cover the pan with plastic wrap. Chill in the fridge for a few hours. Once the fudge seems to be set and is firm, cut into squares and serve.

Because we don't cook this recipe it is a little difficult mixing the ingredients together at first.

Once you mix everything together the best you can, you microwave the mixture 1-2 minutes at a time.
Once you have a creamy mixture that is well blended, it's ready to be poured.

Pour your mixture into a buttered or sprayed pan so that your fudge will easily come out of the pan.

Final and creamy....not too sweet peanut butter fudge!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Night of fashion, fun, food and charity

Last Saturday I was fortunate enough to be part of a great charity event here in Omaha. You all know that I have a deep love for food but I also have quite the love for clothes and fashion so when the two can be combined...well that's just the perfect evening to me! And that perfect evening came together when Avesta Cuisine provided all the food for the 2009 Fashion in Salvation Benefit at the Burlington Train Station.

The night kicked off with an unforgettable runway fashion show. The featured designer was local businesswoman, Angela Poor, with her line John 3:16 A & J Clothing. Jacobi 702, an attractive men’s line from Las Vegas, was the featured guest clothing line. Some of the models that walked the runway included Miss Nebraska USA, Micaela Johnson; and Calvin Klein model, Dolph.

All proceeds of 2009 Fashion in Salvation were donated to the North Omaha Good News Bears and MOHM’S Place. The NOGNB is a weekly children’s outreach club that teaches life skills, Christian living values, community service and citizenship to over 300 youth between the ages of 4 and 18. Their mission is to take young lives that have no good examples of ethical behavior and plant the seed of hope in each young person by providing role modeling that reinforces the positive values of a strong family and society.

MOHM’S Place has been feeding the hungry since 1994, and has not missed serving a single evening meal since then. MOHM’S Place serves approximately 4,000 meals per month, on top of securing immediate, temporary, or transitional housing for those in need, offering counseling and guidance, and they provide almost 70 services from 13 agencies for the homeless and near-homeless.

This was such a fun night and I just wanted to share with you my excitement of being involved in such a great charity event. I love when a night out can be hip, fun and a chance at giving back!

2009 Fashion in Salvation Benefit

The runway was hopping!

It was a packed warehouse!

The food was a hit.....there was not even a crumb leftover!

Hummus & Tabouleh with herbed crisp flatbread.

I always try to incorporate as much color into my displays as I can. This easy by adding veggies, leaf lettuce, fruit and beautiful platters.

I also try to use lots of candles and unique candle holders to add to the decor.

Chocolate mousse in edible chocolate cups....the perfect shot with no alcohol at all!