lunchbox life: curry coconut cashew chicken

image1(16)First, I have to brag: three weeks left of school, everybody!

So close, yet so far. Week 1 of Testing Month is over, and I’m so proud that my students seem to have thought their test to be super easy, but I still feel for their overworked and overtested brains. Week 2 is coming up, so keep up all in your thoughts as we soldier on in the standardized test world.

As a distraction from testing and as a primer to a challenge later this summer, I decided to tackle a week-long version of the Whole30. Whole30 is an eating plan that eliminates all the fun stuff from your diet: no grains, legumes, dairy, sugar, or alcohol. What are you left to eat? Meat, eggs, vegetables, fruit, nuts, and seeds. I’d heard about this program from a few friends, but wasn’t quite ready to take the plunge until I bought the book and started doing some online research. I like that it’s temporary, and while I plan to complete a Whole30 in 30 days when I’m at GHP this summer, I thought I’d do a Whole7 as a trial run. While I’m on Day 2, I have to say that I’m loving it so far and am surprised as how much I like it.

With that explanation, I introduce to you this week’s Whole30-compliant lunchbox life: curry coconut cashew chicken. I’m thrilled about this one, and I know that I’ll feel good about eating it all week long. I used baby bok choy and brussels sprouts from our CSA box, chicken thighs, cashews, unsweetened coconut shreds, coconut oil, and some yummy spices. This recipe is a great way to enjoy Thai flavor without rice or noodles.

Curry Coconut Cashew Chicken

10 boneless skinless chicken thighs

3 cups brussels sprouts

2 bunches of baby box choy

1 cup shiitake mushrooms, sliced

1 cup roasted and salted cashews

1 cup unsweetened coconut shreds

1 Tbsp. curry powder

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. coriander

1 tsp. cardamom

1 tsp. turmeric

1 tsp. salt

1 tsp. white pepper

2 Tbsp. coconut oil

Lay out 2 full paper towel sheets and arrange chicken thighs in a single layer. Take 2 more paper towel sheets and press down on top of the chicken to remove some of the excess moisture. Next, cut the chicken into chunks (about 1/2 to 1 inch) and place in a large bowl. In a small bowl, combine the spices, then pour the dry spices onto the chicken chunks and stir to combine; set aside. Chop the bok choy into 1/2 inch ribbons, taking care to discard the stalks. Slice the brussels sprouts thinly on all four sides, taking care to discard the stem and core. Set aside. Heat a wok over high heat and melt the coconut oil. Add the seasoned chicken and cook, stirring frequently for about 4 minutes. Next, add the mushrooms, stirring to coat the mushrooms in the seasoned oil. Next, add the sliced bok choy and brussels, stirring frequently for about 2 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the cashews, then the coconut shreds. Stir to full combine, then divide between five containers.

meatless monday: curried carrot and sweet potato soup, grilled sweet potato bread, Fu ManBrew from Monday Night Brewing



Happy New year, everyone! I know more most folks this was the first work day of the year (not for me!), so I wanted to treat you to a nice warm bowl of soup and a crisp, cold beer– the perfect combination for the weather today that looked like a spring day with the cold bite of winter.

The carrot and sweet potato soup here is inspired by the big box we received from The Dirt Farmers. Golden, Purple, and Orange carrots went with half of a giant sweet potato into this soup that was hit with curry flavors to give it a warm, spicy bite. The root veggies were perfect vehicles for the big spices. The other half of the potato made its way into a savory bread similar to banana or zucchini bread, but with a buttery taste (even if no butter was used). By grilling the bread, it became the perfect bread compliment for the spicy soup, with just a little sweetness and nice texture. Avocado provided a nice creamy note to counter the spice as well. The dish was very well balanced.

The Fu ManBrew was perfect compliment. A witbier from Monday Night Brewing, a star of the Peach State Ale Trail, this pairing added some crispness and ginger notes that meshed with curry and ginger flavors of the soup. The complimentary flavors let the beer pick up notes from the soup while being cooling, not jarring. Being a bright, crisp witbier, Fu ManBrew added needed lightness to the meal that would have been very heavy otherwise. I highly recommend it.

Curried Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

2 teaspoons olive oil
1/2 cup chopped shallots
3 cloves garlic
1/2 large sweet potato, grated
Several sliced peeled carrots (about 2 1/2 cups)
1 tsp grated ginger
2 tsp curry powder (or mix of garam masala, turmeric, fennel, coriander, Cayenne, and pepper)
1 tsp red pepper flake
3 cups vegetable broth
1 dash rice vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup heavy cream

In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat and saute the shallot and onions about 3 minutes. Add the potato and carrot and saute for about five minutes. Stir in the spices and heat another minute. Pour in the broth and vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and heat another 20 minutes. Blend the mixture with an immersion blender until smooth. Finish by stirring in the cream.

Savory Sweet Potato Bread

1/2 large sweet potato (1 1/4 cups)
3/4 cup flour
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 medium shallot
1 clove garlic
Olive oil to saute
1 1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/3 cup suger
1 egg
2/3 cup canola oil
1 avocado
1/4 cup toasted walnuts

Grease a loaf pan and heat oven to 350.

Mix flours, baking soda and powder and salt.

Saute the shallot and garlic in oil for 2-3 minutes, allow to cool. Add to flour mixture

Grate the potato and stir in the egg, sugar and oil. Slowly mix in the flour until well mixed. Pour into the loaf pan and bake for 20 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle can be cleanly removed.

Heat a grill pan over medium high heat.

Slice the loaf into 1/2 slices and place diagonally on the hot grill pan. Grill 4 minutes and rotate 1/4 turn and heat an addition 4 minutes.

Place the grilled bread in a shallow bowl and ladle soup around it. Garnish with sliced avocado and toasted walnuts.


Enjoy the warm flavors and happy new year!


tasty tuesday: jerk pork cutlets, fresh corn polenta, roasted broccoli and carrots

Spanning the world on a single plate.

Spanning the world on a single plate.

And we are right back at you with a Tasty Tuesday that takes you all around the world with a little Jamaican, Mexican, and Indian/Mid East flavors. You gotta love it, right? The meal was a bit involved, taking over an hour to prep and cook, but it was certainly worth it. The fact that the meal involves working with multiple ears of fresh corn is where the time component comes in, as it had to be husked, cleaned, and hand grated to make the corn base for the polenta. But, fresh corn that is cooked in butter and its own “milk”? Very few things are better.

Let’s get down to business.

Jerk Pork Cutlets

Let’s start in Jamaica with a homemade jerk seasoning paste. There are any number of ways to skin this cat, as it were, but the necessary elements are Jamaican allspice and hot peppers. You can make it a rub or a paste, but I think the paste provides a more even flavor and better overall experience.

1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
2 Habanero Peppers, seeded
1 Jalapeno Pepper, seeded
1 1/2 Tbls Jamaican Allspice, ground
1 Tsp cinnamon
1 Tsp cayenne pepper, ground
Dashes of cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, thyme

Place all ingredients in blender and add canola oil to emulsify. Blend until well mixed and spices are fully integrated. Pour over boneless pork chops to marinate, about 30 minutes.

After marination, heat a frying pan and melt 3 tbls butter. Scrape the paste from the chops and add the jerk paste to the pan. Cut the porkchops into cutlets, on a diagonal, and add to the pan. Cook about 4 minutes per side and reduce heat.

Polenta (Slightly altered Martha Stewart recipe, yeah).

12 ears corn, husked, cleaned
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp Olive oil
1 tomato, chopped
5-6 basil leaves
1 1/2 cup whole milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Start by pulsing the onion and garlic together in a food processor until fine. Heat the oil and  butter until melted and add the onions and garlic. At this point, begin grating the corn with the fine side of a box grater into a large bowl. After the onions and garlic are sweating, add the tomato. Finish grating the corn, making sure to get all the kernals and milk. Add to the pot with the basil and milk. Stir occasionally while for about 30 minutes on medium low. Simmer until ready to serve.

Roasted Broccoli and Carrots with Curry

This one is simple.

Olive oil to cover
Curry Powder to lightly coat

Coat the veggies with the oil and spices, cook at 450 for about 25-30 minutes until browned and soft.

Put it all together and you have a wonderful, bright meal that hits a lot of flavor points. A great end of Summer/Early fall meal.


tasty tuesday: salmon with marinated vegetables+salmoriglio with a side of curry chickpea soup


If you’re like me, you’re probably thinking, “what the heck is salmoriglio?”  Well, we can be each others’ good company, because I only found out when I looked at the recipe that salmoriglio is simply a lemon and herb sauce originally from Southern Italy.  If you love the flavors of lemon, garlic, olive oil, and herbs together, you’ve probably made one before anyway.  Perhaps now we’ll both get it right on Jeopardy!?  Oh wait, are we the only ones who watch Jeopardy! under the age of 70?  Moving on…

I was searching for a springtime recipe, and this one hit all of the right notes–salmon, veggies, lemon and herbs–plus I wanted to use some of the tasty herbs in our small backyard garden.  I love the pop of color from the succulent tomato and the crunch from the thinly sliced celery!  This only-slightly-adapted recipe comes from Hugh Acheson‘s A New Turn in the South cookbook.  You might recognize Hugh from Top Chef on Bravo TV, or from his Athens restaurants (Five & Ten and The National), or from his new eatery in Atlanta, Empire State South.  Alex and I went to Empire State South for his birthday last December, and if you haven’t been, pick out a dull weekend and make it your destination.  It’s definitely worth the trip!

The soup is the warmer complement to this springtime meal.  I found the recipe on a blog called palate/palette/plate, and I am looking forward to exploring her blog more!  I started looking for a curry chickpea soup after I had a lovely cup on Saturday from Macon’s own The Rookery.  They change their soup of the day frequently, so if you go and they have the African Curry soup, definitely check it out!  I especially appreciate the broth version of a curry soup as opposed to a creamy version made with coconut milk.  I like that version fine, but I enjoy the texture of the broth version much better.  This soup has tender chickpeas and mushrooms with a slight crunch of almond.

Tonight’s Tasty Tuesday is leaving no taste bud behind!

Salmon with Marinated Vegetables and Salmoriglio

Adapted from Hugh Acheson’s A New Turn in the South

10 fresh green beans, blanched until tender

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 small yellow squash, cut thin

2 celery stalks, cut thin

4 asparagus stalks, cut into 1-inch pieces

1 carrot, julienned

1 scallion, cut on the diagonal

1/2 cup Shallot-Thyme Vinaigrette (recipe to follow)

1 tsp. Kosher salt

1 tsp. chopped fresh mint leaves

1 tsp. chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 Tbsp. olive oil

2 (5 to 6 oz.) wild salmon fillets, skin removed

1/2 cup salmoriglio (recipe to follow)

Preheat oven to 400 F.  Cut the green beans into 1-inch lengths and place in a large bowl.  Add the tomatoes, squash, celery, carrots, asparagus, and scallions.  Add the vinaigrette and gently toss.  Season with 1/4 tsp. of salt and add the herbs.  Set aside at room temperature while you roast the salmon.

In a large oven-safe fry pan warm the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Evenly season the salmon fillets with 3/4 tsp. salt.  When the oil is just about smoking, place the salmon in the pan.  Let the salmon cook for 3 minutes, then turn it over.  Cook for 3 minutes more, turn again, and place in the oven for 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven and place a salmon fillet onto each plate.  Sauce with the salmoriglio and a heat of the marinated vegetables.


3 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh oregano

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1/2 tsp. lemon zest

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 tsp. Kosher salt

1/4 tsp. cracked black pepper

Place all ingredients in a jar and shake vigorously.  The sauce will also keep for a week in the refrigerator.

Shallot-Thyme Vinaigrette

6 stems of fresh thyme

1 shallot, minced

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

2/3 cup white wine vinegar

2/3 cup olive oil

1/2 tsp. dry mustard

1/2 tsp. Kosher salt

Place all ingredients into a Mason jar, shake, and place in the refrigerator for 24 hours.  Remove the vinaigrette from the refrigerator and strain the solids out of the dressing. Discard the solids and place the vinaigrette back into the jar.  Shake well before using.

Curry Chickpea Soup

Adapted from palate/palette/plate

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1/2 medium red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup almonds, finely chopped
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
3 tsp. curry powder
dash of cayenne pepper, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste
2 Tbsp. olive oil
Fresh cilantro, for garnish

In a medium pot, heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion, garlic and almonds and cook for about 3 minutes, stirring frequently. Add curry powder, stirring to coat; cook an additional 2 minutes.

In a medium skillet, heat 1 Tbsp. of olive oil and saute mushrooms until moisture is released; they should be browned and soft.

When the onions, almonds and curry are fragrant, add chickpeas, chicken stock, sauteed mushrooms and a dash of cayenne pepper to the pot. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine and simmer for about 10 minutes.  Ladle into bowl and use cilantro for a garnish!

tasty tuesday 4/23/13- fried curry chicken, $20,000 rice pilaf, crispy roasted brussels sprouts- JAM

ummm, latergram?

ummm, latergram?

The story of this meal goes back to our anniversary trip at the beginning of the month. During our stay in Highlands, I ventured into a few shops including a really great kitchen store/hallmark called The Dry Sink and picked up Bon Appetit, Y’all by Virginia Willis. The first page I saw when thumbing through the book was for a recipe for Country Captain chicken, which is a part fried, part braised chicken dish. In this recipe she explained how curry came to be a big part of southern cooking, which fascinated both of us.

I originally wanted to make this, but the two-hour plus cook time was a little too much to handle. I had to take a step back and figure how to manage the dish simply as a fried chicken. The result was really tasty, though my Macon Improvement Authority (we won our fourth in a row) authored haste cause a little bit of problem in the overall execution.

The right stuff...

The right stuff…

I started last night in carving a whole chicken into eight pieces. I dried the skin and coated it with a mix of mild curry powder, fresh cracked pepper, sea salt, tumeric, and paprika. Covered it with wrap and left it in the fridge overnight.

When I got home from , I pulled the chicken out to get it to room temp and started the Pilaf by melting the butter and sautéing the shallot for a few minutes, added the rice stirred and then added the stock. after the stock began to boil, I popped in the oven at 350 for about 20 minutes. It turned out fluffy and tasty, and I topped it with some fresh parsley from the Bungalow Garden.

For the chicken, I heated the oils and bay leaves in a cast iron dutch oven for about 7 mins and pulled out the bay leaves. I cooked the chicken two pieces at a time in the pan until the outsides were browned and crispy-ish. If I had more time I would have used an egg bath and second helping of curry breading to help the pieces get good and crispy. Look for this to happen in a later blog. I finished the pieces in the oven at the end to cook them through and keep them solid on the edges.

Now, some of you probably hate Brussels sprouts, and I think Eleta and I could fix that for you. Tonight’s iteration came in the form of a slightly crispy, finely chopped, roasted hash. Slicing the little cabbages make them far less daunting and give you more opportunity the flavor the leaves.

Nothing scary here.

Nothing scary here.

Layer them on a cookie sheet in single layer and cook on 450 for 12ish minutes.

All told, you have a meal that can come together in about an hour and half, with flavors from all over the world, and a taste that really stands out.

Have fun with the chicken and the sprouts, what are some of your favorite ways to tackle these dishes?

Fried Curry Chicken

1 whole chicken cut into pieces, skin attached.

2 tbls curry powder

2 tsp cracked pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp tumeric

1/2 tsp paprika

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup canola oil

4 bay leaves

$20,000 Rice Pilaf, by Virginia Willis Bon Appetit, Y’all

2 tbls butter

1 thin sliced shallot

2 cups brown basmati rice

3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth

salt and pepper to taste

fresh parsley, chopped (topping)

Crispy Sprout Hash

1lb package of sprouts, finely chopped

salt and pepper to taste (I went pretty heavy on both)

Olive oil to coat

We served it all with Angry Orchard Apple-Ginger Cider, furnished by our good friend Meg. Thanks Meg!