Easy Curry Rice Bake

"Real Food" and "good food" don't need to be hard, or complicated.  The trick to eating well is to have a few go-to recipes in your back pocket that you can count on in a pinch.

I've not been feeling well the last few days, due to an unfortunate "glutening" at a restaurant.  I wanted something comforting and nourishing for my Sunday supper, but had zero energy to cook.

Enter, Easy Curry Rice Bake.  Vegan.  Gluten Free.  Easy Peasy.

{{Photo that I was too tired to take goes here}}

Easy Curry Rice Bake

2c Assorted frozen vegetables* (my favorites are onions, spinich, broccoli, or bell peppers)
1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained* (I was out of chickpeas, so omitted them this time)
1 14oz can diced tomatoes*
1 14oz can light coconut milk*
1 1/4 c brown rice
1/2 teas. diced garlic (I keep a jar in the fridge, for "emergencies")
1 teas. salt (to taste)
1 - 2 tbsp curry powder (to taste)

Throw it all in a covered casserole dish and into a 350 degree oven.  In an hour, you'll have a happy tummy.

*Of course, for maximum nutrition, fresh is always best.  Also, canned goods can leach BPA, a hormone disrupter.  I mostly avoid canned goods, but hey, sometimes a gal's gotta do what a gal's gotta do to get fed!

Nutritional bonuses:
- Pack as many veggies as you want into this dish... more phytochemical goodness is always welcome!
- One of the main ingredients in curry powder is tumeric, which is a powerful anti-inflamatory.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I think my sofa is calling....


Welcoming Early Summer

This week, I had the opportunity to have dinner with some new friends.  My mother always taught me that one never shows up to a gathering empty-handed, and I love to cook for others, so I offered to bring the desert.
It was to be a warm, sunny, perfect early-summer day, so I wanted a desert to reflect the bourgeoning season.  To me, nothing says the arrival of June like strawberries and rhubarb.  And thus, a desert was born.
I'd missed the morning's farmer's market, so off to the co-op I schlepped, Cream City Pooch in tow, for supplies.  Organic berries.  Local Rhubarb.  Sassy Cow vanilla ice cream.
For inspiration, I reached out to two of my favorite gluten-free recipe sources, Gluten Free Girl and Gluten Free Goddess.
Here's what resulted:

Gluten-Free Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp

1 qt       Fresh strawberries, hulled and quartered (Buy organic!  Strawberries are part of the Dirty Dozen.)
2 C.      Rhubarb, chopped
1 T       Cornstarch
1 1/2 T Sugar
1 tea     Vanilla

1/2 C.   Almond flour
1/2 C.   Gluten-free Oats
1/2 C.   Brown rice flour
1/2 C.   Cornmeal
1 tea     Baking powder
1/2 tea  Salt
3/4 C.   Brown sugar
1 C.      Butter, frozen

Preheat oven to 375. In a buttered baking dish (8x8, or shallow casserole works fine), toss fruit with cornstarch and sugar.  Drizzle with vanilla.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together dry topping ingredients and brown sugar.  Using a box grater or microplane, grate in frozen butter. (This breaks up the butter into small pieces and makes it easy to combine with the dry ingredients.)  With a fork or pastry cutter, incorporate butter into the dry ingredients.  When the mixture looks like pea-sized crumbles, you're ready to rock.
Dump the topping on top of the fruit mixture in the baking dish.  Spread it out so that all the fruit is covered.
Bake, uncovered, at 375 for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the topping is nicely browned and the fruit juices begin to bubble up through.
Cool for at least 15 minutes before digging in.  Serve with fresh whipped dairy cream or coconut milk, or with ice cream.
Sit back, sigh, and welcome summer into your home and your mouth.

(Please excuse the bad phone photos...)


...just like starting over

It's been just over a year since I've posted here to Cream City Green.  When I welcomed 2011, I had little clue what was in store.
There were some definite high points (like the new career that curtailed my blogging efforts), and some lows (like losing an important relationship).
As the sine wave of life seems to be tempering, I'm hoping to redouble my efforts at this whole blogging affair.  There will likely be more posts about food.  There may be some armchair philosophy.  There will certainly be bad puns.

For now, a photo of a recent day trip to The House on the Rock

Welcome back, Cotter.


Spring Cleaning- Digestion style

Lots of us have been busy cleaning house for spring.  Opening those windows, airing out the rugs, scrubbing walls and woodwork...  I've been doing a bit of that around here, too (though, admittedly, I don't much care for house cleaning).  Spring cleaning when you're a pet owner takes on a bit of a different form, however, since you're constantly contending with their shedding!  I've resigned myself to dust-bunnies for the next month. Don't judge.

Lately, I'd resigned myself to a dirty house, but also a "dirty" digestion system.  By and large, I try to eat well.  I don't eat fast food, am gluten-free and largely dairy-free, and try hard to sneak in extra veggies wherever I can.  (My recipe for sloppy joes may just contain more veg than meat!)  Inevitably, though, we all fall off the bandwagon sometimes.  Despite our best intentions.  I've been slacking on my fruit and veg intake, reaching for the bag of chips, and letting myself eat desserts and candy far too often lately.  Well, it's all finally caught up to me.  I feel like my digestive system is a "before" picture from a Roto-Rooter ad.  So, this week, I'm cleaning up my act.  Time for a little internal spring cleaning.

I sometimes hesitate to use the term "cleanse", because it so often conjures up images of strange tinctures, expensive supplements, and being chained to a bathroom for a week.  I've done cleanses like that.  They're hard.  They're hard to complete, as you're depriving yourself so fully of your normal routine and the food you love.  I also believe they're hard on the body.  Our little ol' liver can only process so many toxins in a day (especially when it's been chronically stressed by alcohol, coffee, sugar, and food additives), if your body is releasing (due to the cleansing) more toxins than the liver can process, they're simply re-absorbed into the body.  Seems pretty counter-productive to me. (especially while you're making yourself miserable by eating nothing but some weird "lemonade")
But I digress...  Everyone's body functions differently.  These highly-regemented cleanses may work really well for some folks.  Me, on the other hand, I'm a bit more delicate.  My body needs to be treated a bit more gently.

When I "cleanse", it's with real food.  The plan is basic:  if it's a vegetable, fruit, or gluten-free whole grain, I'll eat it.  If it's none of those things, it doesn't go in my mouth.  Sugars and fried foods are no-nos. I also cut out my morning cup of coffee to replace it with fresh lemon juice in hot water.  I find the taste refreshing, the warmth comforting, and the lemon juice first thing in the morning gives the liver a jump-start to tackle the barrage of toxins in a day.  In fact, I drink the lemon and water throughout the day.  I feel like it makes my insides smile.

For breakfast, I might make a hemp-protein smoothie with fresh carrot or green juice and fruit.  Or maybe I'll cube up some sweet-potatoes and have some hash and eggs (organic & cage-free, of course).  (See?  Cleansing can taste good!)

Lunch is often a green salad (spring greens and spinach pack a vitamin punch) loaded with veg of all sorts (whatever I'm in the mood for).  I also try to add some chickpeas or black beans and/or some nuts and seeds for a bit of protein, maybe some avocado for that delicious healthy fat.  If I'm not in the mood for salad, I might eat some leftover quinoa and sauteed veggies.


Dinner is fairly wide open.  Veggie stir-fry with brown rice?  Sure!  A quick curry?  Absolutely! (Turmeric, cinnamon, and coconut milk are all super-healthy detox ingredients)  Salad?  If you're in the mood.  Soup?  Hey, why not!  Brown rice risotto?  Sounds good to me! When I cook, I use olive and coconut oils.  I try to cook veggies only to the point of al dente, to retain their greatest nutrient power.  I try not to use nightshades in excess (that's tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplant), as they can be difficult to digest.  As for meats, I go vegan for the first 2-3 days (which is not unusual for me, anyway).  After the first few days, I simply try to listen to my body.  Is it asking me for animal protein?  When I do eat meats, I try to choice natural/organic meats that led a happy life and don't contain hormones or antibiotics.  When cleansing, I also try to eat outside my norm when it comes to meats.  I might go for a buffalo burger patty instead of beef, or venison if I can get it.

As for snack time (because we all need snacks... especially when our bodies are working hard and we're eating vegan), I try to choose raw veggies, or a piece of fruit, or a handful of almonds (soaked overnight is best, as they're easier to digest).  I've also been totally addicted to these crunchy roasted chickpeas.

Most cleanses prescribe a fist-full of pills multiple times a day.  While I don't take anything too fancy, I do know my body, and I know that it sometimes needs a little extra help moving things along.  So while I'm cleansing I take psyllium husk fiber, and a gentle herbal laxative (I've had good luck with both marshmallow root and senna leaf containing formulas).  Again, if you're working so hard to eliminate toxins, it doesn't do much good if they sit around in your colon, only to be reabsorbed!

I'm now at the beginning of Day 3 of my cleanse.  And BOY, did I need it!  The sugar and salt cravings the last 2 days have been a bear!  I find that maintaining a positive intention and attitude helps.  Instead of concentrating on how much I want the thing I can't have, I try to think about how out-of-whack my body must have been and how much better I'll feel on the other side.

If you're looking for some reputable resources on real-food cleansing (and eating!), check out these folks:

The Food-Lover's Cleanse - a 2-week plan full of amazing foods that you will truly want to eat, and that your body will thank you for.  I use this plan heavily for inspiration.

http://www.joyoushealth.ca/blog/ - Joy is a certified holistic nutritionist, and has lots of great advice on eating to make your body joyful.  She's also got a great way of adding in the science that I love!

http://www.drweil.com/ - Dr. Andrew Weil has been a trusted voice in the holistic health community for years.  His site is a treasure trove.

www.cleanprogram.com - this site may be trying to sell you a program, but there's lots of great info in their "resources" section

www.101cookbooks.com - Heidi doesn't necessarily talk about cleansing, per se, but her site is full of gorgeous natural food recipes, and the photos to make you want to cook them!

*Disclaimer:  I'm not a healthcare professional.  I'm not an expert on any of this.  I'm simply trying to share what I've learned works for me.  If you need professional advice, go get it.  ....just not from me.


The Book that Started it All

There are moments in life that, for one reason or another, really seem to stick with you.  I suppose you could call them "life- changing".

For me, the Fourth grade was one of them.  I so clearly remember Mrs. Horton's reading corner in our classroom.  The selections on her bookshelf shaped my life.  Especially this one:

I'd always been taught not to litter, and to enjoy the beauty of nature, but this was my first real introduction to the perils facing the planet.  I'm sure that I rivaled the kid in Jerry Maguire on the annoyance scale with all of my new-found facts, but it spurred a passion for the rest of my life.

Originally published in 1989, "50 Simple Things" was one of the first books to "spread the gospel" to the common folk about the green movement, and its urgency.  Now a 5 million copy bestseller, with a new, updated, 21st century version, it continues to inspire, and be relevant.

And now, through the wonders of the internets, the original (out of print) 1989 edition is available, in its entirety, for Free!

So, Happy Earth Day.  Here's a gift.


Spring in Wisconsin

It snowed over the weekend.  In the middle of April.  Spring is a fickle mistress here in Wisconsin.  About the only way to deal with it is a hefty dose of patience.   And a sense of humor.

Via A Way to Garden


Cream City Cookies for a Cause

We're at it again!  Cream City Green is partnering with some of our favorite folks at Burp! and #MKEfoodies for a great cause.  You may recall that little event we hosted last fall that kindled a great friendship with Peef and Lo.  So, when Lo approached me about pitching in on another event, I surely couldn't say no!

May 21, 2011
1-4 pm
Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery

Cookies for Kids’ Cancer is a not-for-profit organization committed to raising funds to support research for new and improved therapies for pediatric cancers. Through local bake sales, Cookies for Kids’ Cancer provides inspiration and support for individuals, communities, and businesses to help fight pediatric cancer.

On May 21, we'll join hundreds nationwide in holding a bake sale to raise funds for pediatric cancer research.  To sweeten the pot, the Glad Products Company has pledged to match all funds raised for Cookies for Kids' Cancer during the month of May (up to $225,000)!

Coupled with this fun announcement is a plea for help.  We need volunteers and bakers!  We're also rounding up items for the silent auction, if you're a crafter/artist/business owner.  If you'd like to help, just leave a comment, and I'll get in touch.

If you can't bake or volunteer, then just Save the Date!  It's sure to be a fun event.  Best Place is beautiful, and we #MKEfoodies are a pretty darned friendly bunch!  (And don't worry, there's already plans in the works to accommodate our vegan and gluten-free cookie loving friends!)

Wave "hi" to Lo, and we'll see you on the 21st!

Can't make it, but still want to donate?  Click here.


Waiter, there's Bacon in my Popcorn!

There are cultures on this fine earth that believe the pig is an unclean animal and should not be consumed.  I don't know if they're right or wrong, but I do know that they're missing out.  Of all the meats, pork has an amazing ability to transform into wondrous things... prosciutto, carnitas, ham, sausages, and, of course, bacon.

Bacon has magical powers.  This is no secret.  It was the power of bacon that compelled me back to being omnivorous after a dozen years as a vegetarian.  As the saying, and the t-shirt goes, "Bacon makes everything better".

I guess it's no surprise, then, that when brainstorming ideas for an appetizer/desert to bring with me to Paul and Lori's recent Soup Night, I turned to bacon.  Actually, in this case, the bacon was a happy accident.  I'd decided that I wanted to make some sort of gourmet flavored popcorn to share with my foodie friends on the inspiration of Roots Restaurant.  So I set to googling "gourmet popcorn recipes"...  Eventually, I came upon this.


And so the Nueske's bacon came out of the freezer (because no Milwaukee kitchen is complete without a stash on-hand), the bourbon supply was re-upped, and Bourbon Bacon Popcorn was made.

And then eaten.

All of it.

The Power of Bacon compelled me.

Bacon Bourbon Caramel Corn (adapted from sarahsprague.com)

5 quarts fresh plain popcorn
1 cup chopped pecans
3/4 lb bacon (applewood-smoked is awesome) - fried crispy and chopped into bits
1 cup butter (for extra bacon-y goodness, replace up to half the butter with an equal amount of bacon drippings)
2 cups brown sugar
1/2 cup light corn syrup
2 teas. sea salt
1/2 teas. baking soda
6 oz. bourbon 

Preheat your oven to 250º.
Melt butter over medium heat.  Mix in brown sugar, corn syrup and salt and then stir until boiling at the edges. Lower the heat slightly and let boil until the caramel is 250º or until it coats the back of a spoon. Remove from heat, add baking soda and bourbon. Once fully incorporated, stir in bacon and pecans
Divide mixed popcorn between 2 lightly-greased 9x13 or jelly roll pans.  Pour caramel evenly over corn.  Mix to coat. (Use a greased rubber spatula to keep from going crazy.)  Place in oven and bake for about 45 minutes, stirring every 10 - 15 minutes.
Remove caramel corn from oven, spread on parchment or wax paper to cool.  Break into pieces.  When completely cool, store in airtight container. Store in refrigerator -- there's meat in there!


A Lesson in Blogging

To my Faithful Readers:  (all 5 of you)

I never really figured that anyone outside of my friends and family would care much about or read my meanderings here on the blog.  I never had a particularly grandiose vision.  Nor did I imagine that I'd somehow become a "professional blogger" due to my efforts here.  I simply wanted a place to share some random musings from my life.

Because I never figured anyone would care, I made the blog public and left commenting open to anyone.  In recent days, however, someone has taken to posting some unkind words here.  Therefore, I've decided to begin moderating all comments before they're posted.

I generally try to abide by the "if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything" rule.  I hope for others to do the same.  At the same time, I do enjoy a spirited debate.  Wanna disagree with me?  Great!  Let's Discuss!  ...of course, in order to have a conversation of well reasoned arguments, we need to know who each other are....