An Indian Feast – Part 3 – Green Beans Thoren

I still have a couple more recipes to share with you from our delicious Indian feast I prepared for Elizabeth’s birthday. An Indian Feast – Part 1 – The Shrimp Vindaloo, An Indian Feast – Part 2 – Potatoes and Peppers. This time I am sharing the recipe for green beans thoren.

A thoren or thoran is a vegetable dish prepared with a dried curried spice mixture, coconut, chilies and onions. These vegetables are often eaten with other curried dishes and rice. It is a very popular way of eating vegetables of all kinds in Southern India, though green beans are most commonly used.

Green Beans Thoren

1 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed, and cut into pieces about 1 inch in size

3/4 cup shredded coconut

1 jalapeno, or serrano or Thai chili – I like to dice mine nice and fine, but you can keep them in larger pieces if you want more “direct heat” with each bite.

1 TBSP garlic

1/2 red pepper, diced

2 bay leaves or 10 curry leaves

2 TBSP oil – either olive, vegetable or coconut oil

1 TBSP rice

1/2 cup water or more as needed

Spice Mixture

1/2 tsp either ground dry mustard or mustard seeds

1/2 tsp cumin

1/4 tsp coriander

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tsp salt or to taste

Get a skillet nice and hot at high heat and add the oil. Add the green beans, coconut and spices and mix together well. Add the water and reduce the heat to a medium high, and stir-fry until the green beans are bright green and tender for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. You can use frozen green beans as well, but I LOVE fresh vegetables, so I almost always use fresh over frozen.

When the vegetables are ready serve alongside your favorite Indian dishes and enjoy. We all did. 🙂

Have a great day. Stay warm, stay safe and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

A Night At the Rodeo

Tis the season of the National Western Stock Show here in Denver. This is an annual tradition that has been a part of Denver’s and Colorado’s history since 1906.

Every year, roughly 700,000 visit people from all over come to town to watch the Rodeos and to buy and sell their livestock. The Stock Show offers a rare window into Western tradition and the incredible importance that agriculture and ranching industries have made to revolutionize our daily lives. For many other visitors, the National Western Stock Show is a pilgrimage, a gathering of the extended family that sustains and defines the West. Since the first Stock Show in 1906, it has been a place where generations of farmers and ranchers – people whose hard work feeds the rest of us – spend time reuniting with old friends, learning about new approaches and techniques in agriculture and ranching, and doing some business, year after year. The Stock Show goes on for two weeks, with different events all throughout, so unless we are going every night of those two weeks, there is only so much we can see in one evening.

Last night Larry and I paid homage to the Denver tradition and we went to the Pro Rodeo.

I had my camera as always, but this was most definitely an action packed event and I ended up taking mostly videos (which I normally don’t do. I much prefer photos to videos). The videos all came out great but because everything happened so fast, they did not translate well into photos. So I have to confess, most of the photos today are from the pros, and not me, though quite a few are mine.

These are the events we watched.

The Opening

The Bucking Broncos

Mutton Busting. Two of our nephews are farmers from Kansas (where Larry is from) and when they were little, they used to do this too.

Calf Roping

Jacob Edler competes in the steer wrestling during the National Western Stock Show PRCA Finals on Sunday, Jan. 26, 2020 at the Denver Coliseum in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Chet Strange/Special to the Denver Post)

The Wagon Trails

The Cossacks

The Cossacks[a] are a group of predominantly East Slavic Orthodox Christian people who became known as members of democratic, self-governing, semi-military communities originating in the steppes of Eastern Europe (in particular the Dnieper, in the Wild Fields. Originally they were highly trained horse soldiers. A lot of the moves they did at the rodeo are skills that were needed on the fields of battle in the military to aid soldiers during war. Fortunately today, they are mostly for show, and what a show the put on too. All of the stunts they did were done while the horses were moving at a very fast pace.

There was Women’s Barrel Racing. These horses were so fast and so precise.

And the final event for the evening was the Bull Riding. They move truly love what they do, for every time they do this, they are putting their lives on the line. These big bulls are over 1800+ lbs.

We had a great time at the Stock Show. All of these “cowboys and cowgirls” are incredibly strong and amazing athletes. Hats off to all these phenomenal athletes and cowpokes. Thanks for sharing the cowboy way of life with us. We’ll be back again. Stay safe and ride hard.

An Indian Feast – Part 2 – Potatoes and Peppers

There were many layers and elements that composed our Indian Feast An Indian Feast – Part 1 – The Shrimp Vindaloo. The Shrimp Vindaloo was the main entre, of course, but there were other dishes that helped turn the meal into a feast. Potatoes and peppers were one other part of the whole or piece of the puzzle.

India and the Middle East in general are known for having a wide array of spices used in their recipes. This whole meal used a lot of spices too, although all the recipes used a lot of the same spices. They all worked very well together, as suggested. We were all very happy with the results. For the potatoes and peppers, I used a dry curry or rub made of the curried spices rather than making it into a sauce.

Indian Potatoes and Bell Peppers

Spice Mixture

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp ground mustard or mustard seeds

2 TBSP yellow split peas

Mix all the spices together and set aside.

3 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed

1/2 red bell pepper, diced

1/2 green bell pepper, diced

1 onion, diced

3 TBSP olive or vegetable oil

1 TBSP garlic

1 large or 2 medium jalapenos or peppers, diced fine

2 tsp lime juice

Boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes, or until they are tender. Once the potatoes are done, drain the water and transfer to a hot skillet with the oil. Add the bell peppers, garlic, onions and spices and saute for about 15 minutes, or until the peppers and onions are tender, stirring frequently. I actually wanted my potatoes a little bit browned around the edges and a little crispy, so I cooked them a bit longer. Add the lime juice during the last minute or two of cooking and combine well. You are deglazing the pan and getting all the remaining remnants of the potatoes and spices.

Enjoy these delicious, flavorful potatoes on their own are as part of a meal. Either way, I promise, you are going to love them.

Make cooking fun. Make it an exotic adventure. Travel the world one bite at a time. 🙂

Have fun, stay safe and stay well. ‘Til next time.

Pop, Pop, Popcorn

There is absolutely NO doubt about it. Popcorn is my favorite snack. I eat large bowls full of it all the time.

118,225 Popcorn Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

I bring all this up because yesterday, January 19, was National Popcorn Day. I apologize for being a day late on this national day of celebrations. Corn that has been popped has been around for at least about 5600 years. Popped corn has been a favorite of the Native Americans, both in South and North America for thousands of years . It was of course popular for eating, but was also used for decorations, jewelry and ceremonies as well.

I know there are plenty of people who like other kinds of flavors mixed in with their popcorn, and that’s OK … for them. Some people like it with chocolate or caramel or sugar. Others like it with cheese or garlic or even BBQ flavorings. The possibilities are endless, and that’s OK for some, but not for me. Some people like it fancy or gourmet style while others like it colored.

The Best 7 Varieties of Popcorn to Grow Your Own | Gardener's Path
Caramel Popcorn (Caramel Corn) | RecipeTin Eats

I am a popcorn purist though. For me, I stick to the basics. Nothing but oil, butter and salt for me. To me, this is the best way to enjoy my popcorn, eating it one popped kernel at a time.

Popcorn became a popular snack to the American population as a whole around the mid 1800’s. It really became popular at theatres during the Great Depression of the 1920’s and 30’s when the theatres started selling it to help make money to help them stay open.

It is estimated that today, Americans consume about 15 billion quarts of popcorn annually, which breaks down to an average of about 45 quarts per person. I know I certainly eat my share, and then some on a regular basis. 🙂 Some of the reasons for its popularity are because it’s one of the most wholesome and economical foods available to Americans and considered a healthy snack to indulge in. Compared to most snack foods, popcorn is extremely low in calories. Air-popped popcorn only has 31 calories per cup, while oil-popped popcorn has only 55 calories per cup, not counting the butter of course. Popcorn is the perfect go to snack for trying to meet those weight loss (or gain) goals healthily while keeping your body nourished and your tummy happy! It is also good comfort food that is easy to eat and easy to enjoy, whether at home or away.

So pop away and celebrate national popcorn day, even if a day or two late. It’s always time for popcorn.

An Indian Feast – Part 1 – The Shrimp Vindaloo

It was my friend Elizabeth’s birthday yesterday, and she wanted me to cook her dinner. She had asked for shrimp curry. Easy-peasy. A curry is just something cooked in a spicy sauce. I did make her a “shrimp curry”, in the form of Shrimp Vindaloo, but I also made a whole feast to accompany the Shrimp Vindaloo too. The cookbook I used had a list of menu suggestions to go with the Shrimp Vindaloo, so I made them all. We had Shrimp Vindaloo, tomato and onion salad, green beans Thoren, potatoes and bell peppers, rice and banana, coconut and cardamom samosas over ice cream for dessert.

Let’s start with the Shrimp Vindaloo, since that was the requested menu item for this special occasion. Elizabeth had no idea I was preparing the rest of the suggested menu items to turn the meal into a feast.

Vindaloo is a traditional recipe of the Catholic community of Goa, an Indian state on the country’s southwestern coast. However, its origins lie 5,500 miles (8,850km) to the west, in Portugal, from where an earlier variant of the dish made its way to Goa with Portuguese explorers in the early 15th century. Vindaloo, like curry, is a way of cooking foods in a spicy, often fiery sauce. Vindaloo is one of endless possibilities of delicious curry dishes. It can be vegetarian or made with chicken, pork, lamb, beef or seafood. The word vindaloo is a garbled pronunciation of the popular Portuguese dish carne de vinha d’alhos (meat marinated in wine-vinegar and garlic), which made its way to India in the 15th century along with Portuguese explorers. Vindaloo foods are a combination of Portuguese, Goan and Southern Indian influences. Vindaloo is a blend of chilis, tamarind, ginger, cumin, and mustard seeds, and spices originally from Goa. As with anything, there is NEVER just one version. There are endless possibilities everywhere you can find Indian foods.

Shrimp Vindaloo

The Spice Mixture

6 tsp coriander

1 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 tsp cinnamon nibs or 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp ground cloves

1/2 tsp ground mustard or mustard seeds

1 1/2 tsp salt

Mix all the spices together and set aside.

The Vindaloo

2 lbs large shrimp, peeled and deveined

2 cups onion, sliced very thin

1/4 cup olive oil

2 tsp ginger

2 tsp garlic

1/4 cup white vinegar

1 cup chopped tomatoes

1/2 cup coconut milk

2-3 chilis, either Serrano, jalapeno or Thai chilies are fine. it just depends on the level of heat you are looking for.

1/4 cup water, or more as needed

chopped cilantro for topping

In a very hot skillet, add the oil, the onions and the peppers and cook for about 5-7 minutes or until the onions are translucent.

Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp are completely pink and are thoroughly cooked.

Add the spice mixture, vinegar, tomatoes, garlic, ginger and coconut milk and combine thoroughly. Cook for about 3-5 minutes. Add the water, bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer and continue to cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Once the Vindaloo was ready to serve, we topped it with chopped cilantro and served it over the rice, with everything else on the side.

I encouraged Elizabeth to taste her dish to make sure all the spices were just right. I do this for everyone. Because after all, you have to like what you are cooking if you are going to eat it.

Elizabeth was very pleased with her birthday Indian feast.

Happy Birthday my friend, with many more to come.

Stay happy, healthy, safe and well. ‘Til next time.

A Wolf, A Puma, A Panther and The Saint

Today was a rare day of photo opportunities. I got ALL 4 of the kids.

The happy wolf.

There’s a panther in my crate.

I’ll have to check this out.

Maybe if I sit on her she’ll leave.

The wolf and the puma.

And the Saint, in his favorite spot, oblivious to the rest of the gang and all their shenanigans.

Can you tell I am a proud mom? I love all my fur babies. 🙂

Nature Walks – The Cassin’s Finch

We are so blessed to have such a wide variety of birds literally right in our backyard. As I am currently sitting in my office, I am looking out my office window watching the birds flit all around. Though it is about to snow, so as the skies begin to darken and the clouds roll in, I am seeing fewer and fewer birds fly by my window. Luckily when I was out walking the other day, the weather was a bit more friendly and more birds were out and about. One of those birds was a beautiful Cassin’s Finch. I was lucky enough to have him pose for a few good pictures before he got bored and flew away.

There is always something beautiful to see. Just open your eyes and open your mind to all the beautiful opportunities. They are all around you. You just need to look for them.

Cheesy Mushroom Pull Apart Monkey Bread

Monkey bread, pull apart bread, plucking cake or bubble bread. What does all this mean? They are just some of the more common names for a type of bread that is pulled apart and eaten as finger food. The term “monkey bread” sprang about because the bread is pulled and picked apart as if it were being eaten by a monkey. I know, it’s a stretch, but that’s what Wikipedia says, so it’s gotta be true, right?!

Usually “monkey bread” is a sweet bread or dessert, with Hungarian Jewish origins, dating back to the 1880’s. But now it is also being made as a savory type of bread too. It is dough balls that have been rolled in butter and seasonings that are grouped together in a round or bundt baking pan.

I had made some earlier with just the cheese, Cheesey-Garlicky Pull-Apart Bread then I found a recipe that included mushrooms as well, and I LOVE mushrooms, so I just had to make it. I found this recipe from one of the many wonderful blog sites I follow, but I confess, I forget which one. I am very sorry about this. I love to give credit where credit is due, and I usually do, but alas, I forgot to track it this time. Hopefully you will remember and send me a gentle reminder so I can credit you later.

Cheesy Mushroom Pull Apart Monkey Bread

2 cups mushrooms, sliced

4-6 TBSP butter

1 TBSP garlic

1 tsp dried oregano

2 tins of frozen prepared pizza dough

1/2 cup Parmigiano cheese

1 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

olive oil

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 180* C.

Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray.

Saute the mushrooms in olive oil with the salt & pepper until they are cooked. Drain off the excess liquid and set aside.

Melt the butter and add the garlic and oregano and combine well.

Cut the dough into equal sized portions and roll into balls. Dip the dough balls into the butter mixture and roll to completely cover. Roll the buttery dough balls into the Parmigiano cheese and completely cover. Place them on a piece of parchment paper and let rest for about 15-20 minutes.

When the dough balls are ready, place half of them around the bottom of the bundt pan. Add a layer of mushrooms, a layer of the shredded cheddar cheese and a layer of the parsley. Repeat the process until you are done.

Bake for about 40-45 minutes or until the the bread is golden brown and cooked completely. Allow to cool slightly, then start pulling it apart and enjoying it bit by bit. It is so ooey and gooey and oh so good. I have already eaten it with some beef stew that Larry made the other day and then again with spaghetti that we had last night. It was just good on day two as it was on day one.

Stay safe, stay warm and stay well Everyone. ‘Til next time.

Nature Walks – The Hawk Up High

Right now our lakes are pretty quiet these days and that’s OK too. This has made me train myself to look in all directions, as well as up high and down below. Often times those are the places where I see so many great things. They are there, just waiting to be seen. This time it was another one of our Red-Tailed Hawks. When I first saw him, he was sitting atop the light light post. I got a couple of good shots of him there, until Vinnie walked up and sacred him into flight. Of course I did not get him in flight, but I did catch up with him again when he landed in one of the big pine trees.

I just love the hawks and all the birds of prey in general. They are just so beautiful and majestic.

Never forget to look in all places. Look up, look down and look all around. The beauty is there just waiting to be discovered.

Italian Apple Cake

As beautiful as a big slice of a decadently rich chocolate cake looks, it is really not my thing. It’s far to sweet and far to rich for my tastes. I am not a big fan of super sweet desserts. I much prefer them to be be slightly sweet, more rustic and less “pretty”. That being said, here is a perfect example of a rustic, mildly sweet dessert that can be enjoyed as an after dinner treat or as a midday snack or something in the morning with a good strong cup of coffee. It is an Italian apple cake known in Italian as the Torta de Mele. I made it as part of my latest display of goodies for our church coffee cart. I paired it with some Mandarin oranges and mini poppy seed muffins to complete my tray.

Apples are very popular all throughout Europe, as well as the rest of the world. When it is apple season, fresh apples are always such a delight. They are begging to be used in as many fresh and delicious ways as possible. Almost every country has their own version of a traditional apple cake, and every region has personalized it as well. The French have their gateau aux pommes moelleux, Germans have Apfelkuchen, and the Danish call it aeblekage, and on it goes. Apples have been a part of European baking throughout the ages. For instance, the Apfelkuchen or a German apple cake is very popular all over Germany, but it tends to be a bit drier than its Italian cousin, the Torta de Mele. Another difference between the German Apfelkuchen, and most other apple cakes, and the Italian Torta de Mele is cinnamon. The Germans use cinnamon, whereas the Italians typically do not. They use a bit of lemon to enhance the flavors of the apples.

When making a Torta de Mele it is also recommended to make sure all the ingredients are at room temperature, rather than having some cold and and some warm. This helps the flavors of the cake blend together better. This is supposed to be a thick cake, so use a deep pan that is at least 2″ thick. Traditionally this cake is made in a bundt pan, but I found a recipe that made it as a sheet cake instead, so I decided to make it this way for a change of pace. I have made it both ways, and no matter how I bake it, it always comes out great.

Italian Apple Cake

You can use whatever type of apples you like as long as they are firm, crisp apples. My favorites are Galas, but Granny Smiths work just fine too. This cake uses a little cinnamon, but not much, and surprisingly, no lemon in this recipe. It is an adaptation of a traditional Italian cake that has hints of the German apple cake as well. I guess it would be considered a Northern Italian recipe, since Northern Italy is closer to Germany, and thus the German influences.

For the Apples

6 apples, peeled and sliced thin

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

Mix the apples, cinnamon and sugar together and set aside until ready to use.

The Cake

Preheat the oven to 350* F or 175* C.

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and line it with parchment paper. I have 2 9×13 baking pans and I use them all the time. Usually that is more than enough. Oddly enough though, this time, they were both in use at the same time, which rarely happens. So I did what comes naturally to me, and I improvised. I lined a deep cookie sheet with parchment paper and used that instead. It worked just fine. My cake still came out nice and fluffy and it was very moist indeed.

1 1/2 sticks softened butter

1 cup sugar

4 eggs

2 cups flour

1 cup almond flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1` tsp cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla

1/2 tsp salt

1 1/2 cups Greek yogurt

powdered sugar for dusting

Combine the butter and sugar and mix until creamy, then add eggs and vanilla, adding the eggs one at a time, and mix in between each addition.

Combine all the dry ingredients and mix together.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the yogurt to the butter and sugar mixture, mixing in between each addition.

Add half the apples to the bottom of the pan and spread out evenly in a single layer across the bottom of the pan.

Add the batter on top of the apple slices and completely cover them. Then arrange the remaining apple slices on top of the batter.

Bake uncovered for about one hour or until the cake is done and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted in the middle.

Allow the cake to cool completely before cutting into squares and dusting with powdered sugar. There are apples all throughout the cake. Every bite will have apple in it.

Grab yourself a big strong cuppa and enjoy the simple, rustic flavors of this delicious apple cake. !Buon Appetito!

Stay safe and stay well Everyone! ‘Til next time.

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