Update 4/2– Garam Masala, Candles and Soap

For the most part I have been focusing on spending time with my family and healing.  Every little moment seems to matter so much more.  It feels so good to just be able to cook a meal or spend time relaxing with my DH, I can’t even tell you.  Things I might have taken a bit for granted just a month ago.

One of the interests I’ve entertained myself with is spices.  Or rather, spice blends.  There’s been several but I’ll tell you about my favorite one.  I was liking  paneer (cheese) so much (both the making and the eating) I started diving into Indian Cooking blogs and Indian-fusion sorts of recipes for other dishes that included or complemented it.  Of course then I needed garam masala (lit. “hot mixture”), which I haven’t found locally.  So I took to making my own from the items I easily had on hand.  Eventually I will use whole spices as fresh and local as possible, roasted and/or ground myself to match the quality and freshness of the homemade paneer, but for now, after several attempts, our favorite quick mix is this:

Mix equal portions of ground cinnamon, coriander, ginger, and cayenne pepper.  Add a double portion of ground cumin.  Add a half-portion each of ground black peppercorns, cardamom and all-spice.  Store in a glass jar or other airtight container in a cool, dry place.

IMG_3653Naturally, then, when a friend shared their abundance of fresh, baby spinach I turned to Indian Fare.  I’d bookmarked several spinach and potato dishes that reminded me of a dish I’d enjoyed back when I lived in Arizona and combined them to produce what I was looking for.  The results turned out so delicious I’ve made them several times in the past two weeks!  The closest recipe is here.  The changes I made are that I used my processor to do the grating.  I cooked the spinach along with four large potatoes, peeled and diced, in a large skillet with minimal water and a lid (to get the potatoes cooked quicker with less water).  I also added a grated carrot, a clove of minced garlic, salt, pepper and a few sprigs of fresh parsley to the spinach and potato mixture (it all gets blended up together at the end).  I omitted the cayenne but instead used 2 tsp. of my garam masala spice mix.  And I used sour cream instead of evaporated milk.  The best way I’ve ever served spinach – hands down!

Since the last update I’ve also completed two exciting indoor craft projects with my Dear Husband I want to share.  Candles and Soap.

With the candles we were able to perfect our mix, method and container/wick widths to get a pour we like and can predict.  They burn clean, even and slow with a gentle pear scent. Next time we will use a bit shorter jar.  These are 20-hour candles.  I really wish you could smell them:

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DH and I had planned our soap adventure for awhile now, but like many things lately it needed to be postponed.  We were spurred into action by a request from a friend for all-natural, lemon guest soaps.  Thus, these lemon bars were born:

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Our soap is a blend of organic goat milk, vegetable glycerin, coconut oil and soy protein.  Natural iron oxide powder produces the yellow color.  Light use of lemon essential oil (5X) provides the desired properties and scent.  It wasn’t as much work as we anticipated and the results were definitely worth it. I think we’ve been bit by the soap-making bug…our list of ideas to try is growing!

Given all the possibilities I don’t know that lemon would have ever placed among my picks, but I already plan on making more for myself when my own sample runs out!  Even though we kept the scent on the fainter side of things, there is something just perfect about the rejuvenating pick-me-up of the lemon when I wash my face in the morning!

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Tangy BBQ Sauce

I serve this on Boca Burgers topped with a slice of melted Munster, or use it in place of Asian-spices when making Baked Tofu.  However, if you happen to be a meat eater this is a great tenderizing sauce that requires no marinating time and bakes wonderfully-thick.

INGREDIENTS:

* 4 tablespoons organic butter

* 1 tablespoon vegetarian Worcester sauce

* 1 tablespoon rice wine vinegar

* ½ tablespoon ginger pulp or finely grated

* 2 teaspoons Braggs

* 1 teaspoon salt

* 1 teaspoon ground mustard

* ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

* the juice of ½ of a medium-sized lemon

* 1/3 cup or equivalent of your favorite sweetener, such as a natural brown sugar

* 3 cloves garlic, minced

* 1 cup organic ketchup

DIRECTIONS:

1.      Melt butter in a saucepan.

2.      Mix in remaining ingredients up to (but not including) the ketchup, whisking to incorporate.  Simmer on medium-low five minutes.

3.      Whisk in ketchup.  If the sauce will be baked in the oven as part of a dish it is ready to use.  If the sauce will be used as a condiment, then continue simmering for approximately 30 minutes.

4.      Serve and Enjoy!

5.      VARIATION:  This is also great with the addition of ½ of a sweet onion, minced; Or try omitting the mustard for more of an Asian inspiration!

Savory Lemon Sauce

This sauce is great on Salmon steaks or patties!  We’ve also enjoyed it on Asparagus as it can be used as an easy substitute for Hollandaise!

INGREDIENTS:

* 4 tablespoons organic, all-natural butter

* 1 ½ tablespoon Mochiko

* ¾ cup half-and-half or milk

* 3 tablespoons lemon juice or approximately the juice of ½ a lemon

* 1 teaspoon real salt

* ¼ teaspoon chili powder

DIRECTIONS:

1.      Melt butter in a saucepan.  Sprinkle Mochiko over melted butter and stir.

2.      Slowly add half-and-half to make a smooth sauce.

3.      Stir in lemon juice, salt, and chili powder.  Blend well.  Heat through, stirring often.  Serve.

4.      If sauce becomes too thick thin it out with a bit more half-and-half or even a dash of water.

5.      If you want a taste more like Hollandaise, omit the chili powder and use a few dashes of Worcestershire in its place.  Note that the sauce will no longer be vegetarian if using Worcestershire.