Presenting the: It’s HOT – It’s Africa HOT – Tarzan couldn’t stand this kind of heat – Edition of the Lazy Cook

When you don’t have Air Conditioning and it’s this freakin’ hot, the last thing you want to do is cook. Well, the last thing you want to do is move. But even in the Lazy Cook’s household, food prep can sometimes include movement.

And while we eat a lot of cold salads and watermelon in hotter weather, those foods don’t tend to “last” in the tummy. It’s the cooler version of Chinese food: 20 minutes later and you are hungry again. So, how do we resolve that problem? The Lazy Way of course.

Here is a picture tutorial for a cooked vegetarian curry that doesn’t require heating up the house with… heat.

The dish: a nice Corning Ware casserole with lid. The lid is a necessary part of the endeavor, so keep that in mind when following this recipe.

To fill this casserole you will need the following:

About 2 cups of Vegetable Broth, or about 1/2 of this container (Chicken stock is good if you aren’t going vegetarian on this one). Wolfgang Puck brand isn’t necessary, I’m just showing off that I got this at Big Lots for $1.50

1 cup of coconut milk or about 1/2 the can:

3 or 4 tender summer squash from the garden, cubed.

Sweet pepper, chopped. This is probably about 1/2 a cup.

A medium onion chopped. (Hello Kitty bowl is not required) And since I had some curried okra canned up from last year, I thought “Why not?”.

Red Curry Paste. I get mine at the Asian Market for about .60 cents a can.

You’ll use a tablespoon, more or less, depending on how hot you like it. Add it to the broth and coconut milk in the casserole. Mix well. This will keep you from getting lumps of paste in your curry. ‘Cause stirring it while its cooking  is too…  hot.

You can add salt at any time to your taste. But at least 1/2 teaspoon. You can add in the chopped vegetables at this point, along with cubed extra firm tofu and cubed carrots. Try cutting them into smaller bits than shown here.

Once you’ve got it all in there, it should resemble this:


Pepper is optional, I just added it as an afterthought. Now for the lid.


Let’s look at the time. Okay 11:30 ish… so we’ll get this in well before noon.

Now into the cooker.

And to set the temperature, we simply go over…

and make it so.

Serve with brown rice, white rice or millet, along with a tomato, cucumber and onion salad. Enjoy.

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Sweet Potato Rice Pudding: the Lazy Cook’s Recipe Hacks

Iva Mae Swinford from Lubbock, Texas offered up a perfectly good Pumpkin Rice Pudding recipe for Thanksgiving from The Cooking Club of America.

And I promptly proceeded to change it.

I’ll give you her version – tasty enough. And then my changes, which involved, among other things ….. you guessed it – butter.

Iva Mae’s Pumpkin Rice Pudding

15 oz can of pure pumpkin
1 cup sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground cloves
12 oz can evaporated milk
2 eggs beaten
2 cups medium grain rice
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup chopped pecans

(and a whipped topping which we will skip – buy some Cool Whip, food-tards)

Oven at 350 degrees. Whisk pumpkin, sugar, spices in a large bowl. Stir in milk and eggs. Stir in rice, raisins and 1/2 cup pecans.

Pour into 11 x 7 inch glass baking dish: place in shallow roasting pan. Add enough water to come about 1 inch up the sides of the dish.

Bake 15 minutes, stir well. Then bake 30 to 35 minutes until knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes.

Sweet Potato Rice Pudding

Well, the condensed milk was the first thing off the list. And the whipped topping. I substituted coconut milk. But silken tofu would work too. And I prefer prunes to raisins. And there wasn’t nearly enough fat to make it interesting. Finally, I had just bought some sweet potatoes on sale, so out with the pumpkin. This allowed me to cut the sugar in half. And I added 1/2 stick of butter.

I made it. It was very good. And well received.

But the Lazy Cook took a few bites and said,  “You know what this needs?”

So I made it again; adding in my extras. And I didn’t put it in the double boiler thingy… frankly I forgot. It came out a bit denser (which I liked), so unless you are a stickler for process or your oven burns things, skip it.

Here is my version which is only slightly more involved.

1 large baked sweet potato
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 brown sugar
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp salt
1 13 oz can coconut milk: pour off thin milk, keep heavy cream
2 eggs beaten
2 cups cooked medium grain rice
3/4 cup chopped prunes
3/4 cup butter roasted pecans
1/2 stick unsalted butter melted
1 tbsp of cognac (optional)

Oven at 350 degrees. Whisk sweet potato, sweetener, spices in a large bowl. Stir in coconut cream, butter and eggs. Stir in rice, prunes, pecans, cognac.

Pour into 11 x 7 inch glass baking dish. Bake 15 minutes, stir well. Then bake 30 to 35 minutes until knife inserted into center comes out clean. Cool 20 minutes.

This is a great snuggley warm winter food. Really good hot. Really good for breakfast. Just really, really good.

Enjoy.

Split Pea and Barley Soup with Hot Sausage

There is not much that can beat split pea soup. It is warm, creamy and filling. The tastes of the peas in chicken soup stock with onions and the occasional sweet bit of carrot are a completely satisfying experience.

But as with most of the dishes I cook other considerations, like what needs to be eaten, influence the process of my kitchen experiments.

Split pea soup was on the menu and ½ pound of spicy pork sausage was sitting in the fridge looking kinda lonely. In the process of gathering up supplies, I ran across about a cup of barley and I thought: Why not?

As I noted earlier, I like chicken stock as a base for split pea soup. In this instance I thought stock and sausage might be too rich. So, I cut the amount of stock  and added water for the remaining liquid.

2 cups of split peas and 1 cup of barley.

Add 4 cups of chicken stock and 3 cups of water.

Add salt to taste

Add chopped carrots if desired.

Bring to a boil then cook over low to medium heat, stirring occasionally.

Chop up the ½ lb of sausage and place in a skillet,

Chop one small onion and add to the sausage.

Cook thoroughly

When the sausage is cooked, drain the oil for use with other dishes.

Crumble the sausage and add, with the onions, to the soup.

What I liked: The texture of this soup is amazing. It is full bodied and has a great mouth feel. I always like barley in food because it has a slightly chewy texture that I find very satisfying. The hot sausage was an interesting change from ham. And as with many spicy foods, by the following day, the spices had become more pronounced.

What I found less than perfect: Adding the barley flattens out the taste of the peas.

So there is a slight trade off of texture and taste, I will make this again, but it wasn’t so good that I would let it replace the standard version of split pea soup.

Enjoy.

Curry: Food of the Gods

Curries

A variety of curries available at penzeys.com

Turmeric is a 3 foot tall perennial herb. It is related to the ginger plant and grows in similar regions: India, China, Indonesia, Jamaica, Haiti and other tropical countries. In order to be used, the rhizome is boiled, cleaned and sundried. Tumeric is the component that gives mustard its sunny yellow color and is used in a wide variety of foods including delicious curries.

Now, this amazing spice gives everybody something else to feel sunny about. It turns out a compound in turmeric is helpful in preventing the plaques implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

Montefin.com Curcumin and Alzheimer’s

Mid-Day.com Professors Doraiswamy Alzheimer’s Cure

In the history of turmeric’s use, each country that cultivates turmeric uses it for similar complaints. Skin problems including: skin ulcers, pimples, eczema, psoriasis, herpes sores, pox are treated with added ingredients such as coconut oil or lime juice to make a smooth paste. The same pastes are used for snakebites, insect stings and ringworm.

For diaper rashes, the powder is sprinkled directly on to the skin

The Philippine Journal of Nursing (50:95) recommends a turmeric decoction followed by 48 oz. of water to alleviate any bleeding during pregnancy. Bleeding early in a pregnancy can indicate the potential for miscarriage. The turmeric decoction is used as a preventative. Combining this with eggplant makes for an even more effective remedy.

Curcumins I, II and III demonstrate in studies (Int J Immunopharmacol 21 [11]: 745-757, 1999) to have anti-cancer and antioxidant actions, central nervous system disorders, renal cancer, breast cancer, colon cancer and melanoma.

The Journal of Ethnopharmacology (7:95-109 1983) noted curcumol and curdione active compounds from turmeric proved very effective against cervical cancer, but only in the early stages. Likewise the same compounds showed strong cytotoxic effects against Dalton’s Lymphoma cells in the beginning stages of development. Cancer Letters (29:197-202, 1985)

Another compound, diferuloylmethane, shows significant effect in inhibiting tissue necrosis factor (TNF)-alpha (link)  (Phytomedicine 7 [4]: 303-308, 2000)

Cell mutations, such as cancer, are not the only ones affected by turmeric. Nutrition and Cancer Institute in Bombay, India discovered that turmeric helps to offset the mutagenicity of hot chili peppers and other food that can cause cell mutations.

And turmeric may also exert a number of other effects in the body: anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic, hepatoprotective (protects the liver) and hypolipidemic  (lowers blood lipids)

Turmeric inhibited edema (induced) and subacute arthritis in studies with rats and mice, comparable to treatments like hydrocortisone acetate and phenylbutazone. ½ teaspoon taken morning and evening in juice is suggested from those conducting the studies.

For contusions, sprains and fractures a mixture of 2 tbsps of turmeric mixed with 1 tbsp lime and just enough boiling water to make a smooth paste with a nut butter consistency. This paste can be applied to painful, swollen areas, covered with something that will help maintain the heat and moisture.

Rats fed on a diet containing 10% fat colored with turmeric, showed virtually no fat buildup around the liver, unlike control rats fed with the same diet sans turmeric. The addition of eggplant increased the turmeric’s effectiveness.

As with most spices, turmeric has long been used as a preservative. In olive, soybean and sesame oil, it increases shelf life as well as in fats by its significant anti-oxidant activity. There are studies that show a doubling of shelf life in seafood with the use of a turmeric dip.

As a note of caution for people with gall bladder problems, as curcumin stimulates bile secretions.

Now for the delicious part: Make Your Own Curry Powder

1 tbsp. ground coriander seeds

½ tsp. ground cumin seeds

½ tsp. ground turmeric

¼ tsp ground ginger

¼ tsp cayenne pepper

Combine and mix thoroughly. Seal in an airtight jar, store in a cool place.

Use with lamb, fish, poultry, lentil soups, stews and other Far Eastern dishes.

Curries in Asia often contain onion, garlic and salt. The will often contain sour flavors as well; including tamarind, lime, unripe mango. And mustard, coconut and lemongrass are used as well. Enjoy and be healthy.

Tofu Cheesefake

The problem with gluten and casein intolerance is cheesecake. Well, okay, not directly. But once in a while, you miss little things like a billion calories in a vehicle of rich, thick flavored cream cheese.

So what’s a girl to do?

Cheesefake.

I’ll leave the choice of crust to you. This is an amazing dessert even if you tolerate gluten well.  So a premade graham cracker crust would work fine. The original recipe called for a 9 inch spring-form pan. To that I say “Fie!” Whatever you use, it needs to be cool and ready to go when you finish mixing the filling.

The filling is often tricky. Mine will sometimes form cracks which call for creative decorating like strawberry slices or pecans. It’s probably because I use egg yolks in the recipe which shockingly had no fat in the original. What were they thinking?

Leave the yolks out if you want to trim the fat. It won’t hurt the outcome. But in my case, nixing the fat would definitely hurt my sense of Yum.

This is a time intensive process, but it can be made ahead and it keeps well in the fridge for about a week.

Preheat your oven to 350.

1.5 pounds of tofu crème cheese (Tofutti makes a good one)

10.5 oz of silken tofu. In a pinch, soft or medium will do; but it might crack.

¾ cup sugar. You might know of a way to make stevia work, I have not figured that one out yet. Sugar is necessary for the body.

2 tablespoons arrowroot starch

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Blend well in a food processor until smooth. In batches if you have a small processor.

Pour mix into cooled crust. Bake for 50 minutes. Turn off oven and leave the cheesecake in the warm oven for another hour. Remove and cool completely before putting it in the fridge with a tight wrap to prevent uneven cooling (and probably cracks). Cool at least four hours until well chilled.

When you are ready to serve it, hide any cracks with fruit, dabs of whole fruit jelly, whipped cream or any other gilding of the lily you think is necessary. Trust me, this is so good and so light, you might just be tempted to eat it all in one sitting, so to heck with how it looks.

I was so impressed by the nutritional information on this one I actually kept it on hand:

3670 calories in the entire cake. So divide total calories by number of servings. 1 serving = 3670 calories, 2 = 1835, etc. Stop dividing when the guilt goes away.

But they list it as 10 servings, so:

5 g. protein

26 g. fat

28 g carbohydrates

1 g. fiber

450 mg sodium

Less heart clogging than a traditional cheesecake and it makes a great breakfast food too.

 

Wild Rice Stuffing with Nuts and Cherries

This needs to be cooled before stuffing the turkey, so prep this at least an hour before the turkey is ready to go in the oven. Or to cook separately, put it in a covered baking dish at 350 for 20 minutes.

Obviously you can cook your rices at the same time, they just cook at different speeds, so different pots (natch).

2 cups of white rice

Cook the rice in 4.5 cups water (or broth for the best taste) for about 25 minutes.

1 cup of wild rice

Cook the rice in 4.5 cups water (or broth for the best taste) for about 45 minutes. Mix with white rice.

While the rice is cooking, dice:

1 cup of onion

1 cup celery

To which you will add:

1 cup of dried cherries

1 teaspoon rubbed sage

1 cup pecan halves

1 cup of pitted prunes, quartered

And you can also add:

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 teaspoons dried marjoram

In a heated pan: 2 tablespoons of fat (your choice), toss in the vegetables and fruit. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly until the vegetables are wilted.

Mix together, add salt and pepper. Stuff and bake.

“Butterball” Turkey

Here is a sinful addition to a plain old turkey that will make your guests reach for their nitroglycerine.

You know it’s good when a recipe suggestion starts with: Take a pound of butter. Sweet unsalted is best.

You can mix one or all of the following into the softened butter:

Fresh or rubbed sage

Crushed rosemary leaves

Crushed Russian sage leaves

Black pepper

Or Curry Powder

On the turkey you will want to take a fillet knife (or a thin butcher knife) and lifting the skin near the neck opening above the breast, cut the membrane holding the skin to the breast (and legs, moving in toward the drumstick from the lower leg. Cut slits as needed to reach all areas). Detach as much of the skin as possible while leaving it intact on the turkey.

Take the butter and spice mix, stuffing it under the skin so that it is evenly distributed across the meaty areas.

You will need to massage and pat the butter mix into place. Don’t worry it if it’s a little lumpy. It just needs to be somewhat evenly distributed.

Even though basting seems moot at this point, do it anyway. It makes the skin nice and brown.

This is not a good recipe to serve your friends who are watching the amount of fat they eat. Or who have wives who are in any way concerned about the intake of dietary fat of anybody within speaking distance. This recipe has caused divorce proceedings on those grounds alone.

 

Steaming your food reduces inflammatory markers in the body.

UPI Health Report

Inflammatory markers declined by as much as 60 percent in those eating poached, stewed or steamed meals, U.S. researchers found.

Lead author Dr. Helen Vlassara of New York City’s Mt. Sinai School of Medicine said inflammatory markers have been linked to increased risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease.

The study, published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, suggested inflammation linked to oxidants — in particular those that proliferate in fried, grilled or baked food — may overwhelm the body’s defenses.

Halloween Specialities. But not from the Lazy Cook.

You must realize, the Lazy Cook does not “do” non-food food. For instance Kitty Litter Cake with crumbled cookies on top so it looks like litter and  Tootsie Roll “poo”

Litter Box Cake

Litter Box Cake

or even a Hamburger Meat Hand nestled in a bed of mashed potatoes.

But she does appreciate artistry and dedication, even if they completely put her off her feed.

Meat Hand

Meat Hand

Too late for this Halloween, but keep them in mind for next year.

The Lazy Cook ponders ways to cook Spam (so that it doesn’t suck).

Once in a while the Lazy Cook finds her taste for the usual main dish proteins (bean/rice, chicken, pork, beef, fish) has gone off the rails. It might be the restlessness I often feel in the Fall season. It might be the need for a change after a summer of cooking and eating mostly fresh foods. Whatever the reason, I found myself picking up a can of Spam from our cellar stores just the other day.

Winter brings ice storms to our state; nothing as lovely or prosaic as snow. Ice that brings down sappy pines en masse. Ice that weighs on power lines to the point of a sudden brittle snap. Ice that routinely results in power outages lasting for days. No power, no fridge. Fresh foods are a luxury at that point. And living on outlying county roads mean we don’t get service until the main byways have been dealt with, so there is no “running over to the store”. Hence the Spam and other goods both processed and home canned, waiting in our cellar.

The Spam was purchased from the local Big Lots. It’s the 70th Anniversary Edition. And the 3 collector’s cans have graphics and background designs from a variety older advertisements. Snazzy cans aside, it was very….inexpensive.

70th Anniversary

70th Anniversary

No, I don’t think its 70 year old Spam. At least I hope not.

So, when I picked it up the other day, I realized I hadn’t actually eaten spam for about half the span of their entire existence as a brand. I had used it as a worm substitute for fishing in the 80’s by cutting into long strips and microwaving it until it was shriveled and tough. The fish really like it.

For our dinner, however, I figured that the basic frying-a-slice would be the way to go. Sides for the meal were home canned collards with balsamic vinaigrette, pintos and rice. I had wanted cornbread, but found myself without the eggs necessary to make a loaf. As for cooking the Spam,. I did make a last minute executive decision to slather brown mustard on one side, then flip it over to fry the mustard onto the meat. It created a brownish, crispy crust for the meat and ended up being a good addition.

My first bite, while not exactly a spit-take, found me resisting the urge to open my mouth over my plate so I could push the meat out with my tongue.

Salt. Lots of salt. Seemingly more salt than your average country ham. The Mister’s family history of heart disease means I only add small amounts of sea salt to recipes and those partaking in the meal are free to salt as they will. He wryly commented, after his first taste, that this meal comprised the whole of his weekly sodium intake.

Then there’s the texture issue. The Mister doesn’t seem to heed textural issues in the same way I do. So he had little to say on the matter. But I don’t think it’s putting too fine a point on it to call the texture Horrific.

Meat has a certain resistance in the mouth; both to the teeth and to the tongue. It is not supposed to feel like a slimy, chunky Jello. It is not supposed to be meat pudding. Even Livermush, which is a loaf of ground pig’s liver, head-meat and cornmeal (or rice) has a density and heft that Spam lacks.

The, nominal “best parts”, were the slices that were thinner with more of the moisture cooked out. They were slightly chewy with a tiny crust of resistance to the teeth. So the dinner challenge became: “Ways to cook spam so that it doesn’t suck.

The brainstorming session left us with some interesting ideas like Spam Sushi. Coat small rectangles of Spam with Wasabi, fry them, then roll them up in sticky rice with a vegetable, say a spicy Chow-Chow that will cut the salt and compliment the ham.

Or cubed fried Spam in Kraut

Or Budget Meal with fried cubed Spam.  Now Budget Meal is a favorite if, as yet, untried recipe from Goya Foods. I was making hummus one day using dried Goya Chickpeas. While waiting for the peas to cook, I was perusing the plastic bag and spied their suggestion for an inexpensive meal. It was called “Budget Meal” and was basically a ground chickpea soup with hotdogs cut up and added in. Even though I am loathe to consider Budget Meal as something I would actually cook, I can see how the Spam would be a good hotdog substitute.

Note that each recipe requires the Spam be fried.

The other option we came up with was to slice the Spam and immerse it in tap water. The actions of reverse osmosis should pull some of the salt out of the meat, much like the process used with salted pole beans or country ham. What would we be left with then? As close as I can figure it would be Pork Jello. Not an aspic, mind you. Pork. Jello.

The Lazy Cook welcomes any adventurous (and printable) suggestions as to what she might do with the remaining cans of Spam in her stores.

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