Thursday, August 4, 2016

A Take on Indian- Stuffed Okra

Things are moving along, I have been interviewing with families in my area, because my other mommy's helper job will begin to tapper off, I'll still help her and my Indian family client from time to time, but I want a few more hours a week to keep me busy. It's important for the weight loss maintenance, for my bariatric surgery. See an interview I just did on a local VA television station,

But moving on. I've begun playing with food again, healthier options. I cooked for some friends who so graciously let me stay when I'm on book tours with my publishing company. And we share a love for Indian cuisine, but she doesn't have access to the seasonings in her area, a rural farm, so I bring them to her.

Stuffed Okra with squash and onions
Haddock and shrimp with mangos
Boiled potatoes (in veggie stock) and heirloom tomatoes

Okra stuffed with a finely minced ingredients of onion, fresh tomatoes (remove skin and seeds), avocado oil, and a box Indian spice called Tava Fry, something I use for making Bhindi, a chopped Indian Okra dish, sometimes pan sauteed dry with added onion and tomato bits. But this time I wanted to go elaborate. I sliced a portion of the okra, cleaned out half of the seed (slimy part), saved the pieces to cook with bigger sections, and stuffed them by hand, messy but worth it! Your level of spice will depend on how much of the Tava Fry you use. Granite you don't need that box stuff you find in Indian grocers, you can simply use mustard seeds, corriander seeds, or powders, with paprika or chili powder. Make a paste and stuff them, I encourage you to play with the flavors!

Saute in a pan with a bit more avocado oil, or oil of choice, remove onto a plate (drain oil if desired with paper towel), and then saute squash in pan; eventually adding okra back in and adding a bit of stock to steam after you place a lid onto the pan. I used a cast iron skillet.

Fresh Wild Caught Haddock and shrimp:

Season one side of fish and shrimp (after cleaning and drying on plate in fridge for a few hours, maybe afternoon, then seasoning; it helps the fish and shrimp, scallops work well, absorb the seasoning). Lightly add avocado oil and pan saute, once you flip them, add mango, turn off heat, because moisture will collect and continue cooking. Don't over cook this fish or shrimp, fish falls apart, shrimp becomes tough, there is a balance, and if you feel more secure cooking them separately do so. Cilantro for garnish.

Seasoning used was called 'Kitchen King,' Same as Tava Fry, a box seasoning I bring Brenda. No brainer way of making curry flavors.

I won't go into the potatoes too much, just boil till soft, add chopped (seeded and no skin) tomatoes, salt, pepper, and garlic. Something my daughter-in-law makes, and I love a bite or two. It calms the heat from the spices.

All I heard through dinner were these noises, "Ummm, ahhh, wow." I guess it equals to a burp in Asia, which in some of the countries is a compliment! Ha!

Till next time, cook up a storm. Go healthy, organic, local, and homegrown if you can. Practice portion control as I do, if you feel your eating has gotten out of control. I no longer have diabetes or high blood pressure. But follow your doctors orders, I do. I also work with a nutritionist and counselor.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Mahi-Mahi Update

If you like quick, easy, crockpot style cooking, then this is for you. In the previous post I list the ingredients. It's a moist meal. Not so pretty on the plate, since it's kind of hard to remove it from the pot in perfect positioning.'s tasty!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mahi-Mahi, Jamin' With Trader Joe's I

Over the past five decades, popular niche grocer Trader Joe's has grown into a $2.6-billion chain boasting 234 stores in 19 states. How it got there—from a small chain of California convenience stores bought by Joe Coulombe in 1958—has the makings of corporate legend. Lewis, former editor-in-chief of Progressive Grocer, has an authoritative voice, but he simply cannot overcome an unfortunate dearth of raw material. Apparently, executives at Trader Joe's, 80% of whose goods are sold under the chain's private label, have never seen any point in providing an inside look at the company; Lewis is forced to stretch, and too often, repeat the little information that is publicly available. The result features a lot of filler: a plethora of secondhand opinions from industry experts, generic how-to advice and a chapter on the chain's corporate owner, German grocery giant Aldi, which turns out to be just as publicity shy as Trader Joe's. On the positive side, the major components of the company's success are made crystal clear: carve out a niche that the rest of the industry has ignored, serve it in a way that is difficult for competitors to copy and squeeze every dime to maintain the low-cost position*.

Okay, I admit it, I went on a weight loss journey almost two years ago, now 184 pounds lighter (two people smaller), I've had to lesson the high fat and high end ingredients that go into my recipes. I'm also a publisher now, still miss putting my foot up into the pan, so time is of the essence. That there is a key to why this store is so successful--easy to reach for, not so quick shopping, prices are right, and they often change out seasonal items, which help keep my appetite wet. When the mood strikes me lately, I've been playing with some of their items, looking for one-pot meals that are quick for me and my schedule, but yet making my family feel I slaved for hours. I found one worthy of revisiting my food blog (I still work part-time for a local family, and her fav meals are made in the crock-pot, so I've developed some ideas for the family, since girls can be picky eaters).

Trader Joe ingredients:

 Creamy Polenta with spinach and carrots (frozen package)
1 cup copped fresh spinach
2-4 Mahi-mahi fillets (frozen cryovac packages)
1/4 to 1 cup Lemonade, regular (not sugar free) or orange juice
Salted butter (quarter squares, refrigerator)
teaspoon of orange marmalade
1 T blackening seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Mise en place: 

Thaw fillets; remove from packaging, rinse, and place on paper towels to dry out a few hours before cooking. I've found the same as I do with shrimp and scallops, it helps the meat absorb the ingredients you infuse with juice/lemonade. If you place them on paper towels, press out moisture, but leave them wrapped so they don't totally dry (in case you get stuck on a project, which has happened!) Place a pat of butter (up to you how much), juice/lemonade, and a teaspoon of orange marmalade in a prep bowl. Let them sit on counter until you're ready to begin cooking. Large pot with fitted lid (to fit 2-4 fillets with room around them) Stove, gas or electric, and I've done this one on the grill, to infuse smoke into the dish, no lid, only loosely fitted foil. Let package of creamy polenta sit out to warm/thaw along side butter/juice, and marmalade. 

Anyone asking "Why Mahi mahi?" or "Polenta?" "Why not vegetarian?" (read below)

Well, I'm from the south, I miss grits, so this project dish reminds me of Nawlins, where my Mother grew up. I could easily see shrimp, crayfish, or other seafood used. But remember this fish is a sturdy meat, it won't fall apart if you over cook the dish, like shrimp or crayfish. Talapia would have to be a quickly infused fish--atop, and gently pushed in at the last 10 minutes or so. Okay, I just got my creative juices out on the table, now I have to go cook this; it's been a staple in my house the past four months. I've become my Mom, Thursday is my Mahi-mahi Jam night, and I don't have to cook Friday, they eat the leftovers (I put it away with polenta on top; in my mind it's still fresh!) 

INSTRUCTIONS: Place pot on stove, or your cooking outlet; place fish in bottom of pot; pour juice/lemonade, butter, and marmalade on top of each fillet. Do a little spread on each. Pour package of creamy polenta over the fillets, covering them, use two packages if you feel the need, I add 1 cup chopped spinach for extra fiber and greens, but we don't eat as much as we once did, small portion sizes for us double-nickle adults. Heat on medium with lid, but watch carefully...lower heat if needed.
Now and then you'll stir the polenta around the fish, layering will actually begin to steam the fish, like an extra blanket in a Texas July. It's done when you lift a fillet up and check; fish goes from pink to opaque, and into center. Remove from heat, and serve once the starving family gather round. 

The juice/lemonade infuse a sweetness with the jam, which melds with the polenta and veggie mix. The blackening seasoning I use it extra hot, and no one has said a word, that it's too hot, because of the sweetness and acidity just mix well. But don't go crazy with it, you can always add your own extra hot sauce at the table!

Vegetarian: Yes, why not? Treat the tofu or other ingredients like the fish and you've got yourself a tasty vegetarian dish. Thanks for you Theresa, my sister-in-law, and Caitlin!

*Reprinted from, Editorial Review for the book, The Trader Joe's Adventure: Turning a Unique Approach to Business into a Retail and Cultural Phenomenon, written by Len Lewis (it didn't get great reviews; I was simply searching for articles on why our cultural taste buds have turned back to organic and local, but yet places TJs are packed almost everyday of the week), and yet not really competition for other grocer chains, like Whole Foods.

Plated photo to come...

I was not paid nor solicited by Trader Joes. My son however worked their, so the discount I got when he lived with me helped out, especially since he eats at my house! Photos are crummy, but mine. Lighting sucks, always has in my galley kitchen (rental).