Wednesday, January 19, 2011

beating the winter blahs

Right around mid January I start itching for the tropics. Visions of turquoise waters and white sandy beaches fill my mind (and are usually the background on my mac). I daydream about the feel of the warm sun on my skin and squiggling my toes in the sand.

This is probably because January in Seattle is about as far from the tropics as you can get. It's wet, drippy, cloudy, and windy. Every once in a while though, we get a few days of bright sunshine in mid January. It's the kind of sun that makes me long for summer. I roll down the windows of my crappy Nissan as far as I can stand, crank the heat up, and imagine the heat from my heater is actually from the sun. For a few minutes, it's pure bliss.

Here's a few recipes inspired by the tropics. Hopefully they'll warm you up on a particularly nasty winter day.

Blackberry coconut smoothie:
Blend 1 cup frozen blackberries, 1/2 cup nonfat milk, 1/4 cup unsweetened kefir, 2 scoops vanilla whey protein powder sweetened with stevia (I like Aria women's protein), 2 tablespoons flaked unsweetened coconut, 1/4 teaspoon coconut extract, and 2-3 packets of stevia or erythritol sweetener to taste (I like Truvia or Organic Zero). Paper umbrella optional.

African peanut soup:
This is modified from a recipe from my friend's copy of Vegetarian Times.
2 medium onions, chopped
2 large red bell peppers, chopped
2 large green bell peppers, chopped
4 medium cloves of garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons canola oil
One 28 ounce can of whole tomatoes with juice, chopped coarsely
2 boxes of Pacific branch mushroom broth
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2/3 cup creamy unsweetened peanut butter
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
1/4 cup fresh chopped cilantro
Zest of 1 lime

In a large soup pot, saute the onion, bell peppers and garlic until the onions start to brown. Add the tomatoes with juice, mushroom broth, black pepper, and red pepper flakes. Simmer, uncovered, over low heat for 40 minutes. Stir in the peanut butter and mix until soup is creamy. Add the coconut milk, ginger, cilantro, and lime zest, and stir until combined. Heat to a simmer and serve.

Tropical Chicken:
Drizzle a baking dish with a small amount of olive oil. Set aside. Preheat oven to 350.
In a medium bowl, beat 2 eggs. Add 2 teaspoons coconut aminos, 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger, 1 dash of garlic powder, and a pinch of cayenne pepper.
In a separate medium bowl, combine 1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut and 1/4 cup macadamia nuts, finely chopped.
Dip 8 chicken cutlets in the egg mixture, then in the coconut mixture, and place in the pan. Pour any remaining egg mixture over the chicken in the dish, and top with any remaining coconut mixture. Drizzle the juice of one fresh lime over the top and bake about 20 minutes, until the coconut starts to brown and the chicken is cooked through.

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