Meals

Mom’s Birthday

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Today was my Mom’s birthday, so the meal was all about her. When cooking for my mom, it’s best to adhere to three basic ideas: gluten-free, simple and healthy. While I usually would make something a bit more traditional for my mom’s birthday, like my family’s Italian pesto pasta, this year, I decided to be a bit more creative. Sticking with the ideas of gluten-free and healthy, I ditched the tradition for the main meal and made Curry Noodles with Shrimp and Coconut (again, recipe courtesy of the NY Times).

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 Curry Noodles with Shrimp and Coconut, recipe courtesy of NY Times Cooking.

Main Course — Curry Noodles with Shrimp and Coconut 5/10

Overall, I would rate this meal a 5/10. It was fine — not bad, but not something I would make again. While this dish was certainly different than my family’s usual Italian go-to birthday meals, it was not a good different. Most of my family’s traditional pasta recipes are much easier to make and taste much better! That last sentence may be a bit misleading. This meal was not particularly difficult to make, and it was only somewhat time consuming. As long as one gets the chopping, dicing and grinding done ahead of time, it can be cooked in the 35 minutes listed as necessary for preparation on the NY Times Cooking website. Total preparation time, including chopping, dicing and grinding, is about an hour.

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Do NOT let the noodles sit as the recipe suggests or you will be forced to break them up to serve.

So, why was this dish not one of my favorites? This dish was bland. Maybe I read into the word “curry” in its title too much, but when I chose this recipe for my mom’s birthday I was expecting SPICE. The dish was far from spicy, and, in fact, I found it to be somewhat watery and flavorless. If you’re looking to use this recipe, I would suggest increasing the quantity of each spice included in the recipe.

That leads me to some more cooking suggestions. Firstly, the directions say to cook the rice noodles and then allow them to sit on the side until you are ready to use them. DO NOT do this. This will cause the rice noodles to stick to each other, making it impossible to separate them, even after warming them up in the boiling water as the recipe says to do. Lastly, one can attribute some of the “wateryness” and blandness to the ratio of noodles to sauce. One pound of noodles is way too much for the sauce. Perhaps with more sauce, and if the noodles were allowed to sit in the sauce and absorb it for some time, this dish would be less bland.

While I don’t plan on making this meal again, if you do try to make it I would love to hear your feedback and any ways you find to improve it!

Sides — Roasted Vegetables and Arugula Salad 6/10

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I paired the noodles with arugula salad (left) and roasted vegetables (top).

Because I expected the main dish to be so flavorful, I decided to tone down the flavors in my sides. I chose two relatively bland dishes: roasted vegetables and arugula salad with a lemon vinaigrette. Both of these dishes are relatively easy to make, and I don’t follow a precise recipe.

For the roasted vegetables the first and most important step is to choose your vegetables. I chose zucchini, squash, broccoli and cauliflower, but anything works (eggplant and peppers are especially good alternatives). After washing them, I cut them sliced them into pieces about 1/4-inch thick. I laid them down on a metal baking sheet, sprinkled them with olive oil, and ground some fresh salt and black pepper over them. Then I popped them in the oven at 400 degrees until they began to brown slightly.

For the salad, I did nothing to the arugula except wash it and place it in a serving bowl. For the vinaigrette, I mixed fresh-squeezed lemon juice with olive oil and then seasoned with salt and pepper to taste. The ratio of lemon juice and olive oil is up to personal taste. Personally, I love the flavor of lemon so I usually use about 2 parts lemon juice to ever 1 part olive oil.

Dessert — Buttermilk Layer Cake with Chocolate Satin Frosting 7/10

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Buttermilk Layer Cake, recipe courtesy of NY Times Cooking.

As mentioned, when it comes to food, my mom prefers simple tastes. Before she found out she was Celiac, her favorite dessert was a Duncan Hines yellow cake with canned chocolate frosting. For her birthday, I tried to mimic that processed cake with a homemade version. I chose to go with a homemade version rather than a box cake for two reasons: 1) in my opinion homemade food is ALWAYS better, and 2) I have yet to find a good gluten free box mix.

After some looking, I finally stumbled upon the NY Times Cooking Section’s recipe for Buttermilk Layer Cake and Chocolate Satin Frosting. While the cake recipe calls for cake

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The baking chocolate base gives this Chocolate Satin Frosting a rich, luscious taste perfect for the simple cake.

flour, I used Cup4Cup multipurpose gluten free flour. Cup4Cup is my favorite brand of gluten-free flour. I prefer it to brands like Red Mill because it has the most similar taste and consistency to regular all-purpose flour.

Overall, I would say the cake was very good, but the frosting was AMAZING. When making chocolate frosting I usually start with a coco powder base. This recipe uses a baking chocolate base which gives the frosting a much richer feeling. I love dark chocolate, so I loved the deep, slightly bitter, flavor of this frosting.

Individual Dishes

Hot Honey Shrimp

 

img_8140.jpgHot Honey Shrimp is a recipe I found through the NY Times Cooking newsletter about a year ago, and since then it has become one of my favorites. It’s easy, healthy, and most importantly, delicious. While the jalepeño peppers and cayenne make this dish spicy, the lime zest and juice cools it down just enough, and the honey adds notes of sweetness. For a less spicy version, you can leave the jalepeño peppers out, but even some of the pickiest eaters I know, like my boyfriend (he does not eat ANY fruits or vegetables), enjoy this dish and are able to tolerate the spice.

I think this dish is especially perfect for after work or school, when you’re short on time. It takes about 30 minutes to prepare, but if you chop the ingredients ahead of time, it can be done in under 10 minutes. Additionally, I usually pair this dish with a side of brown rice and some sort of green vegetable (my favorites are Brussel Sprouts or Asparagus) and a salad (for me, usually arugula with a simple lemon vinaigrette). All of these sides are simple enough, and can easily be prepared quickly or even ahead of time.

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Recipe:

  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • teaspoon cayenne
  • ¼ teaspoon grated lime zest
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly grated ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, grated on a Microplane or finely minced
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1 pound cleaned extra-large shrimp, patted very dry with paper towels
  • 1 tablespoon very cold butter, cubed
  • Lime wedges, for serving
  • 1 jalapeño, halved, seeded and very thinly sliced, for serving
  • 1 tablespoon chives or scallion greens, finely chopped, for serving
  • Mayonnaise, for serving (optional)

 

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 500 degrees.
  2. Combine  honey, cayenne, lime zest, ginger, garlic, salt and pepper and mix with shrimp in a large plastic bag.
  3. Lie shrimp flat on a baking sheet and dot with butter. Pour any extra marinade over the shrimp.
  4. Cook at 500 degrees (F) for about five minutes (enough time for the shrimp to become pink, but before the edges curl up).
  5. Sprinkle the shrimp with freshly squeezed lime juice and toss with jalapeños and scallions, if desired.

 

Recipe courtesy of the NY Times.