Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Spices for Dad

I’m always at a loss for ideas when it comes to gifting occasions with my parents and grandparents. I’m old enough that hand-made clay paperweights and painted rocks don’t cut it in reality, but with a few exceptions I don’t have enough income to buy them things they either really want or really need. Wine has been my default gift with my parents for a few years, but now that both my mom and dad have decided to cut down on the alcohol in their diets (not that it was a lot anyway – a glass of wine with dinner or a beer with a BBQ’d burger), it’s been morphed into a special-occasions-only beverage. In a family that appreciates good wine (and with a wine hoard to match) it’s not overly prudent to buy them any more! I usually default to a more-or-less “trinket” gift accompanying something homemade, but even that can cause problems too when trying to pick something!

Lucky for me this Father’s Day, I do know that my dad loves him some curry. Until they temporarily closed the “international food court” near his work, his coworkers and he would pop over at lunchtime for either Indian, Japanese, Jamaican or South East Asian fare – especially anything spicy! I’ve inherited his love for the dish (in any form but nut- or coconut- based for some reason), and barring school (and my GI issues) I would have gladly tagged along on those noon delights. I tend to steer closer to the “drier” kinds, like a not-too-saucy Chana Masala or Singapore-fried vermicelli), but for dad, anything goes! When I found some beef broth, coconut cream and a tiny amount of ground beef in the freezer, I had it made. But to take down the GI level a bit for my diabetic dad, I both picked a flavourful brown Basmati rice and stretched the tiny bit of meat with a totally different protein – from the veggie side! A delectable masala, the ever-present onions and garlic and a few veggies rounded out the spicy (but not “hot hot”) stew. Even though I committed a cardinal sin of rice cookage by charring the bottom layer of the curry right onto my enamelled cast iron pot, somehow the flavour didn’t transfer into the entire pot! However – for pots’ sakes – don’t walk out of the room in the last stage of cooking!

Stretched – Out Beef Curry
Serves 4-6 (NI is for 6 servings)
1 ½ tbsp oil (not olive, you want something without flavour)
1 large, sweet onion, quartered and thinly sliced
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp curry powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp garam masala
½ tsp black pepper
¼ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp cayenne pepper
½ lb lean ground beef
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ½ cups beef broth
1/3 cup coconut cream
2 cups water
1 ½ cups brown Basmati rice
1 ½ cups dry TVP granules
6 oz green beans, diced
6 oz cauliflower, chopped
½ cup frozen peas
  1. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat, warm the oil.
  2. Add the onion and reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring occasionally, until browned.
  3. Stir in the spices to coat the onion, then raise the heat to medium high.
  4. Add the beef and the garlic and brown, taking care not to burn the garlic.
  5. Add the broth, coconut cream, water, rice and TVP, stirring well.
  6. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and partially cover.
  7. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring and adding liquid as necessary (though you want a thick, rich sauce).
  8. Stir in beans, cauliflower and peas.
  9. Cover and simmer 15-20 minutes longer.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 355.8
Total Fat: 14.4 g
Cholesterol: 28.4 mg
Sodium: 288.6 mg
Total Carbs: 43.1 g
Dietary Fiber: 3.7 g
Protein: 13.2 g

To go along with his dinner, I whipped up something else that was full of spice. This time, though, it was a sweeter road I went down! My dad is a huge fan (and in my opinion, the best maker) of French toast – especially with cinnamon or cinnamon-raisin bread. I grew up on his eggy, tender yet crispy breakfast treat, lashed with maple syrup and served alongside crispy bacon. I’m craving it again just thinking about it! I came across an interesting icebox cookie formula on Baker’s Royale, and once I saw it I knew I had to make it! Though it doesn’t have raisins, I did add cinnamon chips and spelt flour to the cream-cheese dough and crowned the batch with a dusting of raw sugar and cinnamon. The dough alone smelled like Heaven on a plate – and by the time I pulled them out of the oven I could have sworn my dad was making Sunday brunch.

Cinnamon French Toast Cookies
Makes 28
1 cup flour
1 ½ cups spelt flour
1 tsp baking powder
¼ tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
½ cup shortening
½ cup low-fat cream cheese
¾ cup brown sugar
½ tsp stevia powder
4 tsp dehydrated egg powder + 5 tbsp water (alternatively, use 1 egg + 2 egg yolks)
1 ½ tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp maple extract
1/3 cup cinnamon chips
2 tbsp raw or coarse-grain sugar
2 tbsp cinnamon

  1. Whisk flours, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl, set aside.
  2. Cream shortening, cream cheese, brown sugar and stevia.
  3. Beat in reconstituted egg.
  4. Add maple syrup and extracts, mix until combined.
  5. Stir in the flour until well mixed. Fold in cinnamon chips.
  6. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into two logs. Wrap and refrigerate overnight.
  7. Heat oven to 350 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicone.
  8. Mix raw sugar and the remaining cinnamon (best if you leave this overnight too!).
  9. Using a sharp knife, slice the logs into ¼" rounds and place on the sheets 1" apart.
  10. Sprinkle with the cinnamon and sugar mixture.
  11. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
Amount Per Serving
Calories: 119.6
Total Fat: 5.2 g
Cholesterol: 6.6 mg
Sodium: 16.9 mg
Total Carbs: 19.0 g
Dietary Fiber: 1.0 g
Protein: 2.0 g