Tag Archives: tamari

Go MSG-free: Tasty Thai Yellow Curry with Sweet Potato and Chickpeas

Thai yellow curry with chickpeas and sweet potato over millet - YUM!

“Stop goldfishing*,” I tell my husband as he plows through a bag of Doritos that’s roughly the size of a bathtub. “I can’t. They’re addictive!” he pleads as I pry them from his bright orange hands.

(*Goldfishing – [gohld-fish-ing]. Noun. 1. The act of a person who eats non-stop with blatant disregard for the physical limitations of his/her stomach. 2. Stuffing oneself to the point of spontaneous gastric explosion, like a goldfish.)

Really, he can’t stop? C’mon, like an invisible hand is shoving Doritos in his face. Well, after some research, I’ve found that actually, that’s pretty much what’s happening. The makers of the florescent nacho-flavored triangles of doom use a secret ingredient to turn consumers into goldfish: MSG.

MSG-fed lab rat

No, this rat has not swallowed a beach ball. Poor little guy has been fed MSG to make him obese.

Did you know that scientists actually use MSG to induce obesity in lab rats and mice (ironically, so they can test products to ‘cure’ obesity in humans)? In fact, scientists found that when they give MSG to mice, it increases their appetite as much as 40%. When people eat it, it turns us into mindless eating machines. But that’s not its only harmful side effect. There are all kinds of other nasty ailments associated with MSG, including asthma attacks, mood swings, fuzzy thinking, diarrhea, chest pains and headaches. Some scientists are even speculating that it may cause – and exacerbate – autism.

MSG is used as a flavor enhancer and it’s in lots of packaged foods, from chips to salad dressings, sauces to microwave meals. If you spotted MSG on a label, you probably wouldn’t buy the product, right? So those sneaky manufacturers hide MSG behind different names like “autolyzed yeast,” “soy protein isolate,” and “hydrolyzed protein.” For example, Annie Chun’s Soup Bowls contain maltodextrin and yeast extract – both of which are forms of manufactured glutamic acid, the ingredient in MSG (and yet they have the balls to advertise that they’re MSG-free. Campbells does the same. Bastards!) As for Doritos? They don’t even bother hiding it on the label, and the chips are basking in MSG – no wonder John can’t put down the bag! It’s not just in packaged foods, either. Tests found that most chicken, sausage and even parmesan served in restaurants is flavored with MSG. (Yet another great reason for carnivores to convert into vegetarians or vegans!)

The good news is that the antidote is simple: cook healthy foods from scratch to eliminate MSG from your diet (and from that of those you love, especially those who sometimes have goldfish-like tendencies). There are lots of other ways to add flavor than with MSG. One of my favorites is by making meals in the pressure cooker. Cooking under pressure retains the nutrition of food while also amplifying the flavor naturally. And bonus –  you can cook an entire meal from scratch in 15 minutes using the ultra fast pressure cookers, even soups and stews that normally take hours!

Today’s recipe is my take on an incredibly flavor-packed and super healthy Thai-style yellow curry with chickpeas and sweet potatoes. (Special thanks to Lorna Sass and her fabulous “Vegetarian Cooking Under Pressure” cookbook – I’ve altered one of her recipes to give it my own twist). If using a pressure cooker, the gorgeous sweet potato flavor enhanced with yellow curry will be utterly infused into every molecule of coconut milk. It is divine! This has become one of our favorite meals, and it’s quite nutritious. So I don’t really mind if John goldfishes on it. 🙂

I’ve also created a non-pressure cooker version of this recipe for those who don’t have one (but I highly recommend you get a pressure cooker – they are phenomenal and it will become your go-to kitchen tool). Here’s the one I use, which I adore (click on the text and it will take you to Amazon where you can buy it): Fagor Splendid 4-quart Pressure Cooker.

Yummy Thai yellow curry with sweet potato and chickpeas over rice

Yummy Thai yellow curry with sweet potato and chickpeas

Serves: 6
From fridge to table: 20 minutes (if using pressure cooker)

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked overnight (if using pressure cooker. For non-pressure cooker method, see notes below)
2 cans coconut milk
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1” cubes (if using pressure cooker. For non-pressure cooker method, see notes below)
1.5 cup tomatoes, chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tbsp yellow curry paste* (it’s hard to find in stores, so click here to buy a really yummy one)
½ cup cilantro, minced
½ cup fresh basil, minced
2 tbsp MSG-free tamari soy sauce
a handful of roasted unsalted peanuts, chopped
Cooked rice or millet

For the pressure cooker method:

Drain and rinse chickpeas. In your pressure cooker pan, combine all the ingredients except the basil, tamari, peanuts and rice/millet. Lock lid, then bring to high pressure over high heat. Lower the heat just enough to maintain high pressure and cook for 18 minutes. Use the quick-release method (by running cold water over the locked pressure cooker until the pressure comes down all the way). Remove lid, tilting it away from your face to let steam escape. Add the basil and tamari and mix well. Serve atop rice or millet and sprinkle with chopped peanuts.

For the non-pressure cooker method:

Take the unpeeled sweet potato, prick with a fork and microwave until it’s slightly soft, about 5 minutes. Cool a bit, then peel and chop into 1” cubes.

Also, you’ll need to used cooked chickpeas – 3 cups (or roughly 2 cans) will work perfectly well.

In a large, deep sauté pan, sauté garlic and ginger in 1 tbsp of oil over medium heat. Cook until the garlic starts to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add curry paste, tomatoes, cilantro, coconut milk and chickpeas. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Once boiling, add potatoes, then return to a boil. Reduce heat to medium, cover and cook at a low-boil for 12 minutes. To thicken the sauce and infuse more of the sweet potato flavor, break up some of the sweet potato chunks with the back of a fork. Then blend in the basil and tamari, serve over rice or millet and sprinkle with chopped peanuts. Enjoy!

Pineapple Vinaigrette Makes To-Die-For Salads

It’s raining here today and I’m feeling sun-deprived. So how about we make a little pineapple sunshine for our taste buds?

In my constant struggle to get my husband to eat vegetables (according to John, “vegetables kill!” – now you see my challenge), I know my only hope is to make them irresistibly tasty. When it comes to salad, that means making a truly kick-ass salad dressing. I find that most of the store-bought dressings are, well, offensive. Many are made with things I can’t pronounce, and unfortunately so many of the organic ones lack interesting flavors. Blah doesn’t cut it on my dinner table and I doubt it does on yours either. Never fear, my friends. This Pineapple Vinaigrette will make your palate sing! It turns a boring salad into a spectacular feature dish that will have even vegetable-haters begging for more.

I’ve gotta give credit where it’s due: There’s a cool restaurant called Flatbread in Paia, Maui that has the best Pineapple Vinaigrette salad dressing on the planet, but unfortunately they will not share the recipe. Sadly, they were immune to my incessant pleas, tears and attempts at bribery. But by channeling RainMan with my taste buds, I think I was able to successfully deconstruct the dressing, or at least create a reasonable facsimile of it.

I hope you try it today – its sure light up your day with its sunny flavor. If you do give it a go, please let me know what you think!

Pineapple Vinaigrette

1/3 cup pineapple vinegar (I use one from “11 Olives” – it’s a white pineapple balsamic that is to die for. You can get it at http://www.11olives.com)
1.5 tsp tamari (tamari is a mellower version of soy sauce – find it at your grocery store in the soy sauce section)
1 tsp real maple syrup
1 tbsp fresh orange juice
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 clove garlic, pressed
1/2 inch piece of ginger, peeled and pressed through the garlic press
1 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
1/2 cup light oil (such as canola) or flavored olive oil (www.11olives.com has ridiculously tempting flavored oils. The blood orange olive oil goes amazingly well with this dressing – I highly recommend it)
Whisk all the ingredients except the oil. I think it’s best if you can let it sit for two hours to let the flavors fully blossom, and then rewhisk it vigorously. If you don’t want it chunky, run it through a sieve and blend in the oil. Personally, I don’t run it through the sieve since the garlic, ginger and shallots add a lot of flavor over time, but if you don’t want to risk having bits in your salad, by all means sieve it. Enjoy!