Back from New Zealand

New Zealand Girl Cooks WorldNew Zealand Girl Cooks WorldAlthough you guys are probably used to periodic radio silence around here by now, this time I actually had a legit excuse: I just got back from a much-needed vacation.  I ended up going on a pretty epic road trip through New Zealand and it was so nice to unplug, go on almost-daily hikes, and eat some pretty amazing gluten-free food.

But as great as the food in New Zealand was (more on that later… Vogel’s gluten-free bread alone deserves its own post!), I’m excited to get back in the kitchen and load up on veggies in an attempt to counteract all that dairy and starch I’ve been eating.   I have a backlog of Thai recipes that I just didn’t have time to post before my trip, so those should be ready to go soon.  Hopefully they”ll be a nice break from all those holiday recipes that are certainly clogging your readers these days.

Thai Chile Jam

Thai Chile Jam

For those of you who have already tried nam prik pow, I certainly don’t need to sell you on its virtues…  you’re likely already a huge fan of the stuff.  But for those of you who maybe aren’t that familiar with Thai cuisine and haven’t ventured beyond Pad Thai and Thai iced tea?  Well, I’m not sure any words can really convey the magic of nam prik pow.

I’ll just say this: this stuff is pure, jammy gold.  It’s rich, savory, sweet, and tart with a bit of heat.  If I were to try to sell it to an American audience, I would say it’s like a Southeast Asian version of spicy bacon jam.  I initially made it because it’s one of the main ingredients of Tom Kha Gai, the popular chicken and galangal soup, but I’ve found that I’ve been putting it in and on just about everything.  A dollop in my fried rice, a spoonful on my spicy Thai noodles, and even a slather on some plain crackers.  I ran out of my first batch within about a week and immediately made another double batch.  Next time it might be a quadruple.

Thai Chile Jam 1

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Chicken with Chinese Broccoli, Thai Basil and Cashews

Thai Tamarind Chicken

What to do when you can’t decide between Thai basil chicken, chicken with cashews, and chicken with broccoli?  Make this Thai-inspired dish that combines elements from the three Asian favorites!

This was the first time I’ve cooked with Chinese broccoli (also called kai lan, gai lan, and Chinese kale) and guys, I’m in love.  I’m not entirely sure whether it’s a completely new to me Asian green, or whether I’ve been oblivious to what’s in the food I’ve been eating.  Regardless, I’m smitten.

Thai Tamarind Chicken

The stems may remind you a bit of regular old broccoli, but Chinese broccoli is topped with sturdy leaves and small, yellow flowers in lieu of florets.  The leaves have a slightly bitter flavor, which pair really well with this Thai chicken’s tangy, salty, and sweet sauce.

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Spicy Cashew and Coconut Snack Mix

Spicy Thai Cashews

What do my favorite snacks, i.e.  kettle corn, chocolate-covered potato chips, and Costco’s cashew, almond and pumpkin seed clusters have in common?  The irresistible combination of salty and sweet.

And while spiced, candied nuts are certainly nothing new (my previous go-to combined almonds, candied sugar, cumin and cayenne), this Thai snack mix ups the ante by combining cashews, dried coconut, honey and fresh red jalapeno chile pepper into an addicting and slightly spicy treat.

Spicy Thai Cashews

And unlike many of the spiced nut recipes out there, this cashew mix is made on the stove-top.  And why, exactly, is that important or noteworthy?  Well,  you could already be enjoying the fruits of your labor in just about the same amount of time it would take you to preheat your oven.  In my book, that’s a good thing.  Dangerous, but good.

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