Category Archives: Cook

Soul Food Thanksgiving: What to Prep the Day Before

Thanksgiving happens to be one of the only holidays, specific to the Americas. In these trying times, when your neighbor is getting seemingly further away despite the world getting smaller, it can be the simple things that we all share which remind us we’re united, if only for one day. Here are my tips on prepping for the big day if you are cooking my Soul Food Thanksgiving menu!

amerik-cornbread

Go Shopping in the morning! (If you didn’t do it earlier)

The market will be a crazy place if you live in the U.S, but you got that list I made for you, that was included in the back of the Soul Food Thanksgiving book, and as a separate download in the enhanced version.

Now, it’s time to concentrate on cooking/prep:

  1. Make Turley Brine (Needs time to cool before using at night)
  2. Make Pecan pie (can leave on countertop)
  3. Make Sweet potato pie
  4. Make cornbread for Dressing  (can leave on countertop)
  5. Make breadcrumbs for Dressing (can leave on countertop)
  6. Make Jellied Cranberry Sauce
  7. Make Potato Salad
  8. Pick & Wash Greens (put in Ziploc bags and throw in a cool place, outside on the balcony works to save fridge space, unless you live in the tropics or Southern hemisphere, lucky.)

Extra time? Do some chopping: onions, celery, peppers, etc. (you can also throw this outside to save fridge space. Nothing will go bad.)

 

Overnight:

Brine Turkey

*Jellied Cranberry Sauce

*Potato Salad

 

Then get some rest because it’s on tomorrow!  #SoulFoodThanksgiving

Alternatives to Collards for Those Who Live Abroad

So, you live in a country where you are hard pressed to find some greens for a proper mess ‘o greens? Can’t find collards or a culinary-linguistic expert to figure out what the local language calls them (if anything)? Then, here are a couple of suggestions…

Collard Greens: The Mayor of Soul Food

Cooked down in a smoky broth, collard greens can be dubbed the mayor of soul food. Not only will they fix any mood I may be in, but they are healthy: loads of vitamin A, C and K, along with manganese and folate.  Collards are members of the cabbage family, but are close relatives to kale. And although collards are available year-round, they are at their best after the first overnight frost of the year.

Although collards are a bit bitter and take a lot longer to cook, tradition has tied me close to preferring them as my choice greens. However, now that I live in Europe, I’ve had to spread my soul food wings and adopt other go-to greens candidates, most notably: curly kale. Here are a few you could try, but don’t forget:

An authentic ‘mess’ of greens needs a solid flavor base. They need to be cooked down with a ham hock (or other salty/smoky hack that I cover in Soul Food Thanksgiving) to make a juice so concentrated with love it has its own name: potlikker.

 

Kale

Kale is not only less bitter than collard greens, but they cook a lot faster. Kale is also an excellent source of beta-carotene, vitamins C and B6. But, more importantly to curing a soul food craving: the curly more mature kale varieties are the closest I’ve found to collards.

 

Cavolo nero (“black cabbage” in Italian)

Cavolo nero has been grown in Tuscany for centuries and is one of the traditional ingredients of minestrone soup- so you know it stews well. It is a leafy and hearty green that will definitely do the trick.

 

Mustard Greens

Mustard greens have a stronger and bitter taste than collards, so it is best to mix with another milder green. However, they are tender enough to eat raw in salads, so cooking doesn’t take too long. They are also high in vitamin A, C and K, similar to collard greens.

 

Chard

Available widely in Europe, chard belongs to the beet family and cooks much quicker than collards as well. Rainbow varieties have a slight sweetness, so try blending with mustard greens for a nice balance. Chard provides high amounts of vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as magnesium and potassium.

Broccoli Rabe

Broccoli rabe has a nutty, bitter, and strong flavor reminiscent of mustard greens. It is a great source of vitamins A, C, and K, as well as potassium, calcium, and iron.

 

Spinach (not baby spinach!)

This would be my last choice only because spinach has its own distinct flavor and a very mild texture that does not stew as well. However, spinach provides much more folic acid than collard greens, and high amounts of iron, along with being high in vitamins A, C and K, manganese, and magnesium: so Popeye really knew what he was doing!

 

Once you get your hands on a few bunches of suitable greens, be sure to download my mini digital cookbook “Soul Food Thanksgiving” and check out my three-page recipe on making love to one of my favorite dishes of all time. 10% of profits will be donated to The Hunger Project.

soul-food-thanksgiving-cookbook

And don’t fret, these greens are on average packed with more nutrients for collards. Just don’t get crazy and turn to Nieman Marcus for your fix… just a friendly warning.

 

Not Talking Turkey: Turkey Alternatives for Thanksgiving (By Region)

Turkey is the national Thanksgiving unifier. It might not be your favorite meat but it is what’s on the menu for most. It is very much tradition and the literal symbol of Thanksgiving...

... but one day, my family had a collective epiphany that none of us really liked turkey all that much. We mostly just loved having turkey tacos with the leftovers, and my sister and I partial to the novelty of the wishbone and humongous turkey legs. (Well, that was until one Thanksgiving when we finally had a fresh turkey, from a local farm, never frozen. That. Changed. Everything.) 

But if you happen to live in a country where turkey is not readily available, you don’t eat meat, or simply  want to change things up: here are a few turkey alternatives. If you live in the U.S, you can likely get any of these options, but I’ve broken them down by category for the rest of us, since, what is common locally is usually what’s best!

 

Europe

Pork Loin
Rib Roast
Center-Cut Ham
Whole Goose
Duck breasts

Europe North

Roast Side of Salmon (add oysters to stuffing, and bam!)
Moose Roast

Middle East/India

Rack of Lamb
Leg of Lamb

East Asia

Whole Snapper
Whole Roast Duck

Vegetarian

Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagne
Eggplant Steaks
Sautéed Chanterelle Mushrooms

But, in the end, you could just skip the main protein all together... what we really want are those sides anyway! So be sure to download a copy of my mini digital cookbook "Soul Food Thanksgiving" and get to work! 10% of profits will be donated to The Hunger Project.

soul-food-thanksgiving-cookbook

Soul Food Thanksgiving Cookbook

Officially announcing my first ebook: Soul Food Thanksgiving! It’s a digital cookbook of classic holiday dishes made using whole food that delivers big flavor. These dishes are what I grew up eating from the holidays, and special care was taken to develop recipes that would produce the same food, but with the love, flavor, and respect it deserves. Written to appeal to new and old cooks alike, this digital book contains genuine recipes not to be found anywhere online. I offer context on every technique, a little history, a full shopping list, and measurements in both U.S and metric, so those of you cooking outside the U.S can get down in the kitchen too! 10% of all profits will be donated to The Hunger Project. Below I’ve shared the foreword to the book:

Soul Food Thanksgiving cookbook by Kendra Valentine

Soul Food Thanksgiving cookbook by Kendra Valentine, photo: Claes Helander

Halloween Caramel Candy Corn Popcorn for EF On The Go Vlog!

I’m working with Education First on a series of videos for their brand new ON THE GO with EF YouTube Channel! Here in the very first episode where I show you a really cool Halloween treat, featuring a classic Halloween candy: Caramel Candy Corn Popcorn… yes, you heard right! And since EF is the premiere language learning school, they include some excellent vocabulary words worth knowing for the Halloween season…

You’ll need:

  • About 12 handfuls popped corn
  • 440g (1 c.) packed brown sugar
  • 164 g (1/2 c.) light syrup
  • 114g (1/2 c.) butter
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • As much candy corn (or other candy) as you like!

Chewy Granola Bars Experiment

I’ve never made granola bars before… so this was a real experiment! Nice tart cranberries, roasted toasted almonds, and creamy peanut butter made these granola bars come together… literally and figuratively!

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup soft dried cranberries
  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1 1/2 cups rolled oats
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup peanut butter
  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar

Pico De Gallo Salsa

Want to know what I consider a life skill? Knowing how to make Pico de Gallo salsa! You really don’t need my help to figure this salsa out, but I’ll show you a couple of my tricks!

You’ll need:

  • Tomatoes
  • Yellow & red onion (half the amount of the tomatoes)
  • Coriander which is cilantro, see blog header (as muck as you like or equal to the amount of onions)
  • Lemon or lime juice
  • Jalepeño (optional)
  • salt
  • Apple cider vinegar

Tip: On Salting the tomatoes: Salt the tomatoes after chopping and let water run off in strainer while chopping everything else… this makes the salsa less watery and better tasting!

Korean Fried Chicken Bites

Believe it or not, Americans do not have the patent of fried chicken. These Korean fried chicken bites have a thin über crispy shell and are served coated in a sweet and tangy sauce.

You’ll need:

  • Chicken breasts or thighs (kycklingfile eller lår), 500 g
  • Flour, 1 cup (2 dl.)
  • Cornstarch, 1.5 cups (3 dl.)
  • Baking powder (bakpulver), 1 tablespoon
  • Salt, 1 teaspoon
  • Cold water, about 1 cup (2 dl.)
  • Korean chili flakes, 1/4 cup (1/2 dl.)
  • Garlic, minced, 2 cloves
  • Ginger, 1 tablespoon
  • Soy sauce, 1/3 cup (3/4 dl.)
  • Rice wine vinegar, 1/3 cup (3/4 dl.)
  • Brown sugar, 3 tablespoons
  • Honey, 1/4 cup (1/2 dl.)
  • Frying Oil
  • Optional: Scallion or green onion, garnish

Tip: On Using White Meat: Frying chicken breasts is a good way to introduce yourself to frying chicken since white meat cooks fast!

Magic Chocolate Chip Cookies

This recipe for chocolate chip cookies has all the goodness of classic chocolate chip cookies but with a magic weapon… ground OATMEAL! The oatmeal doesn’t make the cookies taste like oatmeal cookies, it does something else magical to the cookies and elevates the entire situation: you’ll just have to try it to understand what I mean!

You’ll need:

    Makes about 3 dozen small cookies (4 cm. diameter)

  • 1 cup (225 grams) butter
  • 1 cup sugar (2 dl)
  • 1 cup dark brown sugar (2 dl)
  • 1 cup chocolate chips or chunks
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp. real vanilla extract (or 1 tsp. vanilla sugar)
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2½ cups oatmeal or Harvregryn (This is measured before it is blended into powder)
  • *½ tsp. salt (if your butter has no salt)
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 tsp. baking soda (Bicarbonat in Swedish)

Tip: Don’t have chocolate chips? Just chop up a milk chocolate bar!

Taco Bell Mild Sauce Copycat Recipe!

There’s no Taco Bell in Sweden, so I started making a homemade version of the mild hot sauce that comes in those little packets. Don’t judge me: Taco bell is my vice, my love, my old friend… and that mild sauce is golden.

  • 3 cups (7 dl.) water
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 6-ounce can (175 ml. tube) tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar (or white vinegar)
  • 4 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Tip: You can of course use this sauce on tacos, but also makes a good enchirito (enchilada + burrito) or wet burrito.The sauce is a little thick for a hot sauce, so it works well. You could also use a bit in chili con carne or in a soup base. It’s totally worth the effort!