Freakin’ 5-star Restaurant: Curried Sweet Potato and Coconut Milk Soup

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It’s almost March. Where has the time gone? I swear it was only yesterday when there were trick-or-treaters at my door rifling through the bowl of candy for the last Snickers. But, alas, time goes on, and it always speeds up throughout the holiday season. So what happened to January? What happened to February. Valentine’s Day isn’t enough of a time suck to count as a holiday. Needless to say, I suppose I’m short on time. And what happens when we’re short on time? We (I definitely mean me) eat whatever bits of food are left around the kitchen. Brownies? Sure. Cheese? OK. Monumental amounts of carbohydrates? Absolutely. I exercise less and eat more.

But, (thank goodness there’s a “but” in all this) I did decide to dedicate a cool-ish day to making some soul-warming, vitamin-packed soups…for my mother. She recently had a hip replacement and couldn’t drive her car, go to work, or exercise the way she’d like for six weeks. I wanted her to have some yummy meals that she could just pop in the microwave when her tummy starts a’rumbling.

I will say that I didn’t set out to make a sweet potato soup. I’ve never had sweet potato soup before. I wasn’t even craving it. The potatoes just looked so good at the store…and they were on sale. Really, my goal was to make different veggie soups. But this gem, THIS ABSOLUTE GEM, happened. Sometimes my kitchen is overtaken by the dancing pots and pans of Fantasia. I don’t know what happened or how we got to this place known as perfection, but nonetheless…

I’m going to share with you the soup that my aunt called “a trip to a freakin’ five-star restaraunt.” I hope you experience the same magic.

Ingredients:

  • five sweet potatoes, cut into 1: cubes
  • mild-tasting oil (canola, grapeseed, light olive oil)
  • 14 oz can unsweetened coconut milk
  • quart veggie stock (homemade is always best)
  • tablespoon sea salt
  • 1/2 tablespoon cracked black pepper
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Method:

Coat the cubed potatoes with one to two tablespoons of oil and sprinkle about a teaspoon’s worth of each sea salt and cracked pepper.

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Place in a 400 degree oven for 30-40 minutes. until everything is soft and a nice golden brown.

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In your favorite soup pot (mine is a great enameled cast iron Le Creuset knock-off from World Market), add the roasted sweet potatoes and veggie stock. Bring to a simmer over medium heat.

IMG_3427Turn the heat down to low. Now add the coconut milk and, using an immersion blender (or transferring to a traditional blender if you don’t have one), blend until totally smooth.

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Once silky smooth, add the curry powder, cinnamon, and cayenne pepper. Give it a good stir and add the salt and cracked black pepper to taste. Because the sweet potatoes add a lot of sweetness, I added quite a bit of salt to balance it out a bit. Altogether, I used approximately a tablespoon’s worth of sea salt.

IMG_3428Stir again and let simmer for 15 minutes on low.

IMG_3429Isn’t it gorgeous? I’m so glad I took a chance and snapped some photos.

Happy soup slurping, everyone! Stay toasty warm,

Jenna

 

 

 

 

Staying Toasty with Potato, Leek, and Green Onion Soup

Monday night, Florida got below freezing. Palm trees had frost, pink lawn flamingos were stowed in garages,  and bikinis were put away. And this girl? This girl was clinging to a massive mug of potato, leek, and green onion soup.

Oh, how I love soup. Oh, how I love cleaning out the veggie drawer. Oh, how I love the warmth that radiates from the stovetop as I hover above my giant, red, enameled cast iron pot.

If you love warmth and delicious soup, and I know you do, read on…

Ingredients (use organic whenever possible):

  • 1 large leek, sliced and cleaned
  • 3 large green onions, sliced
  • 5 medium Idaho potatoes, washed and cut in 1″ cubes
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat (omit if your vegetarian, and just add one extra tablespoon of butter)
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (omit if you’re gluten-free)
  • 3 1/2 cups 2% milk (or use what you have on hand, but I don’t recommend skim)
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
  • Sea salt to taste
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

Method:

Melt the butter and, if you choose, bacon fat in a heavy pot over medium-low heat.

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Sautee the leeks and green onions for about 3-4 minutes until softened.

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Add the flour and stir constantly for 4-5 minutes.

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Add the milk, cream, salt, and pepper, and stir. Bring contents to a simmer.

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Add the cubed potatoes and paprika. Give it a good stir, bring to a simmer over low heat, and put on the lid.

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Cook for about 15 minutes and check the potatoes. They should be fork tender.

At this point, strain out about half of the potatoes and leeks and out in a separate bowl.

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Using a traditional blender, food processor, or immersion blender, purée the contents still in the pot.

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Add the potatoes back to the pot, adjust seasonings, and serve.

Also, I’m sorry about not having a gorgeous photo of the finished soup in a pristine bowl. I was hungry, and I ate. It was so worth it. 🙂

Get Rich in 2014: Decadent Crab and Prawn Bisque

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Sometimes I go a little overboard. Sometimes I like to treat myself to something decadent. Sometimes that involves Alaskan king crab legs and tiger prawns. And, sometimes, like this time, my dad is responsible for the overwhelming seafood feast that arrived at my door. All I had to do was figure out what to do with it. “If I must,” I told him…

Our seafood extravaganza lasted two days (and we still have leftovers!). The first day involved garlic, butter, and penne. The second day, oh that glorious second day, turned into a magical soup, the kind of warm, comforting embrace I dream of. At first, I couldn’t decide: chowder or bisque, chowder or bisque, chowder or bisque…my head spun. And then I looked toward a Martha Stewart cookbook for a smidge of divine inspiration. Boom. Done. Bisque. But I had to do some concocting on my own. I wanted to play with my fancy crustacean foods and create something spectacular and show dad that he should always bring king crab and tiger prawns over here.

For about 4-6 servings, you’ll need:

  • one large leek, thinly sliced, rinsed and drained
  • two green onions, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour (or two tablespoons cornstarch made into a slurry for my gluten-free friends)
  • 3 cups milk (I used 2%, but you could use whole)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 3 teaspoons sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Hungarian paprika
  • finely ground black pepper
  • a few dashes of your favorite hot sauce
  • one pound of your favorite pre-cooked crustaceans, cut in bite-sized chunks (I used tiger prawns and king crab leg meat)
  • one large russet potato, cut in small 1/2″ cubes

Method:

In a large pot or dutch oven, melt the butter.

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Sauté the leek and green onions on medium-low until they’re just softened, about 3-4 minutes.

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Turn the heat to low and add the flour. Cook while stirring constantly for about 5 minutes.

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Add the milk and cream and cook until the mixture begins to thicken. For my gluten-free friends, this is where you’d add your cornstarch-water slurry. Also add the paprika, salt, pepper and hot sauce and give it a good stir.

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Incorporate the potato and stir.

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Put the lid on the pot and bring the contents to a very gentle simmer over low heat. Cook for about 3-4 minutes until the potatoes soften. If you haven’t done so already chop up the seafood.

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Finally, add the seafood and stir.

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Add the lid back on and cook for another two minutes until everything is warmed through.

Adjust your seasonings, warm some crusty bread, and enjoy eating like royalty…until you have to do the dishes.

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Have a happy and blessed new year, everyone,

Jenna

Waste Not, Want Not: Making Organic Chicken Stock

One of the best reasons for roasting a whole chicken is the carcass. Why, you ask? Well, homemade, honest-to-goodness, gluten-free, organic chicken stock is the correct answer. So many recipes benefit from stock: from rice pilaf to gravy to soup, it’s a necessary and versatile flavor booster for your culinary repertoire. And there’s nearly no reason to purchase stock or broth when it’s a cinch to make at home. First, high-quality, organic products are expensive! Second, if you’re a foodie control freak like me, you can adjust it to your liking. Parsley here, garlic there, whatever you want; it’s all up to you. Third, see reasons one and two.

To make easy, breezy, organic chicken stock at home, you’ll need:

  • Carcass from 5-pound roasted organic chicken
  • 1-2 organic carrots
  • 1 organic onion
  • 5 garlic cloves
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1-2 stalks of organic celery (optional)
  • Handful of fresh organic parsley (optional)

Put all ingredients in a large stock pot or dutch oven.

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Add enough water to cover.

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Bring the contents to a boil, give it a good stir, and then bring down to a simmer for 3-4 hours. The color will go from this:

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…to this:

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Once it’s done, strain it. I use a large colander over a huge glass bowl because I honestly don’t care that much if it’s got tiny bits of chicken or veg. Use a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth if you’e really concerned. Once it’s strained, this’ll be what you’re left with:

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Isn’t it beautiful? Portion it out in whatever size freezer-safe containers work best for you. I like to use a mixture of pint and quart sizes. Don’t forget to label them with the contents and the date!

This recipe makes about 4 quarts of organic chicken stock. By the way, if you were to purchase quantity in a grocery store, you’d pay about $15-$20! And all you did was use what remained from your delicious, wholesome, organic roasted chicken. (See the recipe here for my gluten-free Heavenly Roasted Chicken.) Doesn’t that make you happy?

So, everyone, I bid you happiness and good-for-you, frugal, wonderful, sensible cooking endeavors. Have a fantastic Friday night…and don’t throw away that carcass!

Quick, Delicious, and Healthy Gluten-Free, Vegan Black Bean Soup

I know I shouldn’t be focusing on anything in yoga other then my practice in the present, but I was thinking about soup…creamy, delicious, organic black bean soup. I was so hungry! As soon as I got in my car, I planned the execution of this soup and mentally inventoried everything in my pantry to be sure I didn’t have to stop at the store on my way home. Normally, I’d start from organic dried beans, but I always have some canned ones on hand for times like this. Thank goodness. Here’s to having a well-stocked pantry and a garden full of peppers!

For this quick and easy black bean soup, you’ll need:

  • 4 cans organic low-sodium black beans
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 4 cubanelle peppers, diced (you can also use two medium bell peppers)
  • 1 jalapeño sliced (you can remove the seeds and ribs to limit the heat if you want)
  • Olive oil
  • Sea salt, to taste
  • Cracked black pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 tablespoon chili Powder
  • 2 teaspoons Adobo seasoning
  • 1 whole bay leaf
  • Dried oregano
  • Water

To begin, dice your peppers, onion, and garlic if you haven’t alredy.

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Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a large lidded pot over medium-high heat. NOTE: I always use my enameled cast iron pot because it traps so much heat and leads to quicker cooking times.

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Add your garlic to the oil and let cook for about 30 seconds. Don’t let it burn.

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Add the peppers and onion to the pot and give it a quick stir. Add a small pinch of sea salt.

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Sauté for five minutes while frequently moving around the pan.
Now add the beans, liquid and all, and one can of water. NOTE: I would have added veggie stock if I had some, but water works just fine. Add all your spices, give it a good stir.

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Turn the heat down to low, put on the lid, and let it simmer for about a half hour. When you take off the lid, give it a good stir. The soup should have thickened.

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The soup could be eaten just like this, but I like to purée half with my immersion blender. To do this, ladle out half off of the soup into a separate bowl, plug in your stick blender, and let it rip! Remove the bay leaf before this step.

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It’ll be thick with a wonderfully creamy texture.

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Add back the bean soup that you separated, simmer for about five minutes, adjust the seasonings, and eat! I like to garnish mine with a dollop of sour cream and pickled jalapeños. Feel free to eat this with some tortilla chips for a bit of crunch.

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