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

 

 

 

 

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The Perfect Breakfast: Veggie Frittatas and Rainbow Potatoes

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Thanks to Daylight Savings Time, I was up way too early on Sunday. And so with sleep in my eyes and a major case of bed head, I had the urge to make a fancy schmancy breakfast for me and my honey. We had mini frittatas with raw pepper jack cheese, sautéed yellow and red bell peppers, and onions. I also made slow and low breakfast potatoes with baby Yukon Gold and Peruvian Purple potatoes. Just writing about it makes me long for bites of old…

Frittata (makes 4 minis):

  • 6 large local eggs, beaten
  • 2 tablespoons raw whole milk
  • 1/2 cup local, raw pepper jack cheese, shredded
  • 1 cup red and yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • non-stick spray
  • S&P to taste

Breakfast Potatoes (4-5 servings): 

  • 15 baby potatoes, gold and purple, washed and quartered
  • 1 cup red and yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup yellow onion, diced
  • organic olive oil
  • S&P to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon organic granulated garlic
  • unsalted butter

First, you’ll want to get the potatoes started. You’ll need to wash them thoroughly and quarter them into relatively even pieces.

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In a very large skillet, add two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan and heat to medium. Add the quartered potatoes and a nice pinch of salt and some cracked pepper. Toss to coat with oil and seasonings and let them cook. Don’t move them around too much or they’ll fall apart before they end up browning.

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Meanwhile, sauté the onions and peppers. Heat your favorite large, nonstick skillet, to medium-high. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and all of the diced onions and peppers to the pan (If making both frittatas and potatoes, combine the peppers and onions for this step and divide in half later.). Sauté for about five minutes and transfer to a dish.

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After about 5 minutes, check to see if the undersides are browning. If so, flip them over with a spatula to start browning the other sides. Repeat this process and, please note, I’m crazy methodical about this. I like all sides to be browned, but I don’t expect anyone else to be this neurotic about potatoes.

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Once they’re nice and brown (should take between 10-20 minutes), add the sautéed peppers and onions. Also add the thyme and garlic. Give everything a good stir, reduce the heat to very low and let them hang out while giving them the occasional push around the pan. They’ll be ready when you are.

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For the frittatas, add the milk and desired amount of S&P to the beaten eggs. Spray your mini cast iron casseroles with nonstick spray, and divide up the remaining amount of sautéed peppers and onions to the bottom of each vessel. (If you don’t have mini-cast iron casserole dishes, you can use one large stovetop and oven-save pan. And, truth be told, my mom got these for me last Christmas, and I’ve never used them until today.)

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Divide up the beaten egg mixture between each vessel and top with a nice pinch of shredded pepper jack cheese.

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Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Only do this step if you have a glass range. Place the casseroles directly on your cooktop over medium-high heat. I was actually able to get them all on one large burner. Within 2-3 minutes, the egg should start to set. This is what you want.

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Now, place the mini casseroles in a baking dish (I used a 9″x13″) and fill with 1″ of water. Sprinkle with a tad bit more cheese.

Place the entire shebang in the oven and cook for 5 minutes. Cook for 3-5 minutes more if you skipped the stovetop step. Remove and check doneness with a toothpick. It should come out fairly clean, but moist. Let them sit for a minute or so.

Loosen the edges with a rubber spatula, invert onto a plate, and voila!

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Phew.

Help yourself to a heaping pile of potatoes, grab your favorite hot sauce, and chow down.

Until next time, my friends,

Jenna

Angel Hair with Lemony Kale, Caramelized Onions, & Ricotta Salata

Kale is the new little black dress. Sautéed, baked, raw, braised, or fried, it all works. And I’m so fortunate to have oodles of the stuff from my favorite local farm. We’re always coming up with new ways to infuse the leafy lovelies into our meals, and this pasta dish may be my new favorite.

For this dish, you’ll need…

  • approximately 50 leaves of curly kale, stripped from the spines, washed and dried (use your salad spinner)
  • four tablespoons of EVOO
  • two yellow onions, thinly sliced
  • five cloves of garlic, minced
  • half fresh lemon, juice and zest
  • Sea Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 12 ounces Angel hair cooked al dente

Optional:

  • Balsamic vinegar reduction
  • Ricotta Salata cheese, crumbled

To begin, heat two tablespoons of EVOO in your favorite, very large, skillet over medium heat.

Add the sliced onions to the pan and a small pinch of sea salt.

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Keep the onions moving so they don’t burn until they start to soften. Reduce the heat to low-medium and let them caramelize. This should take about five minutes. Once they’re done, transfer them to a separate vessel.

Add one more tablespoon of EVOO to the pan and add the kale.

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Using tongs, toss the kale a lot as this will help it wilt. You’ll want it all in the pan, but it takes patience. Cooked kale, like any other green, cooks down to a minuscule portion of its original size once the water content is gone. The result is concentrated, amazing flavor.

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Add the lemon juice and a large pinch of sea salt. Give it another good toss. Put the lid on the pan. The kale will really start to break down because of the steam. After about a minute, remove the lid and check the progress. If it’s not soft, put the lid back on and wait another minute.

Remove the lid and make a well in the center of the kale. Add the minced garlic and give it a good stir. Add a bit of olive oil to help the sautéing if you desire.

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Add the lemon zest and stir again. Have cute boy help in the kitchen.

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Add the caramelized onions back to the pan and toss.

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Add the cooked pasta, drizzle in the remaining tablespoon of EVOO, and add salt and pepper to taste. There, you’re done!

photo 4But, if you’re like me, you’ll want to garnish this dish with crumbled ricotta salata cheese and a hefty balsamic reduction drizzle (yes, we always have this on hand). If you don’t have ricotta salata, feta cheese would be a great substitute.

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Until next time, my friends, happy eating!

 

Fresh Jalapeños: We can pickle that!

I’ve never looked at a basket of garden-fresh organic jalapeños and thought “Mmmm…I’d love to gnaw on those!” So when I was gifted with some uber-spicy jalapeños from my friend at the farmers market, there was only one option: pickling. These are great for perking up a sandwich, sprinkling on nachos, or serving on top of a steaming bowl of chili.

This is such a simple process as this isn’t a proper canning. But it’s great and so very quick!

You’ll need:

  • 1 pound fresh jalapeño peppers
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons sugar
  • 3 tablespoons kosher or sea salt
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled

Cut one pound of fresh, washed jalapeños in rings.

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Soak the rings in a bowl of cold water. Swish around with a long-handled utensil every now and then as this will help some of the seeds fall to the bottom. Please don’t do this with your hands and then touch your eyes! Gently scoop out the pepper rings without getting the seeds that have fallen to the bottom and transfer to another vessel.

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In a non-reactive saucepan, combine the water, vinegar, garlic cloves, salt, and sugar together and bring to a boil. Add the drained jalapeños to the pot.

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Cover with a lid and let sit for 15 minutes off the heat.

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Transfer to your favorite jar and keep in the refrigerator. They’ll last for quite some time even though they’re not properly canned.

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The Crabbiest Cakes

20140402-203407.jpgWhat’s not to love about crab cakes? Barring any food allergies or other dietary restrictions, there’s nothing about this little piece of decadence that the tastebuds of the world shouldn’t fully appreciate. The more crab, the better.

I’ve had some of the tastiest Alaskan King crab leg meat frozen and just waiting for the right opportunity. Crab bisque happened. And now this. I painstakingly bashed those shells myself; I need this. I’m so happy, I could cry.

One of the best things about a top notch crab cake is the simplicity. They’re easy to put together and easy to make. They’re puuuuuurfect.

Ingredients:

  • 10 ounces of crab meat (you don’t have to use Alaskan king crab legs)
  • 4 ounces of saltines or other plain Jane cracker, processed or crushed (for my gluten-free friends, go with your favorite gluten-free cracker)
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
  • Juice from half a lemon
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • Cornmeal (optional)
  • Butter or canola oil for frying

Method:

Make sure all of the crab is free of shell pieces and coarsely shredded or chopped.

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Combine all ingredients in the list except for the cornmeal and butter or oil.

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Form into patties, and choose any size you like. I prefer them on the smaller side. Then let them rest in the refrigerator for at least 15 minutes. This will help the patties set and stay together during cooking.

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One by one, coat in cornmeal. Just lightly press in the cornmeal and brush off the excess. A light coating is perfect. I love the added texture of this step, but you can omit it if you prefer.

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In your favorite skillet, add about a tablespoon of oil or butter and set the burner to medium-high heat. Gently add the crab cakes one by one to the hot skillet.

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In about two minutes, flip them over.

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See how easy that was?

No smoke and mirrors here…just delicious crab cakes. Oh, by the way, they freeze perfectly in an air tight container. Serve with a squeeze of lemon, a citrus aioli, or your favorite tartar sauce.

Crabby eating, everyone. Enjoy!

 

 

Spicy Indian Cabbage with Mustard Seeds and Turmeric

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This is the long overdue part two of the nobody-knows-what-to-do with-this-cabbage post. If you have the memory of an elephant, you may remember the Pretty Purple Vegan Cabbage Slaw recipe that I posted in February. This, friends, is what I did with the other half of that gorgeous head of crunchy purple leaves.

Inspired by this Girl Cooks World recipe, I made a little spicy sautéed cabbage of my own.

Ingredients:

  • Half head of purple cabbage, cut in chunks and leaves separated
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons yellow mustard seeds
  • 6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • Tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Method:

Heat the oil over medium-high in your favorite heavy-bottomed non-stick skillet and add the mustard seeds. They should start popping in just a few seconds. HINT: a splatter guard is your best friend in times like these.

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Once the seeds stop popping, remove the pan from the heat and add the garlic, turmeric, and cayenne.

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Add the pan back to the burner, add the cabbage and salt, and toss to coat with the oil and spice mixture.

20140324-183430.jpgSauté for two to three minutes if you like the cabbage to still have a considerable crunch. I like mine cooked a bit longer, so I go for about four minutes. After it’s cooked to the texture you prefer, add the balsamic vinegar, toss to coat, cook for another 30 seconds, and that’s it! Serve at any temperature you like.

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Happy healthy eating, everyone!

 

Calling all Foodies: It’s Crunch Time for our Broccoli Harvest

We find broccoli easy to grow around here. No joke. It’s one of the few things that doesn’t give us problems. We always get an amazing yield, and the harvest is sweet and tasty. Starting them from seed indoors in December is easy peasy…

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Hardening them off in late January is a safe bet and, planting them in February is a piece of cake.

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We love the brassica family around here. Pests aren’t an issue, and we find them slow to flower. There’s a long sweet spot with these plants and, therefore, they’re a staple in our winter-spring garden.

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The one issue with the ease of growth (stupidest phrase you’ve ever heard, right?), though, is trying to come up with unique recipes for these perfect florets.

Broccoli slaw? Check.
Roasted broccoli? Check.
Broccoli and orzo pasta? Check.
Steamed broccoli? Check.

What to do, what to do…

This is where you, my friends of the blogosphere, come in. I need some new and interesting broccoli recipes! Healthy or coated in cheese and butter (oooooooh, breadcrumbs, too), all things not mentioned above are welcome. And, what’s more is that if I make it successfully and love it to bits, I’d love to post it to Delicious Daydreams!

Thank you, culinary whizzes, for your help. Happy cooking!

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“…gonna kick it root down!”

It’s Fiesta Friday, and The Novice Gardener throws a wicked party! I’m wearing a leopard baby doll dress, hot pink jelly shoes, three slap bracelets, and the biggest Aqua Net bang wave you’ve ever seen. And what’s more is that the Beastie Boys “Root Down” is bumping in the background. I’m partying like it’s 1994. And, my friends, this song is the inspiration for these roasted, locally-grown golden beets. I hope my bangs don’t catch on fire.

Look, there’s a party goin’ on, and I don’t want to waste this outfit in the kitchen. This recipe is a quick and dirty one, so I’ll be flirting with the cute boy in one-strapped overalls and a Kangol bucket hat in no time. See him over there drinking a Zima? He’s all mine.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound golden beets
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Large pinch of sea salt
  • Cracked black pepper to taste

Method:

Peel and quarter the beets.

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Toss all ingredients in a non-stick oven-safe vessel.

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Roast for 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven until the beets start caramelizing.

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That’s it! Sweet, tender, earthy, sexy beets. These root veggies have my heart, and the simpler they’re prepared, the better.

Now where’s that cutie? Oh no, really?!? He left with the girl in the cropped velour blazer and high-waisted Bongo jeans? Seriously? Oh, I get it. She drives a Miata.

Who wants the next dance? The Beastie Boys are on again, and it’s totally my song!

Pretty Purple Vegan Cabbage Slaw

Being a foodie definitely has its perks. I’m often the recipient of food stuff that friends purchase and realize they’ll never use. Gold beets? Sure. Twenty pounds of AP flour? Absolutely. Stunning head of magenta-colored cabbage? Bring it on.

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This cabbage, my friends, is the reason for this rainbow-colored vegan delight. It couldn’t be any easier of a recipe, and any excuse to use a mandolin slicer just about makes my day. It could also be adapted for the paleo diet if you nix the salt and sugar. Truth be told, the veggies probably have enough sweetness on their own, but I really dig the sweet/tangy flavor combo, so I do it up with no shame. And the salt is essential for helping the other flavors pop.

Ready for this? Don’t blink.

Ingredients:

  • half head purple cabbage, roughly chopped
  • half yellow bell pepper, julienned
  • half green bell pepper, julienned
  • one large carrot, thinly sliced
  • half sweet onion, thinly sliced
  • 1.5 teaspoons sea salt
  • cracked black pepper to taste
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1/3 cup white vinegar

Method:

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Fold to incorporate the wet and dry items together. Refrigerate for at least two hours.

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There. Done.

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Happy and healthy eating, my friends,

Jenna

Garlicky and Lemony No-Fail Kale

This stuff isn’t just a garnish, people. (…although I admittedly used to think so.) If Popeye only knew about this super veggie, he’d be singing a different song…one that rhymes with kale. I understand why kale recipes are everywhere. This leafy relative of broccoli and cauliflower is easy to prepare, can be eaten raw or cooked, is very versatile, and is loaded with oodles of vitamins and minerals. And did I mention it’s delicious?

Last night, I was tuckered out. I spent five hours gardening (not the casual, flower-picking, clean fingernail kind of gardening either). I hauled bags of soil, turned compost, pulled impossible weeds, planted flowers, sewed seeds, potted up, and then had to put all the stuff away. Dinner was the last thing I wanted to do, but we gotta eat, right?

I ended up making seared tiger prawns with Israeli couscous and (drumroll, please) kale. But ignore the first two parts of this meal; the kale stole the show. Fresh lemon, garlic, extra virgin olive oil, red pepper flakes, and sea salt turned this sturdy green veggie into a robust, bright, melt-in-your-mouth, amazing side dish. What’s more is that it took less than five minutes to make.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound organic kale, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (click here for a time saving tip)
  • juice from half a lemon
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/4 cup water

Method:

Place olive oil and garlic in a large skillet. Bring heat to medium.

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Add the chopped kale to pan and give a good stir.

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Add the water and place the lid on the pan. This will help steam and soften the kale.

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Cut a fresh lemon and enjoy the smell.

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Remove the lid after about a minute and squeeze the lemon juice into the pan (avoiding the seeds). Also add the red pepper flakes and sea salt. Stir again.

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Once the majority of the water has evaporated, the kale is done. Magical, isn’t it?

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Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary.

That’s it. That’s really all. I promise.

Happy and healthful eating, everyone!