Friday, February 24, 2012

Curried Carrot Pepper Lentil Coconut Soup

Sometimes I can be pretty bad at keeping track of the last time I posted a recipe. I'll think "oh, it was just a few days ago" or "it must have been last weekend, I can wait a little longer." Usually 'last weekend' seems to be two weeks ago and I guess I still have yet to grasp what a Gregorian day is. Ignore me, I'm probably just making excuses for pure laziness. For example, I'm watching Felicity for the first time on Netflix and the messiness of my hair is starting to rival hers. Actually, dismiss that earlier announcement of laziness and let me plead insanity for losing track of the days. I have the madwoman hair to prove it.

Before I get to the food, I need to talk about this mug. Yes, the children on it are slightly creepy in their frozen exuberant states. No, I didn't buy these. Yes, this pair of soup mugs is one of my more cherished hand-me-downs from my childhood. I can't remember exactly when they slipped from the shelves of my parents house into my kitchen, but I'm going to assume it was sometime during college. 

I remember growing up and eating tomato soup from these mugs on snow days as a kid. When I wanted a particularly large cup of cocoa, I would reach for these and hope my mom wouldn't notice. The love scratched spoon lines prove that they've been used for decades and probably will be for many more. Moral of the story, these mugs just make things taste better.

As these kids are showing you, dear readers, this soup is M'm! M'm! Good! Really good. As in sometimes I would sneak a chilled spoonful or two out of the tupperware just to make sure it still tasted awesome. The best part is I made the soup with surplus ingredients from the Super Bowl and some of my pantry staples. 

Roasting the carrots and peppers really brings out their sweetness while adding a nice depth of flavor. You'd also be a fool not to throw in some coconut milk too, trust me. When I first served myself a bowl, I realized I had run out of coconut milk. The soup was good, thick and hearty, but it lacked the creaminess factor I was lusting after. I later stirred in a can of light coconut milk and let me tell you, the difference was remarkable. It also doesn't hurt that it added almost another full serving of soup!

Curried Carrot Pepper Lentil Soup

  • Olive Oil
  • 5 large carrots
  • 2 medium sized bell peppers (preferably yellow or red)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup red lentils
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, minced (you may substitute with powdered ginger)
  • ¼ teaspoons chili powder
  • 5 cups veggie broth
  • 1 can coconut milk

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F and line a roasting tray with baking paper. Peel and chop carrots into 1 inch chunks, cut bell peppers into 1 inch squares and place them in the tray. Drizzle over about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper and toss to coat. Bake for about 45 minutes until carrots & peppers are golden and tender. Remove from oven and set aside.
  2. In a pot over medium high, heat up another 2 tablespoons of olive oil and tip in the chopped onions and garlic. Sauté for about 5 minutes until onions are transparent and starting to brown.
  3. Next, add lentils, curry powder, ginger, and chili powder. Stir and let cook until spices become fragrant, 1-2 minutes. Stir in veggie broth and bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cooking until lentils are soft, 10-15 minutes.
  4. Remove from heat and using either an immersion blender or a regular blender, puree until soup is smooth. Return soup back to stove, stir in coconut milk, and heat soup for another two minutes, tasting and adding spices as you like.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Chickpea, Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Stew

This soup is neither red, heart shaped nor will it make your beau swoon. Ok, well, it might do the last part because I think I saw 'A' teetering on swooning when I made this for dinner last week. He may have also been falling asleep sitting up but I'm going to be positive here and settle on swooning. Regardless of the holiday at hand (Valentine's Day for all you people reading this any other day but 2/14), I think this soup is fitting for the one who makes your heart beat a little faster because it will keep your heart healthy for all valentines to come.

To help save money, I've become that lady at the supermarket checkout with bags upon bags of bulk items. Nuts, grains, peanut butter filled pretzels… you name it, I have it in a twisty tie bag or old glass jar somewhere. As my pantry was starting to seem a little overwhelmed, I lightened the load and put some lentils and chickpeas to good use. Along the way I may have picked up a butternut squash the size of my head but hey, who are we kidding here, they're delicious.

With all our key players at hand, I crafted the most magnificently large pot of stew ever. Even after sending 'A' off with leftovers for work, I had enough to feed me for about a week. Towards the end the stew was probably a bit questionable, but as it goes with stews, the longer it is left to age the better it tastes. True story. As the soup is 100% vegan, my logic was that the lack of dairy meant it would last longer. Right? Even if I'm wrong, let me float along in blissful ignorance.

So if you want to keep you and your valentine's heart strong for years to come, save money AND have a delicious dinner, why would you want to make anything else?

Chickpea, Butternut Squash and Red Lentil Stew

  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2-3 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large carrot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeño, seeded and minced
  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 quart vegetable broth
  • 1  28-oz can of diced tomatoes
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into ¾ inch cubes
  • 1 can chickpeas
  • juice of one lemon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • small bunch of cilantro, roughly chopped (save some for garnish)

  1. Heat a large dutch oven (or saucepan) and dry-fry the cumin, chili flakes and garam masala for 30 seconds or until they start "jumping" around the pot and release their aroma.
  2. Add the olive oil, onion, carrot, garlic and jalapeño and cook for 5 minutes or until the onion and carrot are softened.
  3. Stir in the lentils, stock, tomatoes and butternut squash, then bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the lentils have softened.
  4. Stir in the chickpeas, lemon juice and salt/pepper to taste, heat gently. Remove from heat and stir in the cilantro. Serve and finish with a garnish of cilantro.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Thai Papaya Salad (Som Tam)

I'm a pretty big fan of making lists. Shopping lists, number one priority chores list, wanderlusting lists and just things that need to get done. Lately I've been doing a lot more of the latter but I keep on running into one big brick wall, without fail I will lose all the lists I write. Shopping lists somehow always manage to fall out of my pocket or purse somewhere between my apartment and the store. We all know what goes down when that happens, someone ends up with 5 blocks of cheese, no vegetables and a bag of chips. No one wins in that game, even the grocery store because they failed to move out the perishables. 

As I was saying, I've been making a lot of to do lists. It usually goes like this: finally go to the department of licensing (yes, I'm getting a Washington drivers license) and just buck up and write that blog post. The number one spot usually fluctuates depending on the type of hair day I'm having. Don't tell me that sounds silly because let's be real, I'm going to be stuck with that drivers license photo for at least a few years. Little Orphan Annie hair isn't always in vogue.

As you are now reading this blog post, I've obviously checked at least one thing off my list. I made "A" a complete Thai/Lao dinner a few weeks back. I would say when we go out to eat, we seem to lean towards the spicy & noodley variety. One of my favorite things he has introduced me to is green (raw) papaya salad; it's crunchy, spicy and the fish sauce makes it a bit salty too. After I've watched him make it a few times, I felt it was due time I made some too. If not only for the purpose that I could make it all just to gorge myself.

The actual preparation is straightforward and simple, but I do recommend having a few specific kitchen tools. You'll want a mortar & pestle to grind together a good portion of the ingredients and a julienne mandolin doesn't hurt to have to cut up the papaya. However, if you want to make this don't go out and buy a surplus of gadgets. With some basic knife skills, you can easily chop up the papaya and (sshhhh) I've totally ground together the spices and peanuts in a small food processor. No biggie.

If you want a healthy side dish with a flair of the exotic and a kick of spice, look no further.

Thai Papaya Salad (Som Tam)
Adapted from My Cooking Hut

  • 400g green papaya, shredded
  • Cherry tomatoes, halved
  • Red bell pepper, thinly slices
  • 40g cup toasted peanuts
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 thai red chili (use more or omit depending of desired spiciness)
  • 3-4 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 3-4 tablespoons palm sugar
  • 4 tablespoon lime juice
  • a few sprigs cilantro

  1. Peel the green papaya and shred with a julienne mandolin. Alternatively, slice the peeled papaya into very thin strips. Mix together with cherry tomatoes & red pepper in a large bowl.
  2. Place the roasted peanuts, garlic and thai chili in a mortar and pound to a rough paste. Add this crushed peanut mixture to the shredded papaya, tomatoes & bell pepper.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the fish sauce, sugar and lime juice. Add this to the shredded papaya, tomato, bell pepper and peanuts. Toss well. Garnish with cilantro. Serve chilled.


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