Category Archives: Dinner

Matu Munchies: Coconut Butternut Squash Soup

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In Mozambique, people only acknowledge two seasons: summer and winter.

Because I love Fall more than any other season, I kind of refuse to accept that it is not recognized and, therefore, would like to declare that it is Fall in Mozambique. We are in that space between the hottest days and the coldest days. And that is Fall!

It does not look or feel the same here, although I did find a type of tree whose leaves are golden yellow on the underside so I can go beneath those trees and pretend it’s Fall any time of year. The leaves of the mango trees are turning yellow and falling, getting crispy and blowing in the breeze. It’s even pumpkin season in the north of Moz (but not here…). And sometimes the newly fresh morning breeze will blow just right as I am making coffee and it feels and smells just like a calm Fall morning.

With all of these southern hemisphere Fall feelings, I was quick to splurge on two butternut squashes a couple of weeks ago at the South African import supermarket in Vilanculos. We hadn’t seen any other kind of squash or pumpkin in our area…save for some unfamiliar thing that they call a squash but that tasted like dirty potatoes, so it was well worth it

So much happiness at the sight of a squash!

We first made wraps with butternut squash and couve (like kale). Then there were tostadas with black beans and butternut squash, which was then repurposed into black bean butternut squash pasta salad. Next were mashed butternut squash and green apple pancakes with honey on top. And the toss up for my two favorite creations was between butternut squash bread and coconut butternut squash soup.

The bread was delicious and satisfied any Fall flavor cravings, with a good cup of tea to go with it. If you want to give it a go, use your favorite pumpkin bread recipe and sub boiled and mashed butternut squash for pumpkin! I topped it with oats and raisins.

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Here’s what I used for a thick, creamy, Fall soup:

The milk of 1 coconut, about 2 cans

3 cups of boiled, cubed butternut squash. If pumpkin is more readily available to you, sub pumpkin here!

1/2 of a yellow onion

1 tsp. cinnamon

Salt, pepper and red pepper flakes to taste

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Here’s how I did it:

 If you are using a fresh coconut, shave it and milk it. To get milk from freshly-shaved coconut, pour about 1/4 cup hot water over the top of the shavings, squeeze or press the coconut to get the milk out, pour it all into a strainer over another bowl and press the coconut again to release any more liquid. Set this first milk aside; it is the richest and is best added at the end of a recipe for flavor and thickness. Repeat this milking process two more times.

If you are not using fresh coconut, your first step is to chop and sauté your onion. When the onion becomes translucent, add your cubed butternut squash and sauté for about 3 minutes, adding the cinnamon and the first round of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. I went light on the red pepper flakes, as I wanted a sweeter finished product, but it is up to you!

Next, add your 2nd and 3rd coconut milkings if fresh, or 2/3 of your coconut milk if canned. Bring to a boil and let it boil for about 3 minutes, just to get the butternut squash nice and soft.

Because I have that fancy immersion blender that I told you about in the Pineapple Salsa recipe, my next step was to immersion blenderize (yes) my soup until it was smooth. If you don’t have such a thing, you can blend it in a normal blender.

If you still don’t have such a thing, here’s what I would recommend: mash your boiled and cubed butternut squash, sauté your onions, add coconut milk and mashed squash to the saucepan, let liquid boil off until the soup reaches a thick consistency, stirring well all the while.

Finally, whether your soup was blended or mashed, add your 1st and richest coconut milking, or the rest of your coconut milk. Mix this well by hand, and add additional salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.

To complete the meal, we made a garlic flatbread for dipping.

Whether you’re pretending it’s Moz Fall or snuggling up in Denver’s Spring blizzard this weekend, this simple soup will satisfy!

Happy cooking, and happy eating.

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Cauliflower-Crust Pesto Pizza with Asparagus, Peppers, and Chickpeas

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photo (25)Wow. That title is a mouthful. But I want to tell it to you straight! This pizza was one of those whatever-you-have-in-the-fridge kind of meals, and it came together really well. The cauliflower crust is super simple to make, and makes this pizza a lighter meal. The pesto adds spice and flavor to the crust. The asparagus and red bell pepper give it a refreshing crunch, and the chickpeas added a little bit of protein.

Ingredients:

For the cauliflower crust, I used this recipe from The Bewitchin’ Kitchen as a starting point, and modified it slightly:

1/2 head of cauliflower

1 egg

A handful of mozzarella cheese, about 1/8 cup

For the toppings:

1/4-1/2 cup pesto, depending on your sauciness preference

3 stalks of asparagus cut into thirds

1/8 of a red bell pepper, sliced thinly

1/8 cup of chickpeas

1/4 cup of mozzarella cheese

Makes a 12-14 inch pizza, 6 slices

Step 1:Make the cauliflower crust: I chopped the cauliflower and then put it in my manuel food processor. I processed it until it was about the consistency of rice. Then I strayed from recipe and spread the cauliflower onto a clean dish towel. I then placed another dish towel on top and pressed out some of the moisture from the cauliflower. To make the “dough” I mixed the cauliflower, 1 egg, and handful of mozzarella in a bowl.

Step 2: Spread the “dough” onto a pizza stone or greased cookie sheet, until it is about 1/2 inch thick. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-30 minutes, until the crust is firm.

Step 3: Remove the crust from the oven and top with pesto, asparagus, red bell pepper, and chickpeas. Bake for about 5 minutes, until cheese is melted. Then broil for about 3 minutes, watching closely, until the cheese is bubbly and crispy.

Step 4: Remove the pizza and let it cool. As it cools, trim off the burnt edges of the cauliflower crust. (I don’t know why, but both times I have made this crust, the edges burn and the rest of the crust is fine!)

I loved the way this pizza turned out! It filled me up, but I didn’t feel overly full or bloated after 3 slices because the cauliflower crust is so light. Because the cauliflower crust doesn’t get as crispy as a traditional crust, I was glad I added crunchy veggies and didn’t cook them too long so that the pizza didn’t turn out to be soggy. Alex was out of town this week, and this was the perfect sized meal for one with leftovers for lunch!

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Recipe Review: Thai Curry Soup (Noodles and Company Copycat)

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Noodles and Company Thai Curry Soup copycat recipe.A couple of weeks ago, we got some Noodles and Company takeout with Alex’s dad, George, and his girlfriend, Liz. I ordered my usual Pad Thai, and Liz got the Thai curry soup. It caught my eye…and nose and, eventually, taste buds! I didn’t know they had such a thing! I had a slurp of the broth from her soup, and knew immediately that I had to find a copycat recipe to make at home…especially since there’s no Noodles and Company within a 30 minute drive of my house.

The curry flavor of this soup broth is not overwhelming, as it is gently sweetened by coconut milk. These flavors, along with garlic, ginger, and lemongrass, meld to create a comforting, warm (and not in the temperature kind of way!) , and curry-ifically cleansing spoonful.

The Noodles and Company Thai Curry Soup copycat recipe that I found came from Tasty Kitchen:

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces, weight Rice Noodles (If They’re Hard To Find, Buy The Box Of Pad Thai And Only Use The Noodles)
  • 1 Tablespoon Olive Oil
  • 3 cloves Garlic, Minced
  • 2 Tablespoons Minced Lemon Grass ( If You Can’t Find It, Don’t Sweat It, Just Add Two More Tablespoons Lime Juice!)
  • 1 teaspoon Grated Fresh(or Ground Powder) Ginger
  • 2 teaspoons Red Curry Paste
  • 6 cups Chicken Broth
  • 2 Tablespoons Soy Sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon White Sugar
  • 1 can Reduced Fat Coconut Milk, 14 Ounce Can
  • ½ cups Peeled And Deveined Shrimp ( Can Substitute Chicken)
  • 4 Tablespoons Fresh Lime Juice
  • ¼ cups Snipped Cilantro
  • ½ cups Fresh Sliced Mushrooms
  • 1 bag Baby Spinach Leaves, 6 Ounce Bag

Makes 6 servings

Step 1: Heat oil in a saucepan. Stir in garlic, lemongrass, and ginger until aromatic- about 1 minute.  Add the curry paste and stir.

Step 2: Stir in 1/2 of the chicken broth (3 cups) and stir until curry paste is dissolved. Stir in the rest of the broth, along with soy sauce and sugar.

Step 3: Let it simmer for 20 minutes, covered, to let the flavors meld.

Step 4: Stir in the noodles, coconut milk, shrimp, and lime juice.  Cook until shrimp is pink and done.

Step 5: Stir in cilantro, mushrooms, and spinach and let simmer until softened.

My thoughts and things I did differently:

My biggest alteration to this recipe was that instead of using red curry paste, I used yellow curry powder. I couldn’t find red curry paste in Fraser, or red curry powder for that matter, so yellow it was! The powder still dissolved in the broth, and the curry flavor was still deliciously present even after adding the sweeter spices and the coconut milk. Next, I did not use shrimp in this recipe. When I tried Liz’s soup from Noodle’s and Company she had ordered it with tofu, and that just stuck in my mind. So, I cooked large cubes of extra firm tofu in lite soy sauce in a separate pan and topped my bowl of soup with it. This was delicious, and I love that this recipe could be made using any number of proteins: tofu, shrimp, chicken, pork, or even beans. I’ll have to try a different protein next time! Lastly, I substituted the rice noodles for Japanese (not very Thai…:) ) Udon Noodles because I had about 2 oz uncooked leftover from another meal. I had no problems with this substitution, but I definitely want to try rice noodles next time!

When I make it again, I will add more vegetables than just the mushrooms and spinach. I was thinking carrots would go nicely in this soup and maybe some bean sprouts on top. This time, I added green onion on top, and loved the extra fresh flavor and crunch that this added. I also love that this recipe could be modified to use rice or potatoes as the starch, so I might just give that a go.

This soup was easy to make and easy to eat. There are so many ways to use the same broth as a base, and modify the protein, starch, and veggies in this soup that I’m sure I will make it more than one more time. It was warm and satisfying, and made my nose run to just the right degree.

 

 

 

 

 

Spaghetti Squash ‘Mac ‘N Cheese’ Casserole

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I love a good spaghetti squash. Toss it with pesto and have it as a side with pork chops. Eat it by itself with a little butter and parmesan cheese. Or use it as a noodle substitute in good ole fashioned spaghetti.

It’s a little bit time consuming to cook, but not really all that hard. You just bake it, scrape it, and add some mix-ins. My latest spaghetti squash experiment was mac ‘n cheese style. After cooking the squash, I tossed the “noodles” into a casserole dish, added shredded chicken, broccoli, and white cheddar cheese and baked it a little longer.

The fact that Alex and I ate half the pan (with no carby noodle guilt!) was indication enough that this is a delicious way to prepare spaghetti squash. This dish was comfort food with a healthy twist, and I’m sure I’ll be making it again.

Ingredients:

1 Spaghetti Squash

2 1/2 cups broccoli

1 cup shredded chicken

1 1/2 cups shredded white cheddar cheese

1 tsp. Italian seasoning

5 cloves of garlic

Makes 5-6 servings

Step 1:  Cut the spaghetti squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Place the halves insides up in a casserole dish and brush them with olive oil. Bake at 375 degrees for 45-50 minutes.

Step 2: While the squash is baking, chop and steam the broccoli and shred the cheese.

 

Step 3: Remove and let cool 5 minutes. Shred the squash with a fork. It will resemble spaghetti noodles. Discard the skins and put the “noodles” back in the casserole dish. Reduce oven temperature to 250 degrees.

Step 4: Add the broccoli, chicken, and half the cheese to the “noodles.” Mix well.

Step 5: Top the casserole with the remaining cheese and Italian seasoning. I would have added Italian seasoned bread crumbs…but I was out!

Step 6: Bake at 250 degrees for 5 minutes. Then broil on high until cheese is crispy.

 

 

 

Love at First Bite: Turkey Apple Grilled Cheese

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Turkey Apple Grilled Cheese. Photo courtesy of Alex Romanyshyn.

Turkey Apple Grilled Cheese. Photo courtesy of Alex Romanyshyn.

I first discovered this delectable combination of ingredients when Alex and I were in Vermont on our honeymoon in October. Ever since, this sandwich has been a go-to for an easy, filling weeknight dinner. And every time I bite into this crunchy creation, it tastes like honeymooning in Vermont; I picture the lake we stayed on, the cute little studio, the orange leaves. Heaven, basically. It’s strange how taste and smell can bring back a place just like that, but lucky for us this one’s a taste worth bringing back again and again.

Ingredients

4 slices of your favorite grilled cheese bread, we love sourdough for this one!

6 slices of deli turkey

8 slices of Vermont white cheddar cheese

1/4 of a Granny Smith apple, sliced as thin as you can get it

2 tbsp butter

Makes 2 grilled cheese sandwiches

Just in case you’ve never made a grilled cheese sandwich, here’s what ya do:

Step 1: Butter one side of each piece of bread.

Step 2: Place one slice of bread in a frying pan with butter side down, and assemble the ingredients on top in this order: 2 slices of cheese, 3 slices of turkey (folding them in half makes them fit better), half of your apple slices, 2 slices of cheese.

Step 3: Place the other piece of buttered bread on top, butter side up.

Step 4: Cook the sandwich over medium heat until the down-facing side is golden brown. Flip the sandwich to the other side, being careful not to spill the goods out of the middle, and cook that side until golden brown.

Step 5: Repeat for sandwich number 2!

Quinoa Salad with Bacon, Sweet Potatoes, and Beets

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Quinoa Salad with Bacon, Sweet Potatoes, and Beets

Quinoa Salad with Bacon, Sweet Potatoes, and Beets

The idea for this recipe came to me last week while I was researching energy-boosting foods. I was feeling run down, mentally exhausted, and ready for bed by about 8 every night. I know….it’s a little embarrassing. And I wouldn’t stand for it! I told Alex I needed to really start doing something about my energy level, and I started reading about superfoods. According to what I read, beets are an energy-booster because the nitrates in them help your blood vessels dilate, which helps more oxygen get to working muscles. Sweet potatoes make the cut because of the high carbohydrate content. I knew it wasn’t vigorous workouts making me feel tired during the week, but since I have a job that requires me to be on my feet all day I figured I might be ‘working out’ at work a little more than I thought. As it turns out, a few days later I was laid up with an extremely vicious cold and I realized that my low energy level was probably my body’s way of telling me I was getting sick and needed some rest. Nonetheless, this super colorful superfood salad was born.

Ingredients

1 sweet potato

3 beets

1 tablespoon olive oil

4 slices of bacon

1 cup of quinoa

6 cups of salad greens

Balsamic vinegar

Makes 4 servings

Step 1: Rinse, peel, and cube the sweet potato and beets. Put the cubed beets on a cookie sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast the beets on 450 degrees for 15 minutes, then add the sweet potato, toss together, and roast for at least an additional 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Step 2: While the vegetables are roasting, cook the 4 slices of bacon in a frying pan until they reach desired crispiness. When it’s finished cooking, break it up into bits.

Step 3: Cook the quinoa according to package directions.

Step 4: Stir the roasted vegetables, bacon bits, and quinoa together in the quinoa pan. Let cool for about 5 minutes.

Step 5: Serve over a bed of salad greens, and drizzle with balsamic vinegar if desired.

Pesto Fettuccine with Chicken, Mushrooms, and Walnuts

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Pesto Fettuccine with Chicken, Mushrooms, and Walnuts

Pesto Fettuccine with Chicken, Mushrooms, and Walnuts

This is a simple meal to make. So simple that I didn’t even really consider it a “recipe” until I really stopped to think about it for a second. I often make pesto pasta- it’s a weeknight staple for us. I like to throw in some chicken or leftover coined bratwursts. Sometimes I’ll toss in tomatoes, sometimes zucchini and squash. And I recently discovered that walnuts make an excellent addition to pesto pasta, both for flavor and texture purposes.

This particular pesto pasta combination stemmed from my recent quest to start liking mushrooms. Yes, I’ve been really trying. I know they’re super good for you,especially for the respiratory system that I seem to have so much trouble with. So, I’ve had them three times this month…all in pesto pasta. Conclusion: when trying to acquire a taste for something new, sometimes you can trick yourself into it by hiding the new item in an already well-liked item.

Ingredients

1/2 pound Fettuccine pasta

1 tbsp. Olive Oil

3/4 cup shredded rotisserie chicken

2 white mushrooms (more if you’re not slowly introducing them to your diet like I am)

3 green onions

1/3 cup pesto

2/3 cup walnuts

Makes about 4 servings

Step 1: Boil the Fettuccine according to package directions. While the pasta is cooking, slice the green onions and mushrooms.

Step 2: Saute the mushrooms and green onions in olive oil over medium heat until tender and cooked through. Add the cooked rotisserie chicken to the mix for about 3 minutes, long enough so it warms up but doesn’t dry out.

Step 3: When the pasta is cooked to your liking, drain it and return it to the pan. Immediately add the pesto and stir until it is evenly distributed over the pasta.

Step 4: Add the chicken and vegetables to the pot, or to individual servings, depending on your preference.

Step 5: Top with walnuts.

 

 

 

 

 

Recipe Review: Lactose-Free Potato Soup

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Lactose-free potato soup!

Lactose-free potato soup!

My mom makes the yummiest potato soup: thick, creamy, and hearty. There’s been so many times when I wanted potato soup, but I couldn’t make her recipe because it has lots of milk and cheese in it. Unfortunately for me, I am kind of lactose intolerant. I say kind of because I can eat some cheese in small quantities, but I absolutely cannot handle milk. So, I finally set out to find a dairy-free potato soup that was just as thick, just as creamy, and just as hearty as my mother’s. And, fortunately for me, I struck gold on the first find. And, even better, on a 0 degree day in the mountains!

Here is the original recipe, from Taste Of Home:

http://www.tasteofhome.com/recipes/lactose-free-potato-soup

Here are the things I did differently:

  • Overall, this recipe was a success. Going into it, I could not imagine how this soup was going to be thick and [faux] creamy without the milk but, I was pleasantly surprised to find that it was both. The recipe said to blend about half of the soup and mix it back in with the rest. This made for a final product with chunks of potatoes mixed in, which was a delightful texture variation. The celery also added a twist to the texture, adding a crunch to the soft and creamy soup. Lastly, don’t forget the bacon crumbles!  Instead of 3 medium onions, I used 1 bundle of green onions because I favor them and also had them on hand.
  • Instead of 4 medium potatoes, I used 5 organic medium red potatoes. This is what I had in my pantry because I couldn’t buy organic russet potatoes where I live. I don’t buy everything organic, but see #4 on this list for the reason why I buy organic root vegetables: http://eatlocalgrown.com/article/12214-8-foods-even-the-experts-won-t-eat.html
  • The recipe said to simmer 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes got tender. It took about 35 minutes for my potatoes to get tender while simmering. This could be due to elevation, as I live 8,550 feet.
  • After tasting the mixture while it cooked I added salt, pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder to taste.
  • I garnished with bacon crumbles! Mmmm mmm…potato soup just isn’t potato soup without the bacon!

    Simple ingredients for a delicious soup.

    Simple ingredients for a delicious soup.

Easy Chili

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This chili is easy enough to make on a weeknight and cheap enough to cook for a crowd!

This chili is easy enough to make on a weeknight and cheap enough to cook for a crowd!

Chili season is upon us! Those first super crisp days of winter have swept through the valley where I live, and I’ve got a hankering for some good classic chili. This recipe came from my mama, and is pretty basic and simple. The great thing about this recipe is that it’s just a base to get you started; there are so many ways to vary this chili that you can make it just right to suit your taste. The original recipe was just meat and beans; I’ve added the veggies to really make it my own. You can vary the veggies, switch up the meat, and make it spicy or mild. And it’s easy enough to make on a weeknight. Here’s how I do it with five main ingredients and a couple spices.

Ingredients:

1 lb.of ground turkey or beef, based on your preference

1 40 oz.can of chili beans in chile sauce

½ of a green bell pepper

½ of a red bell pepper

6 oz.of frozen corn

Approx. 32 oz. Tomato juice (enough to cover all other ingredients when they are mixed in a pot)

salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste

Your choice of cheese, sour cream, and avocado

 

Makes about 8 servings

 

Step 1: Cook the ground turkey or beef in a skillet over medium-high heat. If using beef, add 1 tbsp.of flour to absorb some of the grease once it is cooked.

Step 2: Dice the bell pepper.

Step 3: Combine the cooked meat, chili beans in chili sauce, diced bell pepper, and spices in a large saucepan.

Step 4: Pour in enough tomato juice to barely cover all the ingredients. ***You can vary the amount of tomato juice you use depending on how soupy or how chunky you like your chili.

Step 5: Let the chili cook for about 20 minutes and then add the frozen corn.

Step 6: Let the chili cook until the bell peppers are soft.

Step 7: Top with your choice of cheese, sour cream, and avocado.

 

***Variations of this chili: add onion, skip the meat, add more spices and/or hot sauces to give it a kick. We’ve even used ground venison in this recipe before! It’s hard to go wrong with this one.

 

 

 

Love at First Bite: Sweet Potato, Spinach, and Chicken Pizza

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I first got the idea for this recipe when I saw a recipe on Pinterest

Sweet potato, kale, and chicken pizza.

Sweet potato, kale, and chicken pizza.

(originally from foodgawker.com) for Pumpkin and Spinach Flatbreads with Goat Cheese. I love this recipe because there are lots of ways to modify it by combining five ingredients. Make your combo by choosing sweet potato or pumpkin puree, spinach or kale, chicken or coin-slice bratwurst, a base (pizza dough, pita bread, tortillas), and your favorite cheese. The result: a rich, filling, healthy, and fairly easy dinner. This is definitely a ‘Love at First Bite’ recipe, which is my way of saying it’s something I say “mmm mmm mmm,” about the whole time I eat it, and will make it over and over!

Ingredients

1cup mashed sweet potato

2 cups Spinach

1 cup cooked chicken

Pizza dough, pita bread, or tortillas

Cheese

Makes: 1 pizza, 2 pita pizzas, or 2 quessadillas

Step 1: If you have time and the desire to make your own pizza dough or tortillas, do that first! Click on each to see the recipes I use.

Step 2: Soak the sweet potato for up to 45 minutes to make peeling and chopping easier. Peel, cube, and boil a sweet potato until it is soft enough to be mashed. Mashing one sweet potato usually gives me more than a cup, so I save the extra for a snack or a side dish.

Step 3: While the sweet potato is boiling, do what needs do be done to your chicken. If you’re using a pre-cooked rotisserie chicken, which I usually do, then shred it. If you’re using chicken breast, cook it and cube it. Cook it.

Step 4: Wash and de-stem your spinach leaves.

Step 5: Put it all together! Spread the mashed sweet potato base (pizza dough, pita bread, or tortilla). Distribute the spinach over the top. Distribute the chicken. Add any cheese of your liking (white cheddar or mozzarella are my favorites on this).

Step 6: If you are making this as a quesadilla, put another tortilla on top and cook in a pan on the stovetop. If you are making this as a pizza, bake at 425 degrees for 15-20 minutes. If you are having this atop pita bread, bake at 425 degrees for 7-10 minutes, or until pita crisps up a bit.

Note: I’ve skipped the meat and/or cheese on this before and it’s still scrumptious!