Thai Green Curry Soup

The season of soups is here again!  Who knew that making delicious Thai curry soup could be so easy?  The hardest part is remembering to buy Thai Green Curry Paste and a can of coconut milk.  Like so many soup recipes, this one is easily adjusted to suit your needs.  You could make it vegetarian by leaving out the chicken, or use shrimp or tofu if you prefer.  Any vegetables would work, so don’t let a lack of these specific vegetables stop you from making this!

I fully customized this recipe to my family by keeping the chicken and one ear of corn separate from the soup.  My husband had a lot of chicken with soup on top.  My son got an ear of corn, some plain chicken, and a sample of the soup.  I had a nice bowl of soup with a little chicken in it.  Everyone was happy.

Chicken and Vegetable Green Curry Soup

Recipe adapted from Anna Kovel via Better Homes & Gardens magazine

Thai Green Curry Paste

1/2 onion, chopped

1 sweet or mildly hot red pepper

4 cups chopped eggplant, zucchini, and/or yellow squash

1 cup corn kernels

3 cups chopped greens such as kale or spinach

2 1/2 cups water or broth

1 can unsweetened coconut milk 

2 cups cooked shredded chicken

1 lemon

The whole recipe can be made in one 5 to 6 quart pot.  (I used 2 because I also had to cook the chicken.)  Heat 2 Tablespoons olive oil over medium heat and add the onions and peppers and cook until softened.  Next, add the curry paste and cook until fragrant.  Now add the eggplant or and/or squash and zucchini and cook until brown, stirring occasionally.  Add the water or broth and bring to boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to medium and simmer until vegetables are tender.  Add the corn, greens, chicken and coconut milk and heat through.  Serve with lemon wedges.

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Herbed Bean Salad

What do I have in my garden right now?  It’s mostly a dry wasteland, but there are some nice red peppers, a lone basil plant and some hardy oregano.  Here’s a salad to use what I’ve got.  If you do not have these exact vegetables, this recipe is open to improvisation.  For example, you could leave out the celery or substitute cherry tomatoes for the red pepper.  Also, this dressing is pretty punchy, so you could tone it down with a little less dijon or vinegar.  I love this salad because the main ingredients are pantry staples that I always have on hand.  It’s easy, nutritious and delicious.

Herbed Bean Salad

2 cans cannelini beans, rinsed and drained

3 Tablespoons red onion, chopped

3 Tablespoons vinegar (apple cider or white wine vinegar are nice choices)

1 sweet red pepper, chopped

2 or 3 stalks celery, chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons dijon mustard

1/4 extra virgin olive oil (that’s 4 Tablespoons)

1 cup fresh herbs, chopped

salt and pepper

Begin by chopping the onion and placing in a small bowl.  Add 2 Tablespoons vinegar and about 1/2 teaspoon salt and set aside.

Chop the remaining vegetables and herbs and set aside.

In a medium bowl, add the dijon and remaining 1 Tablespoon vinegar along with the olive oil and pepper.  Whisk or stir rapidly with a fork until creamy.  Add the onion and vinegar mixture and stir to combine.  Add the beans, pepper, celery, and herbs then stir gently to coat all ingredients in the dressing.

Let the salad rest and marinate for 10- 15 minutes or place in the refrigerator overnight.  This will get tastier as the flavors mingle and will be delicious for 3 or 4 days.  Serve as a side dish or on a green salad.

Cucumber and Avocado Salad

We’ve had a very rainy summer thus far and the cucumbers are coming in fast.  This salad highlights the crisp coolness of cucumbers by contrasting with the creamy richness of avocado.  The proportions for this recipe are not exact, so make adjustments according to taste and your abundance of cucumbers.

The secret to a delicious and crispy cucumber salad is to salt them before adding to your recipe.  Prep the cucumbers by peeling, seeding and chopping them to bite size.  Place them in a colander or on clean towels and sprinkle generously with salt.  The salt draws out water and tightens the cucumbers so they stay crisp and delicious.  Another trick is to wait until the last minute to add the avocado so that it doesn’t fall apart or get brown.  The vinegar will prevent browning to some degree, but avocado is best when really fresh.

Cucumber Avocado Salad

Fresh cucumbers ( about 4 – 6 medium size)

sea salt

1 avocado

1/4 onion or scallions

freshly ground pepper

3 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar or white wine vinegar

optional: a few cherry tomatoes and/or 1 sweet bell pepper

  • Peel the cucumbers and slice them end to end.  Scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  This is not necessary if you’re using very small cukes.  Chop them to bite size pieces and place in a colander over a bowl.
  • Sprinkle on 2- 3 teaspoons of salt and mix in really well so each bit has some salt.
  • Leave to drain for at least 15 minutes and up to an hour.
  • Discard the liquid, pat the cucumbers dry on a clean towel and place in a bowl.
  • Slice the onion very thin (I use a mandolin) and combine with the vinegar and some black pepper in the bowl.  Mix well so the onion is in contact with the vinegar.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.
  • When you are ready to serve the salad, wash the avocado, slice it open, cut it in cubes while still in the peel, then scoop it out with a spoon.  Mix into the salad gently.  Add tomatoes or chopped bell peppers if using.

More cool recipes for hot summer days:

Cool Cucumber Soup

Gazpacho

Perky Pickles

Tahini Sauce

Have you ever used tahini in home cooking?  It is a paste made from toasted sesame seeds.  Tahini is high in minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, calcium and iron.  It’s also a good source of B vitamins, vitamin E and unsaturated fat.  Sesame seeds provide a complete protein that is easier to digest than some other nuts.  Tahini is a great addition to any diet, but it’s especially valuable to vegans, vegetarians, and people with food sensitivities and allergies because it provides creamy richness and lots of nutrition.

This creamy and rich paste is an important ingredient in hummus, but it can be used for so much more.  You can find it with the middle eastern foods at the grocery store, and it keeps well in the refrigerator.  I’ve been exploring non-sugary treats and recipes this month, so I finally made a simple tahini sauce and it was super duper delicious!  I could eat it with a spoon.  I used it as a dip for roasted vegetables, as a salad dressing, and spread on crackers for a snack.

I love a simple tahini sauce like this one from Cooking Light.  Click through for the recipe and notice the great tip for taking the bite out of raw garlic!  All you need is a clove of garlic, a lemon, and tahini.  I hope you will try it!

Happy New Year

c2466f6f0a2544cc4c3b573b076fcb71--julia-child-quotes-julia-childsDo you make resolutions in January?  Each new year, I find myself feeling heavy and sluggish from too many holiday treats and loathe to go outdoors in the freezing temps.  Each January I feel the need to address sugar cravings and a desire to feel healthier.

I love cooking, baking, all the details, science, history and culture of food.  However, sometimes it’s all just too much and I need to take a break.  This year I’m focusing on healthy eating by cutting way back on sugar in January as part of a fresh start to a fresh new year.

If you are interested in making some changes this January, here are some links, tips and recipes I’m considering as I move forward.

Let’s think about a few things as we look at the month ahead:

  1. Whatever I choose to eat this month, I will be paying attention to what I eat, reading labels, and really thinking about how I feel.  Do I want added sugar in my sandwich bread?  How much sugar is in those kombucha drinks I love?  How much protein is in my breakfast?  Does this meal make me feel full, healthy, satisfied or tired?  Did I take the time to notice the taste and texture of my food and really enjoy it?  Have I checked the label on my almond butter to see if it has added sugar?  You get the idea…
  2. I will not be cutting back on fat.  Here’s an article about why our bodies need fat that also explains the different types and sources of fats.  My diet includes a LOT of raw nuts, extra virgin olive oil,  and avocados, as well as fresh eggs and moderate (sort of…) amounts of butter and cheese, and small amounts of bacon, and gasp… lard!(click here for more fascinating info about the king of fats)
  3. Why am I doing this?   I want to feel healthy and energetic, and I know from experience that I feel better when I eat very little sugar.  Everything from my digestion to frequency of headaches to cravings and moodiness improve when I stop mindlessly consuming sugary snacks.  We each have our own reasons for the choices we make – it’s important to know ourselves and find what is best for our own bodies.
  4. Rather than focusing on what I’m not eating, I’ll be turning my attention to what I’m adding this month such as:
    1. I plan to drink more hot tea  (unsweetened of course)
    2. I’m adding delicious fruit to my diet – I can have sweet mandarin oranges for dessert or a smoothie if I really need a treat (go to the end of this post for links to recipes)
    3. I LOVE to feel healthy, sleep well, and be happy – and eating healthy foods supports these goals
    4. I’m adding vegetables to my diet, and I’ll eat all my favorite winter veggies such as roasted carrots and cauliflower.  I’ll also make salads with lots of cheese and nuts, and make sure my fridge is stocked with things I like to eat so I don’t feel deprived.

As you know I love to bake, so here are a few recipes I’ll be revisiting this month.

It feels so good to make healthy choices about what to eat.  If you would like more tips and info about making changes to your diet, reading nutrition labels, or encouragement look for me on facebook  @ Monticello Georgia Yoga.

P.S. Am I cutting out dessert forever?  absolutely NOT!  I’ll be back with more sweet treats in a month or two.

 

Fall Farro Salad

Here’s a delicious and nutritious salad for the fall.  Farro is an ancient grain in the wheat family.  Although it does contain gluten, it has less than modern varieties of wheat.  However, this recipe is easily adapted to a gluten free grain such as black rice.  Farro is very nutritious and an excellent source of fiber, iron, b vitamins, zinc, magnesium and protien.  This grain makes a chewy and satisfying salad when combined with roasted vegetables and fresh herbs.  I especially like this combination with it’s mix of sweet potatoes, sour apples, and savory onions.  Consider this more of a guide than an exact recipe.

Fall Farro Salad

1 cup farro (or other grain such as rice or quinoa)

1 large or 2 small sweet potatoes – cubed

1 granny smith apple – cubed

1/2 onion – chopped

1 garlic clove

1 bunch fresh parsley and other herbs such as basil, cilantro or mint

salt, pepper, extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the cubed sweet potato, apple, and onion on a foil lined baking pan and toss with about 3 Tablespoons olive oil, salt and pepper.  Roast, stirring once, for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned and very soft.

Meanwhile, cook the farro according to package directions with 1/2 teaspoon salt and a whole clove of garlic in the water.  This grain will need to simmer for about 30 minutes.

Drain the farro and toss with cooked vegetables and chopped herbs.  Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Lentil Salad

Lentils range widely in size and color from yellow, red- oranges, greens, browns, and black.  The most common lentils in my local grocery stores are brown or red.  I have unpleasant memories of brown lentils from childhood.  My mother has always strived for good health and nutrition, and lentils are a superstar in the world of legumes.  Obviously mineral content wasn’t what I was looking for in my food at that time and I was very suspicious of the mushy little beans.  I now recognize that they are powerhouses of nutrition and can be prepared in a variety of ways.  They readily absorb flavors and can be used for soups, stews and salads.  Lentils are surprisingly high in folate, iron, magnesium, protein, and fiber.

There are two varieties that are less likely to get mushy and therefore good choices for salad.  French green lentils (du Puy) and Beluga black lentils are both small and remain firm when cooked.  I usually cook with French green lentils and they are pretty good, but I really wanted to try the small black ones named for looking like caviar.  I had a recipe from Jacques Pepin for Beluga Lentil Salad, but was not able to find Belugas until recently. 

This lentil salad is the best I’ve made.  I often leave out the mint in savory recipes even though it grows nearly year round right by my front door.  I absolutely loved the mint in this salad.  It is light and tasty, but also satisfying and filling; I was really surprised how much I enjoyed it.  The recipe and ingredients are simple and easy to keep on hand, so this will be a great lunchbox meal from now on.

Lentil Salad

recipe from Jacques Pepin

1 cup dry Beluga lentils

water

salt

1 bay leaf

1 large clove garlic

1/4 cup finely chopped shallots ( I substituted sweet vidalia onion)

1/4 cup chopped fresh mint

1/4 cup chopped Kalamata olives

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

3 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Feta cheese for garnish

Begin by sifting through the lentils to check for stones.  You probably won’t find any, but this is good policy any time you cook with dry beans.  Rinse them under running water.

Soak the lentils in 4 cups water and 1 teaspoon salt for 1 hour.

Drain and cook in a saucepan with 3 or 4 cups water, 1 whole garlic clove, 1 bay leaf and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer for about 20-25 minutes or until desired firmness.

Drain and discard the garlic and bay leaf.

For the dressing, combine the olive oil, white wine vinegar, olives, mint and shallot in a bowl with salt and pepper to taste.  A great tip when working with raw onions is to chop them, then rinse with cold water to remove some of the sharpness if you don’t want them to overpower the salad.

Add the warm lentils and toss to coat.  Serve warm or cold, topped with a little feta cheese.