Saturday, March 6, 2010

Curried Carrot Soup

I looooove carrot soup! I've tinkered around with several different recipes, which sometimes had not-so-great results (too spicy, too bland, etc), but this recipe from Martha Stewart's Great Food Fast was very well balanced. I have to admit though, I did tinker with this recipe, too!

Instead of 2 pounds of carrots like the recipe calls for, I used about 1.5, and added 4 oven roasted roma tomatoes. I love the tangy flavour they add.

I didn't taste much curry in this soup. I didn't mind that, but I might add garam masala instead if I want more of a curry flavour. Who knows, maybe the tanginess of the tomatoes took away from it.

Source: Martha Stewart's Great Food Fast

2 tablespoons butter (I used Earth Balance)
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon curry powder
Coarse salt and fresh ground pepper
3 cups chicken broth
2 pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 1 inch chunks (I used 1.5 pounds)
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro (omitted)
(I added 4 roasted roma tomatoes)

Preheat oven to 350F. Prep vegetables while oven preheats. Cut tomatoes in half, and scoop out seeds using a spoon. Arrange tomatoes on an olive-oil greased oven-proof dish. Season with sea salt and fresh ground pepper. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping halfway through.

Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large (4- to 5-quart) saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, curry powder, 2 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoons pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, and set the roasting pan aside.

Add the broth, carrots, and 3 cups water. Add some of the water to the pan used to roast the tomatoes, and scrape all those wonderful cooked-on bits, and pour in the saucepan. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover, and simmer until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

In a blender, puree the soup in batches until smooth (I used a hand blender). Stir in lemon juice, and garnish with cilantro (if using).

Simple Grain-ola

For the past 2 years, I've replaced toast, bagels, and cereal with oatmeal. Oatmeal has been my breakfast almost everyday. There are days I love its simple taste, and others where it's the last thing I want to eat. The latter puts me at risk of stopping by a cafe on the way to work to grab a fatty muffin or worse.

I've often substituted cereal on those days but I really noticed the sugar content, and the price of so-called "healthy cereals" to be pretty high. Even if it uses cane sugar or some other natural sweetener, it's still sugar, and I'm not too crazy about having the first thing to enter my tummy be too sugary.

Enter Heidi Swanson's Grain-ola. It's simple, and with a slight tweak, I reduced the 3/4 cup of honey to 1 tablespoon, added a bit of maple syrup, and one grated apple. It just came out of the oven and it smells amazing. I couldn't resist and poured some cold soy milk over a bowl while it was still warm. Yum! The fragrant orange zest helps to make it seem sweeter than it actually is.

Oh, and I have a confession here... I don't like dried fruit. I'll eat it if it's already in something but it's not something I reach for. I don't know if it's the chewiness or the shrivelly factor but it just doesn't really appeal to me. Want to hear something worse? It's the unsulfured kind that just looks awful to me. Brown and wrinkly stuff? No thanks!

Back when I made my Homemade Oat Treats, I had to cut the dried fruit really small. I've left all the dried fruit out of this one (except for the coconut) so I can add fresh fruit if I want.
Makes about 10 cups!!

adapted from Super Natural Cooking by Heidi Swanson

4 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
3/4 cup raw unsalted sunflower seeds
1 cup walnuts or macadamia nuts, chopped into halves or quarters (I used almonds and pecans)
1 1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 cups assorted unsulfured dired fruits (omitted)
Grated zest of 2 oranges
3/4 raw mild-flavoured honey (I used 1 tbsp of honey, 1/4 cup maple syrup, 1 small, finely-grated Spartan apple
1/4 cup coconut oil

Preheat the oven to 300F and set aside 2 rimmed baking sheets.

Combine the oats, sunflower seeds, nuts, coconut, dried fruit (if using) and zest in a bowl. (Toss and use a sturdy spatula to make sure the zest is evenly distributed throughout the mix).

Heat the honey (maple syrup and grated apple if using) over low heat (until it bubbles slightly). Whisk to thoroughly combine, then pour over the oat mixture and stir until everything is well coated.

Divide the mixture between the baking sheets and spread into a thin layer. Bake stirring every 10 minutes for about *40 minutes, until golden brown. Cool completely, then store in an airtight container at room temperature.

*In my oven, the grain-ola started to brown after 30 so be sure to keep an eye on it.

Basic chicken stock

This recipe has become a major staple in my weekend cooking. Whenever my local supermarket has a special on skin-on, bone-in chicken breasts, I stock up. I wrap them individually in plastic wrap and freeze then so I can just take one out the night before I'm planning on using it.

My reason for wanting to make my own is probably the same as everyone else's. I want to control the salt (and the type of salt), and the type of chicken that goes into the stock. Yes, I'm aware that I can just buy stock in a carton (and I sometimes do!) but when you make your own stock, you get the stock, and the chicken meat. Sometimes I use the chicken meat in whatever soup I'm making, and sometimes, I'll wrap and freeze it. Shredded chicken freezes pretty well!

This is what I use for a light chicken stock, as in, you probably wouldn't want to add any water to this when using it for another recipe.


Olive oil (enough to generously coat the bottom of the pan)
1 large skin-on, bone-in chicken breast, rinsed and seasoned with salt and pepper.
1/2 an onion, roughly chopped
1 carrot, scrubbed and cut into quarters
2 stalks of celery (or about 4-6 celery tops)

Heat a large saucepan or dutch oven over med-high heat. Make sure the pan is well-heated before adding the oil, otherwise your chicken will stick.

Place the chicken skin-side down, and cook for about 4 minutes (the skin will get brown and crispy, and the fat and flavour will render out). Using tongs, flip the chicken so it is skin-side up, and cook for another 4 minutes. You can also use the tongs to "press" the chicken on its side so skin/flesh on the side gets cooked (hey, more fat, more flavour!).

Add the onion, carrots and celery, and cook for about 4 minutes, until onions slightly brown.
Pour 8 cups of water over the chicken, reduce heat to medium, cover, and bring to a simmer (about 30 minutes).

Remove chicken and cut through to see that it's cooked thoroughly. If it is, let it cool on a cutting board or plate. It not, return to pot and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Then remove again to see that it's cooked throroughly. Cool, and remove meat from bones, discarding the skin.

I like to let the stock simmer for another 30 minutes after the chicken has been removed.

Use a slotted spoon to remove vegetables, and discard. Let the stock cool and skim off fat.