Last night my friend Janelle requested a soup recipe so that she could have something hearty to eat during her long hospital shiftwork this week. I’m not envious of nurses for many reasons, particularly because they have to handle needles, catheters and are exposed to dangerously high levels of Jello. My poor stomach couldn’t handle the ever-changing meal schedule, week to week, of rotating shift workers. Even with the time change of one hour a few weeks ago, my stomach was left gurgling in confused exasperation for much too long.
During my cleanse a few weeks ago I made this delicious lentil soup twice within a matter of days. Lentil soup is one of my favourites – I love its consistency, colour and wonderful earthy flavours. I also feel very self-righteous when eating something as nutritionally rich as lentils. This is a spicier version of a basic lentil recipe, which gives a slight tingle to the esophagus on the way down. Not in a reach-for-the-pepto-bismal kind of way, but rather like the sensation of eating chicken tandoori; the subtle heat has an addictive quality and the curry powder nicely complements the lentils. You may want to double the batch to be safe, as it will go quickly.
I picked up butternut squash last week with the intention of making homemade squash ravioli, but recovering from a busy work week and a rainy Saturday, I opted for something a little less ambitious to prepare – Butternut Squash Soup. This tasty soup with its hint of cumin warms up the insides on a winter’s day and also makes for a quick, healthy lunch during the week ahead. No roast beef sandwiches for at least three days!
There are a lot of squash soup recipes available online, but I find the taste of most of these sometimes too bland for my liking. In the past I’ve added apple sauce to my soup, though here I’ve chosen to go with apple cider vinegar and carrots instead, for that same subtle sweetness. I also roasted the squash beforehand with oil, cumin, cayenne and fresh thyme, for extra flavour. If you’re like my mom and don’t like cumin you can substitute this with rosemary or sage.
My dad and younger brother picking pumpkins and squash last fall
Freshly-picked butternut squash
There is something to be said for having comfort food to help get through the dreary and cold winter months. I’m not talking about Rocky Road ice cream or Oreos and a glass of milk, although that would probably work too. For me, what comes to mind is Campbell’s Tomato Soup and grilled cheese for dipping. Maybe it’s the rain or the lack of Vitamin D from Victoria’s cloudy climes, but I’ve been feeling particularly lazy and uninspired this past week and in desperate need of comfort food. I’m ashamed to admit that I had peanut butter and jam sandwiches for dinner three days last week and then bacon and eggs another time, which is very unlike me. So I’ve decided that something homey, healthy and relatively easy would be on the menu tonight to propel me through this next week on the right note.
Although tasty and inexpensive, Campbell’s soup was a little too easy tonight, so I tried to pull together something homemade that tasted close enough. I also love grilled cheese and have recently started putting a dab of pesto in the middle for some extra kick and have been experimenting with different cheeses to venture out of my Cheddar comfort zone. I didn’t have any regular pesto on hand, but at the back of the fridge was a jar of homemade pesto made from nettle plants that a friend from Saltspring Island had given me as a gift. For serving, call me crazy, but I get real enjoyment out of dipping my grilled cheese into the soup and then taking a bite of it when it’s warm and soggy. The perfect Sunday meal for eating while curled up on the couch in front of the TV. Continue reading
Whether its from the temperature getting colder and the air damper, or the stress of Christmas approaching, over the past 3 days I’ve been fighting off some bug. Today in particular has been the kind of day where I would have liked nothing more than to vegetate on the couch watching re-runs of Chuck and eating soup. Normally when I’m sick I gravitate to the traditional Chicken Noodle Soup, but today I felt like a variation that included a bit more kick to it – Chipotle peppers. I had a few of these peppers ziplocked in the freezer from the last time I made this recipe a few months ago. Normally they come 8-10 in a can and as each recipe usually only calls for 2 at a time, this is a good way to store them until needed. This soup delivers a nice balance of heartiness (from the corn, chicken and zucchini), zip/kick (chipotle-style) and tartness from the limes making it the perfect fall or winter meal, or when in need of a pick-me-up. Continue reading
This green curry dish is the most popular Thai meal after Phad Thai – but watch out, it’s spicy!
I first learned to make it at the Chiang Mai Thai Cookery School during my stay in Thailand, where it became my inaugural meal using coconut milk. Before this I had never really given it a chance. My earliest memory of a coconut (cue the flashback harp music) is from a trip to Florida when I was really young, where my dad broke open a coconut that had washed up on the beach and handed my brother and I pieces to examine and nibble on. I remember the clear liquid on the inside tasting foul and then subsequently I was turned off everything ‘coconut’ for a few decades, however undeserved.
I’ve since learned that coconut milk isn’t actually the liquid inside of a coconut, as I had been led to believe; and many years after my Florida trip I realized that the liquid deserved another chance. After all, I had the same initial reaction to coffee and alcohol and look where I am now. During our stay in a rural Thai village, on a particularly sweltering day, our host father poked holes in a coconut he picked from his yard and handed us straws for drinking. Parched from the heat, I found this makeshift umbrella drink refreshing and vowed thereafter to conquer all of my other childhood food aversions.
Actual coconut milk, if ever the question is asked on Jeopardy, is made by squeezing the grated flesh of a coconut with a bit of hot water. The resulting rich, creamy liquid looks much like cow’s milk…and it is a vital ingredient in the making of most curry dishes, including this one. Continue reading
Some people at work have taken to calling me Fido; not in a derogatory way (I think), but because I’m known on my floor as the guy who sniffs everyone’s food. People were disgusted at first, when in the lunch room I would hover my nose over their leftover curry dish or lasagna and inhale. They would push their plates away and say “I can’t eat this now!” But it’s not as invasive as sticking my finger in the dish at least. Most people, I’ve learned, don’t often appreciate their food with all their senses – or at least the smell and look, unless they’re listening to a bowl of Rice Krispies snap-crackle-popping. Taste is important, sure, but so is taking the time to savour the aroma of a meal before placing it on the tongue and sending it down the gullet. We do it with wine, so why not food? Anyways, I shouldn’t be telling you this – If you’re reading this it means you’re already a food convert.
Where I’m going with this is that one lunch hour a colleague removed from the microwave the most incredible smelling soup. I sat staring at her, leaning in with my nose and waiting for her to offer me a bite. Normally I don’t do this to people – my mother raised me better than that. But I was curious and perplexed by what was undoubtedly peanut butter in her soup and needed to know what the outcome of it was. I have a thing with peanut butter – I eat it on everything, but never before in soup. Needless to say, she shared a bite of the soup and the recipe below. Continue reading