How To: Big Batch – Thai Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup

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Have I told you how I won the cookbook lottery jackpot?

Just before we rang in 2017, I found out I won not one, not two, but TWELVE cookbooks! Do you know how many cookbooks twelve is? A LOT! So much that they are all still sitting in a pile on my bedroom floor as we have absolutely no room to put them anywhere else. I think an Ikea run may be in order soon.

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So, I have started to try to always go to one of these new cookbooks when I need some dinner inspiration, instead of relying on the easy Mr. google. One of the cookbooks I have been loving lately is the new Oh She Glows Everyday. Every recipe I’ve made so far has been spot on, and this soup is no exception. And no, this is not a sponsored post. I seriously am just crushing hard on this cookbook.

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We already have a very delicious and creamy Thai sweet potato soup that uses coconut milk to add that richness. This version has a different approach – almond butter. The almond butter gives this soup a deep flavour and velvety texture without the use of any cream or dairy. Kind of like the peanut butter in our sweet potato, white bean, peanut butter stew. I would imagine peanut butter would also make a great substitute for the almond butter if that’s what you have on hand. Or if you need it nut free, try sunflower butter – but I would try to find the all natural unsweetened variety.

The almond butter also adds a boost of extra protein and fat to this soup, making it more filling than the average bowl. I also loved the crunchy almond topping – but you could also leave it off and go with a super smooth bowl of soup if that’s more your thing. Me, I’m all about the textures!

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My new favourite thing when my girls are napping is to curl up with a cup of coffee, a snack, and a cookbook, or two, or three…

Dara

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Thai Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup

Serves 4-6
Dietary Vegan, Vegetarian
Meal type Soup
From book Adapted From Oh She Glows Everyday

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp canola oil
  • 1 onion (chopped)
  • 2 cloves of garlic (minced)
  • 1/2 Tbsp ginger (minced)
  • 1/2 Tbsp red curry paste
  • 2 Cups vegetable broth
  • 2 Cups water
  • 3 Cups carrots (peeled and chopped)
  • 3 Cups sweet potatoes (chopped)
  • 1/4 cup almond butter
  • salt and pepper (to taste)
  • cilantro (chopped)

Almonds

  • 1/2 cup almonds (chopped)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce

Note

The toasted almonds are also delicious tossed into a salad for some crunch. The soup freezes well - just portion in individual containers for a grab-and-go lunch or dinner.

Directions

1. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large pot.
2. Add onion and sauté for a couple minutes. Add garlic and ginger and continue to cook until onion is soft and translucent. Stir in the curry paste and cook for another 2-3 minutes.
3. Place almond butter in a small bowl with about 1/2 cup of broth and whisk to combine. Add the almond butter mixture, carrots, sweet potato, remaining broth, and water to the pot and bring to a boil.
4. Cover, reduce heat to low, and simmer for about 15-20 minutes, until sweet potatoes and carrots are very tender.
5. Using an immersion blender, puree soup in the pot until smooth. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with chopped cilantro and almonds.
Almonds
6. Preheat oven to 325 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss almonds with soy sauce and spread out evenly on baking sheet.
7. Bake for about 10 minutes, until brown and toasted. The soy sauce will have dried up and the almonds will firm up as they cool.
8. The almonds will keep in a container on the counter for a couple weeks.

How to: Slow Cooker – Daal

There is no shortage of slow cooker recipes popping up all over the place now that it’s fall. So why should you try this one? Because.

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And also, it was a “perfect on the first try” recipe. A simple, healthy, flavourful stew that tastes great right out of the slow cooker and even greater the next day for lunch.

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I tend to use my gigantic slow cooker in fits and starts. I find it does a great job of braising meat slow and low, but vegetables? Not so much.  In my experience, they get obliterated beyond recognition.  Sure, you can shorten the cook time. But then why use a slow cooker? Isn’t the idea to set it and forget it for the day? All this to say, since I seldom cook with meat at home, mine has been getting hauled out a couple of times a year at most. And I’ve decided, it’s just not enough to justify all of the valuable kitchen real estate it occupies.

So it’s been slow cooker testing mania all up in here.

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This recipe is a mash up of a slow cooker daal I found in The Best of Bridge Family Slow Cooker cookbook and my favourite stovetop daal recipe from Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer. Guys. It’s really really good.

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I really like the combination of split peas and red lentils.  The lentils break down quite a bit more than the peas and give the daal a rich, thick texture.  If you’ve only got one or the other though, it’s all good.  Roll with it.  Fiddle with the spices if you like, too.  Add a pinch of cayenne for heat. Replace some of the chicken stock with coconut milk, or simply add a can of coconut milk and make it more of a soup.

When it’s done, jazz it up however you like.  Add fresh herbs (cilantro, parsley), a dollop of yogurt or sour cream or a squeeze of lime. Sprinkle on some toasted almonds or pine nuts or top with some cool, creamy avocado cubes.  It can be as humble or as fancy as you like.

Eat up, buttercups.

Erin

Slow Cooker Daal

Serves 6-8
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 6 hours
Total time 6 hours, 5 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 cup dried split yellow peas (well rinsed)
  • 1 cup red lentils (well rinsed)
  • 1 Small onion (finely chopped)
  • 1 796mL (28 oz) can of whole tomatoes (chopped roughly in the can with scissors)
  • 3 cups no salt added chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons cumin powder
  • 2 teaspoons tumeric powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt (more or less to taste)

Directions

1. Add all ingredients to slow cooker, stir once or twice to combine. Set on low heat for 6-8 hours until split peas are cooked through but maintain their shape. Serve with rice, naan or something to soak up the delicious juices.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to: Make Your Own – Perfect Potluck Pasta Salad

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You want to know my super power?

Superior potluck skills.

Come now, don’t be jealy.

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It’s because of all the dang practice I get.  I work in a hospital setting on two separate hospital units, with two different teams. Once a week, each team organizes snacks for team rounds where team members rotate bringing the snack, and once or twice a month we also have a potluck over lunch for a special occasion or celebration.  Add to that, are the potlucks we occasionally have in the office I share with my dietitian buddies. So if my math is correct, that’s about 745 potlucks a year. Give or take.

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Not only do my contributions have to be crowd pleasers, I have to be crafty about the dishes I bring.  I cycle or take public transit to work, so they’ve gotta be compact. And jiggle proof.

This one is my no-brainer choice when I haven’t the time to be creative. 30 minutes and it’s done. Delicious.

The key to making any pasta salad a hit at a potluck is reserving some of the dressing to toss just before serving.  No one likes dry pasta. If you make your salad the night before and use all of the dressing, by the time you get to lunch the next day, all that precious moisture will be sucked up by the pasta.

I also love using a tiny pasta, like orzo, because it’s easy to serve onto a plate one-handed and a just a small spoonful will contain all the goodies.

Adding a head of chopped romaine (or iceberg – something hearty) will make it go a little farther and will lighten it up, too.  Keep the lettuce aside until just before serving, otherwise you’ll have soggy lettuce. And everyone will hate you. Jokes….sorta.

What do you all make for potlucks?! I’m looking for new inspiration. I still have 307 potlucks left this year.

Erin

Perfect Potluck Pasta Salad

Serves Makes aout 10 culls of salad
Prep time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 2 cups orzo pasta
  • 2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes (halved or quartered)
  • 1 english cucumber (seeded and chopped)
  • 1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper (seeded and chopped)
  • ⅓ cup very thinly sliced red onions
  • 200g feta cheese (crumbled)
  • 10 kalamata olives (sliced)
  • 1 head romaine lettuce (washed and chopped)

Dressing

  • ⅓ cup white wine vinegar
  • ⅔ cup canola oil
  • 1 tablespoon whole grain dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon liquid honey
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon fresh ground pepper

Directions

1. Prepare orzo pasta in salted water per package directions or until al dente (approximate 7 minutes). Drain and rinse orzo with cold water to stop the cooking process.
2. Meanwhile, add all the ingredients for dressing to a small bowl and whisk until well combined.
3. Toss orzo, chopped vegetables, feta cheese and ¾ of the dressing in a large bowl (once combined this can stay in your refrigerator overnight).
4. Reserve ¼ of the dressing and chopped romaine to toss with prepared orzo just before serving.

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How to: Make your own – World’s Simplest Tomato Sauce

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This summer has been such a scorcher.  Way back in June, I couldn’t wait to dive head first into Ontario’s summer bounty. For months I’ve been in LOVE with fresh summery salads and grilled everything, but now that September is here, the honeymoon is kinda over.

This Labour Day weekend, we travelled to my BFF’s cottage with a small group of friends.  We always meal plan in advance and decide who will take charge of certain meals.  We chose Sunday night dinner and when I asked my husband Rory if he had any ideas or cravings, he busted out ‘SPAGHETTI AND MEATBALLS!’. An odd choice since we usually BBQ everything and keep it super simple to maximize outdoor time, but I have to say I was totally on board!

The comfort food cravings are slowly but surely sneaking in.

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In the end we shoved our ‘keep it simple’ rule aside and decided on spaghetti with homemade beef/pork meatballs, eggplant parmesan, homemade garlic bread and a tomato/basil salad with homemade balsamic reduction.

It was a feat and it was just what the doctor ordered for the cool northern summer night.

The one simple thing that absolutely made the meal?  The tomato sauce.

I’ve been making this recipe for years.  It’s a classic by Marcella Hazan, author of the famous cookbook Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking.

Can you even believe the simplicity?! It still blows my mind each and every time I make it.  Friends: Do NOT skimp on the butter.

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The recipe calls for ‘your favourite canned tomatoes’. I’ve read many blog posts and recipe comments that insist on using canned San Marzano tomatoes, which are grown and packaged in a specific part of Italy and carry a DOP certification (as does Parmigiano Reggiano) ensuring they are grown and packaged locally.

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I’ve used a variety of canned tomatoes and I always find the sauce delicious (though sometimes I modify it slightly with herbs/garlic/spices).  I’ve always been curious what a side by side comparison of San Marzanos (double the price at least!) and standard Canadian canned tomatoes would reveal. So here it is!

The San Marzanos are canned with a basil leaf and the Canadian’s are not, so I placed one basil leaf in the Canadian batch. The Canadian tomatoes contain citric acid, calcium chloride and almost double the salt in addition to the tomatoes and tomato juice.  I added an extra ½ tsp of salt (to taste) to the S.M. tomatoes in the end.

The verdict:

After a blind taste test Rory revealed his clear winner to be the SM tomatoes.  He described the sauce as sweeter, less acidic and more well rounded.  I couldn’t agree more. The consistency and texture was better too, as the SM tomatoes broke down more easily.  I ended up using a potato masher to break down the Canadian tomatoes in the end.

Are the worth more than double the price? Maybe. If you’re planning to make this sauce in advance, I would probably say go ahead and get the SM.   If you need a last minute dinner and there’s a can of Canadian tomatoes in the cupboard, do not hesitate, make the sauce anyway! It’s simple and delicious no matter the variety.

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Buon appetito!

Erin

World’s Simplest Tomato Sauce

Serves 4
Prep time 5 minutes
Cook time 45 minutes
Total time 50 minutes
Website Marcella Hazan via NYT Cooking

Ingredients

  • 28 oz. can can of whole tomatoes with juices
  • 1 Medium cooking onion (halved and peeled)
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • salt (to taste)

Directions

1. Combine the tomatoes, their juices, onion and butter in a saucepan.
2. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, uncovered for 45 minutes stirring occasionally and mashing any large tomato pieces with a spoon.
3. Remove and discard (or eat if you wish!) onions before adding salt to taste. Toss with pasta.

How To: Slow Cooker – Mexican Shredded Chicken

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For every recipe you see me post on this blog, I can promise you there were at least one or two others that I thought would be hits, but instead were major recipe flops.

While I love my slow cooker for chicken, meat, and the occasional vegetarian curry, it does have the tendency to turn some veg dishes into plain old mush. This was clearly evident when a batch of slow cooker broccoli cheddar soup I was sure would be a hit with my cheese loving fam went untouched, leading to me having to dispose of almost an entire slow cooker of overcooked broccoli and gummy cheese stew. Appetizing, I know!

But this chicken – a hit!

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Really anything that can be topped with mounds of guacamole and scooped up with way too many to mention tortilla chips can’t be bad. Whoops!

And it can even count as a one bowl meal – black beans, corn, canned tomatoes, and broth turn it into an almost stew-like dish. Serve it plain, over rice, or on top of a salad and load it up with all the taco fixings you can dream of.

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Thankfully I have now redeemed myself in the eyes of my family with this slow cooker hit.

Enjoy!

Dara

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Slow Cooker Mexican Shredded Chicken

Serves 8
Meal type Main Dish
Misc Freezable, Pre-preparable
Website Adapted from Skinnytaste

Ingredients

  • 6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 32oz can diced stewed tomatoes with chili seasoning
  • 1 can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 2 Cups frozen corn
  • 1/4 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 4 green onions (chopped)
  • 2 Cups chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 Tsp garlic powder
  • 1 1/2 Tsp onion powder
  • 1 1/2 Tsp cumin
  • pinch cayenne (or to taste)
  • salt and pepper (to taste)

Note

This makes a large batch of shredded chicken, but leftovers will freeze great so I recommend making the entire batch. Chopped tomatoes, diced avocado or guacamole, salsa, and corn tortilla chips make excellent toppings. It's great served as is, on top of rice or a salad, or rolled in soft tortillas.

Directions

1. Combine tomatoes, broth, green onions, cilantro, beans, corn, cumin, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne in a slow cooker. Lay chicken breasts on top and season with salt and pepper.
2. Cook on low for 8 hours. Before serving, remove chicken and shred with a fork. Return to slow cooker and stir to mix with the rest of the ingredients. Serve on top of rice, tortillas, chopped romaine, or eat as is and top with you favourite taco fixings.