November 26, 2008

Curried Butternut Soup

Have you ever bought something, and then forgotten you had it?  Well, it happens to me all the time, with the most recent items being sour cream and a butternut squash.  Sadly the sour cream didn't survive my bought of forgetfulness, but the squash did!  Thank goodness they last forever.  I don't even know what made me think of that squash, but for some reason I suddenly remembered it while at work today.  Actually, I also remembered the sour cream, and was going to use both, but it was kind of moldy.  Oops!

What to do with that squash though?  I really didn't want to roast it.  But then I thought that I could make a soup...heck, I could even use some of my most recently made stock (recipe still to come).  Looking around, I realized that I had several tins of coconut milk and some lovely red curry paste in my pantry.  A Thai inspired soup suddenly sprang to mind and off to work I went.  The heat from the curry adds such a lovely depth and warmth to the soup, and the coconut milk cools that heat down, and helps give the soup a luscious creamy texture.  

Give it a try, it's a great pick me up for a cold Fall or Winter day - we're back to Fall here, though I'm sure Winter will make another appearance soon enough.

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

15 mL olive oil
100 g onions, diced
500 g butternut squash, peeled and cubed
15 mL red curry paste 
250 mL veggie stock
1/2 tin coconut milk

In a large pot heat olive oil over med-high heat.  Add onions and cook, stirring, until softened and translucent.  Add curry paste and stir to coat onions.

Add cubed squash and veggie stock, bring to boil.  Once at a boil, reduce heat and simmer until squash is tender enough to be mashed with a fork.  Using a potato masher or hand blender, mash/puree squash.  Once uniform, stir in coconut milk and serve.

Makes enough for three.

November 25, 2008

Sauteed Kale

A while back I finally got up the guts to try Kale. I've always had a hard time with the greens, and other than spinach had yet to find one I liked. But thanks to this post by Gluten Free Girl, and the many glowing comments, I took the plunge. I can now say that Kale is my favorite of the greens. I have been eating crazy amounts of it, and plan to add it to my little patio garden next year. I love it with mashed potatoes and parsnip. So much that I went through a full bag of parsnips this way. Considering I live alone, that's quite the feat. But, as great as Kale tastes with those root vegetables, I wanted something different.

I ended up choosing to sautee it, which really isn't all that different...everyone seems to enjoy it this way. But really, I can't be creative all the time. But wow, it was delicious. Dead easy too. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did. I added my favorite flavor of all time, garlic, and some bacon fat for depth and meatiness. If you're vegetarian, or just don't like bacon, I think a lemon infused oil would make a great base, or any nutty oil...just make sure it can hold up to high heat before using it.

The garlic slices became crispy and flavorful, almost like little garlic chips mixed in. The bacon fat added flavor without overpowering the kale or garlic. As a result the Kale was still the star of the show, but it had to fantastically talented sidekicks.

With American Thanksgiving coming up - Thursday I believe, correct me if I'm wrong - I thought someone might want to try a slightly different side. I hope you enjoy it as much as I have been!

Sauteed Kale
(serves one)

1/3 bunch of organic kale *Any type of kale with do, but I used Lacinato
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1 tsp bacon fat

Stack kale leaves, and slice widthwise into 1 cm thick slices.

Heat fat over medium high.

Add kale and sautee for a minute or two. Until color is bright great and slices are more flexible.

Add garlic slices and continue to sautee about 4-5 minutes until everything is cooked and garlic is starting to turn golden.

November 23, 2008

Sugar Cookies

With the Holiday Season fast approaching I have decided that it is time for me to attempt some cookie recipes.  Really, I just want to try to figure out several kinds before tackling my beloved Lebkuchen.  If any one cookie needs to be successful, that would be the one.  Hopefully in my pursuit, I'll figure out a couple other yummy ones.  

That and I wanted to enter at least one cookie into Susan's (AKA Food Blogga) Holiday Cookie Round-Up (just click on the logo to go to the round-up).  

So, I figured I should start with something both easy for me to try to convert, and for gluten eaters to make for their gluten-free guests.  Sugar Cookies seemed like a promising cookie type, and one that should easily fit those two requirements.  So if you're a gluten eater, and you're planning making this for a non-gluten eater, feel free to replace the two starches with whatever starch you have on hand (ie./ cornstarch) and then you can easily just pick up some sorghum, or even ask to "borrow" a cup.  I'm sure your guest-to-be would be happy to help if it means they too can enjoy some cookies.

Sugar Cookies

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup arrowroot starch
1/2 cup tapioca starch
1 cup sorghum flour

Cream butter with sugar and salt.  When well creamed add vanilla and egg, and combine thoroughly.  Slowly incorporate starches and flour until you have a smooth dough. 

Chill for 30 min or so, until stiffened.  Form dough into smallish balls (1.5 cm in diameter), and keep in fridge until ready to use.  

Heat oven to 375 F,  flatten dough ball on a cookie sheet, about 1 1/2 inches apart, and bake for 10 minutes.  Cool and serve.

Makes 5 dozen cookies

November 22, 2008

Wicked Winter

As of this morning, there is no denying Winter has arrived in Nova Scotia.  Thirty centimeters (about 1 ft) of snow had fallen during the night.  Effectively covering the ground with a white blanket, and causing things to grind to a near halt.  We're Canadians, 30 cm slows us down, it doesn't stop us.  However, like most Haligonian's, I was snow bound for the morning, and spent part of my afternoon digging the car out from under all that snow.  

All this cold white stuff, that I'm anything but fond of, left me wanting something warm and satisfying for supper.  Really, when Winter hits there are only a few foods that will take off that chill.  One of the easiest and most satisfying is a great big bowl of Chili.  However, it is this specific desire for Chili is what lead me out into the snow to fight my way into a grocery store, and though the pathetically, poorly plowed roads.  Why couldn't I have wanted something that I had everything for already, as opposed to wanting Chili, when all I had for it was onions and garlic?  Thank goodness Sobey's is just around the corner.  

Lean ground beef was on sale this week, but due to the weather, there was no one around to put any out.  So I started looking at the alternatives, maybe some lower fat turkey, or mild pork.  I even looked over at the ground sausage.  Luckily, out of the corner of my eye I noticed some lovely local lamb for the same price.  Well, if I can have the extravagant purchase for the same cost, I'm going for it!  If you don't like lamb, use one of the other ground meats, any one of them will do.  After all, everything is about what will taste good to YOU (cheesy yes, but true).

After stocking up on the remaining necessary items, plus a few regular grocery items, I fought my way back home, and have determined that I truly need to move out of this frozen country.  Winter is not my friend.  Now, a little about my Chili before you go ahead and make it.  I like, no make that love, beans, therefore my Chili is a little heavier on the beans than most I've tried.  If you have a preferred type of bean, now is the time to use it.  I never use just plain old Kidney beans, so this time I used Chickpeas and Black Beans.  

Next, I've never been a big fan of tomato sauce, so while my Chili is tomato based, it is not as thick as your average Chili.  I find that the one I make, and love, is a more chunky style Chili.  Try, you'll like it.  Heck, my ex determined it was the best Chili she'd ever eaten, and I have yet to have a negative review on it - minus my friend who can not tolerate any beans what so ever in her Chili.


1 pound ground meat, use a lean meat, but not extra lean - you want some fat, it adds flavour
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced
1 large green pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans beans, drained and rinsed
1 can diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
chili powder

In a large pot cook ground beef until no longer pink.  Do not drain out those lovely fat molecules!  To the cooked meat add all the veggies and cook, stirring constantly, one to two minutes.  Add chili powder - 2 Tbsp is a good starting point as it makes a very mild chili, if you like more heat, go from there.  I'm partial to the addition of about 4 Tbsp, but I like a fair amount of heat.

When chili powder has been mixed around and everything is coated with it, add the beans.  Give everything a nice stir before adding the diced tomatoes and bay leaves.  The Chili is going to look like there isn't enough moisture in it at this time, but don't worry, after it has cooked for a while, the veggies will let out some more water and you'll have plenty of liquid.  Bring to a simmer and leave on medium-low.  

After the pot has simmered away for about an hour, you can take it off and serve.  Corn bread would be a nice side, but the best is a slice of garlicky toast to soak of up the little bit of liquid that stays behind in your bowl.  

This makes a very large pot of Chili, enough for 6-8 servings.  

November 19, 2008

It's a curry kind of day.

Today was one of those horrible days.  You know the ones where it's not quite winter, not still fall, and has an air of the never ending spring rain?  Really, a fairly common kind of day out here in Nova Scotia, but I was raised an Ontario girl, and I just can't seem to adapt to this weather.  Seven years and I still cringe when it arrives.  It makes me wish I could hop on a plane and head somewhere warm, really, somewhere HOT would be even better.  Matters only become worse, when I realize that it was one year ago today that I came back from a lovely trip to Australia.  Why did I come back?

With the weather the way it is - slushy snow coming down horizontally - all I wanted was something warm and comforting for supper.  What I really wanted was a fantastic Thai Chicken and Noodle soup I ate a few years ago.  Sadly, I have no chicken, no noodles, and no stock in the house right now.  Heck, if I know that  The Italian Gourmet would have some available, and it was by some amazing chance gluten-free, I would have braved the crazy drivers and headed downtown to get some.  Alas, people can't drive, and I know it is not GF, so I headed straight home after work.

After I spent a few minutes staring blankly into my cupboards, I finally clued in that I had coconut milk and curry paste.  So, I satisfied my craving with a hearty bowl of "Thai" green curry.  It's most likely not actually authentic, but it's pretty darn good.  I don't yet make my own paste, I have a few recipes to try, I just haven't made it that far.  Feel free to make it if you can, or pick up a pre-made paste from the grocer.  You don't have to use Green Curry paste, you could use Red, or Yellow.  I like all of them, so I keep them in the freezer in a mini ice cube tray so I can use what I want, when I want. 

"Thai" Curry

1 can coconut milk
1 Tbsp curry paste, more or less according to taste 
1 tsp coconut oil
1/2 green pepper, sliced
1 small onion, sliced
6 large mushrooms, sliced
1 large carrot, sliced
1/2 bunch of kale, sliced
2 large handfuls of unsalted cashews

In a large sauce pan or wok, heat the oil over med-high heat.  When beginning to pop add the curry.  Stir until fragrant.  Add in all veggies except the kale.  Stir for a minute or two, to coat with paste. 

When veggies are evenly coated in the paste, add 1/2 the coconut milk.  Stir and bring to boil.  Leave to simmer a few minutes.  

Add kale, cashews and remaining coconut milk.  Bring back to a boil, and simmer until kale is wilted.  

Serve over a bed of rice to soak up some of the rich sauce.  

Makes enough for two main courses.

November 16, 2008

Gluten Free Bread with an unexpected twist

I was never a huge fan of bread.  I didn't like most sandwiches.  White bread always seemed to get soggy, and whole wheat was just too strong tasting.  I guess I was spoiled at a young age by living in Europe where they know how to make a good bread.  I'm afraid North Americans still have a little ways to go.  So, really, going gluten-free was almost like a blessing...suddenly I had a legitimate reason to not eat bread, beyond the "I don't like it" one.  No longer do people sound shocked that I'm passing bread up, ironically they just feel sorry for me.  

But,  just because I'm just not a fan, that doesn't mean I hate it.  I loved grilled cheese sandwiches and panini's.  Oh, the gooey cheese, and the crispy bread.  The layer of butter or oil on that lovely crunchy crust.  That I miss.  So finally, I began my search for a wonderful GF bread.  I'd heard all the horror stories of store bought, and I'm going to say, I agree.  None of that pre-packaged bread for me.  So I started searching through blogs (for some great GF bread baking tips, please seethe following advice from Shauna AKA Gluten Free Girl and Karina the Gluten Free Goddess. Surely someone has found a GREAT recipe.  I've tried a few different ones, and I still have a few I'm curious about.  But the other week, I found THE bread.  Here I go loving something else for Gluten-Free Mommy, but wow, it's good.  What is this bread I speak of, none other than her Whole Beer Bread.  And to top off having a great recipe, there are a load of bread backing tips.  Only problem is, here in Nova Scotia (and perhaps Canada in general) we don't have GF beer.  This means I can only get it when I go the States.  Which really, is only ever year or two.  I must limit my bread enjoyment it would seem.

Well, not if I get creative!  What can I use in place of GF beer.  I thought of using Ginger Beer, in particular the fantastic local one we have by Propeller, but that didn't seem quite right - I still might give it a try though.  Besides, I didn't have any in the house, and I wanted  bread now.  What else might work?  Root beer?  Eww, I hate that stuff.  Club Soda?  Might be a little flat tasting.  Same with mineral water.  Finally I realized that I have one type of soda/fizzy drink in the house right now anyway.  Coke.  Though I was worried it would make for a very sweet bread.  Take out some sugar, and away I went.  

Oh. My. God.  It's just as good as Natalie's.  Heck, I like this stuff better than any real bread I've ever tried, and that's saying a lot, considering I grew up on delicious European breads!  I can eat bread whenever I want now, and so can you if you don't have access to GF beer.

Coca Cola Bread

1/2 cup arameth flour
1 cup sorghum flour
1/2 cup tapioca flour
1 cup arrowroot
1 cup sweet rice flour
1/4 cup almond meal
3 tsp xanthan gum
2 Tbsp molasses
1 whole egg
3 egg whites
6 Tbsp melted butter, unsalted
1 can of Coke, at room temperature  *I used Coke Zero, though I'm sure you could also use any type of Coke, Pepsi or generic brand
2 1/2 tsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1/4 warm water

In a small bowl combine the yeast, sugar and warm water.  Leave to sit and proof.

In a large bowl whisk together all dry ingredients.  If you have a stand mixer (I'm very jealous let me tell you!) combine dry ingredients in the mixer bowl.

In another bowl combine remaining ingredients, minus the can of coke.

Once the yeast is all bubbly and happy, add it to the dry ingredients and combine well.  Once well combined add in the molasses mixture and mix thoroughly.  Finally pour in the room temperature coke and mix until you have a dough the consistency of a thick, stiff cake batter.

Scoop batter into a greased loaf tin, cover with a damp dish cloth and let rise until about doubled in size.  I like to bring my oven to the lowest temperature setting and the leave the pan in for between 30-45 minutes.  The temperature and humidity can and will affect rising times.

Once doubled in size, bake at 350 F from 55 minutes until a deep golden brown and it sounds hollow when knocked on.  Let cool, slice and enjoy!