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carrot-ginger-buttercup squash soup – aka – soup from a can is a whole lot faster

Greetings!

It’s the weekend so that means I have the urge to be all crafty and experimental in the kitchen!

I am particular about soup. Technically I only like Campbell’s Tomato Soup (Homestyle). I don’t like THINGS in my soup, so if I am going to eat one it has to be pureed to the death. I do, however, occasionally like carrot soup… and I have been wanting to make some with ginger and squash for a while. Now that I have my lovely new Kitchen-Aid food processor, I thought, why the heck not!

After scouring the internet for some recipe ideas, I decided to take the leap and try this on my own so I wasn’t sure how it would turn out. I took ideas from various recipes and kind of went by feel.

Carrots, onion, garlic, buttercup squash & ginger.

I used:

  • 1 bag of large carrots (2 lbs?) chopped
  • 1/2 small onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1/4 ginger, chopped
  • 1 buttercup squash, roasted in the oven for 30 minutes

As you can see from the above photo, I gave up on trying to PEEL the stupid squash because it was impossible. Shawn helped me cut the bloody thing in half and I scooped out the seeds. I googled how to cook squash because I had no idea. Roasting it in the oven at 425F for 30 minutes seemed to work. I didn’t season it or anything because I couldn’t peel the stupid thing. But I was happy I noticed putting parchment paper down on the cookie sheet because that squash gets messy after roasting!

And yes, I used butterCUP squash. I had originally gone to the store looking for another squash that apparently is only a summer one. I had limited winter squash to choose from so I picked this one randomly. Turns out it’s sweet like sweet potato once roasted so I was happy to add it to my soup!

Chicken broth, sage, thyme, coriander & lemon-ginger tea.

I used:

  • 4 cups Campbells no-salt chicken broth (1 box)
  • 1/4 teaspoon sage
  • 1/4 teaspoon thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon coriander
  • 2 teabags Lemon-Ginger tea
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Yes! TEA! One of the recipes I found mentioned boiling some lemon-ginger tea in the broth so I thought I’d try it. I only left the tea bags in until the broth was boiling. Once I added the carrots to the broth, I took the bags out.

Oh! I also added some pepper and a teeny tiny bit of sea salt to the broth, as well as 1/4 tsp of yellow curry powder because I was feeling adventurous. You can’t tell I added it though. 😉

What I did:

  • saute the garlic and onion in the EVOO until they turn brown
  • boil the chicken broth (with tea bags)
  • roast the squash in the oven for 30 minutes on 425F (I did this while chopping all the other stuff – time saver!)
  • add the carrots, garlic, onion, ginger to the broth once it’s bubbling, turn to medium and cook until carrots are soft (about 20 minutes or so?)
  • by the time the carrots are cooking, the squash was ready, so I took it out of the oven and let it cool a bit before I did anything. I then scooped one half into the broth and kept the other for when I was mushing it all in the food processor.
  • once carrots are soft, I used a ladle to scoop the soup (hee, rhyming!) into the food processor in two batches.
  • Food process the heck out of it.

How did I live without a Kitchen-Aid food processor???

The lesson learned here is… even though it LOOKS like it’s going to be too watery, you might want to add a cup or so of water to the broth before processing it. The soup is more the consistency of baby food, like pureed carrots, than soup. I suppose I can add a little bit of water when I reheat my individually packaged soups. It’s not bad, it’s just really, really thick. Like something you’d use in place of mashed potatoes with dinner. Hmm. I will make sure to add a little more liquid to the broth I guess.

Have soup, will travel.

I spooned the soup out evenly over 5 containers. I don’t think there’s a cup of soup in there, maybe more like 1/2 a cup or 3/4 of one. But I can eat it with a sandwich or some more veggies. I put three in the freezer and kept two out for instant use. I had one tonight, actually and yes, it IS a little too thick, but I guess it’s much more filling that way.

It’s not spicy at all. I might want to add more ginger next time. I was afraid I’d over-ginger the soup, what with the tea bags and all. It is rather carrot-y, which is odd because I thought the sweetness of the buttercup squash would cancel some of that out. That being said, I like it. I will eat it and be happy and it doesn’t need crackers or anything in it because it’s thick and filling.

I am open to suggestions on how to make this more soupy and less baby foody. Not that it’s bad.. and I’ll play around with the seasoning next time, too. Maybe make it more curry-ish. Mmmm.

I did have some tonight!

“Soup”, grilled cheese & ANTM. Rock stars don’t have better Saturday nights, yo!

I made myself a grilled cheese (on whole wheat, weight watchers bread), had one of the soups and watched some America’s Next Top Model. Unrelated  – I only watched this cycle to see how the changes to the show would go. I was curious and unsure what I thought, but I ended up liking a couple of the contestants. No one I like is there anymore, but I feel like I need to see this through to the end even though I decided I really don’t like the changes to the show. (I miss Noted Fashion Photographer Nigel Barker and Miss J!) It gives me something to watch on Saturdays – normally while I have breakfast, but I was busy cooking this soup then.

So my soup is less soup and more carrot & squash puree. Oh, well. It still tastes ok and it’s healthy. Like, really healthy. So I’ll have something healthy and filling to bring to work with me this week. Woot!

And I will try this again, with adjustments. More ginger. Less solid. More.. spice? And as healthy as I can keep it.

Until we meet again, carrot soup. Until we meet again.

foooood!

It’s autumn! It’s cold out! That means I need to get my cute little Canadian bottom in gear and use that crock pot I have had forever but never seem to use.

Yes I did use it a few times last fall/winter and I was proud of myself, but this year – THIS YEAR! I plan on using it to the best of it’s ability and make us a whole bunch of yummy things to eat! I am also trying to eat a lot healthier and get back in the habit of making our meals from fresh foods. I fell off that wagon a long time ago and I fell hard. Shawn isn’t big on the cooking either so it’s sort of difficult to stay motivated when neither one of us wants to cook. Especially after work. It’s dark, late and we’re fed up from stupidity that happens in our every day jobs (you know it happens. It happens to most all of us!) But this last month I have been making a habit of cooking on Sundays. Doing a nice grocery and stocking my desk with fresh fruit and veggies. Go, me!

Last weekend I made our new staple – Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie!

I made it with ground chicken, instead of beef and we season it with smoked paprika. I swear that when I was introduced to this spice last year I fell head over heels in love with it. What a great flavour it adds to chicken! We mix two large sweet potatoes in with two smaller regular potatoes and the result is delicious. At least I think so. Shawn is still an old school Shepherd’s Pie guy, but he humours me as I try and eat healthier. 😉

I also took my first chance at leaving our crock pot on while we were at work. I freak out about doing this because I’m terrified it’ll somehow burn our house down. But it didn’t and we happily had turkey stew waiting for us when we got home one night last week. It had stopped cooking about an hour before we got home and was just warming. In fact it was too hot to eat right away!

I used turkey breast rather than chicken breast in honour of Thanksgiving last Monday. There weren’t enough leftovers to take home after the meal with my in-laws and I was feeling like having more turkey! So I chopped up some carrots, threw in some frozen corn and peas, sweet potato, one tiny regular potato and bunch of spices, along with the turkey breast and we had dinner and I had lunches for a week!

I had big plans to make sweet potato gnocchi  too but the “dough” never actually turned out so I ended up throwing it all out. That was sad. Alas.

Tonight we cooked up some ground turkey and I got everything ready to make a turkey chili tomorrow!

I don’t know how this is going to turn out, and I’m not sure how I’ll like it because I have never been a fan of chili. Actually, the last time I made chili was way back in… the early 2000s! I remember making the vegetarian chili from the Loony Spoons cookbook and I had some – it was great – but I got so sick afterwards and ended up in the hospital (it was totally unrelated!) that I couldn’t look at or think of chili ever again for a long, long time. So here I am at least 10 years later, trying to make a chili and not end up violently ill and in the hospital. This chili is a modified version of a recipe I found on Dashing Dish. I’m even making my own white bean chili mix, which I found here (also modified). I went gluten-free where I could and, well, turns out I was out of onions so those are left out. So we’ll see how this one goes.

And as much as I hate pinterest and can’t seem to figure out why it’s so popular, I have made myself a board of recipes (I guess it’s good for that) that I am collecting that eventually I want to try and that will hopefully keep me eating healthier for a long time. But don’t expect me to follow you, or whatever it is people do on there, because I am rarely on it. It’s so confusing and busy and it gives me a headache. But I do find it a little easier than just keeping everything in a bookmark file on my browser. =/

Let me know if you have any outstanding crock pot recipes you think I should try. I’m not looking for desserts or really fatty things… I suppose I could modify recipes as well. I’m getting better at that. But I really do want to use my crock pot a lot more this season and there’s only so much googling I can do.

irish & indian both start with the letter “i” so this should be a snap! (chana masala)

Weird things have been happening to me lately. I find that I actually miss both exercise and cooking when I am not able to do either. THIS IS NOT NORMAL! However, I seem to miss the stress-release that seems to come hand-in-hand with both exercise and cooking. These two things used to CAUSE the stress in my life and now? Now I find chopping veggies cathartic (with the exception of tomato. I HATE chopping tomato. Never mind that it’s not a vegetable.) I find the challenge in trying to hold myself up in side plank position addictive.

Anyhow, this is weird to me because it’s a total opposite of how I used to feel. Add to that my sudden ability to be able to handle spices and foods I normally could not eat (thank you, Mira and BodyTalk), I like to experiment with new things in the kitchen. On Monday, my bestie Monkey posted her mean plan (remember when I had an oh, so brief flirtation with that? Yeah, that went well.) and on it were so many delicious looking things, but my taste buds were drawn to the Chana Masala with Naan Bread on her list. I knew that I would be attempting that at some point this week. Happily, I had Thursday and Friday off, so Friday I spent it shopping and cooking. I googled “Chana Masala” and ended up over at Smitten Kitchen (where there are a plethora of amazing recipes!). I modified it a little from her recipe though.

Here’s this Irish girl’s first attempt at Indian food :

INGREDIENTS (as I used them, not exactly what’s on SK):

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, minced (I couldn’t find the chili pepper, so I improvised)
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander I was missing this! So I added an extra tsp of garam masala
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric I couldn’t find my turmeric, but it was in the garam masala
  • 1 tablespoon amchoor powder
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon garam masala (it calls for 1 tsp, but see notes above)
  • 2 cups tomatoes, chopped small
  • 2/3 cup water
  • 4 cups cooked chickpeas (I used 3 cans of Eden Organic, 1% sodium! yay!)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 lemon (juiced)

STEP ONE

Heat oil, add onion, garlic, jalapeño (chili) pepper, fresh ginger and saute until brown (about 5 minutes).

STEP TWO

Turn heat to medium-low and add spices (which I mixed in a bowl). Cook for 1-2 minutes.

STEP THREE

Add tomato. Stir. Then add the water and chickpeas. Simmer UNCOVERED for 10 minutes.

As you can see, I didn’t really chop the tomato very small. Eh.

STEP FOUR

Stir in lemon juice and salt.

I left it on low and covered for the remaining time between the last step and when Shawn walked into the house. Maybe about another 10 minutes? By the time we dished it out the liquid had thickened a bit. Since I couldn’t find the Naan bread in the stupid store (but they had all sorts of other foreign breads!) I picked up a thick pita with an Indian type name. It was good enough.

Of course I had to sample the final result before Shawn got home. I mean, it was only proper that I make sure I had a decent finished product to serve my husband as he walked in the door after a long day at work. Right?

Just performing a good wifely duty here. That’s all. It’s what a good wife should do! Nom nom nom.

This recipe, of course, is not fit for my Mum (you listening, Mummy?) because it has flavour (and it’s really spicy!) but I adored it! So much so that it was a very tough decision whether or not to eat the leftovers for breakfast this morning. I ended up waiting and I’ll eat it later. I might actually make another pot tomorrow so I can bring it as lunch for work this week.

Shawn, unfortunately, didn’t love it as much as I did. He bemoaned the lack of a) MEAT and b) rice. Ah, well. I didn’t think about making rice to go with it. And I think the chickpeas themselves are more than enough to fill me up and provide protein without adding meat. I told him just because a meal doesn’t have meat doesn’t mean it sucks! Men!. Sheesh. 😉

Although this recipe wasn’t listed as Clean Eating, I’m dubbing it as such because everything I used, with the exception of the chickpeas, was fresh and processed-free. Except the bread part. Oh, well. Close enough. I wonder if they make gluten-free naan bread? Hmm.

Not bad for a first attempt. I am contemplating tackling Butter Chicken next time. This will have both meat and rice, so hopefully my picky husband will be happier. =P

And the Spaghetti Squash was Everywhere

Bad, bad blogger, Cat! I have no idea where time is going! Seriously! Here it is the 8th of January 2012 already and I have been running out of time and the month is zipping by. One of the things I really wanted to try this month was meal planning. This has NOTHING to do with new year’s resolutions and everything to do with – I am back at work, back in a routine and I need to make sure I continue to eat as healthy as I did from August to November. You all know that with the stupid three month strike I was all over the place, but it DID allow me to attempt to experiment in the kitchen. I’d like to keep cooking the Clean Eating way because I felt better and more energetic and, heck, it’s just better for you. December was sadly full of fast food full of fat and grease because my whole world was shocked into change once more being on strike one day and back at work, at the end of a semester another. I have to say that mentally it has been very difficult, so I fell easily back into very bad habits, as comforting as they may have been.

No more of that! My Body Design class starts up in a week and I am determined to cut out as much fast food as I can. So I thought I’d try and meal plan. I was pretty good at it last week but I have to admit coming up with ideas for the this coming week has been hard.

But today I wanted to make something from the January/February issue of Clean Eating and for your viewing pleasure, here is my attempt at Chicken Cacciatore with Spaghetti Squash.

Chicken Cacciatore with Spahghetti Squash – Clean Eating January/February 2012 – p. 54

I realize every food photo I take looks yellow. I swear it’s the light in my kitchen. I can’t help it!

This is a slow-cooker recipe, for those of you who might want to try it out!

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 4-oz boneless, skinless chicken breasts – cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt (it says kosher, but I used sea)
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 1 large yellow onion, sliced
  • 2 cups frozen sliced bell peppers (I just cut up fresh bell peppers – green, red & orange)
  • 10 oz sliced baby portobello mushrooms
  • 1 26.46-oz chopped tomatoes (no idea what that means – I just used 2 1/2 cups of fresh diced tomatoes)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I used the NO SODIUM Campbells one)
  • 6 Tbsp low sodium tomato paste (I used a can of organic tomato paste)
  • 4 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes (I used 1 tsp. My MUM can use NONE. ;))
  • 2 – 3 fresh sprigs of rosemary (DID NOT USE)
  • 6lb spaghetti squash (halved length-wise & seeded)
  • 6 Tbsp grated parmesan cheese (low-fat)
  • 1/4 cup chopped or whole fresh basil (er.. I totally forgot about that)

INSTRUCTIONS

Step One

Sprinkle salt & pepper on chicken. In large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tsp oil on medium. Cook chicken 2 minutes per side until lightly browned. Divide the chicken up into batches so you can cook them all evenly (it took me 3 batches). Add to slow-cooker.

Step Two

Add to slow-cooker: onion, bell peppers, mushrooms, tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, vinegar, garlic, oregano and pepper flakes. Stir to combine. Nestle rosemary on top. Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours. (I did 8.)

Step Three

Pierce squash skin with a fork, in a large pot add 2 inches of water and 1 squash half skin side up. Cover and boil for 2 minutes. Remove squash and transfer to clean work surface. Repeat with remaining squash halves. With two forks, scrape stringy flesh from skin, separating into strands.

THIS IS MESSY AS HELL! Good lord. We had squash everywhere! Shawn even found some in my hair and on my butt. WTF? Ultimately though, it should look like this:

 

Step Four

Remove and discard rosemary from chicken mixture. Stir and spoon over top of squash. Garnish with parmesan cheese. (YUM!)

TIP! You can make the squash ahead of time, up to TWO DAYS early and then just reheat when the chicken goop is done!

Nutrients per serving (2 cups squash, 1 cup chicken goop, 1 Tbsp parmesan): 374 Calories, 7g total fat.

Verdict? Not bad. I took too much though and couldn’t finish it all. I didn’t even take THAT much, it’s just really filling. The spaghetti squash takes some getting used to. It’s not the texture you’re expecting (expecting – pasta) so it was a little odd the first few bites. I don’t think I am a fan of chicken in the slow-cooker like this. It tasted too much like beef in the slow-cooker and I don’t like that taste. I can’t explain the taste, but it’s one I do not like. 😛

Not a bad  little meal and now I have lunch for Monday! Go, me!

autumn weather = chili

(Hee! See what I did there?)

I knew by 3pm today that I wanted to do something about dinner. I wanted a quick & easy, healthy option but I had no ideas. I was craving stew, but normally I slowcook that stuff and that wasn’t going to happen tonight. I picked up the special edition Clean Eating magazine from this month (101 Comfort Foods) and looked through the sticky-noted pages to see if there was anything in there that jumped out and wouldn’t take too long. Once I found what I was looking for, I jumped (hobbled) into the car and headed to the store to pick up the fixin’s for this:

Clean Eating, 101 Classic Comfort Foods, October 2011 – p. 31

As always, when I try to make something it turns into an adventure. I was determined to make something delicious though!

This is what goes in it (edited for my own adventure!)

Ingredients:

  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced (I actually put a SMALL one in. It was Spanish.)
  • 1 clove garlic (I used 5. I like garlic!)
  • 2 lbs ground chicken (lean)
  • 2 tsp chili powder (it calls for 1 tsp chipotle chili powder & 1 tsp ancho chili powder. Don’t have that.)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves (did NOT put this in)
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 green bell pepper, diced
  • 28 oz boxed diced tomatoes with juices (I cut up 1.5 lbs of tomatoes by hand instead)
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth (I used Campbell’s NO sodium)
  • 2 cups cooked red kidney beans OR BPA-free canned, drained & rinsed. (I used one can no sodium ones.)
  • 2 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder (isn’t it all unsweetened?)

With everything mostly ready, it was very pretty.

So many chopped things!

Instructions:

Step one!

In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium. Add onion & garlic and cook stirring frequently. 2-3 minutes.

 Step two!

Add chicken, breaking it up with a spoon and add chili powder, cumin, paprika, cinnamon (and cloves). Stir frequently, until chicken is well browned, 5-7 minutes.

Step three!

Add both bell peppers and stir constantly for 1 minute. (I goofed and added the broth here, too, since I read “both” as “broth”. Meh, it didn’t harm nothin’!)

Step four!

Add tomatoes, broth (if you didn’t already goof and put it in), beans… stir.

Step five!

Add cocoa powder and stir to combine. Bring to a simmer; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until chicken is tender. About 30 minutes.

Now, I brought it to a light boil and then turned it DOWN to simmer on my stove. I don’t know if that was written properly or not. Either way. I actually simmered it for about 45 minutes. Shawn ended up being really late, so I left it covered, on the stove (which was off) and it was still warm when he got home – an hour after I had mine!

Dinner for one!

It looks a lot darker in the magazine, my chicken didn’t get all dark brown, but, oh well. It was good. A little too watery, I think my tomatoes added extra juice. Maybe I should have put in some tomato paste? I do know I need to add the red pepper flakes next time, this needed a kick.

I buttered (no salt) two pieces of whole wheat bread to add to the meal. I know bread isn’t the best thing, but I wanted something comforting! And it was whole wheat, so it counts for something, right!

Shawn now has something tasty to take to lunch with him tomorrow! Me? I think I’m hitting up Wal-Mart with my sister & nephew.