Everything INCLUDING the Kitchen Sink…

My adventures in the kitchen

Red Pepper Curry Soup January 24, 2009

Filed under: Healthy,Recipe,Soups,Vegan — Carey @ 10:30 am

So last week, I promised y’all this experience.  During the week I had been perusing a favorite site, “Tastespotting”, and they had a recipe for Thai Curry Soup, which looked really tasty.   The recipe called for Thai Red Curry paste.  However, having had a BAD experience with this, and knowing how easily you can get too much (besides, I didn’t have any at home!), I opted to make this more of an Indian curry type soup.

In addition, the recipe called for just chopping the red peppers up, but I recently had lunch at a local Indian restaurant called “Copper” and they had served a red pepper coconut milk soup that was phenomenal.  So I blended the peppers up and then added them to the soup. The recipe also called for basil, which, can you believe this, the store didn’t have!!!  Fennel is abundantly available here and it has become a staple of our fresh herb supply now.  I substituted the fennel for the basil and I don’t think the soup suffered for it at all (I sure didn’t).  One thing I didn’t think about adding until later is canned baby corn – next time!

For some time saving, the grocery stores have started carrying firm tofu that is already cubed.  This is a new favorite in my cooking arsenal, since I can just open it, drain it and use it.  Also, the recipe calls for roasting the bell pepper first, but you can just blend it up and then simmer the soup a little longer.

It did end up being very tasty, and the leftovers are going to be turned into an actual curry (with some thickening!) and used on rice later this week.  So here it is!

Red Pepper Curry Soup

1 red bell pepper

1 6″ stalk of fennel, split, then diced

1 cup green beans, bite size pieces

1 pkg sliced baby portabellas

1 pkg firm or extra firm tofu, drained and cubed

2 cups vegetable broth

1 – 13.5 oz can lite coconut milk

1 TBS olive oil

1/2 tsp dry mustard powder

3/4 tsp coriander

1 tsp. cardamom

2 tsp curry powder

1 tsp salt (or to taste)

white pepper to taste (I used a generous pinch)

Remove the stem and seeds from the red pepper and cut into large chunks.  In a dry, non-stick pan, “roast” the peppers over high heat until they start to blister and blacken, on each side.  Add 1 cup of the vegetable broth and simmer just until they start to soften.  Pour peppers and stock into blender and blend until smooth.

In your soup pot, put the olive oil, fennel, green beans and salt.  Saute on medium-high or high heat for about 2 minutes, then add the mushrooms.  Continue sauteing until the mushrooms start to soften and darken.  Add remaining 1 cup of broth, red pepper puree, seasoning, coconut milk and tofu.  Simmer for at least 10 minutes.

We had it with homemade Belgian Molasses Bread and local butter from the Farmer's Market

We had it with homemade Belgian Molasses Bread and local butter from the Farmer's Market

Live Well, this week.


Amber Alerts, Cobblestones, Spas, and the Easiest “Gourmet” Breakfast You’ll Ever Make! January 22, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 3:17 pm

So this past weekend my daughter and I decided to hit Charleston, SC.  It was a “quicky” – since I had a long weekend we actually had a mutual day off, Monday, so it was down on Sunday, back on Monday.  Now, Charleston is about a 3.5 hour drive from our house – except for Sunday.  We were about 30 miles into the trip when we started seeing signs that said that the interstate was closed at Exit 83 – no other information.  Now, I’ve driven down that section of interstate a few times, but I’ve never gone anywhere around it, so when they suggested a detour, I was a little worried.  Normally I travel with a plethora of maps – a legacy from my dad.  But this time I’d Googled the directions and hadn’t brought any maps – besides, I don’t think I would have foreseen the need for maps of Ft. Mill/Rock Hill, SC!!!  Traffic was quite light, so we figured “How bad can it be?”  One hour, and one mile later, we knew just how bad it could be!   We pulled off at Exit 83 – the interstate was a huge, 4 lane parking lot – and pulled into the first gas station in sight to get a map and there actually were some left!  We asked why the interstate was closed.  Turns out that one of the big message boards that are used for Amber Alerts and other road related messages had fallen – across all 8 lanes of the interstate!!

We got back in the truck and headed for the detour.  When we got to the freeway onramp, we could see that the traffic was starting to move.  Figuring that even slow interstate traffic was going to be a 2-lane local detour, we got back on the freeway.  Yes, I suppose it was faster, but the rest of the way to Columbia, SC was a yoyo from 35 mph to 80 mph.  Just when you’d think you were well on your way,  someone would brake for some obscure reason and everyone else would follow suit.  In the end, it took us 5 hours to get to our hotel.  Fortunately, our plan had been to just veg at the hotel, so we didn’t miss out on any reservations.

I fell in love with Charleston.  Charlotte is a nice city, but it is embarassed about its history, and in a hurry to prove itself a “modern” city.  Almost every historical building has been pulled down to be replaced by a modern high rise, leaving the city with no sense of identity.  Charleston, quite the opposite, has embraced its history and flaunts it.  Historic Charleston is almost like a visit to the past, cobblestone streets, flagstone sidewalks that are cracked and uneven from age, a fantastic market place, unique architecture, and that easy pace of life.  Probably my favorite part was sitting in the local coffeehouse, looking out the double doors (which would be open in warmer weather) and enjoying an absolulely fantastic mocha.  I could get used to that!

I’m sure you’re wondering where the food is by now….  well here we go!!

My daughter and I have bounced business ideas off of each other frequently, with the result that we could easily have a dozen ventures going – if we had the money!!  This time, over breakfast at IHOP, we discussed one that is probably the most appealing to me yet – a spa/hotel/restaurant/shops retreat.  My biggest problem with having a restaurant however, is that there needs to be some consistency to a menu, but I have so many things I want to try, and I’m sure I’ll find more!!

Over the course of that breakfast hour (at 11:45 am, so just barely breakfast) we laid out a complete high level business plan, complete with a basic menu – and plenty of room for improvisation.  One of my most favorite things is to go to the local farmer’s market and get what ever is available – and create a menu based on that.  We built that into our menu for the retreat.  I don’t know how this will come about, or when, but it’s now on my “Bucket List”.

And for a little bit more food.   My parents visited us for 8 days over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Now typically we just cook 3-4 days a week and eat the leftovers the rest of the time.  But with my parents there, it meant cooking for almost every meal.  I also had to work part of the time that they were there, so it was necessary to come up with some quick meals.   This one seemed like a good idea at the time, and turned out to be a raving success.  Part of what made this so easy for me is that my daughter works at Trader Joe’s, and all of these ingredients were readily available, including the toasted pecan pieces, already toasted and already pieces.  I made it again at Christmas when we were at my parents for all the family, and everyone thought it was fantastic.  The secret is in the spices 🙂

Easiest “Gourmet” Breakfast Ever (serves 4)

Buttermilk pancake mix

1 pkg frozen mangos, thawed

1 tsp cornstarch

1/4 tsp cardamom

pinch of chili powder

pinch of salt

2 TBS raw sugar

toasted pecan pieces

creme fraiche

Put the mangos in a saucepan.  Mix the cornstarch with enough water to make it pourable.  Add to mangos, and add chili powder, salt and raw sugar.  Bring to a boil and cook until juice is clear.  Set aside and make pancakes.  Pour fruit over pancakes, put a spoonful of creme fraiche on top, and sprinkle with toasted pecan pieces.

Live well.


Living Well January 17, 2009

Filed under: Uncategorized — Carey @ 4:19 pm
Tags: ,

This is, primarily, a blog about food – fixing it, eating it, looking at it…

So if you’ve read the “About” you already know that I don’t consider myself a “foodie”.  To me that implies a certain level of snobbery that I refuse to attempt to attain.  However, it seems that a lot of my life revolves around food, whether it’s looking for new recipes and ideas, trying those recipes out, or digging through the refrigerator and pantry and trying to figure out how to use odds and ends or leftovers.

My daughter has been after me for some time to start blogging about it, and I always said “no, I don’t have enough interesting stuff to share”.  Well, it’s true that we don’t try something new for every meal, or even every day.  So, my commitment to you who read this is to have at least one new blog every week.  But be prepared, this may not always be a “lite” read!!!

Now, on to the important stuff – why the title of this blog, and for that matter, why the interest in food?

I grew up in a family that had some serious health issues.  My dad is a Type 1 diabetic, which means that he has to take a shot of insulin before every meal that he eats.  He is also what’s known as a “brittle” diabetic, he can go from being fine to being in a coma in a matter of a few hours – it happened in about 3 1/2 on my birthday once, but that’s a different story.

My sister was epileptic – there were periods where she would have as many as 35 seizures in a day.  This started when she was 4, and continued until she died at the age of 18.  Never during that time were the doctors able to figure out what was causing the seizures, or find any kind of treatment that did anything to alleviate them.

The result of this was that during my childhood –  and even up into my early 20’s – my parents tried a myriad different things that were “guaranteed” to cure all these ills.  Some of them were down right nasty – I’ll never forgive poor, probably innocent, fenugreek for the one meal that will always despoil my food memories – cooked brown rice, fresh spinach, liberal adage of fenugreek, and topped off with acidophilus.  Because of a rule in our family of finishing all your food, that meal followed me for almost 2 days…..

But I digress.  During this time, because of the massive amounts of time dedicated to caring for my sister, and 40 acres and all the attendant creatures, I started preparing family meals at the age of 10.  Our family had a repertoire of dishes and menus that we pretty much rotated, so I got a good foundation in fixing things in a consistent manner and understanding how variations would change the outcome.

I also spent a lot of time with my maternal grandparents, sometimes a month at a time.  My grandmother was a wonderful cook, and from the old school of what I call “dump” cooking – you start with a basic list of ingredients, with basic ratios, and then modify as necessary to make the dish turn out the way you want.  This also frustrated me, because my grandmother had the BEST lemon meringue pie recipe, which I asked her for.  Her response was, “Well, I think it’s about a cup of this, and probably about a 1/3 cup of that…”.  I’ve never been able to get it to turn out right 😦

I credit these two influences for the foundation of my interest in, and way of cooking today.

So, back to the title and my interest – no, love – of food.  Living Well.  I’ve never been good at diets, when I was younger, I could just cut back on food for a week and lose 5 pounds.  Now that I’ve passed the 40 milestone, that doesn’t work anymore, and I’ve tried diets, and don’t lose the weight I want and then end up doing something stupid, like eating a bag of Cheetos.  So, over the past couple of years, my daughter and I have developed our “diet” – we eat what we “want”.   Now, to clarify “want”.  What I want now is different from what I wanted 2 years ago.  We have made a concerted effort to add more fresh food and whole grains to our diet.  However, we also have things like the Coconut-orange Pannatone French toast that I made for breakfast last Sunday (I’ll post the recipe in another blog, I promise!!)  While I don’t really lose any weight, I have finally “plateued” and am remaining fairly stable, aside from that “winter” weight when my consumption of fruit declines.

So what you will find in this blog is not about low calorie, or low fat, or no carbs…. (although I do try to mitigate those things as much as possible), it’s about trying to find a healthy balance   So, next week’s blog will be about the Red Pepper Curry Soup that we had for dinner last night – with lite coconut milk 🙂

Live well, this week.