Tomato, tomahto, say soup that’s squisito!

 

I say to-ma-to, you say to-mah-to.

But when the soup’s simmering, we agree. Homemade is the way to go!

When the chips are down and you’re feeling blue … when winter’s chill your bones bores through … when you’re dragged down by a cold or flu … hot tomato soup is what to do!

Like chicken noodle, tomato soup is a consummerate comfort food. Paired with a toasted cheese sandwich, does soothing the heart and keeping meat on the bones get much better on a chilly night?

I’m a big fan of tomato soup. Campbell’s rocks! However, am not a fan of the high sugar content. (Actually, have never understood why Campell’s adds so much sugar to its tomato soup save to satisfy the American palate that equates sugar with flavor. Sad.)

So I searched around and found a simple yet so satisfying Roasted Tomato Soup sans sugar on Food Network.

Let’s get cookin’!

1. As luck had it, there were already 2 pounds of cherry tomatoes from Costco in the fridge. They hadn’t made it into salads or smoothies as planned and the skins were beginning to crinkle — the perfect excuse and use for a soup

2 pounds of aging cherry tomatoes

2. Each tomato is sliced in half and laid in a roasting pan coated on the bottom with parchment paper. Foil would also do. Good thing I love to cook cuz slicin’ 2 pounds of little tomatoes gets, well, a little tedious! 🙂

3. On top of the tomatoes are slices of 1 medium white onion. And I weep like a little girl who just lost her best friend.

4. Plus 6 cloves of garlic, peeled. No need to chop. Spot a clove at knife tip?

tomatoes, onion, garlic, olive oil. salt and pepper. Simple!

Continue reading

Advertisement

Snowballs from the oven. Has the world gone mad?!

Yes it has. Yet let us bake nonetheless!

Baking. Gets no more basic than Betty Crocker sometimes. 

After disappointment with a cookie recipe — unfortunately Christmas cookies for my son — at one site, I returned to ol’ Betts for another batch. Earmarked for the food-demo gals and guys at Costco. 

So sorry my son got the bleh batch with the bleh recipe! Won’t happen again.

Mexican wedding cakes. Russian tea cakes. Snowballs. Call them what you will, they’re a well-liked popular cookie, except among folks who can’t eat or don’t like nuts. And so seasonal! We here in cental Arizona did not get the white Christmas promised us repeatedly by the forecasters. 

Wouldn’t it be something to be continuously wrong or bad at your job and STILL get paid?!

Snowballs. Really, they’re shortbread in a ball. Rich buttery shortbread with sugar, vanilla and finely-chopped nuts.

Some folks use walnuts or almonds. I stick with pecans. They’re traditional. Plus have a meatier and richer flavor than walnuts and (certainly) almonds, thereby nicely complementing the buttery shortbread.

Here’s the recipe and Russian tea cakes from ol’ gal Betty:

Ingredients

1 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

2 1/4 cups Gold Medal™ all-purpose flour

3/4 cup finely chopped nuts

1/4 teaspoon salt

Powdered sugar

Directions

Heat oven to 400ºF. (Note: seemed too hot to me so I went with 350)

Mix butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and the vanilla in large bowl. Stir in flour, nuts and salt until dough holds together.

Shape dough into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake 10 to 12 minutes or until set but not brown. Remove from cookie sheet. Cool slightly on wire rack.

Roll warm cookies in powdered sugar; cool on wire rack. Roll in powdered sugar again.

Now the best and completely calories-free part: Pics!

The raw dough with pecans very finely chopped. That’s key IMHO. Enables through mixing and a nutty flavor in every bite.

 

snowballs dough at the start

 
Size matters. Snowballs rolled into the size of golfballs are the preference of some. I prefer those slightly bigger than, say, a walnut shell. These cookies do not spread so what you roll is what you’ll get.  

Also, the thick bigger balls increase the chance of burning on the bottom (since, as I said, they don’t spread). Even when rolled small, I need to keep an eye out since my oven bakes hot; hence I rotate the cookie sheets at the halfway mark.

raw snowballs heading into oven

 
Oops! I forgot to photograph the balls fresh outta the oven! Oh well. Here they come in their snowy finest.

This is a good place to mention why I didn’t like the first recipe for the batch that unfortunately was mailed to my son. It did not call for a SECOND rolling in powdered sugar.

It was the critical flaw.

The secret to a successful snowball is this: 

(1) Roll them the first time in powdered sugar while still warm, about 5 minutes out of the oven. This ensures a coating that will stick. If you wait until they’ve cooled, you’ve, we’ll, screwed up!

(2) Roll them in powdered sugar a second time anytime after they’re fully cooled. This second roll creates a fluffy snow that sticks.

a white christmas after all!

Now, like I said, these were for the Costco demo gals and guys. I know some “well.” In my town, they’re always so nice and friendly and their smiles lift my spirit so these are a merry token of my appreciation and gratitude. 

Hence into each baggie went two snowballs and two kisses made of chocolate. How they got delivered is a secret between me and Santa ;-).

 

snowballs and kisses in a bag

 
 The batch readied for delivery by a (not-too-secret) secret Santa. Since one of the Costco demo gals can’t eat gluten (genuinely, separate from the gluten-free trend of the times), she gets extra kisses and a cinnamon votive candle.  🙂 

a buncha snowballs in bags

 

A Lickety-Split (Peas) Soup? Yes Please!

Sure, there’s the cold … the long dark nights … turning on the furnace for the first time … the hibernation.

Yet, for me, it’s when the hearty homemade soup appears on the scene that winter c’est arrivé.

No winter soup arrives before its time. For that timing, I trust my biology, my gut, knowingness, intuition. I trust my bones, my inner farmer’s almanac, the flow of the seasons.

That first pot of a hearty soup — invariably split pea or lentil with a ham bone, the all-important, all-imperative, integral ham bone — announces:

Yes. The corner from autumn into winter is turned.

I eat foods and drink craft ales with the season. That’s what you should know about me. For this post. 🙂

Now.

The cold season brings out my inner German hausfrau. Earthy nourishing soups are my strength. Pasta, not at bit! Wasn’t Italian in the last 4 lifetimes, at least!

I do peruse soup recipes online for ideas, inspirations or guidelines for amounts. However, generally I just create by intuition and gut and body needs/cravings.

A couple days ago, the green light went off announcing: “It’s time. You can make the soup now.”

Kinda like being in labor and heading to the hospital only far less painful!

The twist:

It was 9 o’clock at night. I’d eaten little to nothing all day. I needed food. Good food. And I needed it fast.

I’d planned on using the crockpot.

Then I thought again about my mother.

She and I had a fucking toxic relationship. I’ve tons of issues unresolved. I’ll say that straight out.

AND she was a good cook. One of my fondest memories is her making lentil soup from scratch. With the ham bone. Always the ham bone. I remember her stirring the big pot on the stovetop and lentil soup simmering eternally, seemingly.

I didn’t want leftovers or to freeze half a batch. I get bored eating the same foods, even a yummy soup, after three days.

So my aim: Three Days of Soup. Starting Now.

Now to the meat of the matter.

A. My soups always begin with Better than Bouillon. A genuine chicken stock in a jar. (There’s also a beef.) I could rave forever about the product! I shall n-e-v-e-r return to bouillon salt cubes.

My super soup starter

My super soup starter

B. Bring 5 cups of water to a boil. Add a heaping tablespoon of Better Than Bouillon chicken base.

C. Five simple ingredients plus spices. That’s all it took for my Easy-Peasy Split Pea Soup.

Five simple ingredients plus spices

Five simple ingredients plus spices

1. 1/2 pound of dried split peas. Typically half a bag. Or 1 cup. Note: **Split peas do not need to be soaked.**

2. 2 celery stalks, diced.

3. 2 carrots, diced.

4. 1/2 large white onion, diced. Guesstimate 1 cup. I loooove onion so am generous with the root vegetable. If you’re not, dice to taste.

5. 1 pound ham hocks. Mine were smoked. Use less (or none) to taste.

6. 2 bay leaves, salt, pepper.

Slide all into the pan with 5 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for around 90 minutes.

easy split pea soup  ready to roll

easy split pea soup
ready to roll

Check and stir often. Split peas absorb water as they cook and thicken into a paste. So do keep an eye on the water and replenish accordingly. Cook until the peas turn soft. Don’t be mislead into thinking that they’re cooked just because the mixture’s thick.

Some folks prefer pea soup the consistency of white school paste. Not I. I like a slightly-watery thick. So around 2-3 cups of water added intermittently achieved desired consistency.

D. My Easy-Peasy Split Peas-y Soup was infused with a nice hammy smokey salty flavor. So bear that in mind when you add seasonings before cooking.

Normally I slice hock meat into the soup. However, mine were rich in flavor and fat that I decided to instead use them for a second batch. Soon, very soon.

EZ split pea soup

EZ split pea soup

E. Partnered with a grilled cheese, a nourishing and warming supper that’s lickety-split (peas) too!

Easy split pea soup + grilled cheese = easy supper

Easy split pea soup + grilled cheese = easy supper

Pop by for poppers!

Poppers were pledged so poppers it shall be!

Jalapeño poppers are the perfect party food. They’re fun to make and to eat! And fun to pronounce! You try. Say “poppers” without smiling!

I whipped these up for the gang at the saloon as a token of gratitude on Thanksgiving. I wanted light ‘n’ lively figuring everyone’s tummies would be heavy with holiday fare.

Let’s get real. Light jalapeño poppers are an oxymoron!

I drew from this recipe for “Light(er) Jalapeño Poppers” at Gimme Some Oven. Love the site!

I double the recipe to produce 40 jalapeño halves for the saloon patrons. That’ll be reflected in my recipe posted at the end. If you’re not feeding a crowd, merely halve it.

I use the whipped “low-calorie” cream cheese to cut calories & richness. Haha, as if! Truth told, you’d never know by taste or texture.

So let’s get … poppin’!

1. I use turkey bacon to keep these poppers “slim.” Yeah, right!

turkey bacon. because every calorie counts in a popper!

Turkey bacon. Because every calorie counts in a popper!

2. Turkey bacon doesn’t crisp up and crumble like regular bacon. So I dice before pan-frying. Makes things easier later.

diced raw turkey bacon

Diced raw turkey bacon

Pan-fried turkey bacon. 'Tis Thanksgiving after all!

Pan-fried turkey bacon. ‘Tis Thanksgiving after all!


3. 20 jalapeño peppers. Aren’t they beautiful? Plus not pricey!

bootiful!

bootiful!

4. Peppers sliced in half.

peppers overfloweth off my little cutting board

peppers overfloweth off my little cutting board

5. Remove membrane and seeds. The heat lies there. Now, I don’t find jalapeños all that hot so am fine with leaving bits of seeds or membrane.

cleanedjalapeno

6. Jalapeños are small and split easily. I discover this trick to minimize tearing. Clean the insides starting at the top, where the knife’s pointing.

start here to deseed

start here to deseed

5. Now the filling, oh the decadently fatty filling!

You’re gazing upon 2 tubs of reduced-fat cream cheese {hahaha! can’t get over the oxymoron!} … 1 jalapeño, seeds ‘n’ all, diced to bring a lil’ heat … diced turkey bacon … minced garlic … shredded sharp cheddar cheese … chili powder for a smidge more contrast and sharpness. Sidenote: Things do whip up more easily using the soft whipped cream cheese compared to regular blocks.

popper filling

popper filling

6. Filling the poppers. I started with a spoon. Frankly, it was a pain. So I used my best natural tool: my hands. It’s like working with very sticky cookie dough but doable if like me you’re very skilled with your hands. Otherwise, simply stick with the spoon.

Oops, I deleted that pic! Oh well, you’ll get the idea with the next.

7. A true popper has a crunchy coating and is fried.

Now, I do not like fried foods. Neither do I own or want a fryer. The beauty of the baked popper is it DOES trim the fat. For what that’s worth in a snack steeped in cheeseS. Plural.

I consider the crunch mandatory. I’m a fan of panko, a favoritism cultivated in my decade in Japan. However, you could certainly use regular bread crumbs. I’ve seen recipes using crushed saltines (eh, too salty), cornflakes (eh, too sweet). Your call.

The topping of panko and parmesan cheese are mixed in a bowl:

poppers topping

poppers topping


Into the oven they go:

into the oven

into the oven

8. My oven cooks unevenly and I didn’t want the panko-parmesan to burn. So I bake the poppers sans topping for 5 minutes, just until the filling begins to soften and cook. I pull them out, lavishly sprinkle on the crumbs and slide ’em back in.

The recipe calls for baking 15-20 minutes. I couldn’t say but it sounds about right. Because my oven cooks fast and unevenly, I just keep a close eye and nose on ’em.

9. Feast your eyes upon pe-pe-pe-pe-perfect pop-pop-pop-pop poppers!

jalapenosbaked

Gimme gooey greens!

Gimme gooey greens!

ALLYCAT’S POPPERS FOR 40

8 strips bacon, cooked and crumbled
16 ounces whipped cream cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. chili powder
Dash of salt and pepper
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
20 jalapeños, halved lengthwise, seeds removed; for heat, leave some in

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or foil.

Deseed jalapeños.

In a bowl, stir cream cheese, shredded cheese, bacon bits, garlic, seasonings.

In a separate bowl, mix panko and parmesan cheese.

Spoon or hand-fill filling into each jalapeño.

Bake about 5 minutes until cheese begins to warm and soften.

Remove from oven. Sprinkle on panko-parmesan mixture. Return to oven.

Bake about 15 minutes or until topping is toasty golden brown.

Serve immediately. Or later. People love poppers piping hot or lukewarm!

Kisses for everyone!

It’s not what ya think.

‘Tis the season of bountiful harvest and abundance.

So it’s fitting that my mind overfloweth! With thoughts of gratitude, creativity and how to express them in my (newish) home and to those around me.

Take jalapeño poppers.

Not the most traditional fare on Thanksgiving, admittedly. But then, neither was my Thanksgiving.

Worked a half-day at a job I love. Gratitude! Returned home to a much-improved domestic situation — more gratitude! — to resume creating my fabric window treatments.

Then in the evening bopped down to the saloon for the regular Thursday music and our gang of four, five including myself.

Only turkey in my sight Thursday was a drumstick leftover from a potluck four days prior. I picked at it at work. Fed little pieces to Caesar the cat at the radio station. That was the extent of my traditional holiday fare.

Jalapeño poppers are a blast to make. Plus they’re light. And super-tasty with beer. I reckoned they were the perfect fare for folks with tummies heavy with Thanksgiving feast.

I’ve a poppers post pending plus pix. So wait for it.

Meanwhile, these thoughts of gratitude and creativity overfloweth.

On the long list is my job at the radio station (currently 11 hours a week with hints of more, possibly 8 — yes! — in the wind), my coworkers and of course Caesar the station cat.

So today kisses are on the agenda.

Candy cane kisses from Hersheys.

Y’all have seen ’em. In bowls at workplaces, offices, parties, atop cookies and cakes.

Hershey's holiday kisses

Hershey’s holiday kisses

Those red-and-white peppermint droplets dressed for the season in their finest foil.

Butter. The sole glitch.

A half-cup reads the recipe on the bag. So one cube, softened.

So late last night after work I set the butter on a dish near a window that gets good morning sun. So it’d be all nice ‘n’ soft by the time I got up around noon.

Hard as a rock!

Might as well’ve just stored it in the fridge! Tells ya everything ya need to know about the climate.

Not wanting to turn on the oven (don’t have a microwave) or melt the butter but just soften it, I did the McGyver thang.

Set the unwrapped butter cube in a bowl.

Set the bowl atop the heater floor vent.

Set a box on top of the bowl to trap the heat.

Turned the furnace up just a smidge.

And of course the force of air sent the box sailing!

So I grabbed the first heavy object I could think of to weight the box down.

My McGyver oven

My McGyver oven

Open sesame!

soft-y, no melt-y!

soft-y, no melt-y!

See!? Like opening a Christmas gift but knowing what’s inside.

Softened butter. Courtesy of the furnace and thank you, furnace! Bet you don’t read about a McGyver oven every day!

Off to bake kisses of gratitude. Toodles for now.

The pumpkin palette’s painted!

So I finally figured out what to paint upon that pumpkin palette!

To term it an aha! moment would be overstating. More a bingo! moment. Happened while surfing for ideas on my phone seated on pavement outside a grocery store during my 10-minute break at the lame crap job I’m seeking to unload ASAP.

{Ain’t that a mouthful of a sentence!}

Garam masala. Of course!

By no means do I claim to be seasoned {haha, no word play intended} in Indian cuisine and cooking. I do know that India’s northern and southern regions have distinctly differing cuisine featuring different spices. And of course there’s then the microcosmic differences in locales and family recipes passed on through the generations. Northern India, I read, is more garam masala country and southern turmeric. This is one person’s opinion on the Internet. Believe at your own peril!

Anyhow, as I mentioned, I already have a homemade chicken-veggie soup starring turmeric and complementary spices such as coriander and cumin in the fridge. Hence for the roasted kabocha, I hankered for another flavor palette.

So when I stumbled across garam masala — mystery solved!

Frankly — and sadly — I didn’t have a lot of time or energy to create a pumpkin soup with a punch! It was late by the time I got home last night. The (lame crap) job, as usual, had zapped me of my vitality. The night was cold, I’d not eaten all day and I had somewheres to be shortly.

All adding up to a Rush Job. (No relation to Limbaugh.)

While I loooove cooking dishes that are complicated, challenging, take time, energy, commitment and creativity, yesterday’s challenge — paint that pumpkin palette, pronto! — reminds me that there’s a place — nee need — for Healthful Food on the Fly.

{gross, wash that fly image outta my mind!}

So, on that note, here’s how “My Hasty Kabocha Soup” shook down.

1. Created a base of chicken stock using Better than Bouillon in the jar. About 5 cups.

I could sing the praises of this product until the cows come home! — speaking of India — and have. {somewheres a post on it.} I’m hardcore about my soup bases. Uncompromising, unyielding. Either the broth’s homemade from real bones or Better Than Bouillon. I do NOT do those dry cubes. Never. You won’t either once you taste Better Than Bouillon. Enough said.

2. Pulled that waiting pan of 1 roasted kabocha + 2 white onions + 4 garlic cloves, all roasted the day before, close.
kabochawaiting

3. Added 1 immersion blender.

4. Removed the boiling chicken stock from the stove. (Don’t use immersion blenders with a heat source.) Added the veggies in increments to blend.

An immersion blender is best employed in a tall vertical narrow container (i.e., blender design). Why? Because when buzzing in a large open pot, liquid goes flying! Kabocha splatters across my clothing, face, stovetop, walls!

Regardless of how carefully and meticulously (I’m the Queen of Meticulous) I tried to keep everything contained within the pot, I was still wiping soup off my shirt! I’m sure one day I’ll discover pumpkin splatters in some strange spot clear across the kitchen.

Anyhow, messy though it be, I made it work. The trick with an immersion blender, beyond blending within a tall container which I didn’t have, is working in small batches. An immersion blender’s blade isn’t large — think coffee grinder — and is easily overloaded. Employ patience. And a rain suit {kidding!}

5. Once everything was blended into mush, I tasted. The pumpkin, onions & garlic, all roasted and salted with Himalayan pink salt (sea salt would also work — I don’t do iodized!) and caramelized, could’ve stood alone. Still. I had other ideas.

6. The final note:  2 tsp. of garam masala. Pow! The Perfect Pumpkin Punch!

On a side note, I finally decided to add a touch of creaminess. So poured in 1/4 cup of half-and-half (I use it sparingly in my coffee, otherwise cannot stand the taste of milk!). Yum. Just right!

7. For zest, I roasted a half handful of pecans (that I chopped) and pumpkin seeds. On an ungreased skillet on the stove. Simple. When roasting nuts, be mindful not to burn, lest your tastebuds incur the wrath of bitterness.

8. Voila!

I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you can indeed leave on the dark green-brown skin on kabocha. As with the humble potato, it’s packed with nutrients. And though it’s tough as wood and you’re tempted to rent a chainsaw when slicing into pumpkin, the peel softens beautifully when cooked (roasted, steamed, etc.).

I looooove skins left on foods (I’m a nature girl that way); your mileage may vary. Just know that by in leaving the skin on, you sacrifice that gorgeous bright orange we all recognize for an earthy burnt orange. (Personally, when it’s just me eating, it’s a sacrifice I’m happy to make for “peely perks.”)

The pumpkin palette’s painted. Soup’s on! And God bless garam masala!

Come, come kabocha!

Come, come kabocha!

Come closer, kabocha!

Come closer, kabocha!

What to paint, what to paint upon a palette of pumpkin

You’ve heard of a lady-in-waiting? I’ve a pumpkin-in-waiting.

A kabocha (aka Japanese pumpkin), approximately 2 pounds, beautifully roasted with white onions and garlic.

It’s my palette of pumpkin.

kabochawaiting

What shall I create upon it?

A soup, certainly.

Yet what kind?

Another soup, a chicken-vegetable soup featuring Indian spices — spotlight on turmeric — is already concocted and on tap in the fridge. Hence not feeling Indian for the kabocha.

I do not care for dairy-based soups. Thus no milk, be it from a cow or soybean or coconut (yeechhhh!!!) shall cross the kabocha!

I’m not averse to the nutmeg-cinnamon-dash-of-allspice route. Lord knows they complement kabocha’s enticingly subtle sweet earthy flavor.

But remember, dear readers, this kabocha, like the onions, is roasted — and thus caramelized. Hence the sweetness of the dish needs no enhancing.

I’ve also considered curry — another traditional route when pairing pumpkin and spice.

Yet, as with the nutmeg-cinnamon-dash-of-allspice option, been there done that.

I’ve a hankering for something different. Undiscovered. Unique to my cooking history. Specifically soup history. (Soups are my strength & speciality, as mentioned yesterday.)

If you’ve any great ideas, bring ’em on! I’m open to suggestions. Just no dairy. Or anything remotely coconutty! 🙂

Well, the time tells me I gotta run to my job. In a grocery store. Perhaps a customer’s purchase of spices will inspire! Perhaps it shall the way as I paint upon my palette of pumpkin! Toodles for now.

What’s cookin’, baby?

A lot. The news is piling up so I best get to it on this cool lovely autumn day of 11-11.

At Home & Abroad

First and foremost, Happy Veterans’ Day! To all veterans past and present. I join millions across our home country and abroad in thanking you on this day. I am grateful for your service and sacrifices. We don’t forget and on this day we say loudly and clearly: Thank You. Each and every one of you.

In This Home

The Repairs & Beautifying of my “new” space (mobile home rental of 2-1/2 months) rolls forward full steam. I’ve completed various repairs and of course painting the entire interior. The really big news is the new windows are in!!! (not by moi, rather the landlord’s brother and two nephews). Will blog on that another time.

For now, will say simply that they are making **a world of difference** in retaining heat, eliminating chills and drafts and reducing noise. I love ’em!! Still to figure out: window treatments.

From The Oven

My vaaaastly-improved domestic situation has renewed a lifelong passion for cooking. (Was a time I seriously considered culinary school.) I’m thrilled to report that my “new” digs include a kitchy circa 1960s gas oven and stove. MUCH prefer them over electric!

kitchyoven

With the dust from the move at last settling and the cold weather upon us, my thoughts turn to soups and crockpotting. Notice I wrote *crock-* not *crack*-potting. 🙂 Soups are my strength & speciality and this time of year really brings out my inner German hausfrau.

Had I planned to post on this, I’d-a taken pics! Anywho, moving on … alongside fresh spinach, kabocha is my top-fav veggie. Kabocha’s ubiquitous in Japan; that’s where I discovered and truly fell in love with it! Normally I like it very simple — steamed in dashi in Japanese fashion — and enjoyed in soft chunks. Paradise!

But with a hankering for a nice thick dairy-free soup, I decided instead to roast it. Cutting kabocha is a bit like slicing through a thick dense hunk-a clay! A good knife is **essential** … and proceeding slowly and cautiously. The thick skin should first be pierced with a chef’s knife and then carefully work the knife through in a sawing motion.

I cut slices about 1-2 inches thick and lay them on a baking sheet covered with foil and sprayed with canola oil. Then I sprayed the slices and sprinkled Himalayan salt — sea salt would also be **delish** (I long ago ditched the iodized salt for the superior savoriness and flavor of sea salt). Roasted ’em at 350 for about 20 minutes; turned once about halfway through.

Beautiful!!

roastedkabocha

Inspired by the roasted kabocha, I sliced up a coupla white onions. Deskinned about 4 cloves of garlic (in the center marked by pumpkin slices in the pic below.) Set those on foil sprayed with canola oil. Lightly sprayed the onions & garlic with the same and again the Himalayan pink salt. Roasted in a 350 oven for about 20 minutes, turning once to prevent burning. A little char is good; too much only makes the garlic bitter and onion unpleasant.

Yum!

roastedonion+garlic

From the Kabocha

The seeds. Some people like to wash ’em or soak ’em first to remove the strings. Me, I like the strings. So I simply spread ’em out on a sprayed foil, lightly sprayed with canola oil and sprinkled with … you guessed it! … Himalayan salt. Roasted at 300 for about 15 minutes, turning here and there to prevent scorching. (A little scorching doesn’t bother me. 🙂 )

The result:

kabochaseeds

Roasted kabocha, onions & garlic … waiting for my next move. 🙂

What shall it be?!

I do not care for dairy-based soups so it’ll certainly be a chicken-broth base. With “Better Than Bouillon” chicken base in a jar — my starting point for any soup in the absence of genuine broth from the bones. Amazing stuff, Better Than Bouillon! (Comes in chicken & beef.) Discovered it years ago on the Internet and have *never* returned to those crappy salt licks called bouillon cubes!

From the Grab Bag

So a lot’s cookin’ in this corner of the world.

I’m still at my PT job at Fry’s Food and will drop it soon as something better comes my way (lookin’).

I’ve been gaining more hours and most importantly new experience and skills at the radio station while filling in for a coworker. Joy! I hope for and dream of more and more hours, consistently, regularly and not only as a fill-in.

From the Scorpio Moon

Visions! Today, 11-11, is a new moon. In Scorpio! {In my case, in the 5th house of creativity.} With Scorpio being the energy of creativity and passion and desire, today (and approximately the next two) is ideal for creating a vision board. For seeding that which we truly desire.

Hence since I go to work (Fry’s) in a coupla hours, I best get on it! Again, Happy Veterans’ Day and gratitude to each and every veteran who has served or is serving. And Happy New Mooning in Scorpio! ‘Tis the day for digging down deep into our passions and articulating, by word or by image, our true desires and passions.

Toodles for now …

 

 

 

 

 

 

C is for crockpot, chicken pot pie & comfort

Comfort food.

You know what I’m talkin’ about. Food that nourishes the soul and body. Food that warms and sticks to the bones in the cold without leaving you feeling heavy like you’ve just eaten half a buffalo.

Chicken pot pie.

Ahh, that lovely creamy steamy nutritional comfort food. Your mom most likely prepared it for you like mine did for me and my sister and their mothers before them ad infinitum.

Chicken pot pie is an ultimate and ubiquitous comfort food. And as fattening as hell!

When my body speaks, I listen — most of the time. It speaks loudly, precisely, sometimes sternly, in the midst of current health issues.

The other day my body and soul announced: chicken pot pie — sans the pastry.

And thus it came to pass.

At no other time during the year does my crockpot get the rigorous workout that it does through autumn and winter! My crockpot’s my go-to cooking tool, hand’s down.

Speaking of hands: chicken legs. Alas, I slightly jump ahead.

My aim was to create a crockpot chicken pot pie that’s low in fat. Haha, you laugh (ROFL). No, REALLY!

I’ll give you a moment to pick yourself up off the floor, dust yourself off and show you how.

Note: I completely winged it — no pun intended — with chicken and veggies my body was craving. You can easily beef up — again, no pun intended — reduce, remove and tweak to your taste.

Allycat’s Low-Fat (No, Really!) Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie

1 lb. chicken – I use (3) legs ’cause I love dark meat and marrow
4-5 cups chicken broth — strictly Better than Bouillon … because it so is!! Cubes begone forever!!
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 large rib celery, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 cup mushrooms, chopped — I used crimini
1/2 cup peas — I used frozen
1/2 large sweet potato, chopped — I left nutritional skin on
1/2 red pepper, chopped — for color and loaded with Vitamin C

Is that fastidious prep work or what?!

Is that fastidious prep work or what?!


Into the crockpot it all went along with:

1 tsp. thyme
2 bay leaves
Salt & pepper

Ready to roil 'n' roll

Ready to roil ‘n’ roll

Cooked on high for about 4 hours.

As you can see, it’s absolutely lovely and edible as a soup:

Chicken Veggie Soup before it gets "fattened up"

Chicken Veggie Soup before it gets “fattened up”

Buuuuut! It was that comforting creaminess I was after. Since I eat precious little dairy, the riddle was how to create it without milk.

Cornstarch to the rescue!

Cornstarch is a great thickener and in this case preferred over a roux as I didn’t want the added calories of butter.

My slurry:

1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon half-and-half
Stir to form a paste

stewslurry

Two keys in a slurry:

(a) add cold liquid to cornstarch. Be it water, broth, wine, milk, it must be cold. I used half-and-half — from my supply for the morning coffee — as a tiny indulgence in milky creaminess.

(b) the ratio of slurry to the dish being thickened.

After researching online, I went with the 1:1 ratio of cornstarch to liquid to 1 cup of dish (stew, soup, stir-fry, whatever).

To a cup of my chicken soup mere steps away from pot pie, I slowly stirred in the slurry. The thickening was instant!

In about 10 seconds — yes, just that fast! — I had a warming thick creamy chicken pot pie like mom used to serve without the fat and dairy:

Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie sans pastry, fat or dairy

Crockpot Chicken Pot Pie sans pastry, fat or dairy

Chicken pot pie comfort? You’re clucking right!!

Cauliflower: from “bland” to bursting with spices

Call it aloo gobi with a twist. Call it aloo gobi minus the aloo.

Call it a wonderful and easy Indian dish perfect for the cold season.

Just don’t call it bland!

I love Indian flavors, the complexity of spices and their healthful values. And I love my crockpot.

Now that the landlord has signed off on recipes I submitted to (hopefully) head off resident complaints about cooking odors, I couldn’t wait to get cooking! And satisfying that craving for Indian cauliflower — aka aloo gobi — I’d had for weeks!

My aloo (potato) gobi (cauliflower) is made with a twist or three.

One, I used a sweet potato instead of a white potato.
Two, aloo gobi’s traditionally dry but I craved it as a soup so added about two cans of water.
Three, I didn’t have the all-important garam masala so employed a substitute found online.

My starting point is this recipe from here … with my tweaks noted along the way:

1. 1 large cauliflower and 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped (sweet potato in place of white):

cauliflower & sweet potato. colorful crunch!

cauliflower & sweet potato. colorful crunch!

2. 1 medium onion, diced:

chopped onions. it's not my party but I can still cry if I want to

chopped onions. it’s not my party but I can still cry if I want to

3. 1 can diced tomato (in place of 1 diced tomato):

tomatoes in a can

tomatoes in a can

4. 1 2-inch piece of ginger root, peeled & diced, and 2 cloves garlic (mine’s easy-breezy from a jar):

ginger & garlic. a match made in heaven.

ginger & garlic. a match made in heaven.

5. Two heaping tablespoons of green chile from Hatch, New Mexico — YUM! (in place of 2 diced jalapeño peppers; green tabasco could also substitute):

green chile from Hatch, New Mexico. the BEST!

green chile from Hatch, New Mexico. the BEST!

6. Spices:
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon salt (recipe calls for 1 tablespoon; too much)
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala — or substitute from mixture of {2 teaspoons ginger + 1 teaspoon cinnamon + 1 teaspoon cardamom + 2 teaspoons pepper + 3 teaspoon ground cumin + 3 teaspoons coriander + 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg + 1 teaspoon cloves}:

indian spices. a thing of beauty.

indian spices. a thing of beauty.

7. 2 cans water (approx. 3 cups) because I wanted a soupy rather than dry aloo gobi:

All ingredients combined in my 3-quart slow cooker:

indian cauliflower in the crockpot ready to roll

indian cauliflower in the crockpot ready to roll

Cook on HIGH for 2 hours or LOW for 4 hours, stirring occasionally.

While that’s simmering away, I do the dishes. Surprisingly few tools for a meal of many ingredients! (And yes, I’m that organized in my dishwashing!)

while the curry cooks, easy clean up!

while the curry cooks, easy clean up!

Though the recipe calls for topping off with chopped cilantro and serving with rice or naan, I did neither. It’s just that good all by itself!

Truth told, I’d planned to take a batch to an evening potluck. Until I tasted it! It’s selfish I know but I decided to keep it all for myself. {Hey, cut me some slack. I hadn’t been eating well or done any cooking in 1-1/2 months in my new place due to domestic issues. Nutritional needs trumped my spirit of sharing. 🙂 }

In Hindi, कृपया भोजन शुरू कीजियै ! (kripyā bhojan shuru kijīyai) – please start eating!

Crockpot Indian Cauliflower cooked to perfection!

Crockpot Indian Cauliflower cooked to perfection!