Sweet Potato and Curry Corn Chowder

For the first course at my Thanksgiving meal I usually start with a festive salad, but this year I wanted to try a soup. While smooth, root based soups typically abound for the holiday meal, I wanted to go for a chunky, curry corn chowder.

sweet Potato Chowder

One of the key ingredients I wanted to use is sweet potatoes.   I LOVE sweet potatoes, but my husband doesn’t care for them. Somehow that doesn’t stop me from picking up a large bag full this time of year. My thinking is that if I sneak them into a soup so filled with other vegetables, maybe he won’t even notice that they are there.

In addition to the sweet potatoes, I used a variety of other vegetables: carrots, celery, onion and corn, plus acorn squash to thicken the soup, eliminating the need for flour or corn starch (whoo hoo – gluten free!). To give it a kick, I stirred in just a bit of hot madras curry powder. Not only did it add just a hint of exotic flavor, it ramped up the golden hue of the soup.

The resulting sweet potato & curry corn chowder is a perfect start for a Thanksgiving meal – full of fall flavor yet not too rich that you can’t enjoy the rest of your meal. But why wait for a holiday meal? It is easy to whip together and is a great addition to any dinner feast or a tired lunch box.

sweet Potato Chowder

 


Sweet Potato and Curry Corn Chowder

2 lb acorn squash
¼ cup butter
¼ cup diced shallots
1 cup diced celery
1 cup diced carrots
1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
3 cups peeled and diced sweet potato
2 cups frozen corn kernels
4 cups chicken stock
2 cups cashew milk
2 teaspoons hot madras curry powder
1 teaspoon salt
Crumbled, precooked bacon (optional)

 

Preheat the oven to 350 °F. Cut the acorn squash in half and place cut side down in a 9×13 inch pan filled with 1 in of water. Roast for 1 hour or until flesh becomes soft.

In a large pot, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add the shallots, celery, and carrots. Saute for 3 minutes to soften, then add garlic and saute for 1 minute longer. Add the sweet potato, corn, stock, and cashew milk and bring to a boil. Boil for a few minutes or until the sweet potato pieces are tender. Scoop the acorn squash flesh from the skin (equals about 3 cups) and add to a food processor, along with 1 cup of hot liquid from the soup. Blend the acorn squash until smooth, and then add to the soup pot; stir to mix evenly. Add the curry powder and salt to the pot, stirring to evenly distribute. Ladle into bowls and serve with crumbled bacon, if desired.

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Persimmon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

I know it is only mid-October, but my brain is on planning for Thanksgiving already.  You can blame it on a multitude of house projects, a few out-of-town guests between then and now, and a few other odds & ends tasks. With the flurry of activities I fear I am going to blink and find my expectant Thanksgivings guests looking back at me, wonder what is on the menu.

Hence, I am going to try to work in new ideas over the next few weeks so that come Turkey Day my preparation is smooth and stress free. First up – an appetizer – Persimmon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta.

persimmon

As the weather turns colder, a common grocery store item is the persimmon. For whatever reason, I haven’t experimented much with persimmons until now. The fuyu persimmons, which are shaped like a tomato and are a vibrant orange are ripe and ready to eat when firm (basically as-is from the grocery store), unlike the hachiya persimmons which must be soft before eating. Similar to a vine-ripe tomato a fuyu persimmon can be eaten simply by slicing off the top and remove the slender core.

persimmon

To keep it simple, I mixed the diced persimmon with dried cranberries, and served it over to sweet potato & cinnamon crackers topped with goat cheese that had been flavored with garam marsala and ground cloves. Even my two kiddos loved the snack, so I’m sure it will be a winner on Thanksgiving.

persimmon

I chose the crackers mainly since they went with my theme (they were not sponsored) and because I didn’t want to go to a second grocery store just to find the rye cocktail bread that had been my original intent. If you decide to try my Persimmon and Goat Cheese Bruschetta on the rye bread I’d love to hear how it turned out!

persimmon


Persimmon & Goat Cheese Bruschetta

2 Fuyu persimmons
½ cup dried cranberries
10 oz creamy goat cheese
1 teaspoon garam marsala
½ teaspoon ground cloves
48 sweet potato & cinnamon crackers*

 

Remove the stem and core of the persimmons, dice, and add to a bowl. Add the cranberries and stir to combine. In a separate bowl add the goat cheese, sprinkle the garam marsala and cloves over the cheese and stir until well mixed. Lay out the crackers on a platter, then roll ½ teaspoon of the spice goat cheese in a ball, press onto a cracker and top with a bit of the persimmon & date mixture. Repeat with the remaining crackers, cheese, and persimmon mixture. Serve immediately.

*note – if you can’t find the sweet potato & cinnamon crackers, substitute 24 rye cocktail bread squares.

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Mushroom & Cheese Omelet

A typical weekend breakfast in my house involves eggs, and even some mid-week breakfasts too (if you haven’t guessed by now, given all my posts involving eggs). Since we eat so many, we have been on a quest to continually improve the quality of eggs that we purchase. For a little over a month we have been trying pastured eggs from a local rancher. While pricey, the eggs are loaded with higher nutrients than the conventional, supermarket egg (typically double to triple the vitamin E, A, and omega-3 content) since the hens are allowed to roam their pasture freely.

DuckEggs

After speaking with the rancher on my egg drop-off day I was intrigued to try one of her other products – duck eggs. Duck eggs are large, resembling jumbo chicken eggs in size. I found the shells harder to crack and the yolk took up a larger fraction of the egg. While the taste was basically the same, I would say they have a more potent egg flavor.

You may ask why try duck eggs if they don’t have much of a difference in flavor. According to my supplier/rancher, she has heard or three reasons (and I found similar confirmation here and here):

  1. The egg whites are more firm, creating better texture in baked goods
  2. People with chicken egg allergies can often eat duck eggs
  3. They are an alkaline food, which is thought to help fight cancer

Give their large size, I only needed two duck eggs to make an omelet as compared to 3 large chicken eggs. My omelet fillers rotate with what I have on hand, so this time I thought  sautéed mushrooms,  sautéed red onion, and pepperjack cheese would complement each other well. The resulting Mushroom & Cheese Omelet was a great way to start my day. I can’t wait to test the superior baking qualities listed above . . . and the other products my rancher has to offer. Anyone want to share a half of a hog with me?

mushroom and cheese omelet

mushroom and cheese omelet


Mushroom & Cheese Omelet

8 duck eggs or 12 large chicken eggs
8 tablespoons butter
8 ounce sliced, button mushrooms, sautéed
1 large red onion, sliced in half moons and sautéed
8 ounces shredded Monterey jack cheese

 

To make each omelet, first whip together two duck eggs (or 3 chicken eggs). Melt 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium heat in a 10-inch nonstick skillet. Pour in the eggs and let the eggs begin to set. Once the eggs start to set, sprinkle 1/4th of each of the fillers (sautéed mushrooms, sautéed onions, and cheese) on one-half of the omelet. Fold the other half of the omelet over the fillers. Continue to cook until the egg is set and the cheese begins to melt. Plate and repeat three more times to make 4 mushroom & cheese omelets total.

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Kiwano Melon Sippers

If you need a good ice breaker, pick up a kiwano melon (also known as a horned melon). Their orange, spiked exterior is what really grabs people’s attention. It certainly did at my house. I had one sitting on the counter during one of the Sunday’s we hosted our church group. After a variety of sideway glances at my counter I finally heard, “what is that?!?”

kiwanoMelon

No one knew what it was, let alone had tasted it. It was the perfect excuse to wrap them into my foodie world. I cut the kiwano melon open, passed around spoons and everyone tried a bite of the emerald green flesh. Collectively, we decided that the flavor of the pulp has the essence of banana and kiwi, yet provides quite a different texture.

Not wanting to mask the flavor of the melon, I decided to go very simple for my Kiwano Melon Sippers. In fact, I kept it to only two ingredients and blended the kiwano melon pulp with some banana cream pie flavored yogurt. That’s it; Simple, right? You can serve it as-is for an easy way for you (or your kids) to slurp up some extra vitamins, or serve it in the kiwano melon shell, garnished with a few blueberries, as an intermezzo for a noteworthy dinner. Either way you are sure to have your guests singing your praises.

kiwanoMelonSipper4a


Kiwano Melon Sipper

1 kiwano melon
Two, 6 ounce Banana Cream Pie flavored yogurts
Blueberries for garnish (optional)

 

Cut kiwano melon in half and scoop out the green pulp and seeds. Add the pulp and seeds to a food processor, and then add the yogurt. Blend until smooth. Pour into two serving dishes and garnish with blueberries, if desired. For extra plating sensation, the kiwano melon sipper can be served in the melon shell.

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Chopped Veggie Salad

The tradition of Bridal Showers over the last few centuries has been to help the new bride start off married life with some essentials, including those for the kitchen. At my bridal shower, this included a recipe from each attendee which they wrote on notecards and compiled in a book. The recipes ranged from personal favorites to easy camping concoctions and covered all categories.

One of my favorites in the book is the Chopped Veggie Salad added by my mom. She had found the recipe in Women’s Day magazine and knew I had enjoyed it whenever she prepared the dish. I still enjoy the salad, as I find it is a refreshing combination, perfect for spring and summer gatherings.

veggieSalad_1

When I make my Chopped Veggie Salad, I stay close to the original recipe, with a few slight modifications. I like to double the amount of carrots and trade out the vinegar variety (I used a flavored balsamic for the one pictured). This time I also decided to use black radishes for an unusual pop of color.

black radish

Black Radish

Black radishes add a pungent bite, a bit more so than the red variety. Their black skin is aesthetic only, as the dark skin gives way to a creamy white center. Make sure to buy firm black radishes, as they can get tough. If you can’t find black radishes, don’t worry, since all radishes taste good in this salad.  I can’t think of any better way to get so many vegetables packed into one dish, while at the same time serving such a delicious dish that second servings are a must!

ChoppedVeggieSalad

ChoppedVeggieSalad


Chopped Veggie Salad

Slightly modified from Women’s Day

2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons raspberry-balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

1/3 cup olive oil

1 lb fresh asparagus, cut into 1-inch pieces

4 large carrots, peeled and sliced

2 ribs celery, sliced

1 cup black radishes, chopped (you can substitute any other radish)

1 medium cucumber, chopped

1 pint grape tomatoes

½ cup finely diced red onion

1 large firm-ripe avocado, peeled and chopped

 

In a small bowl, whisk mustard, vinegar, salt, and pepper until combined. Whisking constantly, slowly add oil until well blended; refrigerate until ready to use.

Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add asparagus; cook 1 1/2 minutes. Add carrots and cook for 1 minute longer. Drain and chill in ice water. Drain again and pat dry with paper towels. Transfer to a serving bowl. Add remaining vegetables to bowl. Mix dressing (if separated), add to bowl, and toss to mix vegetables and coat. Serve immediately.

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Adzuki Bean Salad

Since I am always on the lookout for new, healthy foods to incorporate into my family’s diet, it was about time that we tried adzuki beans.

Adzuki beans (also called aduki beans) are a part of the legume family. They are often found in red bean paste used in Asian cooking and are easier to digest compared to other beans.  After slowly cooking the adzuki beans, I mixed them with some butternut squash, avocado, and balsamic vinaigrette to make a colorful and delightful salad.

adzukiBeanSalad_3

Why try a new bean, you ask?

*Did you know that beans can count as vegetables or as a protein source in your diet? (although the Botanists among us might argue that they are a fruit)

*They are a source of high fiber, important minerals, and useful nutrients.

*Can you really argue with trying something new?

My whole family (kids included!) enjoy eating this as a side salad, though we have been known to eat it as a lunchtime meal with a bit of chicken stirred into the Adzuki Bean Salad and served over mixed greens.

adzukiBeanSalad_1

adzukiBeanSalad_6


 

Adzuki Bean Salad

1 ½ cups dried adzuki beans

2 ½ cups cubed butternut squash, cooked

1 avocado, cubed

2/3 cup olive oil

1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

½ teaspoon salt

2 cloves fresh garlic, minced

 

Place the adzuki beans in a large pot with 4 ½ cups of water. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 1 ½ hours, or until beans are tender, adding additional water if necessary (I usually have to add 1-2 more cups of water after about an hour). Drain the beans and place in a large bowl, then stir in the butternut and avocado. In a small bowl, stir together the oil, vinegar, salt, and garlic then pour over the bean salad and stir to coat. Serve immediately; refrigerate any leftovers.

Note: Some cooking instructions recommend soaking the beans prior to use. My package indicated that no soaking was required, however I recommend checking your package and adjusting your cooking time as necessary if soaking is required.

 

 

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Rambutan & Lavender Fruit Salad

The first time you see a rambutan you are sure to think, “How do you eat THAT?!?”. The fruit is covered in a hairy peel that seems uninviting.

rambutan1
If you simply scour the peel around the middle you reveal the white flesh in side.

rambutan2

 

rambutan3

Many people enjoy them as is and just chew on the fruit, eating around the center seed. The mild tasting fruit is similar to a grape with a more floral undertone.

As I chopped up the fruit my daughter ate it almost as fast as I could get the flesh off the seed, which means I was left with only enough rambutans to make a one-serving dish.

rambutanLavendarSalad3a

 

 

I stirred together the rambutans and a few tangerine, then drizzled a bit of sweetened lime juice and lavender over the fruit for a simple yet deliciously exotic fruit salad. My daughter nearly ate all of the fruit salad too, leaving just a few bites for the cook.

 


 

Rambutan & Lavender Fruit Salad

6 rambutans, skin and seed removed
2 tangerines, peeled and segmented
1 tablespoons sweetened lime juice
lavender (to taste)

In a small bowl, stir together the rambutans and tangerines, top with lime juice and sprinkle a few lavender buds over the fruit. Stir together and enjoy – makes one serving.

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Tropical Turmeric Smoothies

Do you love smoothies but feel like you are in a rut? Why not trying an unexpected flavor to change things up?

A twist I tried this week is fresh turmeric.  Turmeric is a rhizome in the same family as ginger and is more typically used dried, though it is just as delicious fresh. To use it, simply shred a bit of the peeled turmeric and use accordingly.  For my smoothie, I made sure not to get too carried away since I didn’t want the slight bitterness of the spice to overpower my drink.

freshTurmeric

My Tropical Turmeric Smoothie was heavily loaded with fresh pineapple and freshly squeezed orange juice, and rounded out with Greek style yogurt and  of course the turmeric.

smoothieFixins

freshOJ

The pungent flavor of the turmeric provided a great balance to the pineapple so the drink wasn’t overly sweet and was enough of an exotic flavor to make all of my guinea pigs guests take notice.

 turmericSmoothie2

turmericSmoothie3

If this colorful beverage hasn’t won you over yet, would it change your mind if you knew that turmeric:

  • has anti-inflammatory properties
  • Is considered to help with indigestion, coughs, shoulder pain and colic according to Chinese medicine
  • May prevent cancer or slow cancer growth

Even without these extra perks, a Tropical Turmeric Smoothie is a fun and healthy way to start your day!


Tropical Turmeric Smoothie

4 cups fresh, chopped pineapple
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 tablespoons freshly grated turmeric
½ cup plain Greek style yogurt

blend all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender until smooth. Pour into four glasses, garnish as desired, and serve immediately.

Note: Fresh turmeric stains clothes and skin easily (it is even used as a natural dye) – prepare with caution.

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