Crockpot Time: Coconut and Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup

A few years ago, I received one of the best Christmas gifts ever: an immersion blender.  (Oh, boy.  I am definitely getting older.)  No longer did I have to transfer batches of boiling hot vegetables into a blender; no longer did I have to sully yet another pot or tool.  Soon after that, I embarked on a winter of pureed soups – broccoli, butternut squash, even cauliflower and asparagus.

I particularly like the heartiness of butternut squash soup.  I’ve made it with apples, with onions, with sour cream…but never with coconut milk, as the November issue of Cooking Light suggests.  So, this past Saturday, when the Husband and I ran into a friend (the husband, actually, of the amazing chef who put together the Diwali feast) who was flying solo for the evening, we invited him to dinner and hoped the crockpot – and the coconut – would turn on some magic.  I served this up with a cauliflower side, coming in a separate post.

Crockpot Coconut and Red Curry Butternut Squash Soup

  • olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1.5 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced (tip: I keep a fresh ginger root in the freezer and just grate it as I need.  Nice and easy!)
  • 1-2 tablespoons red curry paste (I used Sambal Oelek)
  • 8 cups peeled and diced butternut squash (tip: buy the pre-diced at Trader Joe’s, if there’s one near you)
  • 3-4 cups chicken (or veggie) stock
  • 1 potato, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons brown sugar
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1 lime
  • 1 13.5 oz can light coconut milk
  • cilantro (obviously!)
  1. Heat oil and butter in a small saute pan over medium heat.  Add the onion, ginger, garlic and curry paste and cook about 8 minutes, until the onion is softened.
  2. Combine onion mixture, squash, stock, potato, brown sugar and salt and pepper in your crockpot.  Cover and cook and low for 6-8 hours.
  3. With your immersion blender, blend the mixture together in the crockpot until smooth (alternatively, use a regular blender, working in batches).  Stir in the lime juice and the coconut milk until the soup turns a nice light orange color.  Top with cilantro and serve.
#AWC (always with cilantro)
#AWC (always with cilantro)

The Verdict:

The Husband was very skeptical about the coconut milk, not being a coconut fan.  But I’m here to say: it works!  (And he and our guest both had seconds.)  The creaminess of the butternut combined with the coconut milk definitely requires the kick of the pepper (although the curry definitely lends it some heat) and the acidity of the lime, but this is a squash soup for the rotation.

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Recharging on a Sunday night: Black Bean Cakes with Ginger-Cilantro Cream

This was a big weekend.  Between a Friday night out at an improv show, all-you-can-eat barbecue, trapeze lessons (!), the Diwali fest last night, and a 5k today, the Husband and I had a gorgeous, but incredibly busy weekend.  And this coming Saturday, we set off on our biggest adventure yet – our honeymoon!  Two weeks away from home, though, means we should be cooking and eating as many home-cooked and light meals as possible – both to go a little easier on the wallet and a little easier on the waistline.  That first part means relying on what we have already in the pantry – and the second, a lot of vegetables.  So tonight, I turned to a meal that even the Husband, a non-vegetarian, can get into.  This recipe, like so many, is largely based on a Cooking Light recipe.

Black Bean Cakes with Ginger-Cilantro Cream

  • butter and olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced (one of the best wedding gifts we received was our garlic press, which makes using fresh garlic about 100 times easier…)
  • dash cumin
  • salt and pepper
  • dash ground coriander
  • dash crushed red pepper
  • about 1/4 to 1/2 cup panko (I like the whole wheat kind)
  • juice from 1/2 lime
  • 1 14.5 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 large eggs, beaten in a small bowl
  • cup of light sour cream
  • chopped cilantro
  • 1 teaspoon or so grated fresh ginger (I keep mine in the freezer, which makes it a LOT easier to grate!)
  1. Heat a large skillet over medium heat, and add about a tablespoon of butter.  Add the onions, cook them down a bit, and then add the garlic, stirring occasionally.  Cook for 4-5 minutes.  Stir in cumin, a little bit of salt, coriander, red pepper, and a dash of black pepper, cook for about 1 minutes and then remove from heat.  Add the panko and the lime juice; stir it all together.
  2. Put the beans in a food processor and pulse until they form a chunky paste (Cooking Light instructs you to mash the beans in a bowl with a fork; I find this take too long and that the beans never get to the right consistency).  Add the beans, eggs and panko/onion mixture.  After mixing it all together, form 4 patties (they’ll look like little burgers).
  3. Add some butter and olive oil to the same pan as before; heat over medium.  Add the patties and cook on each side about 4 or so minutes on each side; keep the cover on in the meantime.  A note or two: You want the patties to be browned – but be careful, they sometimes burn! Just add a little more olive oil or butter if they do.  The patties also have a tendency to fall apart a big – no worries, just squish them back together.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine the sour cream, a tiny amount of salt, some pepper, chopped cilantro and the grated ginger.  Add a squeeze of lime juice and mix well.
  5. Serve the patties with a side salad and the cream mixture.
black beans, not burgers!
black beans, not burgers!

The Verdict:

I’ve made these once before, and the Husband and I were both surprised at how much we liked these.  We had the same reaction tonight.  They’re hearty, filling (probably because we eat twice the portion size Cooking Light recommends!), and (I think) healthy.  You do have to watch the burn factor on the cakes, and go easy on the salt in the sour cream mixture.

It’s officially fall: Sweet Potato and Cauliflower Curry.

After a glorious, glorious DC summer, the weather is starting to get cool.  While I’m sure I’ll take this back in the coming weeks/months, it’s actually exciting to get back to cooking with some hearty vegetables and to making stews.  It’s been a couple of late nights at the office for the husband and me, so I’m looking to keep it light, healthy and nutritious tonight.  I’m testing a new recipe for vegetable curry – making some tweaks along the way, of course.

Sweet Potato and Cauliflower

  • basmati rice
  • olive oil
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
  • 1/2 sliced onion
  • 2 teaspoons curry powder
  • 1 cup broth (veggie, chicken)
  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I used one with green chilis, to add spice)
  • crushed red pepper
  • dash red wine
  • toppings: greek yogurt or sour cream, cilantro
  1. If you’re using basmati rice, get it started according to the package directions.  It will take quite a bit longer than the rest of the dish!
  2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the sweet potato and cook 3-5 minutes.
  3. Reduce the heat; add the cauliflower, onion, and curry powder; add a dash of red wine if you like.  Mix everything together for about a minute.
  4. Add broth, salt, chickpeas, crushed red pepper and tomatoes; bring to a boil.
  5. Give everything a good mix, reduce heat, cover and cook about 15 minutes (should be just about the right time to serve with the rice!).
  6. Serve with yogurt, cilantro, whatever you like.
looking surprisingly like chili, the curry is all vegetable!
clearly, i love me some cilantro & greek yogurt…

The Verdict:

Yum! Surprisingly developed flavors for such a quick meal, and it’s (healthy) comfort in a bowl.  Definitely worth another go…maybe next time, with naan?

Manic Monday: Coconut Curry Salmon and Asian Slaw

I think it’s traditional to cook fish on Friday, but when you grocery shop on a Sunday, there’s no way you want that salmon sitting around in your fridge that long.  That is why, despite coming home late from work today with a full-on case of the Mondays, I forced myself to cook that baby up.  Note to self – that’s why planning out the week is so helpful!

Cooking Light is a standard go-to for recipe ideas.  I generally don’t quite follow them to a “T” – meaning my meals are not always fit to be called “light” – but I do enjoy pretending that I’m cooking healthfully.   This one is no exception – heavily inspired by their recipe for Coconut Curry Salmon with Basmati Rice and Snow Peas.

Coconut Curry Salmon with Asian-inspired Slaw

for the fish…

  • 1 tablespoon brown sugar
  • juice from a leftover lime and a leftover lemon
  • big spoonful of Sambal Oelek (or any type of chili paste)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can light coconut milk
  • salmon fillets, skinned
  • salt
  1. Combine the sugar, lime/lemon juice, curry paste and can of coconut milk in a large skillet, heat slightly.  Add the fish to the pan and bring it to a simmer.  Cover, reduce heat and cook about 10 minutes.  Serve over Asian slaw…below.

for the slaw…

  • one bag of cabbage/shaved brussels sprouts (from Trader Joe’s, obvi)
  • garlic
  • soy sauce
  • rice vinegar
  • sesame oil

1.  Heated two turns of dark sesame oil in a large saute pan; added the garlic for a minute or two and then the slaw.  A few turns with both the soy sauce and the rice vinegar, and then cooked it all down together.

The Verdict:

The husband makes a big point out of not liking fish, but since I plan, shop for and cook the meals, we’re slowly incorporating more fish into the diet.  He cleaned his plate on this one.  This was easy, delicious, and relatively fast.  A definite keeper, even if next time I skip the soy sauce on the slaw…too salty.