Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup

Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup
The cooling temperatures, shorter days and changing leaves have got me craving soup. A fall soup, of course! In years past squash soup has been my go-to when the chilly weather arrives. Thinking I might switch that up a bit, I considered a beet soup, but then I spied some beautiful sweet potatoes at the farmers’ market. Decision made!

This soup was our first course when Pete’s parents came for lunch last weekend. It was so good, I had to cook up another batch for this week’s lunches and added a little kick with cayenne pepper, making a really good soup downright fabulous. You can vary the amount depending on your heat preference, or leave it out altogether if you prefer.

Topping off the soup Monday was a little dollop of Greek yogurt and fennel fronds. Today, I threw in some leftover cooked wild rice before I heated it up and it was a great combination. Use your imagination or just have the soup plain, regardless, the flavors will be like a warm blanket snuggling you through the change of seasons. Enjoy!

Spicy Curried Sweet Potato Soup

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 tablespoon good quality curry powder (I used Madras-style curry)

¼ – ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into ½” size pieces

4 cups vegetable broth

1 cup coconut milk (regular or light)

Salt & pepper to taste

Greek yogurt, fennel fronds, toasted pumpkin seeds or almonds, for garnish

Cooked wild rice makes a good addition for a more filling version (stir in wild rice after soup is done and heat through)

Heat oil in stock pot over medium heat. Cook onion until it starts to soften, about 3-5 minutes. Add curry and cayenne and stir, cooking for about 30 seconds, until spices are fragrant. Add sweet potatoes and vegetable broth. Bring soup to a low boil and reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes, until sweet potatoes are tender.

Turn off heat and blend soup, using an immersion blender, until completely smooth and velvety. Add coconut milk and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve garnished with a small dollop of Greek yogurt and fennel fronds and/or mix in some cooked wild rice for a more filling soup. Makes about 6 good size servings.




Grandma D’s Blueberry Cream Pie—Squared

Pie side view
Last week, with it being blueberry season and all, my sweet-foodie thoughts turned to pie, a pie my mom made a couple times in recent years. Golden flakey crust filled with a generous layer of whipped cream and topped with a thick blueberry layer. Capped with a dollop of more whipped cream upon serving; so fresh and rich, yet light, tasting of summer dessert day dreams.

To my surprise, it was an old recipe of Grandma Decoster’s, going back at least 50 years. I don’t remember ever having it at Grandma’s, but the fact that it was her recipe made me want to make it even more. But, dear Grandma, God rest your soul, I’m going to veganize it, no disrespect intended.

I envisioned a vegan shortbread crust, cinnamon coconut milk whipped cream, and a beautiful blueberry layer made with fresh, local berries from the farmers’ market. The blueberry filling part was easy, I only needed to swap out the butter with Earth Balance or even just leave the 2 tablespoons the recipe called for out. And I’ve made whipped coconut milk cream with cinnamon before.

But how to make the crust? After a google search of vegan shortbread recipes, I took bits and pieces from several, along with my own ideas, to come up with this version, which uses coconut oil as the fat and subs half of the flour with almond meal. The flour that is included is white whole wheat for a slight upgrade in healthiness. With cinnamon in the whipped “cream,” I thought, why not some cinnamon in the crust too? Alrighty then!

The result was, in my opinion, outstanding, and that sentiment was echoed by the five others who tried it. Even though they were my husband, parents and best friends, I’m pretty certain they were sincere–they can be brutally honest. The shortbread is unique and crave-worthy, the whipped cream smooth and cinnamon-y, and the blueberry layer bursting with flavor. Definitely a winning twist on Grandma’s classic recipe!

I opted for a square baking pan when the shortbread crust kept slowly sinking back down each time I pressed it up the sides of a pie pan. Pressed over just the bottom of an 8×8 pan worked perfectly. Hence the title, Grandma D’s Blueberry Cream Pie—Squared. Enjoy!

Grandma D's Blueberry Cream Pie--Squared

Shortbread crust:
1 cup almond meal (also called almond flour)

1 cup white whole wheat flour

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon

¾ teaspoon salt

¾ cup coconut oil, melted

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil an 8 x 8 inch square baking pan.

Place the almond meal, flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a medium mixing bowl and whisk to combine. Pour in the melted coconut oil and stir just till combined (do not over-mix).

Place shortbread dough in prepared baking pan and press over the bottom in an even layer. Bake for 35-40 minutes until edges are beginning to turn golden brown. Place on a rack to cool.

Cinnamon Coconut Milk Whipped Cream:
2 cans coconut milk (not light), refrigerated overnight, don’t shake before opening

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

Chill a bowl and beaters in the freezer for 30 minutes. Place coconut solids (solids only—when you get to where the solids end and the coconut water starts, stop—you don’t want any of the water) from both cans in bowl and beat until smooth and thick. Add powdered sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla and beat to incorporate. Taste and add more sugar or cinnamon, if needed, and mix again. Refrigerate at least two hours. This keeps in the fridge for several days, so can be made ahead of time.

Blueberry Pie Filling:
¾ cup organic granulated sugar

1 ½ tablespoon arrowroot or cornstarch

¼ teaspoon salt

¾ cup water

3 cups blueberries, rinsed and drained, divided

2 tablespoons vegan non-hydrogenated margarine or butter (optional)

1 ½ tablespoons freshly-squeezed lemon juice

Combine sugar, arrowroot, and salt in a medium saucepan. Mix in the water and one cup of the blueberries. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly, and cook until thickened. Remove from heat. Stir in butter or margarine, if using, and the lemon juice. Set aside and let cool. Once cool, fold in the additional two cups blueberries. Chill for at least an hour.

To assemble pie, spread about half of the cinnamon whipped cream over the shortbread crust in an even layer. Spoon blueberry mixture over the whipped cream, spreading to the edges of pan. Cover and chill at least 2 hours. Cut into squares and serve with an additional dollop of cinnamon whipped cream. Makes 9 servings, and keeps well in the refrigerator for a couple days.


Rhubarb Strawberry Streusel Bars

Rhubarb Strawberry Streusel Bars
Last Sunday morning was my first foray of the year to the farmers’ market. Weekends have been so busy—there hadn’t been time to venture to the charming downtown St. Paul market, but now that the local Sunday market is open on my grocery shopping loop, it will be part of my weekly routine through October. Oh, how I’ve missed it!

This early in the season the selection is limited, which is probably a good thing because I still ended up buying way too much for a household of only two. Needless to say, I’ve been spending lots of time in the kitchen this week—and have loved it! It started with herb-scallion eggs and veggie hash for Sunday’s breakfast, followed by broccoli soup, lettuce-based salads with every meal, potato salad, and finally, what to do with the rhubarb and strawberries? I used some of the rhubarb in a savory dish, roasted golden beets and rhubarb topped with toasted walnuts. While it was a very pretty dish, the unsweetened rhubarb still has a bit too much tang for my liking, even when taken with a bite of sweet beet. Probably not a combination I’d do again, but it did make an attractive photo!
Roasted Rhubarb & Golden Beets

In a moment of whimsy, I imagined my will power strong enough to turn the remaining rhubarb and fragrant strawberries into something sweet, but of course (in my whimsical world), I wouldn’t eat any. It would just be for Pete, who never gains an ounce. Snapping back to reality, I reasoned that if I made a healthy sweet treat, I could say, “Will power could be damned!”

The result is these sweet-tart, gooey, crunchy, good-for-you, and delicious Rhubarb Strawberry Streusel Bars. Adapted from Robin Asbell’s Big Vegan, fruit, nuts, coconut oil, and hemp milk combined with a few other ingredients for healthy treat with just a hint of decadence. Enjoy!
Streusel Bar Stack

Rhubarb Strawberry Streusel Bars

Canola or grapeseed oil (for greasing baking pan)

2 cups rolled oats

2 cups white whole wheat flour (up to half of that could be whole wheat pastry flour, if you’d like, or use all gluten-free flour)

1 cup brown sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup coconut oil, melted

¼ cup non-dairy milk, plus 3 tablespoons (I used hemp, but almond, soy, rice, etc. would work)

5 cups total, chopped rhubarb and strawberries

1 cup organic sugar (such as Florida Crystals), adding another ¼ cup if using only rhubarb

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

2 tablespoons arrowroot powder or cornstarch

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

½ cup chopped, toasted walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and grease a 13x9x2 pan.

In large bowl, combine oats, flour, brown sugar, and salt. Mix in the melted coconut oil, then the ¼ cup non-dairy milk. Mix with your hands to make crumbly chunks.

Measure out 2 cups of the biggest chunks and set aside. Drizzle in another tablespoon of milk if the remaining mixture is too dry to make a dough that will hold together. Transfer the dough to the baking pan and press over the bottom to form a crust.

Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, and sugar in a large saucepan. Over high heat, stir until the mixture bubbles. Turn down heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, 5-10 minutes until the fruit is tender. Stir in the cinnamon.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 3 tablespoons non-dairy milk with the arrowroot. Pour the arrowroot mixture into the fruit and cook, stirring, until mixture is thickened and glossy. Cool the mixture slightly and then pour it over the bottom crust. Sprinkle the reserved chunky crumbs over the fruit.

Bake for 30 minutes. Sprinkle toasted walnuts on top, and bake for another 10 minutes or so until the fruit bubbles around the edges. Cool in pan on wire rack, then cut into bars. Makes about 24 bars.


Red Curry and Coconut Milk Bread

We just returned from another fun and relaxing get-away to the cabin on Lake Superior. Despite fresh lake breezes and cool temperatures, the bugs were bad. Mosquitoes the size of dragon flies—I swear! And the dreaded biting flies were abundant too. As a result, our plans for several days of hiking were reworked when the buzzing and bites became unbearable.

On the bright side, there’s still plenty to do on Superior’s North Shore that doesn’t involve traipsing through the beautiful-but-buggy woods. We traversed miles and miles of logging roads in the closed-up comfort of the truck and scoped out future canoeing and picnic locations on inland lakes and rivers and were lucky enough to experience a moose-sighting along the way. A comfortable, mostly bug-free picnic spot on the big lake was found and we enjoyed a sun-soaked, albeit chilly, lunch. Wining and dining aplenty, both in Hovland (even caught some live music there!) and Grand Marais, and of course, we did a little shopping!

At Stone Harbor Wilderness Supply we were treated to a primer on stand-up paddle boards—what impressive craftsmanship (including inlaid bamboo panels!), and snagged some cute sunglasses. Anxious to check out a pet supply store I had read about, we were disappointed to find it closed. Peeking through the windows we spied a black wooden cut-out of the words “Kiss the Dog” that so now would be sitting on a side table in my living room had the store been open!

But the most-treasured souvenir of our trip was found at one of my favorite stores, Lake Superior Trading Post. After checking out the hiking supplies, maps and shoes, I always end up in the second floor book corner where they have a small, but ever-changing stock of unique cookbooks. This trip, I added to my collection with The Soup and Bread Cookbook by Beatrice Ojakangas. It contains over 100 pairings of soups and breads organized by season. Lavash, rolls, scones, focaccia, breadsticks, and loaves of all shapes and sizes—it’s a comfort food read straight from heaven, with a steaming or chilled bowl on the side.
The Soup & Bread CookbookBread dough

Intrigued by a bread containing both Thai red curry paste and coconut milk, I made this the first day back. Wow! It’s delicious and, be warned, difficult to stop with just one slice. To make it whole grain, I substituted whole wheat bread flour for almost half of the called for flour, and added a little vital wheat gluten, which I think made the texture even better. Ideal for dipping in soup, sopping up a good stew, or stuffed with sandwich fixings, this is a recipe I’ll be making often. Enjoy!
LoavesBread & Soup

Red Curry and Coconut Milk Bread

1 package (1/4 ounce) or 1 scant tablespoon active dry yeast

1 ¼ cups warm water (105-115 degrees F.)

1 tablespoon sugar

2/3 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, well stirred

4 tablespoons Thai red curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand)

1 ½ teaspoons salt

1 ½ cup unbleached bread flour, plus up to 1 cup additional

1 ½ cup whole wheat bread flour

1/8 cup vital wheat gluten

Place the warm water in a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir in the sugar and let stand 5-10 minutes, until foamy. Add the coconut milk, curry paste and salt and mix to combine.

Mix 1 ½ cup of the unbleached bread flour, 1 ½ cup of the whole wheat bread flour, and vital wheat gluten in a medium bowl until well combined. Add the flour, ½ cup at a time, to the coconut milk mixture, mixing well after each addition. Add up to an additional cup of unbleached bread flour, a little at a time, until you have a stiff dough. Cover bowl and let dough rest for 15 minutes.

Turn dough out onto flour-dusted counter and knead for 5-10 minutes until you have a smooth, satiny dough. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the dough in it, turning the dough over to make sure both top and bottom are oiled. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel and place in a warm, draft-free spot to rise until doubled in size, about an hour.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly oiled baking sheet. Divide dough in half and shape each half into a narrow 12 inch long loaf. Cover loaves with the damp tea towel and let rise until doubled in size, about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. With a sharp knife or razor blade, slash tops of the loaves 4 or 5 times on the diagonal. Using a spray bottle, spritz loaves with water and place in preheated oven. Spritz oven walls with water. Bake until loaves are golden, about 25 minutes. Transfer to a rack to cool. Makes two loaves.

Split Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Spinach over Brown Rice

Dal Soup
After a rainy, dreary day, I was thinking soup after work. A hearty soup, maybe earthy with lentils and spinach. Perusing a few cookbooks, I stumbled upon a red lentil soup that sounded wonderful—fennel seeds, ginger, garlic, and spiced up with red pepper flakes—the aroma practically floated off the page. After a quick pantry check, I found red split lentils (actually are more golden than red when cooked), which would cook even faster than whole lentils and dinner would be on the table that much quicker.

The recipe is adapted from Moosewood Restaurant Simple Suppers by the Moosewood Collective. The Moosewood Collective is comprised of nineteen people who own and operate the iconic Moosewood Restaurant in Ithaca, New York. The restaurant, open since the early 1970s, is known for their vegetarian food and has amassed many accolades over the years, including James Beard Awards, and was named one of the most influential restaurants of the 20th century by Bon Appetite Magazine. In other words, they know what they’re doing.

Ladled over brown basmati rice and topped with chopped green onions, this dal soup will make your belly happy and your kitchen smell fabulous. Enjoy!

Split Red Lentil Dal with Coconut Spinach over Brown Rice

1 ½ cups split red lentils
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons grapeseed oil
1 ½ teaspoons fennel seeds
½ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons finely chopped peeled fresh gingerroot
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups chopped fresh spinach
½ teaspoon salt
¾ cup full-fat coconut milk

Cooked brown basmati rice
Sliced scallions, for garnish

Rinse the lentils, picking out any shriveled lentils or debris. Drain. Place lentils in a stockpot and add the teaspoon of salt and 4 cups water. Bring to a boil, cover, and cook for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat grapeseed oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add fennel seeds, red pepper flakes, gingerroot and garlic. Cook, stirring constantly, for about a minute. Stir in the spinach and ½ teaspoon salt and cook just until spinach is wilted. Add the coconut milk and simmer for another minute. Remove from heat.

When lentils are cooked, add spinach-coconut milk mixture and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if necessary.

Scoop hot brown rice into bowls and top with a couple ladles full soup. Sprinkle with chopped scallions. Makes 4-6 servings.

Chocolate Chambord Mousse Parfaits (vegan!)

Thanks to my dear friends, another crazy and wonderful girls’ night dinner party is in the books. We ate and drank and talked and laughed the evening away. So much fun—we really need to do this more often!

After hearing about carb-free Fridays from Lori and Dawn’s Paleo diet, I decided to gear our menu in that direction. A white bean dip, spiced up with a little sriracha, was served with matchstick veggies as a starter with glasses of an outstanding Conundrum 2011 red blend (thank you Lori!). Then it was a pizza and salad dinner consisting of this kale salad, minus the farro, and several different pizzas made with this cauliflower crust I blogged about recently. Dawn was in heaven—it’s been so long since she’s had pizza! Who knew pizza could be paleo!?!

But the biggest hit of the evening was dessert, a vegan chocolate mousse, spiked with Chambord and made into pretty parfaits with some fresh berries and coconut whipped cream. When something tastes this rich and creamy and provides the antioxidants of dark chocolate, super foods berries and avocado, plus the health benefits of coconut, why on earth would you ever want the traditional version loaded with saturated fat? The mousse is adapted from this Giada de Laurentiis recipe that will have you wondering why you don’t use avocados in dessert all the time! Enjoy!
Parfaits 3

Chocolate Chambord Mousse Parfaits (vegan!)

½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (I used Guittard, but any good quality brand works)
3 medium (about 8 oz. each) ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
½ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1/3 cup agave
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
1/3 cup Chambord (or use almond milk for an alcohol-free version)
Coconut whipped cream (recipe follows)
Berries (I used organic blueberries and raspberries, but strawberries would be good too)
Fresh mint (for garnish)

Melt the chocolate chips and let cool slightly. Place melted chocolate, avocados, cocoa, agave, vanilla, salt and Chambord in food processor and process until thoroughly mixed. Scrape down the sides and process again, making sure all the avocado is completely incorporated and your mixture is totally smooth. Transfer to a container and refrigerate for several hours or until the next day.

Coconut Whipped Cream
1 can full fat coconut milk, chilled overnight
1/3 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Chill a bowl and beaters in the freezer. Open the can of coconut milk, being careful not to shake it up. Spoon only the solids that have formed on the top into the chilled bowl. Don’t use any of the coconut water, just the solids, or the cream will be soupy. With mixer, beat coconut milk solids until the consistency of whipped cream. Add sugar and vanilla and beat a little longer. Chill for several hours or until the next day.

To assemble, place some berries on the bottom of parfait glasses, wine or water goblets. Spoon in a chocolate mousse layer, followed by a coconut whipped cream layer. Repeat, finishing with extra berries on top. Garnish with a sprig of mint. Makes about 4-6 servings, depending on the size of your glasses. Indulge!

Parfaits 2