Curried White Squash Soup ~ Thai Inspired

>> Sunday, September 27, 2009

white squash soup
One of the many things I love about living in Europe is that there are different shops that cater to our different culinary needs. There are the markets for your general groceries needs, the butcher shop, the bakeries, the spice shops, the wine shop, and there are fruterias,(in English it's a green grocer and in French they are know as fruiterer). I love all these shops and often walk from shop to shop until I have all that I need for our meal. It has a romantic and nostalgic feeling of times past, and it's a pity that busy lives and schedules don't allow most people to enjoy such simple pleasures. Although I can get fruits and vegetables at the general market I always buy my fruits and vegetables from one or our many local fruterias, the quality and selection is always much better. Having befriended many of the shop attendants helps, they offer me the better quality items and let me know when new fruits or vegetables arrive.
patty pan squashThe other day as I walking past my local fruteria I saw these strange looking white things. I quickly picked it up, felt the hard texture and smelled it, could it be a pumpkin or squash? Unsure of what it was I asked the attendant and he smiled and said "I don't know", we both laughed and he said he would let me know next time. Of course as soon as I came home I Googled it and I found that indeed it is a white squash. Having never tried this before I had to try it immediately. From my search I learned that many people use these in soups, and thought that with a couple of modifications my curried pumpkin soup recipe would work well with this squash.

Your ingredients:
1/2 a small white squash about 400 grams / .88 lbs.
1 large carrots
3 garlic cloves
1/2 tbsp. / 8 ml red curry paste (to your taste)
1/2 tsp. / 2.5 ml salt
1/2 tsp. /2.5 ml turmeric
1 chicken bouillon cube
1/3 cup / 100 ml coconut milk

1. Peel and chop the squash into chunks, peel and cut the carrots into 4 pieces, peel the garlic, then add them all to a pot and cover with enough water jut above the vegetables. Boil for about 15 minutes until the squash and carrots are tender. Drain but reserve the broth.
2. In a blender or mixer add the vegetables and bouillon and spices, blend until it becomes a smooth thick soup puree. You can add a bit of the reserved broth just to make it smoother, but not to watery.
3. Add your soup back to the pot and add the coconut milk, mix and stir until the puree is well combined. Under low heat let it sit covered for another 10 minutes to get all the flavours and spices combined. Taste for salt.

Serve warm with some crusty bread as a light meal or serve before a main course.

curried squash soup


Apple Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal

>> Tuesday, September 22, 2009

red apple
When I was growing up one of my favorite breakfast was my mother's oatmeal. It was especially a favorite of mine after we moved to the northern US and experienced really cold winter mornings, it was a great way to warm up and get the day started. I always heard people saying that they hated oatmeal and how disgusting it looked to them. I didn't understand because my mother's oatmeal tasted so good. I came to the conclusion why others hated it, they made it with water.....yuck, you have to make it with milk, whole milk is even better. Mom's oatmeal was cooked slowly with whole milk, whole cinnamon sticks and just a bit of sugar and it was amazing!

Apples are in season right now and I'm taking full advantage of it. I bought a 2 kilo bag and the first thing I made was my favorite Apple Cinnamon Raisin Oatmeal. I started making this oatmeal as an alternative to the prepackaged one that I loved but were to sweet for me. This tastes much better and is healthier than taking in all that sugar and preservatives.
apple oatmeal

Your Ingredients: (1 serving)
1/2 cup or 40 grams of dry oatmeal
1 Apple (sliced-diced-chopped your choice)
Raisins (I used a mixture of regular & golden)
1/2 tsp or 2.5 ml of cinnamon
1 tsp or 5 ml of sugar or honey or maple syrup (your choice)
small dab of butter
1 cup or 250 ml of milk

1. In a small pot under low heat melt the butter, then add apples,raisins, sugar and cinnamon, let this cook for a 5 minutes to warm the apples through and make them a bit soft.
2. Next add the oatmeal and mix thoroughly to combine all ingredients well. Then add the milk and again stir to combine well. Let the oatmeal cook for another 8 minutes or as directed on the package.(some cook faster or slower than others).
3. Once it's cooked serve with a couple of apple slices, raisins and sprinkle with cinnamon on top. Now enjoy!.......

*Please note that the measurements for the sugar and the cinnamon is what I use, but you can adjust to your taste. I think that the sweetness from the apple gives it enough sweetness and doesn't require a lot of sugar. Sometimes I add a bit more milk for a thin downed or runnier version.*
apple cinnamon oatmealSome fun facts about apples: Apples are a member of the rose family , Newton's law of gravity came to be thanks to a falling apple, they are low in calories, high in dietary fiber, good for your heart, good for your lungs, they originated from central Asia, where brought to North America in the 1600s , there are over 7,000 varieties, the peel is full of antioxidants, you can play games with them, they are so cool that a computer company and a record company use their name, and you can also be tempted with them - well they are delicious after all !

apple raisin oatmeal
I still have about 1 1/2 kilo left, I guess we have some eating and cooking to do. I can make apple bread, apple salad, apple sauce, apple butter, apple.... wait I feel like Bubba in Forest Gump, shrimp gumbo, lemon shrimp, shrimp stew........

*Update ~ October 13 2009 : Apple cinnamon raisin oatmeal is the featured meal of the day on HHM*


The last fruits of Summer

>> Thursday, September 17, 2009

It's a grey, wet, chilly 17c/62f day. The trees are gently swaying back and forth , the neighbors wind chimes singing and the birds are quite. On the side walks I can see the water droplets falling on the puddles of rain that has been collecting throughout the day. There are also leaves that have fallen off the trees, some green, some golden and some red. I can also see the pointy horse chestnuts that have fallen and spread out on the sidewalks, grass and on the roads. Some still in the protection of their little shells, and others all on their own. Not many people are out today, and the few there are have coats or long sleeves on. Suddenly I come to the realization, Summer has come to an end. Though officially the Autumn equinox , here in the northern hemisphere, doesn't start until the 22nd of this month, 5 more days, a new season is here.

I love autumn, the way the landscape becomes so vibrant with all the beautiful colors of the changing leaves. I love the way my scarves feel wrapped around my neck, so soft and keeping me warm. I love the selection of fresh nuts, and all the fruits and root vegetables that fill the markets.

For me autumn also means warm and comforting foods and a lot of warm drinks. When the weather outside starts getting cooler I start making soup. All kinds of soups, spicy and mild, some with only vegetables, others with meats, others with grains and beans, stews, cremes, puree and veloute, soup galore! Another thing I really enjoy during this time is practicing and learning to bake. The oven warms up the house and fills us with the aromas of the breads and sweets. There's nothing like the warmth on your hands from fresh baked goodies. Tea is an absolute must too, everything from loose leaf, tea bags, the spicy concoctions of Chai Masala(Yogi Tea), and the tangy taste of ginger tea. Don't forget the hot chocolate too, my choice is a hot, frothy and sweet Mexican hot chocolate.

As we welcome a new season what are your favorite things about autumn? What do you look forward to the most? What are your favorite things to cook or bake?


Viva Mexico!! Independence Day& Enchiladas to celebrate

>> Monday, September 14, 2009

Viva Mexico!!! The real Mexican Independence Day! On the evening of September 15, 1810 a priest, Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla's gathered the indigenous and mixed people of Dolores,Guanajuato to rise and stand up against the oppression that they had been under for so many generations. This speech is know as the "Grito de Dolores" or the cry of Dolores,it is a cry out for independence and an end to Spanish and Mexican born Spaniards' rule. Officially September 16, 1810 is recognized as the beginning of Mexico's war of Independence. The war lasted 11 years, many people died, years of instability followed but in the end Mexico gained independence from Spain. Every year this cry or speech and the sacrifices made are remembered, it is reenacted by ringing the bells of the National Palace in Mexico City and the President reenacting the Grito de Dolores that is then repeated by the crowds and people throughout out the country. There are also parades, flags everywhere, feast and parties throughout the nation.
War is ugly and many events and stories lead up to the battles and years of struggle and sacrifice, it is long and complicated as is in most historical and monumental events, but this is as short and concise version I could give you. If you want to know more there are plenty of articles to read online. When I lived in the US most people thought that May 5th or Cinco de Mayo was Mexican Independence day, and didn't know the actual history of September 16. To me it was fascinating that the Americans cared so much about May 5th and me as a Mexican didn't think it was such a big holiday. Kind of funny, but I wonder how much of that had to do with the bombardment of advertising to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with Mexican beer and chips and salsa.....

If you have Mexican friends or married into a Mexican family you know that to us pretty much all of life's events give us cause for a celebration. Parties for everything, food is an absolute must, singing and dancing and party until the sun comes up (literally). So of course this very important day cannot be without some mouthwatering, typical and traditional dishes. This year we started our celebration early so I could share this with you. I made chicken enchiladas rojas (red) served with Mexican rice and refried beans, for dessert I served empanadas de calabaza or Pumpkin empanadas (turnovers). To keep this post relatively short I am sharing my recipe for authentic enchildas rojas. I will later post my yummy recipe for Mexican rice and the empanadas. The beans you can already find in my archive here. Also coming later is enchiladas made with substitute ingredients for the sauce.

Your ingredients:

for enchilada sauce
3 garlic cloves
1 medium onion
3-4 hot chilies( chile de arbol)
1 chile guajillo
1 large tomato with skin removed
1 tsp./5ml of salt,cumin seed
1/2 tsp./2ml black pepper

12 corn tortillas
2 boiled and shredded chicken breast
1/2 cup/125 ml vegetable oil

Garnishes: sour cream,bland cheese (feta or Edam),avocado slices,shredded lettuce,sliced or diced radishes

1. Cook the chicken ,slice,dice and shred the garnishes and have all this ready to use. Tip* the avocado will start to brown so you can either do this right before you serve it or rub with a little lemon to prevent the browning. Next we need to make the sauce, I sliced the onion and garlic and put it on a pan to fry it a bit, only add a little bit of oil to prevent it from burning. After about 5 minutes you can remove them and set aside. In a pot add a couple of cups of water and bring to a boil next add the peppers and leave them for about 10 minutes until they are soft. Drain and add them to a blender, add the onion,garlic,tomato, salt,pepper and cumin, and blend until you have a smooth sauce.
2. Next you'll need a frying pan and add the vegetable oil warm under medium low heat. In a pot or deep pan add the enchilada sauce, keep under low heat. You'll also need thongs, a plate with paper towels and a spare plate or cutting board to roll and prepare the enchiladas. First take one tortilla, dip it into the oil and cook on each side for 2 minutes each. Next dry off some of the extra oil, then dip and cover completely on both sides with the sauce. Don't worry if you feel there isn't enough sauce on the tortilla we'll add more at the end.Next we add the stuffing, the chicken, in the center of the tortilla put some of the shredded chicken then roll up. Set aside until your done with your batch.

3. Once you are done rolling up the enchiladas you can add more sauce on top, then start topping with the garnishes. Serve with rice and beans on the side for a complete and very filling meal!! Buen Provecho!!


Luscious Thai Chicken Pineapple curry and the 5 flavors of Thai cuisine

>> Monday, September 7, 2009

Thai Pineapple Chicken CurryThai cuisine is one that has been greatly influenced by all it's surrounding neighbors. To me the most obvious influence has been from Indian cuisine because of the spices and though very different but still similar, the curries. Thai food is unique in that it has created this perfectly well balanced harmony of 5 flavors that are present in every dish or in every meal. The flavors are salty,sweet,sour,bitter/aromatic and heat/spicy, not particular to that order. Some samples of how the flavors are brought into a dish can be from salty -from shrimp paste or fish sauce,sweet- from sugar or sweet fruits, sour from lemon or lime juice,bitter/aromatic-can come from bitter melons or aromatic herbs and green vegetables, heat- of course from chilies or the curry paste. Though not included in the 5 main flavors but common in many dishes is the sweet and creaminess of coconut milk.
Most people when they think Thai food think Hot!, but it's not all about the chili, it's about bringing out all those flavors that then compliment each other. I love spicy food but spicy to where it doesn't over power the rest of the dish. What's the point then, might as well grab whole chilies and start munching away, (ouch better grab the antacids). I do believe that in any type of cuisine the heat or spiciness is not the flavor that should overpower everything else, it should be a touch of what the rest of the dish is about. When I've heard people or friends say they have never tried or don't like Thai or other "spicy" cuisines because they are not able to handle the spiciness, it makes me feel a bit sad. To me it's a pity for people to miss out on such scrumptious meals when they really shouldn't have to. (By the way my recipes can all be adjusted to fit your personal "heat" level.)

Today I have a big favorite of not only mine but my husband and one of our frequent dinner guest's , Thai Chicken Pineapple curry with cherry tomatoes and bamboo shoots. Just writing this makes my mouth water. It so easy and fast to make, I guarantee they'll want seconds. The curry paste I used is my own from the previous recipe found here.

ingredients Thai yellow curryYour ingredients:
2 chicken breast
1 cup fresh pineapple, bite-size pieces
1/2 cup bamboo shoots
12 red cherry tomatoes
2 Tbs red curry paste
1 Tbs grated ginger
2 garlic cloves,minced
1 1/2 Tbs fish sauce
1 tsp sugar ( if using canned pineapple omit)
1/2 cup chicken broth (vegetarians can use vegetable)
1 cup coconut milk
1 Tbs vegetable oil
1/2 tsp. ground turmeric

1 red chile pepper, sliced , extra spicy optional
Fresh Cilantro or Basil leaves to garnish, optional

1. In separate cutting boards dice the pineapple and chicken into thick bite size pieces. In a large pan or wok warm up oil, then add the chicken and cook all the way through. Next add the ginger and garlic , cook for a few minutes then add the curry paste stir to combine with chicken. Then add the chicken broth, sugar,turmeric ,bamboo shoots and fish sauce. Add this point you can also add the extra chili pepper if your using it. Under medium heat cover and simmer for about 10 minutes. Add the coconut milk and stir, next add the cherry tomatoes and cook for another 5-8 minutes when the tomatoes should be soft.
*the coconut milk is added toward the end to prevent curdling*
curry bamboo shoots,cherry tomatoes,pineapple2. Done.When serving you can add a couple of Fresh Basil or Cilantro leaves for decoration. Serve with steamed white rice.

Covering the essentials of Thai cuisine we have a deliciously fruity,spicy and sweet, creamy curry with aromas that will have them all running to the dinner table.
cilantro , thai curry

* Tip~ you can use drained canned pineapple if fresh isn't available but it taste so much better with fresh. Makes great leftovers, that's if you have any left. *

Update:9/9/09 ~My Luscious Thai Chicken Pineapple curry and the 5 flavors of Thai cuisine is #1 on the Foodbuzz top 9 today, buzz worthy wouldn't you agree?!

My Luscious Thai Chicken Pineapple Curry recipe was chosen to be included in this beautiful cookbook. There are many talented bloggers in this book and it is a great honor to be among them. You can find me recipe on pages 90 and 91.

Order your copy now!


Red Thai Curry Paste ~Krung Kaeng Phed

>> Friday, September 4, 2009

In Thai cuisine curry paste is an essential ingredient to prepare many dishes but of course the main dishes being curries. There are several paste, red, yellow, green, Panaeng and the more Indian influenced Massaman curry paste. I've made them all except the Panaeng, which I will try and then post. The first Thai curry paste recipe I have is for red curry paste. This recipe is from my cookbook called , "The Complete Asian Cookbook" by Charmaine Solomon . Home made red Thai curry paste is very easy and fast to make, you may get addicted to making your own and not buy prepackaged again. There is nothing wrong with the couple of prepackaged ones I've bought, but I like making my own to control the spiciness and make sure all the necessary ingredients are included and none left out. Of course there's the preservatives used, yuck, which I try to avoid as often as possible.

One of the ingredients is shrimp paste, I have to leave this out because I have not been able to find here. So to still give the curry paste a seafood taste I add the fish sauce. Shrimp paste also adds a redness to the paste so that's why I add the paprika, merely for color aesthetics and does not affect the taste. If you are a vegetarian you can omit both or either of the shrimp paste and fish sauce. The recipe below can be doubled or tripled, and you can adjust the heat as you like.
red thai curry paste ingredientsYour ingredients:

4-6 dried red chillies
2 small brown onions, chopped
1 tsp. / 5 ml peppercorns (about 68 )
2 tsp. / 10 ml ground cummin ( 2 1/2 tsp. / 12 ml whole)
1 tbsp. / 15 ml ground coriander ( 1 1/2 tbsp. / 22.5 ml whole seeds)
2 tbsp./ 30 ml fresh cilantro chopped ( including the stems and roots)
1 tsp. / 5ml salt
2 tsp. / 10 ml finely chopped lemon or lime peel
1 tsp. / 5ml lemon grass powder
1 tsp / 5ml ginger powder
1 tbsp. /2-3 cloves , chopped garlic
2 tsp. / 10 ml shrimp paste (Subs. 2 tbsp. / 30 ml fish sauce)
1 tbsp. / 15 ml vegetable oil
1 tsp. / 5 ml turmeric
2 tsp. / 10 ml paprika ( only for color)

home made curry paste
1. In a small bowl pour some hot water and add the dried chillies to soak and soften them for about 8 minutes. If you are using whole spices, first grind those in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder. Next chop the onion, cilantro and lemon peel. Drain the chillies and remove the stems. ( If you want the curry paste a bit milder remove and discard the seeds, otherwise leave them in.)
2. In a blender add all the ingredients including the ground spices, and oil. Blend to a thick paste, if it's too dry you can add a little water or more oil.
Viola! , red curry paste ready to go and cook any delicious Thai dish. The paste will keep fresh in the refrigerator for a couple of weeks or longer, in the freezer up to 2 months,that's if you don't use it up before 2 months:) By the way it does freeze well, I scoop 2- 3 big spoonfuls into small plastic bags and divide into portions that way you only need to defrost what you need for a meal.
easy fast thai curry


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