Today marks day 1 of my four week salad challenge! I must say it started off really well, since today’s lunch was wonderfully refreshing, clean, simple and oh so delicious! The meal is very simple and like I said, clean but the preparation is the hard part (at least for me since I don’t get a huge amount of time to devote to cutting up things since my baby usually comes into the kitchen after 5 minutes of being away and cries out for me to be close) 🙂 sweetness! Today was different though, I got some extra time to look after our meal since my little one was visiting grans and aunties. So, I basically reverted to the days when I could leisurely prep for the meal and take photos for the blog. Was nice!
This meal sticks very nicely to the rules I made for myself (and I hope you too) in the previous post. The citrus guava cake is gone(I must say I think I’ll have to make this one during guava season since it was a huge hit with the family and friends) and vegetables and fruits have taken it’s place instead. I got inspiration for this meal from my girl Ina (yep, we are good partners taking in the occasional drink and pork sandwich by Kep’s…hmmm, I wish!). Wanted to find another way to make string beans-got an intimidatingly large bag from Pricesmart recently. I love string beans, but sometimes I get a bit tired of the same old ‘steam me and put some garlic on me’ routine. So today I mixed it up a bit.
What is great about this string bean salad is that the string beans really take center stage. I loved the crispness of the beans set against the tart spiciness of the brown spice mustard I used. I also love the sweet warmth of the roasted garlic in there and the crunchy red onions really added that extra punch. Additionally, this string bean salad can be served at room temperature or cold! How wonderfully great is that?
The other dish I prepared to go along with this was a Greek salad- wow 2 salads in one meal? Good stuff. Anyway, I love Greek salads, the salty creaminess of feta cheese set against the sweet mellowness of tomatoes and crunchy morsels of cucumber? Come on, it’s so good. What makes it even better is that it’s so easy! I mean, you can throw it together in five minutes-I know its my go to salad when I’m not in the mood to make an elaborate dressing. Speaking of dressings, that’s the other thing I like about Greek salads, the dressing is ridiculously simple. Now, I don’t know the exact definition of a Greek salad, but I know how I make mine. The only really essential elements for any salad I want to convert to being Greek are cucumbers, tomatoes, red onions and feta cheese. Everything else is fair game.
I ain’t gonna talk too much about the perfectly cooked, delicately seasoned pork chops that went with these salads because, hey, this is about salads, isn’t it? It was good though, real good.
Will definitely be making these again during this 4 week salad challenge 🙂
My grandmother used to make vermicelli soup on Mondays- she actually had a weekly menu where Mondays were soups, Tuesdays were peas, rice and some meat, Wednesdays offered some sort of pie and so on. I always kind of admired the whole ‘menu’ idea when I was growing up and later came to see the significance of it; being a wife and mother is hard work and I am all for changing things up so that life can be just a bit more manageable. I think my grandmother was on to something!
This soup signifies comfort food for me. It’s not rich or fattening, it’s not fried, breaded or cheesy and creamy…but it reminds me of my grandmother. It reminds me of her house- the smells, the dust, the way she would serve us this with soft white bread, buttered to exquisite perfection, the translucent white plastic bowls with little small stubs for ‘feet’ that she’d serve us this in. I miss my grandmother- her wisdom, her quietude, the way she did everything ‘just so’. Bless her, she was a lovely woman.
Her food was always superbly cooked, just enough of everything good. Never too salty or spicy and with just the right amount of sugary sweetness. This soup was no exception. I always remember being excited when she told us lunch was vermicelli soup- the long thin noodles bathed in a clear broth with bits of floating bubbles (later I found out these were bits of salt-butter micelles) and soft perfectly cooked potatoes. I don’t really remember there being any meat, but after making this soup I now know why! The meat simply disappears into the background- a stock cooked for hours on end proves too much for the meat’s survival!
I used chicken- just like my grandmother did-and made a beautifully perfumed chicken stock, but if you have a good, high quality store-bought chicken stock that’s also fine. I also made a few adjustments to her original vermicelli soup recipe- adding carrots and pasta shells for my little one’s enjoyment.
What’s great about this soup is that the broth provides a nice unobtrusive milieu to which anything can be added. You can use different types of meat stock/meat- beef would be lovely- and add vegetables to your heart’s content- cabbage would be great.
For me, I wanted to try to come up with a vermicelli soup recipe similar to my grandmother’s. I wanted to stay as true to her delicious light recipe as possible. Since I never got a chance to ask her for her original recipe I had to come up with one that I felt would come close- golden ray salted butter and all. I think I did a pretty good job… my parents agreed!
Chinese choy sum (choi sum) is one of my favorite greens; every time we dine at a Chinese restaurant it is seldom left out. Similar in taste to pak choy (bok choy), this ‘flowering cabbage’ has slightly bitter undertones which are easily complemented by garlic and ginger. Although I stir-fried mine, you can also steam choy sum or have it soups- which makes it particularly delectable.
Lap chong (lap cheong )-a sweet and savory Chinese sausage can only be described as ambrosial! I am sure to always have some stocked since it’s prep time is so short and it makes any plain rice come to life when you cook them together…plus, it my husband’s favorite!
I purchased the lap chong sausages from Sincere’s on Cipero Street here in San Fernando and the choy sum from Hilo supermarket. I always feel like I’ve won the lotto when I see freshly stocked choy sum in the produce section of Hilo; if you can’t get a hold of fresh choy sum, pak choy can easily be substituted.
Of course when preparing and indulging in delicious Chinese food a great accompaniment is oolong tea- today was no exception. My husband purchased this wonderfully aromatic monkey-picked oolong from Teavana (yes, the tea is actually picked by monkeys trained to do just that!).
This meal is a simple, quick one which has become one of my ‘turn to when I need something fast and easy’ meals. It’s not surprising that this meal is one of the favorites in our house- a testament to simple, unpretentious food being the best.
I am sure that it will become one your favorites just as quickly as it has become one of mine!
1 package choy sum, washed thoroughly, thick stems removed
4 lap cheong sausage links, sliced about 1/4 inch thick on the diagonal cross-section
1 tbsp finely grated fresh ginger root
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 tsp soy sauce
1/8 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups jasmine rice (or any other white rice)
1 1/2 cups water
salt to taste
chives, finely chopped for garnish
bring 1 1/2 cups of water with ~1 tsp of salt to a roaring boiladd 1 1/2 cups rice and return to boil
when the rice comes to a boil, lower heat to the lowest level your stove will allow
add whole lap cheong sausage links into rice & cover pot and let simmer for about 20 minutes
when rice is soft, remove sausages and let cool, then slice them
Choy sum, snow peas & lap cheong:
after the sausages are sliced, heat the oils in a non-stick pan or wok
quickly add the choy sum and snow peas and toss continuously while adding ginger and garlic
add in the sliced lap cheong sausages-vegetables are cooked when bright green and crunchy and choy sum begins to wilt
add soy sauce
sprinkle salt as needed and additional sesame if you desire
serve hot on a bed of rice and garnished with chopped chives
Suggestion~ Oolong/green/jasmine tea serves as a beautiful complement to this dish. Rice can be replaced by brown rice or noodles depending on your preference.
Good Saturday morning to all!
Well, as I have said before and I’ll say again, Saturdays here in Trinidad and Tobago represent soups- in fact, maybe I’ll start calling Saturday ‘Soupaday’!
So, good ‘Soupaday’ morning to all!
Today I am posting about a soup I made and tested on Tuesday that I’m making again today. My husband and little one so enjoyed this simple, rustic, hearty chicken & vegetable soup that I’m compelled to re-test the recipe and share it. I am certain this one is going to warm up those colder nights or heat up those hot ones!
To start with, I used roasted vegetables- essentially all of the vegetables in my fridge at the time got pulled and used in this soup. There are a few that I would, only because of my own personal taste preferences, not roast. Mushrooms for one, I’ve never really enjoyed roasted and prefer them raw, sautéed or cooked some other way, aside from roasted.
Ground provisions are best for this recipe and chicken breasts prove to be not only the healthiest option, but also the tastiest. You can substitute chicken for pork or beef and for a vegetarian or vegan option just omit the chicken bouillon cubes (use garlic/onion/vegetable cubes) and leave out the milk at the end.
This recipe calls for homemade chicken stock (recipe follows) and roasted vegetables. You can use good store bought chicken stock or vegetable stock if you prefer. The best vegetables to use are those that intensify and sweeten upon roasting- ground provisions are best as well as left over roasted vegetables from the day before. Dumplings can also be added and a split pea base can be used as an alternative to my pumpkin soup base- but this is a nice, lower calorie option to the traditional local sancoche(sancoach).
1 large sweet potato, peeled
3 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
1 large carrot, peeled
3 sprigs thyme, leaves removed
1 large red onion, peeled
1 lb pumpkin, peeled and cut into large chunks
salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Pre-heat oven at 450F for 15 minutes before roasting vegetables. Peel potatoes, sweet potato, onion and carrot. Cut potato, sweet potato and pumpkin into large chunks roughly the same size. Cut carrots into half at cross-section and into large sticks about 1 inch thick. Place all cut vegetables into roasting pan/tray and drizzle with olive oil, salt, pepper and thyme leaves. Toss to distribute. Roast at 400F for about 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft, but still slightly firm. Use all of the roasted pumpkin and toss into stock (recipe below). For the other roasted vegetables, divide into two- half will go into the stock and the other half will be cut into smaller chunks for the soup towards the end of cooking.
Homemade chicken stock
Now, I know that the best chefs and recipe books lend a lot of importance to stocks and I really do agree. I see the value of having a tasty, full bodied stock as a huge asset to any meal, soups included. I also know that there will be some out there who would scoff at the use of bouillon cubes in a stock, but in the end, for things like soup I just prefer to use them. Of course, ultimately it is your choice and you can definitely omit them.
1 whole chicken breast
3 stalks celery, washed and leaves included
1 large carrot, peeled and left whole
1 large yellow/white onion, peeled and left whole
6-8 cups water
1/2 cup scallions/chives, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
2 chicken bouillon cubes
Wash the chicken breast with water and lime/lemon if you desire. Season with salt and pepper. Place seasoned chicken and bouillon cubes in a stock pot with 6-8 cups of water (depending on how much soup you desire). Bring to a boil and immediately lower heat to a simmer. After about 20 minutes, add whole carrot, celery and onion. Leave to simmer for a further 20 minutes so that the aromatics can be infused. Remove chicken and let stock simmer for a further hour. You should get a clear, flavorful broth. Strain vegetables and reserve broth for soup.
Putting it all together
Add the 5-10 peeled cloves of roasted garlic to the broth along with the following optional ingredients.
1/2 cup whole/evaporated milk/ heavy cream
Parsley, finely chopped
1 can butter beans(drained and rinsed)
Chop or dice the chicken into bite size pieces. With the roasted vegetables reserve half for the soup broth and half as chunky vegetables for the soup. Use all of the pumpkin roasted. Place half the roasted vegetables in the broth, bring to a boil. When very soft use a hand blender to pulse the vegetables and combine it with the broth. The soup should be a smooth with the vegetables well infused about 25 minutes at a low heat. The remaining diced vegetables and diced chicken as well as 1/2 cup of evaporated/whole milk can be added into the soup about 15 minutes before serving.
Serving size ~ 4 persons
Suggestions ~ Serve hot with a touch of creme fraiche and toasted croutons. Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and add a dash of chili flakes or pepper sauce for an extra bite.
Today has been a a milestone for me; I created my very first recipe!
It’s exciting because I never really thought that I’d be able to ever create a recipe from scratch; I mean, I’ve been cooking since I was about 14 years old, but mainly recipes handed down to me from my parents, grandparents and really anyone else whose food tasted good!
But today I decided to try it all on my own. I did get inspiration from cookinginsens, a fellow blogger. I really enjoy reading her recipes and viewing her photos and I feel that inspiration for cooking can come from anywhere. This particular recipe was posted back in 2011 and it appealed to me because of the use of mustard and sweet potatoes; it also looked delicious! So I drew from this recipe’s ingredients to create my own dish- Coconut Ginger Maple Chicken. I hope you try it and I hope you find it as delicious as everyone else who has tried it today does!
This recipe uses only fresh ingredients and aims to utilize more natural products than processed, artificial ones. I’ve chosen to use maple syrup as my sweetener since it’s very mild and effective at balancing the coconut milk, ginger and other spices and herbs. I’m sure you can just as easily use honey or agave but I haven’t tried those so I can’t say for certain. I used freshly made coconut milk but it’s easily accessible here in Trinidad, if you can’t get hold of one you can use canned or powdered coconut milk, but fresh is always better! Although this recipe calls for many different spices and herbs the flavors are very subtle and not at all overwhelming.
2 whole chicken breasts- you can use halved breasts but I think the whole breasts would remain more moist
4 tsp authentic natural maple syrup
4 tsp stone ground mustard
1/2 whole dry coconut(powdered/canned coconut milk can also be used)
3 cups hot water
1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 chadon beni leaves (substitute with cilantro/coriander leaves~about 1 Tbsp finely chopped)
1/2 Tbsp finely grated ginger
2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 1/2 cups natural coconut water
2 Idaho potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
3 thyme sprigs
1/2 Tsp salt
1 Tbsp good olive oil
Preheat oven at 400F. Make a rub of mustard salt and 2 tsp maple syrup and use it to season the chicken breasts; leave to marinate for at least 1 hour. During this time prepare the other ingredients and make the coconut milk. Remove coconut flesh from hard shell (you would need to open the shell by throwing it on the ground! Then scoop out the flesh by hitting the shell with the back of a metal spoon or knife to loosen the flesh- it should then be easier to remove). Grate the coconut or if you have a good enough blender, blend it until very fine. Carefully add in 3 cups of hot water and blend until ‘milk’ becomes visible. You can blend for sometime to extract most of the flavor. Press into a fine wire sieve reserving the milk for use in the sauce.
At this time put chunks of potatoes and sweet potatoes into a caserole dish and cover with coconut water, cover dish and let cook in oven at high heat. In the meantime as potatoes cook heat olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the chicken breasts at high heat. Brown for about 3 minutes on each side lowering heat if necessary so as not to burn the mustard/maple syrup rub. When nice and caramelized remove from heat and leave the remaining ‘rub’; To this add coconut milk, ginger and nutmeg and 2 tsp maple syrup. lower heat so as not to cause the milk to curdle and the sauce to break. Just before completion add in finely chopped chadon beni or cilantro/coriander.
Add chicken and thyme sprigs to potatoes and cover to complete its cooking. When the chicken is tender and cooked and the potatoes are cooked remove from heat and let stand for about 10 minutes covered so as to absorb all of the flavors. Cut each breast into half and over it pour the coconut ginger maple sauce- strain if necessary to make a smooth sauce.
Garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve hot.
Serving ~ 4 persons
Suggestions~ this would also go really well with mashed potatoes or plain rice. Serve with chilled coconut water or coconut water/rum (Angostura 1919/Single Barrel/Zacapa Rum) for an extra kick!