Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup

When I posted about my illness on Facebook yesterday, someone suggested chicken soup.  Not a bad suggestion at all, really – many people may believe Grandma’s claim that chicken soup will help a cold (or in my case, bronchitis) is just an old wives tale, but there’s actually some scientific evidence backing her up.

Chicken soup has been touted for it’s curative properties for centuries, especially for respiratory illnesses, but why is that?  First, it acts as an anti-inflammatory by inhibiting the movement of neutrophils — immune system cells that participate in the body’s inflammatory response.   Second, it temporarily speeds up the movement of mucus, possibly helping relieve congestion and limiting the amount of time viruses are in contact with the mucus membranes.  It is also incredibly nourishing, especially when made with bones as well as meat and vegetables, as well as being easy to digest.

I certainly wasn’t up to making any kind of chicken soup from scratch, but that was okay because we made chicken stock not too long ago and I have quite a few jars of it tucked away in the basement.  So I sent The Young One (who considerately ordered pizza and took it upstairs for his own dinner) down to fetch me a couple of pint jars.  I could have just heated it up as it was and enjoyed it – there’s nothing quite like homemade chicken stock; the stuff in the stores simply doesn’t compare – but,well, you know me; if I’m able to stand and face the stove, there will be cooking.

I’ve pretty much been using Japanese sweet potatoes exclusively for the last few months, but recently I bought some of the ordinary, red-skinned variety and hadn’t used them yet.  I decided to cook them up in the chicken stock, and if I’d stopped there it would have been marvelous, but I got a bit carried away.  I was out of ghee, so I decided to sauté onion, celery and garlic in coconut oil, then added the chicken stock and potatoes.  Since there were sweet potatoes in the pot, next went in a touch of cinnamon and nutmeg.  After it all cooked down and the potatoes were soft, I used my stick blender – the best invention EVAR, in my humble opinion, to pureé it all directly in the pot.  It was all lovely, but still needed something else, so I added a can of coconut milk to make it creamy (and compliment the coconut oil), and added salt, pepper and a touch of cayenne just give it a little heat.

Oh. My. Gawd.  It turned out marvelously, and was the first thing I’ve had any appetite for in days.  It was so good, in fact, I ate two bowls of it and when I gave a taste to The Young One, who normally turns his nose up at sweet potatoes as well as coconut, he said, “That’s pretty good, actually,” and looked as if he regretted his pizza.  Beloved, who was out of town on business last night, also seemed bummed that he missed out on the soup, so I suppose I’ll be making it again very soon.  The addition of some andouille sausage would just knock it out of the ballpark.

As for it’s curative properties, well…I woke up this morning feeling quite a bit better and my cough, instead of being dry and hacking, has actually become productive.

I’m a convert.

Note:  The soup is Whole30 compliant and can be made vegetarian/vegan if you use vegetable stock.

Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup
Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup
Sweet Potato-Coconut Soup
Serves: 6
  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 2 small celery stalks, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 1/2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
  • 4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 cups coconut milk (13.5 ounce can)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)
  1. Melt the coconut oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.
  2. Add sweet potatoes, chicken stock, cinnamon and nutmeg; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Working in batches, puree soup in blender or food processor until smooth; return to pot. Or use an immersion blender to puree directly in the soup pot.
  4. Add coconut milk and stir over medium-low heat to heat through. Season soup to taste with salt, pepper and cayenne, if using. Ladle into bowls and garnish with unsweetened coconut flakes, if desired.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 320 calories, 18.6g total fat, 4.8mg cholesterol, 304.3mg sodium, 733.4mg potassium, 33.3g carbohydrates, 4.1g fiber, 8.5g sugar, 7.4g protein.


Onion Pie

Happy Hump Day, everyone!  I’m so excited – when I killed my laptop, I had to restore everything through Carbonite and I thought I’d lost my cookbook software database.  It just didn’t seem to be part of what Carbonite backed up.  I had all of the recipes, and it backed up the actual cookbook, but I was devestated; I thought I was going to have to rebuild the entire thing manually.  Then I remembered the backups I had here on the network at the office.

Color me several shades of relieved.

Anyhoo, it is Day 15 of the Paleo Iron Chef competition, and today’s not-so-secret ingredient is Onions.  After much deliberation, I’ve decided to submit my Onion Rings recipe.  I’d made this over the weekend with the intention of submitting it, but decided the onion rings would probably be better received.

Not to take anything away from this Onion Pie – it is absolutely delicious.  You know I love me a good, crustless quiche and this is one of the better ones.  It just oozes onions and butter (or ghee, in my case).  It takes awhile to caramelize the onions, but other than that, it’s not hard at all.  I didn’t specify what type of cheese to use, because this is one of those dishes that would go well with just about any type of cheese – I used one that goes under the brand name Naked Goat; it’s a semi-hard cheese made from raw goat’s milk and is just wonderful.  Cheddar would work well, as would a good pecorino romano.  The cheese is also optional, if you choose not to use it.

Note:  I used a yellow onion and a red onion – it’s just what I had on hand – and the taste was quite good, although I wasn’t thrilled with the color the red onion gave the interior of the dish.   Use all yellow or white onions if you prefer.  You can also substitute the coconut milk/water mixture with an equal amount of half and half if you have no problem with cow’s dairy.

Onion Pie
Onion Pie
Onion Pie
Serves: 6
  • 2 cups yellow onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 cups red onion, very thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons ghee or clarified butter
  • 1 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
  • 1 cup cheese, grated (optional)
  1. Melt the ghee in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown and caramelized, 30 to 40 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
  2. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, water, eggs, salt and pepper until well-blended.
  4. Spread the onions over the bottom of a well-greased, deep dish pie plate. Pour the coconut milk/egg mixture over the onions, then sprinkle the grated cheese evenly over the surface.
  5. Bake for 45 to 45 minutes, or until the pie is golden brown and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Allow to stand for at least 15 minutes before slicing and serving.
  6. Pie may be served hot, warm or at room temperature.
  7. Nutrition (per serving): 245 calories, 178 calories from fat, 20.6g total fat, 123mg cholesterol, 633.5mg sodium, 206.3mg potassium, 7.4g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 3g sugar, 9.3g protein


Thai-Style Carrot Soup

Well, happy Sunday everyone!  Normally I don’t post on weekends, but I will during this competition if I am posting a new recipe.  Yesterday’s not-so-secret ingredient was Chicken and I submitted the Fig and Chevre Stuffed Chicken Breasts recipe.  It’s just so darn good, and I really didn’t think I could come up with anything to top it.  For now, at least.

At any rate, the not-so-secret ingredient for Day 7 of Paleo Iron Chef is Curry.  I didn’t even know about the competition when I made this a couple of weeks ago, but since I hadn’t posted the recipe yet I though it would be perfect.

We learned a lot when we began pressure canning last summer; one of those things was “Don’t parboil your carrots before canning or they will come out way too mushy to eat as a side dish.”  Fortunately, we froze about half of them, but I was still stuck with about 10 pint jars of mushy carrots.  A couple of those jars went into tomato-based dishes (carrots are a wonderful way to soften the acidity of tomatoes), but for the most part they’ve been languishing in the basement, collecting dust.

It wasn’t until we were on our way home for lunch one day and I was wondering what to serve with the fish I’d thawed out, since we had no leftovers, when I remembered those jars of carrots in the basement.  On the next shelf were jars of homemade chicken stock and I had some leftover Thai red curry paste in the refrigerator, along with a seedless English cucumber.

So was the Thai-Style Carrot Soup born.  It is excellent with fresh, locally-caught, pan-fried bass.

Note:  You can use two 15 oz. cans of organic carrots (drain one, and reserve the liquid from the second can), or simply cook 4 cups of sliced carrots, reserving a cup of the cooking liquid.  The curry paste I use is a brand I buy at our local Asian market, and includes nothing but chilies and spices.  If you only have access to the Asian section of your supermarket, the organic version of Taste of Thai curry pastes don’t contain sugar or other additives, but it’s been my experience it’s not very spicy – two tablespoons of the curry paste from the Asian market gave this soup quite a kick.

Thai-Style Carrot Soup
Thai-Style Carrot Soup
Serves: 6
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 tablespoon ghee or clarified butter
  • 2 tablespoons red curry paste
  • 4 cups cooked sliced carrots
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 large seedless cucumber, diced
  1. Melt the ghee in a 2 1/2-quart enameled cast-iron Dutch oven, or comparably-sized stock pot, over medium heat. Cook the onion until tender and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the curry paste and continue cooking until fragrant, about 1 minute more.
  2. Scrape the onion/curry mixture into the bowl of a food processor. Add the carrots and water; puree until smooth. Set aside.
  3. Return the carrot puree to the Dutch oven and add the chicken stock, coconut milk and fish sauce. Continue cooking over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is hot and smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Divide the soup between six bowls and garnish with the diced cucumber. Serve immediately.
  5. Nutrition (per serving): 247 calories, 19.7g total fat, 7.5mg cholesterol, 1287mg sodium, 512.3mg potassium, 15.4g carbohydrates, 4.2g fiber, 7.1g sugar, 5g protein


Wasabi-Coconut Panna Cotta with Tuna and Mango

Well, here we are and it’s the first day of the Paleo Iron Chef competition at the Reddit paleo board; the ingredient is coconut milk.

I thought long and hard about what I wanted to do with this ingredient that wasn’t your run-of-the-mill preparation, or just as a substitute for dairy.  Panna cotta seemed like a good idea, but I didn’t want to do a dessert, either.  Would a savory panna cotta work?  Why, yes, it would.

Mangoes are also in season, and are $1 each at the local grocery store.  I also had a package of nori – the sheets of roasted seaweed used in sushi rolls – languishing in my cabinet, as well as a small jar of wasabi powder.  Once I had those ingredients together, thoughts of sashimi-grade tuna and fish roe weren’t far behind.

The results were surprising.  There was just enough wasabi powder in the coconut milk to give it a hint of heat without overwhelming the coconut flavor; the mango lent it just enough sweetness.  The tuna and nori lent textural interest, as well as flavor, and the fish roe – I used lumpfish caviar, since the only salmon roe I could find contained both HFCS and MSG – just enough saltiness.

Each little square was two bites, and very delicious bites they were.  This would make an outstanding appetizer for a seafood dinner, or as part of a buffet, although they would need to be kept on ice.

As far as the preparation goes, yes, it is a bit involved, but the result is really stunning.  You can make it easier by cutting the panna cotta into the required squares and topping with the nori, then chopping the tuna and mango and layering them on top before finishing with the fish roe.  It should be just as delicious, but perhaps not quite as pretty, and will make more servings.

Wasabi-Coconut Panna Cotta with Tuna and Mango
Wasabi-Coconut Panna Cotta with Tuna and Mango
Serves: 14
  • 1 can (15 oz) full-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tablespoon wasabi powder
  • pinch kosher or sea salt
  • 1 packet unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup cold water
  • 1 medium mango, peeled and sliced
  • 1 sheet nori
  • 8 ounces sashimi-grade tuna
  • 1/2 tablespoon fish roe
  1. Pour the cold water into a small bowl and sprinkle in the gelatin. Set aside.
  2. Heat the coconut milk and salt in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until simmering; whisk in the wasabi powder. Stir about 1/3 of the hot coconut milk into the gelatin and continue stirring until the gelatin is completely dissolved. Whisk the coconut milk/gelatin mixture back into the coconut milk in the saucepan, then pour into a lightly oiled 8 x 8 glass baking dish and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
  3. Using a thin, sharp knife, slice the tuna lengthwise into thirds. Cut each slice into 1 1/2″ squares, until there are 14 squares in all. Set aside.
  4. Lay the sheet of nori on a flat surface, shiny side down. Using a sharp knife, cut out fourteen 1 1/2″ squares. Lay each square on top of a square of of tuna. Set aside. Peel the mango and remove the pit; slice thinly and cut into fourteen 1 1/2″ squares. Place each piece of mango on a nori-topped square of tuna. Set aside.
  5. Remove the panna cotta from the refrigerator and cut out fourteen 1 1/2″ squares; place each square on a stack of tuna, nori and mango. Top each with a small dollop of fish roe, and refrigerate until ready to serve.
  6. Nutrition (per serving): 95 calories, 6.6g total fat, 9.7mg cholesterol, 25.5mg sodium, 176.2mg potassium, 5.3g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 2.5g sugar, 4.8g protein.





Dairy-Free Ranch Dressing

I wasn’t going to post a recipe but, well, I’m all out of random today (to say nothing of running extremely late).  Unless you want to hear me carry on about how The Young One has already outgrown/worn out the shoes that I bought him just 4 months ago.

No?  I didn’t think so.


Since going dairy-free, one of the things that have become problematic have been salads – mostly because my favorite salad dressing is ranch.  Oh, I can (and freuqently do) whip up a mean vinaigrette, but there’s just something about a creamy, zesty ranch dressing – I just love the stuff.

So you can imagine my dilemma when I began planning the menu for our holiday party – I always do a crudité platter, the center of which is a container of ranch dressing for dipping.  I thought for a bit about just making my regular ranch dressing for it (minus the powdered buttermilk – because it’s all powdered, you know), but then I wouldn’t be able to eat it…and that would make me a very unhappy Jan.

So, it was off to the interwebz to do a search for dairy-free ranch dressing!  And, by golly, there are about a million recipes for it – this one is based on the recipe at simplygluten-free.com.  It’s a good, solid recipe except for the vegan “mayonnaise” (I guess it would be okay if you’re avoiding eggs) and agave nectar (I hate to break it to you, but agave nectar is highly refined; even the “raw” stuff undergoes a certain amount of processing).  I tweaked it with real food ingredients, including homemade mayonnaise and raw honey, and it is just wonderful – you wouldn’t know it is dairy free if someone didn’t tell you.  My guests ate it up.

Note:  I use a lot of coconut milk as a dairy substitute, both in recipes and for things like creamer in my coffee.  All of the coconut milk I purchase is organic and when I can find it I buy fair-trade milk in cans that are free of BPA.  And because all of the fat in the recipe comes from the coconut milk and mayonnaise, a serving of this ranch dressing contains about 1/3 fewer calories than commercial dressing – and no industrial seed oils or refined sugars.

Dairy-Free Ranch Dressing

Dairy-Free Ranch Dressing

16 servings, or about 2 cups

1 cup coconut milk
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade
2 teaspoons raw honey
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried mustard
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons garlic powder
2 tablespoons chives, finely minced
2 tablespoons Italian parsley, finely minced

In a small bowl, whisk the coconut milk with the lemon juice and vinegar and let it sit for 5 minutes. Whisk in the remaining ingredients until smooth and  creamy; cover and refrigerate for at least half an hour to allow the flavors to meld and the dressing to thicken.

Keeps well refrigerated for up to one week.

Nutrition (per serving): 88 calories, 9.2g total fat, 8.5mg cholesterol, 139mg sodium, 43.1mg potassium, 1.8g carbohydrates, <1g fiber, 1.1g sugar, <1g protein.

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