Shrimp and Broccoli in Garlic Sauce

shrimp and broccoli headerI’ve always found that the vegetables from Chinese take-out restaurants (so, Americanized Chiense food I suppose) have had a distinct texture and flavour. They always seem to have a nice balance of crunch and tenderness. And that sauce! What is that sauce? You know the one, right? No? Okay…

Well, after making this dish last night, I figured it out! I’m elated to share it with you. This dish was as good as any ol’ Chinese take-out and probably healthier since I know what went into it. I’m not knocking Chinese take-out, though. Heck no. I’m just glad that I can make this at home whenever I want now, and it’s simple. Despite my previous beliefs, there is no big secret here.

shrimp and broccoli in garlic sauce


 

Ingredients

  1. 2 cups of fresh broccoli florets
  2. 1 large carrot, sliced
  3. 1 lb of uncooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
  4. 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  5. 4 large cloves of garlic, minced
  6. 1 cup of low-sodium chicken broth
  7. 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  8. 1/2 teaspoon of fish sauce
  9. 2 teaspoons of grated fresh ginger root
  10. 1/2 cup of water chestnuts, sliced
  11. 2 tablespoons of corn starch

Steam the broccoli and carrots in a steamer for approx. 4-5 minutes or until tender.

Heat the sesame oil in a large skillet or wok over medium-high heat. Sautee the minced garlic until fragrant (approx. 1 minute). Reduce the heat to low and add the chicken broth, soy sauce, fish sauce, and grated ginger root. Bring the mixture to a boil. Add the shrimp and cook for approx. 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the shrimps turn pink. Don’t overcook, or the shrimp will shrink and turn rubbery.

Toss in the steamed vegetables and the water chestnuts. Toss the mixture enough to coat everything. Stir in the corn starch gradually until the sauce thickens (approx. 5 minutes).

Serve over rice or eat it on it’s own!

The Merchant Ale House, St. Catharines – The New Menu and the Inspiration Behind It

543922_525595630805806_1912460218_nIf you live in the Niagara Region, you’ve probably been to The Merchant Ale House. If you haven’t, well, my sympathies. This blog post should convince you to get on that, though!

Nestled in the heart of St. Catharines’ thriving downtown strip, “The Merch” (as most patrons so lovingly refer to it) is hands down my favourite place to enjoy pints and eats. The place has everything going for it: distinctive ales, a warm glow, a cozy atmosphere with scheduled live entertainment, amicable and attentive staff, the heartwarming and distinctive scent of a brew pub, and one heck of a delectable menu. Not only is the food delicious, but the menu choices are inspired, unique, and definitely worth blogging about.

I was enjoying  some afternoon pints with a few friends earlier this year when I got chatting with Steve Cimprich, who happened to be serving the bar. I always love talking food with Steve, so the conversation inevitably veered in that direction. He mentioned that a new menu was in the works and, as a hungry Merch-lovin’ food blogger, I couldn’t help but bombard him with questions. He kept most of it on the d-low, but he did drop the words “fried green tomato sandwich” and “mac and cheese” which tickled my Southern-loving self. It’s pretty evident: Steve isn’t just a guy with a good palate; Steve is a guy with a good palate and a sense of culinary adventure and appreciation. I mean, how cool is it to be able to say that you’ve crafted a menu for one of downtown St. Catharines’ most beloved? I was really interested in chatting with Steve about his ideas, finding out how he came up with recipes, and where his inspiration stemmed from. I excitedly pitched him the idea of doing a story for Killing Thyme: I eat the food, he tells me about his role at The Merch and the inspiration behind the menu, how the response has been, and then I blog about it. I’m a lucky little blogger, because he was into the idea, and here I am with some great things to say.


Let’s start with my feast, shall we?

To kick things off, I enjoyed a favourite of mine: a crisp pint of The Merchant’s Blueberry Wheat.

blueberry ale

As an appetizer, my gal pal and I attacked THE BOARD, which is a lovely charcuterie spread that includes cured meats, fancy cheeses, spreads, pickled vegetables, and breads.

the board

As a cheese board/charcuterie enthusiast, this presentation had me feeling pretty euphoric with all of its brilliant and appetizing selections; it’s the perfect snack to share with a close friend over good conversations and pints.

The Board offers an ever-changing selection of elements. We had the pleasure of creating yummy combinations with genoa salami, mortadella, capicola, onion marmalade, piccalilli relish, pickled beets, maple bourbon goat cheese, smoked cheddar, red pepper jelly, kalamata olives, small fresh tomatoes, and a miniature loaf of fresh bread. An appetizer like this is an adventure, because every bite comprises of different flavours. You really can’t go wrong with The Board.

In addition to The Board, we indulged in some pretty unique Brew House Egg Rolls.

Untitled

These were fantastic. The exterior was crispy, the interior creamy, and they had a nice kick to them which was complimented by the sweet chili dipping sauce that they were paired with. Though a little rich, they aren’t the I hate myself for what I just ate kind of rich; they are a Awww yes, I’m treating myself and I regret nothing kind of rich. Yeah, that’s a thing.

Basically, if you’re into appetizers that offer warm and melt-y cream cheese wrapped up in a crispy shell, like crab rangoons, you need to have these egg rolls in your life. Even if you don’t like spicy dishes, the jalapeno is subtle enough for anyone to enjoy. (Bear in mind that this is coming from someone who has a high tolerance for heat and could probably light her mouth on fire without complaining, so…)

As my main, I ordered the Fried Green Tomato Sandwich. There was no contemplation involved in this decision. Ever since Steve had mentioned the ‘Fried Green Tomato Sandwich’ in our conversation regarding the new menu months earlier, it had been on my mind; I might have fantasized about it once or twice. The first time I had fried green tomatoes was in Savannah, GA and they were incredible. I’d been hankering for some since, but unfortunately it’s rare to see them on any menus here in the North. I’m a sucker for fried green tomatoes to begin with, let alone on a friggin’ sandwich. I had to have this.

fried green tomato sandwich

fried green tomato sandwich2

This sandwich was even more delicious than I had anticipated; it’s crunchy, creamy, spicy, tart, and savoury. There are so many things going on, but no ingredient gets lost among the others. The tart green tomato slices are breaded in panko bread crumbs and served on a potato scallion bun with avocado, basil, Boston bibb lettuce, tomato, and a remarkable roasted red pepper romesco sauce. Writing about this is actually a little painful, because I’d do just about anything to have one of these sandwiches in my face right now.

I loved The Merch’s food before, but my love for it has reached an even greater altitude. When I move to the South next year, I will miss this joint the most.

With all that said, if you have yet to venture into The Merchant Ale House for some grub and pints, do your taste buds a favour. There isn’t much like it around here, and it’s important to appreciate gems like these.


 

So, where on earth did Steve find the inspiration for this noteworthy menu? And how did he get the gig in the first place?

How long have you been at the Merch? What is your title/position?

I started as a bartender at The Merch in June of 2008. I had been a regular there for a couple years while I was attending Niagara College for Hospitality Operations Management. I always loved the atmosphere, the staff, and of course the house-brewed beer. When an opportunity came to become part of the team, I jumped at it.

In 2012 it was becoming apparent to me that the menu (that had been in place for many years) was becoming a bit dated. I always thought The Merch had potential to be as much of a destination for great food as it was for a great drink. I approached the owner, John, with some of my ideas, and began to implement little changes here and there. My shift to a management position happened very organically, and my position evolved over time to what it is now.

As far as my current position goes, I refer to myself as ‘Operations Manager’, but that’s only because I don’t have a good name for what I do. I still act as bartender a couple of shifts a week, but the bulk of my job is analyzing financial performance, crafting menu/beverage strategy, and developing recipes. I just realized that sounds pretty boring, but trust me, each day presents its own challenges. It really is a wonderful job that I couldn’t be more thankful to have.

How did you get involved with the creation of the new menu? Did you have as much influence on the past menu, or was this the first time you had the chance to make the menu your own?

This is the 4th menu that I have had an influence on at The Merch. The first was released in January 2013 after I started my current position in August 2012. When I started looking at our food more closely, it was very apparent that we could do better than we were. That fall we made changes to our two most popular dishes – the burger and the fish’n’chips. We started grinding our own beef in a custom blend, and moved from a pre-made fish batter product to one we could call our own. The results were pretty stunning, and burger sales doubled three months later. The fish was not far behind.

Change was long overdue, and the reactions of our guests was all the evidence we needed. We were nervous of course. After all, the menu at the time had been in place for years, and the restaurant was doing reasonably well. The last thing we wanted to do was alienate our very loyal guests. The beauty of The Merch is how people from all walks of life come together to enjoy the beer. It is as much a place for ‘beer snobs’ as it is for University students. Families can be as comfortable here as the 5 o’clock business crowd. We had to develop a menu philosophy that both excited and included all these people.

Where did you find inspiration for this menu? There are so many unique items. Fried green tomatoes aren’t often seen on menus around here, and then you have mac and cheese egg rolls paired with “fancy ketchup”. What was your vision and what inspired it?

We draw inspiration from all over the place. I try to keep very current with food trends and develop dishes around things I see popping up in the industry. It’s a fine line to walk between unique and approachable. I’ll identify key ingredients that I think our guests will enjoy and then build dishes around those. A couple examples are:

Chorizo – once you see an exotic ingredient being sold at a deli counter, it’s a safe bet that a good chunk of the population is becoming familiar with it. Last summer I went to Cape Cod and had the best fish sandwich of my life. The summer before that on a visit to San Francisco and had an amazing ‘spreadable salami’ by Chef Chris Cosentino at his deli counter in the Ferry plaza Farmer’s Market. I had it in my head that I wanted to do a kind of ‘surf & turf’ application in a sandwich that combined these two experiences. We sourced some Great Lake Erie perch, and made a spreadable Chorizo with extra smoked paprika. The two things married well, but needed a little added kick. We played with a couple possibilities, but pickled red onions stood head and shoulders above the rest with their sweet tang and awesome pink colour from the red wine vinegar. Our Crispy Perch Sandwich was born!

Romesco – some dishes just happen by accident. We have a large vegan community in downtown St. Catharines, and we like to provide them with options at the Ale House. I have a secret (embarrassing) love for Fried Green Tomatoes the film, and really wanted to utilize them as an ingredient on this menu. All too often vegan friendly items on menus are just boring throw-away piles of vegetables. I want to make sure that we develop vegan items that are as interesting as our other options, and that even a carnivore would be happy eating. We’re not afraid to venture outside of typical boundaries when it comes to regional cuisine. The fried green tomato sandwich was great – hearty, crunchy, sour, salty. But it needed something to round everything out. I racked my brain for a vegan friendly condiment, and it finally came to me. I had a roasted eggplant dish with romesco at a Spanish Tapas restaurant in Melbourne called Movida. The texture and vegetal quality of eggplant is very similar to the green tomatoes, so I tried it out. It was wonderful, and based on the feedback we have gotten on the dish, it achieved everything we wanted it to.

Some dishes are inspired by just things I’ve grown up with. The Paisano is very similar to hundreds (and hundreds) of sandwiches I’ve eaten at my Nana and Nono’s house ever since I was a boy. I find it really rewarding to be able to present diners with a little piece of my childhood when I can. High quality Italian deli meats, sharp cheese, fresh chewy bread, and spicy pickled vegetables. If I were on a desert island, these are the things I would take with me.

How long did it take to come up with this menu, dabble with recipes, and come to final decisions? Can you talk about that process a bit?

Typically we try to release a menu just before February, and again just before September. Development is ongoing through the whole six month period between releases. It can take many iterations of a dish before we decide it is ready to offer to our customers.

Something I find critically important to the menu design process is input from the amazingly talented kitchen staff that we have. There are some really passionate people with varied experiences working for us. Megan’s focaccia is to die for and needed to be something we offered. Without Dane’s input, our Chicken Nuggets wouldn’t be what they are today. I often give people free reign to try to develop menu components, and I am very often rewarded with results that are superior to something I would have done myself.

What menu items are you most excited about? Brag away – you’ve earned it.

I’m really proud of our Taco platter. On a trip to L.A. In 2011 I had some really wonderful tacos. They were served very simply with beautiful tortillas, sour onions, and cilantro. When I discovered a local tortilla producer on Hartzel road, I knew we had to offer them to our guests. I attempted to replicate the onions I had in California by curing them in salt and lime juice, and they ended up being a great pairing with our smoked pork. We make a sauce for them with chipotles, charred bell peppers, and tomatoes. We serve them with cilantro, the cured onions, guacamole, lettuce, sour cream, and pico de gallo so they are more in line with people’s tastes in our area. They’ve been a big hit at the restaurant.

Something I don’t think many people know about The Merch is that we use some pretty modern cooking techniques and principles in the creation of our dishes. We use the Sous Vide cooking technique to make sure our chicken is as juicy as possible. We’ve used modernist cuisine ingredients like sodium citrate and transglutaminase to create unique experiences for our guests. I kind of love that they don’t know, too. They think they are just eating really good food at a great price. They don’t know they are getting food that undergoes some of the same processes that high-end restaurants in Toronto offer. I’m not gonna pretend that we are as innovative or exceptional as some of these places, but with every menu we put out we get a little bit better. We’re all learning and growing together. I’m very proud of the evolution of the food program at the Merch, and I look forward to the future.

The Merch has a dedicated group of patrons, no doubt. What has the response been like?

Overall the response has been incredibly positive. We’ve recently had record months in times that have traditionally been the slowest time of year for us. It’s evidence that what we are doing is really resonating with locals.

However, we try to keep the menu size to around 25 items so we can keep a tight control on food quality. Since we change the menu twice a year, some people’s favourites inevitably get bumped for something new. I know what a bummer it can be to go to a restaurant for that thing you have been eating for years, only to find it off the menu. All we can do is build enough trust with our guests so that they can feel confident trying new items without being disappointed.

For fun, can you name a couple of new dishes and pair them with a suitable Merch ale?

This one is hard. We decided early on that we weren’t going to dictate (or even suggest) which beers people should enjoy with a particular dish. I mean, obviously if you choose to drink the Oatmeal Stout with the Shrimp Ceviche you are gonna have a bad time. That being said, most of our beers are very ‘sessionable’, and this ‘easy-on-the-palate’ quality allows them to be enjoyed with a wide variety of foods.

I really like The Paisano with our Extra Special Bitter. I find the pronounced hops really cut through the fattiness of the deli meats on your tongue. The malty Old Time Hockey Ale pairs wonderfully with the Mac & Cheese, and gives you a really good ‘full belly’ feeling. At the end of the day though, drink whatever makes you feel great!

A big thank you to Steve Cimprich for his time and his talent, a big thank you to The Merch staff for their awesome service and hard work, and a big thank you to Carly Turner for being my date!

 

Like The Merchant Ale House on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.

 
Merchant Ale House on Urbanspoon
 

Chocolate Toffee Bark

 

chocolate toffee bark 2 header

This stuff is dangerous. I would never make these cookies just to have at home, because they are a total rebellion against the waistline (but impossible to refuse). The good news is that it’s almost the holiday season, and with the holiday season comes social gatherings and cookie exchanges. Whatever it may be, you need to find an excuse to make these.


Ingredients

  1. 20-26 graham cracker squares (one to two sleeves)
  2. 1 cup of butter
  3. 1 cup of white or brown sugar
  4. 1 1/2 cups of semi-sweet chocolate chips
  5. 1/2  cup toffee bits
  6. Sea salt to garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

While the oven heats up, line a baking sheet with tin foil and give it a nice spritz with a non-stick spray.

Line the baking sheet with graham cracker squares. Ensure that they all lay flat in one single layer.

In a saucepan, melt down the butter and sugar over medium-low heat, bringing it to a slow boil. Reduce heat and simmer for two minutes.

Disperse the butter/sugar mixture (which is now considered toffee, magic!) over the graham crackers. Ensure that all of the crackers are covered evenly.

Place in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes.

While the crackers are baking, melt the chocolate chips. I avoid melting chocolate in the microwave because it overcooks and burns too easily. I find that melting chocolate on the stove top results in a much smoother consistency. Just find a heat-safe bowl or another pot, and place it on top of a pot of barely simmering water. You’re basically steaming it. Just make sure to stand by and stir it as needed.

When the graham crackers are good to go (the toffee will start to bubble up), remove and immediately spread the melted chocolate on top of the toffee and crackers. Ensure that the squares are covered completely and evenly.

Sprinkle the toffee bits on top, and garnish with a few pinches of sea salt.

Set aside and allow the tray to cool. Once at room temperature, put them in the fridge for a few hours to firm them up properly.

Break into pieces! You don’t have to be fancy here – that’s why I call it “bark” rather than “squares”.

It’s all in the name…

chocolate toffee 5

Tortellini Soup

tortellini soup header

I really need to work on taking photos of broth-y soups. Thick puréed soups? Got it. Creamy soups? No problem. Broth-y soups? Here’s a bowl of swamp water!

Because it’s soup season, and I’m on an apparent soup kick, I thought it made sense to whip up my easy-peasy not very Italian but it will do tortellini soup.

I like to treat this soup as a soothing chicken soup that has teamed up with tortellini soup.

I think what I’m trying to actually say, without saying it, is that I have no idea how to make legit tortellini soup, so I’ve created a chicken broth-based soup that has tortellini in it. Ha.


Ingredients

  1. 8 cups of chicken stock (homemade or not, either of them work)
  2. 2 cups of water
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 1/2 of one onion, diced
  5. 1 large stalk of celery, sliced
  6. 1 cup of celery leaves, finely chopped (optional)
  7. 1 large carrot, sliced
  8. 2 cups of meat tortellini (you could totally use cheese tortellini if you prefer)
  9. 2 tablespoons of olive oil

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot.

Add the chopped garlic, and simmer on medium-low heat until fragrant. Don’t brown the garlic, because then it gives off a bitter taste.

garlic

chopped garlic

Dice that 1/2 onion of yours, and add it to the garlic.

onion

Simmer on medium-high heat until the onions are translucent.

Now, add the celery and carrots.

celery 1

celery 2

carrot

Add a splash of chicken stock and allow the vegetables to simmer until they have softened.

Add the rest of the chicken stock and the water. Bring to a boil, and then add the tortellini.

tortellini close up

Bring the heat down to a low simmer, and allow the soup to simmer until the tortellini floats.

You can serve this right away if you’d like, it is delicious right off the bat! But like most broth-y soups, it’s even better when the flavours have been left to mingle for a few hours.

tortellini 3

tortellini

 

Homemade Granola Bars

granola bars header

I’ve been meaning to try my hand at these for a long time, but it kept slipping my mind. What can I say? I’m easily distracted by recipes containing cheeses, decadent soups, and fancy sandwiches. Granola? Ain’t nobody got time for that!

I’ve learned that the latter statement is very untrue, however. I was floored by how delicious these were, and they really took no time at all. So, no excuses – everyone got time for that.

My favourite thing about these homemade granola bars is that you can get creative with flavours and ingredients. Once you’ve got your granola (which is basically just toasted oats), simply pick a fruit, a nut, a seed, a natural sweetener if you wish, and a “glue”. (By glue, I mean something to keep everything together. Like peanut butter, or a mashed ripened banana. Please don’t use glue…)

You can also choose weather or not you toast the oats and nuts. I always opt for toasting, because I love that toasty flavour. The walnut was my nut of choice.

toasted granola

toasted granola 2

Okay, so here are my chosen ingredients.

My fruit – funny story, haha nervous laugh hahaha. I purchased a package of dates, and I was really excited about them. I thought they’d add a nice natural sweetness, soft texture, all the while helping to act as a glue to keep everything together. But…they were hard as rocks. Thanks, supermarket, for being on top of that…

So, I guess you can say that I had a bad date this weekend?

I didn’t have any other dried fruits lying around, so I had to skip the fruit. [Insert frustrated hand gestures here].

For my seed, I chose pumpkin seeds because it’s fall, and I’m a basic white girl, and apparently basic white girls love “pumpkin everything” in the fall. Truthfully though, I bought a big bag of hulled, pre-roasted and salted pumpkin seeds at a bulk market the other day; they are so delicious, I just couldn’t help myself. I’m also a huge sucker for the sweet and salty combination.

pumpkin seeds 3

pumpkin seeds 2

For my natural sweetener, I used honey. Agave nectar is another great choice, and maple syrup also works. I just wasn’t in a maple mood. 

For my “glue”, I went with all natural cashew butter. Guys, THIS STUFF. It is sinfully delicious.

cashe butter

cashe butter 2

By heating this up in a pan on low with the honey, you create the perfect “glue”.

butter honey melt


Ingredients

  1. 2 cups of rolled oats
  2. 1/2 cup of hulled pumpkin seeds, roasted and salted (salt is optional)
  3. 1/2 cup of chopped walnuts
  4. 1/4 cup of organic honey
  5. 1/4 cup of all natural cashew butter
  6. 2 tablespoons of psyllium husks (optional)
  7. 2 tablespoons of ground chia seeds (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Spread the oats and nuts on a baking sheet. Spread everything out evenly so that you get even toasting all around. A few pieces may toast a bit more than others, but that offers a variation of flavour and colour, so I don’t mind that.

Bake for approx. 7 minutes or until the oats and nuts turn tanned and give off a nutty aroma.

Occasionally shift the oats and nuts around with a spatula to prevent burning.

I have never spoken about nuts so much in one sitting before. Obviously I haven’t lived.

I would highly suggest not using oils when toasting your oats. The oats can absorb the oil, which can affect the flavour and texture of whatever you use them in. Nobody wants a soggy, oily granola bar.

Once your oats and nuts are toasted, set them aside to cool.

In a pan or skillet, combine the cashew butter and honey. With the heat on low, mix until the two are combined and have a smooth consistency. Stir constantly to avoid burning. This should only take approx. 3 minutes, if that.

Toss the oats, nuts, pumpkin seeds, psyllium husks, and ground chia seeds into a large bowl, and pour the cashew butter and honey mixture into the mix.

With a spatula or wooden spoon, stir and mix thoroughly to ensure that the “glue” picks up all of the ingredients. You basically want everything to clump together.

mixing granola

Place some parchment paper in an 11 x 7 inch baking dish (or smaller, if you want thicker bars).

Pour the mixture into the pan, on top of the parchment paper, and spread the ingredients out evenly, flattening and pressing down to secure everything.

granola pan

Pop this in the fridge for 30 mins, or the freezer for 15-20 minutes, so that the mixture solidifies. Then take them out, cut them up, and they’re good to go! You can also just crumble it and make granola crumble, which can be used on cereal or eaten with yogurt – it’s delicious, no matter how you eat it.

granola bars cut

granola bars 2

granola bars 5

granola bars 6

Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream

pumpkin pie ice cream header

A slice of pumpkin pie and a heaping scoop of vanilla ice cream have always been the classic Thanksgiving dessert in my family. It’s a little heartbreaking that this particular dessert only makes it to the table once a year following the turkey feast, but on the other hand, I think it’s appreciated that much more.

I’ve sort of been disloyal to this combination, however – but for good reason! I did a merge!
A wonderful, delicious, and impressive merge.

pumpkin pie ice cream

This ice cream is spun with pumpkin purée and is spiced with cloves, nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, and laced with molasses. To finish it off and really give it that “pie” effect, a crumbled graham crust is added to the mix. It’s a real hit, and it totally nails the flavour of a classic pumpkin pie.

pumpkin pie ice cream 3


Ingredients

  1. 1  1/2 cups of whole milk
  2. 1 cup of light or dark brown sugar
  3. 2 tablespoons of molasses
  4. 1  3/4 cups of pumpkin purée (NOT pumpkin pie filling).
  5. 1  1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  6. 1 teaspoon of freshly grated ginger
  7. 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg
  8. 2  1/2 cups of heavy cream
  9. 1 teaspoon of vanilla extract
  10. 1 cup of broken graham crust (broken into chunks)

 

In a medium mixing bowl, combine the milk, brown sugar, and molasses with a hand mixer (low speed). Mix for about 1-2 mins, or until the sugar is dissolved.

Stir in the pumpkin purée, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.

Add the heavy cream and vanilla.

Turn your ice cream machine on and pour the mixture into the freezer bowl. Let it mix until the mixture has thickened – approx. 20-25 mins.

During the last five minutes of mixing, add the crumbled graham crust.

Transfer the ice cream into a cardboard pint or container and freeze for a firmer texture.

Remove from the freezer approx. 15 mins before serving.

pumpkin pie ice cream 2

 

 

 

Red Curry Coconut Squash Soup

red curry coconut squash

I have a declaration to make. Here it is: NEW FAVOURITE SOUP!

I am not quite sure if I can properly explain how perfect this soup is. It’s comforting, it has lively flavours, and it has a nice touch of heat. The garnishes add a lot to the experience too, but I’ll get to that later.

While making this soup, I was a little worried about two things:

  1. That is was going to be too rich, and/or
  2. That it was going to be too sweet

I’m so happy to say that it was neither; the flavours were perfectly balanced. The first spoonful I tasted as I pureed the mixture put me in one of those moments of pure culinary glory! You know when you feel as though you’ve outdone yourself? Anyone who enjoys playing around in the kitchen is familiar with this feeling, I’m sure. I mean, we all know what we are capable of and we know how we do with challenges BUT – every once in a while you rock a recipe and knock your own socks off.

That was this soup for me today, and I’m really excited to share it with you.


 

Ingredients

  1. 1 medium sized butternut squash
  2. 2 roasted red peppers, sliced
  3. 1/2 onion, chopped
  4. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  5. 14 oz (approx.) of coconut milk (I used Asian Creations Thai coconut milk, 1 can)
  6. 1/2 cup skim milk
  7. 2 tablespoons of red curry paste
  8. 1 tablespoon of ginger, freshly grated
  9. 2 tablespoons of butter
  10. 1 tablespoon of coconut oil

Optional garnishes

  1. sliced scallions
  2. toasted and salted squash seeds
  3. shrimp

 

Cut up your veggies.

Cutting and peeling squash is a royal pain, but it’s all worth it in the end. I highly suggest keeping the squash seeds when cleaning out the squash – they make a great garnish! I wasn’t sure how that was going to turn out; it was one of those random and crazy Dana ideas (and those don’t always work out!) but I’m really stoked that this idea was a winner.

squash

seeds

Give them a good rinse.  Then, in a small pot filled with just enough salted water to cover the seeds, bring them to a boil for approx. 5 mins. Remove them from the heat, drain them, and pat them dry. Toss them in a small splash of olive oil and sea salt, and then roast them at approx. 325 degrees for 10 mins. or until they have a nice crunch.

squash seeds

Cut the squash into cubes.

squash cubed

In a soup pot, melt down the butter and coconut oil on medium-high heat,

melting butter and oil

Add the onions and cook for approx. 3 mins. or until translucent. Then, add the garlic, ginger, roasted peppers, red curry paste, and squash.

red curry

cooking veggies

 

Mix thoroughly, and cook this for approx 5-7 mins. Add some extra butter if the pot dries up to avoid burning any of the veggies.

Add the coconut milk and skim milk, and bring to a boil.

coconut milk

simmering

Once the soup comes to a rolling boil, bring the heat down to a simmer and let the soup simmer for approx. 25 mins., stirring often.

Once the squash is cooked through and soft (you can test this with a fork), turn off the heat.

Transfer portions of the soup/veggies to a blender or food processor and puree. You will likely want to do this in batches to avoid an overflowing processor. Just have a big bowl nearby and empty the puree into the big bowl as you go. I did mine in three batches.

Serve as is, or with the aforementioned garnishes.

red curry coconut squash 1

red curry coconut squash 3

red curry coconut squash 5

 

 

 

 

Guest Blogger Boursin Burger – Chilaquiles

Have you ever had one of those days where you ate a big Mexican feast the night before, and you don’t know what to eat the morning after? I’ve got true Mexican comfort food for you – a breakfast dish that will help recycle your latino leftovers, your excess eggs, your superfluous salsa, your tired tortillas, your … okay, fine. Let’s get to it. I present:
Chilaquiles! (chee-lah-KEE-lace)
IMG_6541

Photo credit: Boursin Burger


Because this dish is typically made from leftovers, the ingredient list is never precise. Use whatever you have on hand and whatever you think will taste good. The essential things you need to have are:
  • Stale tortillas or chips
  • Salsa
  • Vegetable oil
  • Pinches of salt
Suggestions to add in to the mix are:
  • Eggs
  • Meat
  • Onions
  • Hot Sauce
  • Bell Peppers
  • Jalapeño Peppers
  • Shredded Cheese
Suggestions for garnishes:
  • Cilantro
  • Green onions
  • Lime wedges
  • Avocado or Guacamole
  • Creme Fraiche, Mexican Crema, or Sour Cream

IMG_6539


Tear or slice your leftover tortillas into strips or triangles. Prepare other ingredients as needed – Chop the onions, make extra salsa, grow more peppers, etc.
In a cast iron skillet on medium heat, add 1/3 cup of vegetable oil. Once the oil gets nice and hot, add the tortillas and stir-fry them until they become crispy and begin to brown. Remove them from the heat onto a couple of paper towels, and sprinkle on a pinch of salt. If you have leftover chips, fry those too, but they’ll need less frying time – just long enough to bring the crispness back. Transfer them on paper towels.
Drain the excess oil from the skillet, leaving only a coating.
Next, cook your eggs. I’ve seen this recipe prepared with fried, scrambled, over easy, and sunny side eggs. Make them however you like. It’s your damn breakfast, after all. Transfer them to a side plate once they’re done. I made mine scrambled with some fajita seasoning sprinkled on top.
Clean out the skillet and coat with oil again. Cook anything extra that you want cooked prior to final preparation. That includes your meats, onions, and peppers if you don’t like to eat them raw. While the pan is still hot with your cooked ingredients inside, add the salsa, let it come to a boil and reduce the water content. When it’s at a ketchup-like consistency, add the fried tortillas and chips. Toss to coat the chips in the sauce. You want the chips to soften slightly, yet still retain their crunch. Add anything else to be heated up before serving, such as shredded cheese.
Transfer the hot and delicious mess onto a plate and add your eggs and cold garnishes. Enjoy your improvised breakfast!
boursin burger
Boursin Burger is a guest blogger at KillingThyme.net

Pumpkin Spice French Toast

pumpkin spice french toast

 

Yep, here it is – white girl in yoga pants writing about Pumpkin Spice.

This recipe just sort of came to me this morning out of the blue. There I stood in the kitchen, gazing out the window and sipping my coffee (in my yoga pants), when it hit me: I haven’t blogged ‘pumpkin spice’ ANYTHING this fall!

I hadn’t had breakfast yet; I had a beautiful fresh loaf of Italian bread on the counter, and a brand spankin’ new container of Pumpkin Pie Spice in the spice drawer. Hey-ooo!


Ingredients

  1. 4 slices of fresh Italian bread
  2. 2 eggs, beaten
  3. 2 tablespoons of butter
  4. 1/3 cup of milk
  5. 2 teaspoons of brown sugar
  6. 2 tablespoons of pumpkin pie spice
  7. Maple syrup on the side
  8. A few pinches of icing sugar

 

In a small bowl, beat the eggs.

egg beaten

 

Remember that video game Parappa The Rappa or something? Anytime I crack eggs into a bowl I think about that…

Crack crack crack the egg into the bowl

 

egg shells

Add the milk, and beat until combined.

Add the brown sugar and the pumpkin pie spice, then whisk until well mixed.

sugar

pumpkin pie spice

 

Pour the egg mixture into a pie plate for easy dipping.

Heat the butter in a non-stick skillet. Once the butter is melted and the skillet is hot, bring the temp down to medium heat.

Slice the bread and start dipping.

fresh bread

fresh bread 2

bread dip

Dip, dip, dip the bread into the…okay. I’ve got nothin’ on Parappa.

Moving along.

Place the bread slices in the hot skillet and fry until browned on each side (approx. 3-4 mins per side, flipping between mins).

Sprinkle some icing sugar on top, and serve with maple syrup!

french toast 1

syrup

 

 

 

Minestrone Soup

minestrone soup header

 

It’s soup season – I can’t really complain about that! I mean, I can – for other reasons (scraping frost off of the windshield in the mornings, dry hands, hair full of static, and the impending doom otherwise known as “winter”), but let’s remain positive: Soups! Sandwiches! Soups and sangs!

It also helps to keep in mind that this is my last Canadian winter before I move South. Fortunately, North Carolina still has “soup weather”, it just isn’t followed by a polar vortex.

High five to having the best of both worlds! Soon, soon.

But until then, I’ll continue to warm my belly here in chilly Canada by making tasty soups like this minestrone soup.


 

Ingredients

  1. 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  2. 1/2 of a large onion, diced
  3. 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 1/2 large carrot, sliced
  5. 1/2 cup of cut-up green beans
  6. 1 cup of kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  7. 2 cups of stewed tomatoes
  8. 3 cups of tomato juice
  9. 3 cups of low sodium chicken broth
  10. 2 tablespoons of Italian seasoning
  11. 1 cup of small pasta shells (or 2 handfuls of the large shells, which is what I had here)
  12. Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste

 

Start by heating the oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the sliced onion.

onions

Saute until the onions are translucent (approx. 5 mins.)

Add the minced garlic.

garlic

Saute for approx. 30 seconds, stirring regularly. Don’t brown the garlic, as that will leave you with a bitter taste (literally, and probably figuratively, too).

Add the sliced carrots.

carrots

Saute until they begin to soften up. This too should only take approx. 5 mins.

Stir in the green beans, Italian seasoning, 3/4 teaspoon of sea salt, and some ground black pepper. Cook for approx. 5 mins.

At this point, add the stewed tomatoes, the chicken broth, and the tomato juice. Bring to a rolling boil, and then reduce the heat to medium low. Simmer for 10 mins.

minestrone soup 4

Add the kidney beans.

kidney beans

Then, add the pasta.

Stir well and let simmer until the pasta is cooked. (Approx. 10 mins.)

Enjoy on it’s own, or with a sandwich!

minestrone soup