Sunday, September 18, 2016

Scenes from My Pantry: Coconut Chicken Corn Chowder

Soup is on! One of my favorite ingredients in soup is coconut milk. Coconut milk provides a smooth and creamy base without the heaviness of cream.  This recipe not only delivers coconut milk as a layer of flavor but the base of the broth is simmered with fresh corn cobs to release the milky sweet liquid from the cobs.

This soup represents the segway from late summer ingredients fresh corn and basil to the early hints of fall with sweet potato. This soup is easy to prepare and it is even better the next day!

Coconut Chicken Corn Chowder
Serves 4
Recipe from Clean Eating

2 large ears corn, husked
1 tsp. coconut oil
1 cup finely diced celery  (about 4 stalks)
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal, light and dark green parts divided
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt, divided
1/8 tsp ground white or black pepper
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup full fat coconut milk
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, diced
1/2 sweet potato (about 5 ounces)
1/2 cup thinly sliced fresh basil 
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut flakes (or shredded coconut), toasted

1.   Cut kernels from corn, reserving cobs.  In a large saucepan, heat oil on medium.  Add corn kernels, celery and light parts of onions and cook, stirring, often, until celery and onions are translucent, 6 to 8 minutes.  Add garlic, 1/4 tsp salt and pepper, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

2.   Meanwhile, snap reserved corn cobs in half.  In a separate saucepan, bring corn cobs and chicken broth to a boil.  Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 5 minutes.  Strain through a fine mesh sieve into corn mixture; discard corn cobs.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cook,
stirring occasionally, until corn kernels are tender, 8 to 10 minutes.

3.   Using a slotted spoon, transfer about 1 cup of the corn kernel mixture to a blender; add coconut milk and puree until smooth.

4.   Stir chicken and sweet potato into broth mixture.  Increase heat to medium, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is cooked through and sweet potato is tender, 3 to 5 minutes.

5.   Stir in coconut milk mixture and cook until heated through.  Remove from heat and stir in dark green parts of onions, basil and remaining 1/4 tsp salt.  To serve, top with coconut flakes.


Monday, September 5, 2016

Table for Two: Lasagna Baked Penne

"Quiet the mind, and the soul will speak"~ Ma Ja Sati Bhagavati

As the idea of becoming an empty nester started to really take hold, so did the notion of making a real change in my perspective and priorities.  My mind and body are in constant motion providing a free uninhibited physical and mental space for irrelevant worries, tasks, endless to do lists, unknowns, projects, self-improvement, insecurities and the list goes on and on all fueled by projects, plans, and goals.  I have finally accepted that my energy is not boundless, and how it is expended lies entirely up to me.

As my youngest headed off to college to experience his new found independence, my husband and I took off for a serious vacation with friends from Spain.  This was an out of the ordinary vacation that took us from New York City on the east coast to the west coast from California to Washington.  During our journey the clutter in my brain began to diminish and with the natural beauty that surrounded me daily,  I was more reflective.  It was the small things that were having the most impact on me like eating simple meals at the table with friends in the late afternoon, drinking a glass of wine in the evening while staring at the sunset on Puget Sound and waking up to strong hot coffee in the morning.   My body physically moved most of the day but not to the noise of stress and exhaustion but to the humming of a more natural rhythm.

This was the moment of epiphany and it was crystal clear it was time to make real changes.

Where to begin....Started by making simple changes to my lifestyle which includes a simple meal plan scribbled on a piece of scrap paper.  No eating over the sink or while in motion.  Actually sitting at the table and eating.

Starting each day a little earlier to enjoy the pleasure of just sitting and enjoying my cup of coffee. This allows me to feel more centered and slowly move into my day.  Followed by ending my day a little earlier to give myself a little more downtime.

Enjoying a simply prepared pasta dish on Sunday serves as a good meal and a couple of healthy lunches during the week. This pasta dish provides for a generous helping of leafy greens and all the comforts of baked lasagna without having to take the time to layer.

Lasagna Baked Penne with Kale and Mozzarella
Serves 4
Recipe from Hello Fresh

1-lb. ground beef
12 oz Penne Pasta
1 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced or grated
8-oz kale, ribs discarded
2 tsp. oregano
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Chili flakes, to taste
1 14.5 oz diced tomatoes
4 tsp olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil.  Add the penne to the boiling water and cook for 9-11 minutes, until al dente.  Drain.

Heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Add chopped onion to the pan and cook, tossing 4-5 minutes, until softened.  Add the beef, garlic and oregano, and as much chili flakes as you like to the pan. Cook, breaking up the meat, until browned.  Season with salt and pepper.

In a large bowl, toss together the drained penne, beef mixture, tomatoes, kale, and half the mozzarella.  Season with salt and pepper.

Transfer to a lightly oiled baking dish (9x13) and sprinkle with panko and remaining mozzarella.  Place in oven for 12-15 minutes, or until browned and bubbling.