Thai Ginger Carrot soup

This soup was a recipe that I made and sold when we had our little cafe here in Playa del Carmen, Mexico.  It was very cost-efficient, I could always find the ingredients, and it froze beautifully.  While I love a brothy soup, I also love how thick this is, without being full of heavy cream.  And never mind that colour!

I find a lot of recipes online that I have to adjust because I cannot find all the ingredients for them here.  Or, if I can, I don’t feel like searching for them only to find them today and not tomorrow.  Even when ingredients seem that they’ll always be there, sometimes they’re not.  For example, this week I couldn’t find icing sugar anywhere.  Icing sugar? Really?  Argh.  It’s like there was an icing sugar convention and every bag in town was bought for desserts and displays.

That’s not what cooking is about to me.  I want it to be delicious, beautiful, different, but I just don’t have the time to spend hours going from store to store, wondering why they had an ingredient last week, but not this.  I would love to spend hours scouring farmers markets, trying all those beautiful options out there, but they don’t exist here.   So, I make the best of what I have, literally.

While I don’t need to be warmed up here very often in the Caribbean, you might need to be, and this soup with do the trick without all those extra calories.  Double it, freeze the leftovers, and warm it up again when you get home late because of a snowy day.

It will warm you and brighten your table.

 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 TAB sesame oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped (I use the Mexican white onion here, but a vidalia would be lovely)
  • 4 garlic cloves, diced
  • 3 inch ginger root, diced
  • 2 lbs carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 thai chili pepper, chopped (I use whatever chili pepper I can find)
  • 5 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 can coconut milk

DIRECTIONS:

Heat sesame oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic, ginger, carrots, and pepper.   Cook, stirring frequently until hot and fragrant, about five minutes.  Add stock.  Simmer, covered, until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

Let cool a little before pureeing in a blender, or use an immersion blender if you have one.  Add coconut milk, puree again.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Green Lentils

Green Lentil Soup

As you already know if you have read my other posts, I don’t always have access to the ingredients that I want here in Mexico.  While I am not a big fan of, or are familiar with Indian food, my husband is, and sometimes I want to try a different flavor palate than the normal salsa, guacamole, and hot sauce.

I really wanted to try Indian Dahl, but I couldn’t find red lentils anywhere.  Either they can’t be found around here, or I didn’t look hard enough.  Fine, I thought, I’ll try something with green lentils.  After all, I have a few friends that choose not to eat meat and are always asking for ideas.  We are huge eaters of chicken in our house, so a vegetarian meal isn’t usually on my mind.  But I’m always up for trying something new.   Even though this is not authentically Indian, it has a punch of flavors that can’t be beat.

For as much as my daughter loves soups, I’ve not made a lot of lentil soups in my life so this was fun to play around with, and amazing how fast a delicious broth can come together with just vegetables and spices.  You can add a lot more broth than I did and than what is pictured, but I wanted you to see the lentils in the bowl so there’s a little less in the picture.

Try it and have a very delicious Meatless Monday.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 TAB coconut oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 TAB ginger, grated
  • 2 teaspoons mustard seeds (optional, I can’t always find them here)
  • 2 teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1 1/2 cups green lentils
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 2 tomatoes, diced

DIRECTIONS:

Place a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add coconut oil.  Add onion, garlic, ginger, and mustard seeds.  Cook for about four minutes, or until mustard seeds start to pop and onion is translucent.  Add all the spices and saute for another 4-5 minutes until fragrant.  Add the lentils and coat well.  Add the stock and tomatoes, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer.  Simmer for 30-40 minutes or until the lentils have softened.  Add more liquid if the lentils start to dry out before cooking through.  Remove from heat, season with salt if necessary.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

When we moved to Mexico 9 years ago, a couple who are our good friends also moved at the same time, within the same week. We didn’t really plan it together, it just sort of ended up happening that way.  It was so comforting dealing with a new way of life with someone else at the same time, struggling with the language, discovering new taco places, and the list goes on.

My husband moved out when he was 15 from the Halifax area to the Annapolis valley in Nova Scotia.  He moved in with a family who already had 7 children and lived with them and worked on their potato farm.  The became his extended family and still are.  There are five boys and two girls, and the wife of this couple was the 3rd child in the line of siblings. Needless to say, a girl with five brothers has to be a little tough.

Visiting their home the first few times was a real eye opener.  I had never see people be so territorial over food.  Of course, I had nobody to fight with over food so why would I.  For example, they used to get milk delivered to the home.  There was always one or two jugs of chocolate milk included.  If, by chance, the two youngest boys inhaled the chocolate milk before the rest returned home, there was hell to pay.  One of my favorite memories of this eldest daughter was that she used to get her own brand of pop (soda) so that she could drink it while doing her duties on the farm.  She stashed it in her room where (she presumed) nobody knew.  One day while visiting I was upstairs and heard a yell and a “WHO DRANK MY POP?”.  By the scurrying of the feet you heard, you could figure out which one of her younger brothers it was.  And scurry they did, for they knew what they had done.  Going into your older sister’s room and stealing her stashed beverage of choice?  Not a good idea if you want to live past tomorrow.

Her and her husband were a lot like us, ready for a new adventure, and so off we all went, ending up in the Mayan Riviera together.  One of the first words I learned in Spanish was “gatito” (kitten), as my animal loving friend was always chasing after abandoned street animals and (usually) forcing me to take them.  I’m pretty sure I ended up with at least three of such kittens from persistence.

After a few years of living here, they deserted us made another move to Antigua, Guatemala.  If you’ve never been, go.  It’s a beautiful colonial city, filled with history, culture, volcanoes, and frankly, some great, I mean great, restaurants. We loved visiting, especially the temperature, which is much cooler than here.

The first time we went to Antigua, after spending a tiring day walking and walking, we came home to supper already made.  My girlfriend prefaced the meal saying it’s nothing exciting just soup hope it’s okay………and all of a sudden the table was full of cheese and avocado and cilantro and tortilla strips, which were all tossed into the bowl and man, did that soup fill my belly.  I may have had two bowls. Okay maybe three.  Who’s counting?

When I asked her for the recipe I’m pretty sure she replied “it’s stupid easy” to which I thought even better!  You can make it in the morning and leave it in a slow cooker, or literally take 15 minutes to make it when you get home.  If you can’t buy tortilla strips where you are, it’s easy to make your own.  Buy some corn tortillas, cut them into strips, and fry them in some vegetable oil until crispy.  But here in Mexico, a massive bag of them costs $1 so I tend to get lazy.  Or just buy a bag of chips and crush them up a little.

Try it, because after all, it’s ‘stupid easy’.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 3/4 cups water (or use chicken broth)
  • 1 14.5 ounce can chicken broth
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 to 2 teaspoons cumin
  • 1/2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, cut into smallish pieces
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed
  • 1 cup chunky salsa

TOPPINGS:

  • shredded Monterrey Jack cheese w/jalapeno peppers
  • broken, baked, or fried corn tortilla chips
  • sour cream
  • cilantro

DIRECTIONS:

In a medium sized pot, combine water, broth, chicken, chili powder, and cumin.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat, simmer, covered 8 minutes.  Add corn, simmer uncovered 5 minutes more.  Stir in salsa and beans, heat through.

To serve, top with toppings of your choice.

 

Roasted Tomato & Basil soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

No matter how much we learn from the environment we were raised in, we all have certain preferences ‘just because’. Some of us prefer savory over sweet, spicy over seasoned, saucy over soupy, and the list goes on.

My daughter has always been a sauce/dip person: fries into ketchup, veggies in ranch (she claims that she invented dipping almonds in Caesar dressing as a snack) and the list goes on. She has also always loved soups as well, and of course, dipping things into that. When we moved here to the Mayan Riviera, we didn’t eat soup as often as we did in Canada because of the climate factor. But, after a while , we sure did miss them.  After all, we spent many a winter’s night comforted by a warm soup or stew.

When I make soup, I always double, triple, whatever the batch, so that I can freeze the leftovers.  I buy these handy little one-liter containers here.  They have massive stores here simply for disposable items so they are everywhere and quite cheap.  It saves me from all of my Tupperware ending up in the freezer. Then, when someone is sick in my family or elsewhere, I miraculously pull (usually chicken noodle) one out of the freezer and proceed to appear like the best mom/friend ever. When in reality, it was just a little bit of planning.  Shhh, don’t tell.

I have roasted many a vegetable and pureed it into soup, but this is hands down my favorite. The original recipe is Ina Garten’s and is very popular on the web.  I personally think any recipe of hers that I’ve tried is pretty much perfect and doesn’t need to be messed with, but I will admit,  I do make a few changes to it just because I like to use all fresh, roasted vegetables, no cans (mostly because when we first moved here, decent Italian canned tomatoes were hard to find).

I love a creamy textured soup, but not with all the dairy in it. This soup is so velvety just with chicken stock. The basil is the shining star here. And because I was being so good, I thought I would treat myself, so I made a grilled cheese sandwich . Of course, you can use any cheese you like.

Hope it keeps you warm this winter.

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 lbs ripe plum tomatoes, cut in half
  • 1/3 cup + 2 Tab olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tab unsalted butter
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 4 cups fresh basil leaves
  • 1 tsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
  • 5 cups chicken stock

 

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat the oven to 400F.  Toss tomatoes with 1/3 cup olive oil.  Lay on a baking sheet (use foil to save cleanup). Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes.

In a large stockpot over medium heat, saute onions and garlic with 2 Tab of olive oil, butter, and red pepper flakes until onion is translucent and starts to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the basil, thyme, chicken stock, and tomatoes.  Bring the soup to a boil, turn down the heat, and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Let cool for a few minutes before transferring the soup to a blender and puree.  Pour back into stockpot and keep warm while you make your grilled cheese if desired.

 

Adapted from The Food Network