February 29, 2012

Smoky split pea soup

Some people turn up their noses at split pea soup, but not me. It is truly one of my favorites and has been since I was a kid. I usually make it with the leftover holiday ham and bone, but this time I went with some applewood smoked bacon. I also added some smoked paprika for the additional smokiness along with lots of extra veggies like carrots and potatoes. I have been craving comfort foods lately, and split pea soup is definitely one of those for me. I love soup on dreary, cool days. It lifts your spirits and makes you feel warm inside.

If you or someone you love is on the fence when it comes to split pea soup, try this recipe out on them. Maybe they have never had a homemade version and you can change their mind. While it may not be the prettiest soup, it is delicious. Serve this soup with some crusty bread and/or a side salad for a complete meal. This recipe will make a large pot of soup - perfect for lunch leftovers the next day. 

February 24, 2012

Citrus and spice roasted chicken with spaghetti squash and chickpeas

I came up with this dinner as I was trying to devise a way to use up the last spaghetti squash we had stored in the basement. While I think my love of winter squash has become pretty apparent on this blog, spaghetti has always been my least favorite. But, since my father-in-law grows it each year, I've been trying to find ways to use it more creatively so I will like it more. I succeded with this meal - the spaghetti squash was really good paired with some cumin, coriander, garlic and creamy chickpeas. It complimented the spiced chicken nicely. Speaking of the chicken - the spices on these chicken thighs formed a crisp crust from the addition of some brown sugar to the mix. The chicken had a combination of citrus zest and spices that were slathered all over the skin (as well as underneath it), which made the chicken really flavorful. Since the chicken was so flavorful, the spaghetti squash (which is pretty bland by itself) was a great canvass to create a side dish to pair with it.

February 19, 2012

Avocado-chocolate pudding

I don't really make or eat pudding very often (actually, I cannot remember the last time I ate pudding before this), but when I saw this recipe, I knew it was genius! I mean, using an avocado as the base of a chocolate pudding - what a great idea! I do admit, I was mildly suspicious that there would be some lurking avocado flavor or some lingering green chunks. I could taste a hint of avocado flavor, but it was not at all off-putting or strong. This pudding is so thick, creamy, and rich I bet your family and friends will have no idea that they are eating an avocado under all the chocolaty sweetness. So, make this quick and easy dessert the next time you have a chocolate craving. This recipe will make two servings.

February 14, 2012

Kao soi

Kao soi (sometimes spelled Khao soi) is a curried noodle and chicken soup from Chiang Mai, Thailand. When I went to Thailand a few years ago as an undergraduate student to do water quality research, I had absolutely no idea what to expect. Aside from the amazing research experience, I also met wonderful people and fell in love with the cuisine and culture. My absolute favorite new food was Kao soi. We would often eat it for lunch just after doing our morning field work in the rice paddies and before going to the lab. The first time I ate this dish, I was blown away. It seemed so simple - a big bowl of curried broth and noodles along with a chicken drumstick, but the flavors were anything but. And, as with much Thai food, there's a big plate of adornments to add on top: cilantro, thinly sliced onions, lime wedges, chili sauce, and soy bean paste.

A couple of years ago, my Thai friend came here to do a semester exchange, so I got to see her a lot. She brought along with her some special Thai yellow curry so that she could try to teach me to make Kao soi at home. Luckily, we have a substantial Asian population in our area, and lots of little Asian markets. So, after we visited a few of these, we gathered up suitable ingredients to attempt to make this dish. It was wonderful! While we were making it, I was making some mental notes and she was writing down a list of ingredients. Since then, I have not tried to replicate Kao soi on my own. Mainly because I felt like I'd be disappointed if I didn't get it "right" and also because I couldn't find the special yellow curry paste.

Recently, I received a copy of the cookbook Thai Food for my birthday. In it, there is a recipe for Kao soi. So I decided to give it a try again, this time all on my own. I went to an Asian grocery and asked if they had a Thai yellow curry paste, and they did - the writing was all in Thai and I never would have known that's what it was... I also found a package of fresh Asian style noodles. With those in hand, the rest of the ingredients are easily available at most large grocery stores. You can find Thai Kitchen brand red curry paste and it's actually pretty good. While I have made green curry paste before, I have not attempted red or yellow - it can be hard because finding galangal and keffir lime can be difficult, and the store-bought pastes already contain these ingredients. The result was a success - the smell made me so happy and the taste made me quite ecstatic. It was very close to my memory of eating Kao soi from a small noodle shop in Chaing Mai.

On the the recipe... This is a combination of the cookbook recipe, my friend's recipe, and my memory. Many of the measurements are not exact because of the heat/spice levels -- taste and adjust to your liking. This recipe will make about four servings.


February 11, 2012

Coconut pancakes

These pancakes are for the serious coconut lovers out there. I promised myself at the end of 2011 that I would make more new pancakes this year. I love making all kinds of pancakes, but surprisingly, I only made two new types last year! These coconut ones are my first pancakes of 2012 and were inspired by this recipe. They are loaded with coconut milk, shredded coconut, and coconut oil. If I had some coconut flour on hand, I probably would have tried to incorporate that, too.

It's actually snowing here today. I live in western New York state, and to not have snow in January and February is pretty crazy. But, this morning I woke up to a light fluffy falling snow and a white-covered ground. Pancakes like these are a perfect treat for a wintery morning like this along with a hot cup of coffee or tea (and some bacon, too, please). I served my pancakes with some extra shredded coconut that I lightly toasted, semi-sweet chocolate chips, and some warmed maple syrup. The combination was really great and I highly recommend the chocolate. This recipe will serve about three people. 

February 7, 2012

Spinach-artichoke dip

Spinach-artichoke dip reminds me of being in high school or even early college... it's the appetizer we would get when my friends and I first starting eating out by ourselves (i.e., without parents around). It was really popular at every chain sit-down restaurant (and probably still is). I haven't had spinach-artichoke dip in years and I've never made it at home until now. I've looked at recipes for it over the years, but I always found them to be full of mayo and just not that appealing when it was broken down into its ingredients. But, I recently saw a recipe on the Smart Cookie's blog that inspired me to make some spinach-artichoke dip at home. I loved this recipe - it was soooo gooey and creamy, but it also had a lot of spinach flavor as well as a slight onion and garlic flavor. Underneath that layer of golden cheese is a ton of spinach. It was way better than any dip I remember eating in those restaurants back in the day.

Forgive my not-so-pretty dish -- I don't have that many broiler safe dishes. Also, there was no way we were waiting to eat this dip while I tried to get a great shot or transfer the dip to a different serving dish. You want it while it's hot and bubbling! Serve this dip with corn chips, celery sticks, and any other vegetable of your choice. Make it for your next gathering - it's perfect for a game night or while watching a movie. Everyone will be happy to dig in to this old favorite.

February 3, 2012

Salted peanut butter-honey cookies

I've been slacking on blog-worthy food lately. I've been feeling under the weather and tired, so the food I've been cooking has been either old standbys or soups I've already shared on here... But, recently I felt an intense desire to bake something. So, I was digging through the cupboards and refrigerator to see what I could make with what I had on hand. I decided to make some peanut butter cookies and instead of sugar, I used honey. Since the honey is so sweet, I thought that instead of sprinkling sugar on top as is often done with peanut butter cookies, that I'd use a little sea salt instead. The results were yummy and definitely took care of my baked good craving. Plus these cookies are a cinch to make. This recipe will make about 14-16 cookies.