Yellow curry dinner and pumpkin soup

I’d never attempted a curry before, but this surprisingly didn’t turn out too badly. I was scatterbrained and needed to eat before work without a lot of time to cook. And since I haven’t had Indian food in over a year and I’m trying to branch out a little in my cooking before making any repeats, I thought I’d just wing it. I read several recipes on the interwebz before deciding there wasn’t much use in following one exactly. This curry was just a pleasant hodgepodge of what I had on hand and what I had time to make.

I started with a package of chicken breast tenders cooking in a few tablespoons of olive oil, and flipped them halfway through cooking. I added about 6oz chicken bone broth (packaged), 16oz coconut milk, garlic powder, salt, white pepper, 1/8 cup white sugar, 1 tablespoon lime juice and lemon juice, and two spoonfuls of yellow curry powder (tumeric and cinnamon, mostly). I heated it all over medium-high heat, simmering, until the chicken was definitely done and the sauce thickened and reduced a little. The sauce was pleasantly and surprisingly sweet, and I topped the whole thing with cilantro. I wasn’t expecting it to be very good at all, and it wasn’t like anything I’d ever eaten at a Thai or Indian place, but hell, it was good. And it was good enough to reheat twice for additional leftovers.

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Pumpkin soup is what I make when I really don’t want to be an adult anymore and just want to eat dessert for dinner. See, it looks fancy, and tastes amazing, but at its heart is mostly pie filling. If you wanted, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to top it with whipped cream instead of (or in addition to) walnuts. This stuff keeps very well, reheats like a champ, and is the sneakiest way ever to have dessert for dinner.

For pumpkin soup, heat all of these ingredients over medium-low heat until warm enough to serve. If immediately refridgerating, no need to heat and simply reheat later in the microwave or on the stove.

  • 1 can (15oz) pureed pumpkin
  • fill that empty pumpkin can halfway with your choice of milk (I use unflavored almond milk for cooking in my house, but certainly heavy cream, cow’s milk, oat milk, hemp milk, etc would all be fine — make this vegan if you wish!)
  • add 1/3 can or about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of coconut milk — the higher quality, the better
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/8 cup white sugar or agave
  • pinch of salt
  • nutmeg and cinnamon to taste: add slowly, stir well, probably half as much nutmeg as cinnamon
  • top with candied walnuts, available in the salad section of the grocery

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Green chile chicken enchiladas

I’d been looking forward to trying my hand at enchiladas, but as far as I knew, I had no idea where to start. Aren’t enchiladas like rolled-up corn tortillas with microwaved cheese and tomato sauce, or something? They’re one of my favorite foods, but I was hopelessly lost in figuring out the process. Hello, internet! I did some digging, and this recipe for green chile enchiladas sounded both easy enough to follow and the right measure of spicy for my weak tongue.

I’d never bought a tomatillo and had to google what one looked like at two o’clock in the morning in front of the long, intimidating, brightly lit produce cases intermittently spritzing the greens with water. I still couldn’t find them. For a few minutes, I wondered whether I’d have to stop into a specialty Mexican/Latino grocery and had no idea how well I could ask for a fruit I could barely identify in my broken and out-of-practice high school Spanish. Finally, though, I found them in my chain grocery, right next to the habaneros, jalapenos, and poblanos in a tiny basket. The store offered only about two or three pounds worth, and they weren’t of the ripest quality. Undeterred, I bought most of the ones that weren’t clearly spoiled or mysteriously sticky.

I made the enchiladas the next morning while my very good friend headed over. My text message read: “You have to help me eat some of these 12 enchiladas.”

I was a real master of the kitchen for this dish and multitasked my little heart out, but it still took me a solid two hours from starting chopping to sitting down to eat. I used two large poblanos instead of anaheim peppers, but used them the same way, and used a packaged, Kraft “Mexican” cheese blend instead of shredding my own. I added hand-shredded roasted chicken thigh meat that I’d made for dinner last night. Thusfar, I’m most proud of this dish. Not only is it beautiful, but it was one of the best things I’ve ever eaten — I had no idea I could cook restaurant-quality food at home.

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By far, one of the best things about this project is how proud I am of the food I’m cooking. I hadn’t considered the work that went into making refried black beans, any more than opening a can of crappy ones or ordering them with a meal — until I used this recipe today and took the time to both lovingly mash such a simple side dish, and wash that masher with plastered-on dried beans later. I’m beginning to appreciate even the smallest bits of my meals. It took me a long time to blacken the peppers, sweat them, peel each bit of the skin off, seed them. I’m proud of that.

My pal and I had a deep conversation over the food about troubling events in our lives, but it seemed for the first time in a long time, I wasn’t inclined to shovel in food to avoid speaking. I wasn’t in a hurry to finish my food, and I wasn’t waiting on someone else’s timeline for more water to quench my thirst. I didn’t whisper to avoid the next table’s reaction to discussing delicate topics, and I gave a scrap of chicken to each of my dogs (whom I love like children). When I felt like crying during our conversation, I didn’t order a drink or dessert or ask for a check. Eating at my own table has been healing.

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And by the way: these reheated to be even fucking better than they were on day one.

Sweet chicken and savory sweet potato

I didn’t feel like cooking one bit after having been at the barn and dealing with the really, really cold weather on Thursday late at night. Baking feels like cooking, except it takes far less time to accomplish a great meal and allows for multitasking. I had a package of on-sale chicken thighs, and stumbled on this recipe for savory sweet potatoes. In my never-ending accidental quest to eat only Latino-inspired food and sweet potatoes one hundred ways, this recipe fit perfectly and I halved it to serve one.

I’m always one to drown my mashed sweet potatoes in butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and agave. It’s like vegetable candy! Using thyme and garlic seemed new and unknown to my sweet potato palate, but turned out well. Except…the oil on my hands smelled awful. I’d never used fresh thyme before — only the ground spice-jar stuff — and hadn’t expected it. I love the oils of rosemary and basil on my fingers that linger long after my meal, but thyme just smelled like animal piss. It nearly ruined the dish for me, and next time I think I’ll substitute rosemary. Rosemary is still quite the savory and fragrant herb, and would be a nice substitute. It took me several hand-washings in grease-cutting dish soap to rid my hands of the thyme oils. Stubborn little suckers.

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The chicken was too easy: I threw it in the oven for 25 minutes, about halfway through cooking the foil-wrapped sweet potato. A couple squirts of my favorite gluten-free barbecue sauce, flip (so it doesn’t stick to the glass dish), and a couple more squirts. While I did this on three of the chicken thighs, on the other half of the pan, I roasted the chicken plain with a light coating of olive oil to be used the next day in making green chile enchiladas. I flipped the chicken halfway through cooking, and voila — easy, juicy, baked chicken. No slaving over a stove required.

While I let the chicken and the sweet potato cool off just a bit, I whipped up a jar of pickled onions to be used over the next few weeks in salads and as a topper to entrees and quick tacos. I used a very basic, ingrained recipe for pickling with no variations:

In an old spaghetti jar (recycling!), mix one cup water, 1 tbsp white sugar, 1.5 tbsp salt, and 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar. Put the lid on and shake a bunch. Cut up an entire red onion, usually done in thin slices, and shove as many of them as you can into the jar. Shake again to get the liquid into the smaller spaces, and leave it in the fridge for at least a half day before using, but no longer than 10-15 days.

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