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September 19, 2013

Pumpkin-Coconut Soup

This is the kind of soup that you serve in a mug, not a bowl, because you'll just want to guzzle it down.  Really.  It's really that good.  I'm posting it, even though my nighttime lighting is really not suitable for fussy food-blog photography.  But I've gotta share.  

As usual, I riffed this off a take on another person's blog.  That recipe had brown sugar, and a fairly long list of spices.  I'm in a keeping-it-simple mood these days, so I made up my own recipe.  The true genius is in the garnish:  dried cherries along with the expected pepitas.  The heat from the garlic and smoked paprika is balanced so nicely with just a few cherries.  If only I could get them to float better!

Tomorrow I'm making a side casserole of cheesy grits that will make a filling lunch alongside this soup! 

Pumpkin-Coconut Soup

1/2 Medium Diced Onion or to taste
3 Cloves Minced Garlic or to taste
1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
32 Fl. Oz. Vegetable Stock
29 oz. Canned Plain Pumpkin
2 14 oz Cans Light Coconut Milk
1/4 C. Real Maple Syrup
1 Tbsp. Smoked Paprika
1/4 Tsp Ground Sage

1.  Heat olive oil in bottom of large stock pot.  Cook onions and garlic until aromatic and tender.  Onions should be translucent.
2.  Add veggie stock.  Whisk canned pumpkin, then coconut milk, into the liquid.  Add paprika and sage.  Turn heat to medium and bring to simmer.
3.  Add maple syrup in thin stream, stirring constantly.
4.  Reduce to desired consistency (I like my soups thick and creamy).
5.  Ladle and garnish with pepitas, dried cherries, and a sprinkling of goat cheese, if desired.  Beware:  Cherries may sink if whole, so you may want to dice them up a bit.  This soup is great served as cold leftovers too!

September 3, 2013

Oven-Roasted Smoked Paprika Cauliflower

As a vegetarian, I have always associated "smoke" flavor with meat and tried to avoid anything with that label.  My favorite meal as a kid was cauliflower, but only when slathered with an equal amount of cheddar cheese sauce, so that the vegetable was not flavor-detectable.  

As I've tried to expand my adult palate, I've been hearing (thank you, Facebook) that cauliflower roasted with smoked paprika is really tasty, and I finally decided to give it a try.  There are many recipes on blogs and on Pinterest, and I did a quick survey before improvising this evening.  The Shiksa had a great point:  she mentioned that flat surfaces caramelize better, so rather than cutting the cauliflower head into individual florets, she used more of a rough chop.  

All the blog posts I surveyed recommended laying out the cauliflower pieces on a cookie sheet, drizzling with oil, sprinkling the spices, and then mixing by hand to coat the cauliflower.  I am much less messy.  And besides, since I wanted a mild smoked flavor, I knew that I not only wanted the smoked paprika on the outside edges of the pieces, but actually to permeate the florets and get into the heads of cauliflower.  If the coating had not been even, but had been more smoky in one area of the bite than another, I might have found it to be too hot or spicy and thus wouldn't eat it.  My solution:  I put the cut cauliflower into a large Ziploc bag, added the oil and spices, and shook until all was combined and very evenly coated.  

I then emptied the bag into my 8x8 baking dish, and roasted in my toaster oven rather than heating the large oven range, which was an epic idea given that it was 99 degrees in my part of town today.  Because I used a smaller oven space, I took the roasting temperature down by 25 degrees, instead of the high of 450 I saw in my blog recipe survey.

Since cheese is typically at least seventy-five percent of my diet, and I'm beginning to watch the levels of fat I'm consuming, my goal of late is not to be dairy free, but just to be more portion conscious.  I did garnish this dish with grated Parmesan, but it was a true sprinkling, not the two cups I would normally use on a casserole sized dish.

Roasted Cauliflower with Smoked Paprika

Cut one head cauliflower into rough chop about two inches or basic florets.  Rinse and let drain.  Place cleaned and cut cauliflower in a gallon Ziploc bag.

Mix 1 1/2 Tbsp Smoked Paprika, 1 Tbsp Garlic Salt, and 1/2 tsp grated Sea Salt.  Pour 3 Tbsp Olive Oil into the bag, spreading it over as much of the cauliflower as possible (don't just pour it all in one spot).  Add the spices.  Seal the bag and shake until well coated.  Dump bag into 8x8 or 9x13 dish (bigger the better--more surface area exposed will mean more caramelization).  

Roast at 425 for 35-40 minutes, until browned and caramelized, and the cauliflower can be easily pierced with a fork. Garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired, and serve hot.
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