Category Archives: Scary Sides & Snacks

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

Sweet Potato Squash Soup

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

Is it just me, or has anyone else noticed that as we grow older, eating becomes more tiring?  First world problems I know but whew!  After this past weekend I still feel like I’m in a food coma.  In general, I eat pretty healthy throughout the year so I think my body just shuts down when affronted with so much fat and sugar.  I love pigging out over the holidays, but I was really craving something healthy.  This Japanese-inspired Asian Sesame Sweet Potato Squash Soup was just what I needed after an overly indulgent weekend.

Over the years I’ve made every variation of sweet potato and squash: roasted, mashed, baked.   This holiday season, I really wanted to try something new.  Butternut squash soup is popular, but I decided to add sweet potato, to bring out the sweetness of the squash.  I had to keep this soup dairy free, so I used a bit of miso instead of cream for a richer taste.  Building on this Asian-inspired flavour, I included some mirin (sweet cooking wine) to add acidity to the dish.  For the garnish I topped with toasted sesame seeds and nori (dried seaweed) for a bit of salty crunch.

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

Festive and easy to prepare, I loved this healthy, hearty soup on a cold, winter’s night.  The nori, mirin and miso can be found in the Asian aisle of a big chain supermarket, or at any Asian grocery store.  If you don’t want to buy a whole bottle of mirin, you can substitute for sake and keep on drinking this holiday season!

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

51

Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 25 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato & Squash Soup

Ingredients

  • 2 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1" piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and diced
  • 1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • ¼ cup mirin (sweet cooking wine)
  • 2 tbsp light miso paste
  • 5 cups low sodium chicken stock
  • 6 snack size sheets of nori (dried seaweed)
  • 3 teaspoons sesame seeds
  • sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Instructions

  1. Heat sesame oil in a large pot or saute pan on medium-high heat. Saute onion, garlic and ginger until softened, about 2 minutes. Add squash and sweet potato and sauté 1 minute longer.
  2. Whisk together mirin and miso paste. Add to vegetables along with chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down and simmer uncovered for 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables are soft.
  3. Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree soup until smooth. Return to pot and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Lightly toast the sesame seeds in a toaster oven or in a small pan on the stove top over low heat.
  5. Serve and top with toasted sesame seeds and pieces of nori.
http://iseehungrypeople.net/2016/11/14/asian-sesame-sweet-potato-squash-soup/

Sweet Potato Squash Soup

Asian Sesame Sweet Potato Squash Soup

What is your favourite holiday soup?  Let me know if you enjoyed the Asian flavours in this Sweet Potato Squash Soup!

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

For many years I relied on the same old honey-pecan-carrot recipe when it came to a festive root vegetable dish, but this holiday season I was on a quest to find a new side.  Roasting vegetables is an easy way to bring out the flavours with minimal effort, and a really healthy cooking technique too.  I still wanted to use carrots, but tried to use a few other veggies that are often forgotten about,  and thus my Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel recipe was born. 

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

I absolutely love roasting fennel, the process transforms this lowly root vegetable into a soft, fragrant addition to sauces, salads, curries and sides.  High in fiber and B vitamins, fennel also has a lot of beneficial health properties, and is also a source of iron, calcium and magnesium.  Good for the body when the winter blues hits, and after indulging in heavy holiday fare!

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

Roasting carrots brings out the sweetness and is balanced by the sweet licorice flavour of the fennel.  Parsnips are one of those vegetables that I always fear will be bland, but in this case they add a bit of heartiness and are a compliment to the sweet carrots.  The crunch from the fennel gives the dish some texture alongside the tender roasted carrots and parsnips.

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

Quick and easy, this dish can be prepped ahead of time and then popped into the oven when the turkey comes out.  A healthy addition to a holiday menu, these root vegetables are given new life with the addition of fennel, and as a bonus the roasted fennel will fill your home with a delightful licorice aroma!

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

51

Prep Time: 15 minutes

Cook Time: 30 minutes

Total Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 6 servings

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

Ingredients

  • 4 medium carrots, peeled, trimmed, halved and sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 4 medium parsnips, peeled, trimmed, halved and sliced into 1/2-inch thick pieces
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, stalks discarded and bulbs cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 6 tablespoons dry white wine
  • 2 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 450°F, making sure the racks are in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
  2. Divide vegetables evenly between two baking sheets. Toss carrots, parsnips and fennel using half the olive oil, wine, fennel seeds, salt, and pepper per sheet.
  3. Evenly spread out the vegetables and cover pan with aluminum foil.
  4. Roast vegetables for 10 minutes, then uncover, toss and rotate sheets.
  5. Roast 10 minutes more. Toss and rotate sheets.
  6. Roast until vegetables are tender and browned, about 10 minutes more.
http://iseehungrypeople.net/2016/11/07/roasted-carrots-parsnips-and-fennel/

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

Roasted Carrots, Parsnips and Fennel

What is your favourite holiday side dish?   What other dishes can roasted fennel be added to besides carrots and parsnips?

Maple Bourbon Apple Butter – Review

Apple picking at Puddicombe Farms

Apple picking at Puddicombe Farms

We went apple picking late in the season this year, so the selection was waning when we arrived at Puddicombe Farms.  The most plentiful trees were the Mutsu trees, and since these apples are ideal for baking we happily filled up our bags.  Mutsu apples were first grown in Japan and are named after the northern Mutsu Province.  They’re a cross between a Golden Delicious and an Indo apple, and are a nice balance of sweet and sour flavours.

Apple picking at Puddicombe Farms

Apple picking at Puddicombe Farms

The weather was so warm it still felt like summer and we peeled off our layers of fall clothing as we walked up and down the rows of trees. 

Apple picking at Puddicombe Farms

Apple picking at Puddicombe Farms

I’ve always wanted to make my own apple butter.  I first discovered this buttery jam years ago while on a detox and was impressed with how rich the apples tasted without the use of sugar.  Flavour and consistency varied a lot between brands and I eventually I became addicted to the dark, sweet Wellesley apple butter, made with Ontario apples.

Food In Jars Apple Butter

Food In Jars Apple Butter

For my first attempt at apple butter I tried Food In Jars Maple Bourbon Apple Butter recipe.  I like her recipes in general because she uses syrups or juice instead of sugar.  After cooking the apples for about an hour, they’re pureed and baked in an oven for 2-3 hours which brings out the sweetness and should give the sauce a darker, richer look.  I think we probably should have baked our sauce a bit longer, as the consistency tasted closer to baby food than jam, and feel as though the colour was too light as well.  I would also add double the amount of maple syrup, bourbon and orange zest because I couldn’t taste these flavours at all, which was a shame because they sound like a delicious combination!  Overall, the apple butter still turned out nicely and I’m planning to give some jars away as gifts come Christmas, but I’m still on a quest to make that rich apple butter that I first fell in love with.