Sweet Potato Coconut Kale Soup

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It’s soup season, and not only that, but it’s my crazy-busy season, where one of the kindest things I can do for myself each Monday is to make a gargantuan pot of soup that I can ration out over the rest of the week for work lunches, accompanied by simple open-faced sandwiches on homemade bread.  

November and December for me isn’t even about not having time to cook; it’s about not having time at work to even think about what to eat for lunch.  The default plan of heating up a hearty soup is pretty much all I can handle once my work day starts, if I want any chance of eating before 3:30 p.m.

I had stumbled upon the idea for this soup during a rushed attempt at trying to catch up on my blog reading one night. Without even wanting to take the time to read the recipe, I literally just saw the title of this soup, thought hey, that sounds like a fantastic combination of flavors, and added it to my day-off to-do list for the next week.

It’s basic as far as soups go — no blending, no pureeing, not even really worrying about whether vegetables are getting overcooked and falling apart.  This soup is more bulk than broth, which is what I was going for since I wanted it to be filling even without any official protein to speak of, and although I’m generally not even a fan of sweet potatoes, they impart a really wonderful sweetness to this soup, without having to add any other herbs or spices — also fantastically simple.

It starts, as any good soup does, with a chopped yellow onion, sauteeing in olive oil.

After about 5 minutes, I added in three huge cloves of minced garlic, and a chopped jalapeno pepper (seeds removed).

I used two and a half large sweet potatoes for this soup, a little less than a pound and a half, chopped into one-inch cubes.  These got added next, and I filled the rest of the pot up with broth and water — a combination of my own homemade chicken stock, and my favorite commercial brand, Better Than Bullion.  

I brought this to a boil and the reduced the heat to medium, and left it to simmer while I went and did my dishes.  My plan for the rest of the night was to make some headway on a set of reversible crocheted coasters for an upcoming Christmas present, and after dinner I wanted nothing standing between me and a pair of pajamas, my cozy couch with the heat cranked, a crochet hook and six cones of soft bamboo yarn, and five episodes of Parks and Recreation.

Once the potatoes had softened (and sort of disintegrated, which I don’t mind in this soup), I added an entire bunch of green kale, chopped, and a can of coconut milk.

Overwhelming a pot with an unwieldy portion of greens and watching them lose their water and cook down is one of my favorite things to do, so I did not do this in manageable phases.

And it all worked out.

Friday Chicken Pasta

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I was contemplating what to make for dinner tonight while I was biking home from work — something quick, basic, and green.  After last night’s Supper Club, I needed something a little more cleansing to offset the comfort food.

I knew the only veggie I had left in my fridge was a monster head of kale, so this meal came together pretty effortlessly.

Remember all those lasagne noodles I made the other night?  Well, they’re still around and need to be used, so I flash boiled them in a frying pan (this is going to be a one-pan meal, btw) so soften them up again — I was lazy and just left them in my fridge in the colander so they were a little clumpy and dried out by this point.  Three minutes in shallow boiling water softened them right back up.

No longer in lasagne mode, I was picturing more of a warm pasta salad, so I rolled the long lasagne noodles up into little squares and sliced them into strips.

I drained these and dumped them into a big salad bowl and tossed them with my favorite olive oil to keep them nice and slippery, then added salt and cracked pepper.

On to the kale.  In case you didn’t know, kale is my favorite vegetable.  Usually I can’t go more than five or six days without an intense craving for perfectly wilted kale, and I’ve been known to devour an entire bunch of it in one sitting.  I mean, it cooks down small, but still.  I make it pretty much the same way every time, with spices being the only variable, depending on the context:

  • Slice the bunch of kale from head to toe, into strips  
  • Heat olive oil, red pepper flakes, and salt, and “spices” (tonight: mustard seeds) over medium-high heat.
  • When the spices are toasted (or in mustard seed’s case, when they start to pop!), dump the entire bunch of kale into the pan 
  • This will seem ridiculous/impossible, because there’s no way an entire bunch of kale can fit in a saucepan, but just force it.  It cooks down so much, you’ll feel silly using your wok.  Literally just force it in with your hands, and after a few seconds you’ll feel the leaves start to wilt and shrink down 
  • Just when you think the bottom layer is about to burn, you pull out the big guns:

    • Give a good four or five squirts of lemon juice over the leaves, and it will simultaneously act as a mini steaming agent, while giving the kale a nice tanginess. 
    • Now you can feasibly stir the kale with a wooden spoon, but don’t do it for too long!  You want to remove it from the heat just as soon as it becomes manageable, so you don’t overcook it.  I like it when the leaves still have some texture, and the stems still have some crunch.

      Into the bowl it goes.

      And then finally, my go-to protein.  I always have roasted chicken in my freezer, that I can quickly brown in this same sautee pan, with just a little salt and nutritional yeast to make the outside taste crunchy and glazed.

      That got diced up and thrown in with the rest, and then I added just a single tablespoon of this:

      I love having a few key Trader Joe’s tapenades in the fridge, for an occasion such as this.