Vegan Slow Cooker Butternut Squash Potage With Chili and Cocoa Powder For Winter

 Slow cooker butternut squash potage with chili and cocoa powder

Being a student, I am often too busy to spend much time cooking for myself. As a culinary student, I find this a little upsetting because that means less time to experiment with ingredients and techniques. Luckily, the slow cooker is here to save the day.

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Winter is the best time to pull out the slow cooker and infuse your kitchen with the rising aroma of a warm, home cooked meal. This simple recipe cooks on low for ten hours, rendering each ingredient incapable of holding any form. A potage is a smooth, uniformly blended soup. The best way to make a potage is low heat for several hours. Using a slow cooker means you can just toss the ingredients in the crock, set the temperature and forget about it until it is done.

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It is commonly known that chili and cocoa pair well together. This combination can be found in many desserts, from spicy hot chocolate to chili chocolate tarts. Sauces like black mole and chocolate chili barbecue sauce are excellent to compliment flavours in poultry and meats. Even chili chocolate beer exists. I thought it was time to combine chili and cocoa powder with butternut squash. The deep, density of cocoa brings out the earthy qualities to butternut squash and chili always adds an incredible kick. Those combined with the nutty coconut milk makes a perfect, hearty winter meal. This recipe got me through a week’s worth of lunches (and few dinners on really busy days). 

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Butternut Squash Potage With Chili and Cocoa Powder

Ingredients

 

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 2 cups of water
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chili powder
  • ¾-1 teaspoon salt

Directions

 

Remove the skin from the squash and cut it in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds and discard. Cut the squash into large chunks.

Place all ingredients in a large 6.5-quart cooker and cook on low for 10 hours. I usually start my before I go to bed and forget about it until morning.

 

When your soup is finished cooking, it is time to turn it into a potage. Using an immersion blender, blend ingredients together until completely smooth.

 

Drizzle with olive oil and garnish with feta or goat cheese, paprika and cracked pepper.

 

There will be a lot of soup, so you may want to portion some into containers and freeze for later.

 

Makes 6 quarts

 

 

 

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Vegan Passion Fruit Truffles + Motto For 2015

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Well, I did it. I made it through 2014, just like the rest of you. Big deal, right? Sometimes life is tough. We all have to trudge through the shit, but we don’t always come out clean on the other side.

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2014 was a devilish year full of chaos (read: threats), discovery, challenges and love. The threats seem like a distant memory now, as I suspected they would, but there is nothing better at turning one’s life upside-down than being in a far away land and feeling unstable. I won’t go too in depth on that subject. Instead, click here. It may give you a vague sense of what I experienced in my final year of working at a Hagwon in Korea. I will say that I left Korea in the fall of 2014 with my sense of trust deeply shaken and my nerves shot, but thanks to Love, I felt hopeful. My support system was, and has been, so solid that even in the thick of the crises, lies and sleepless nights, I never fell. I stood tall, held my ground and was able to see the light ahead.

So, thank you Love. You saved the year and so much more. I dedicate this post, this year’s motto (see below) and my love, to you.

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The most common variety of passion fruit is small and purple. Creatively named “Common Purple”, this thick-skinned, tropical fruit contains pleasantly crispy seeds and yields small amounts of juice. But, that yield is dazzling. Passion fruit is mouthwateringly fresh and the flavour is absolutely seductive. Tart, sweet and delicately strong: a little juice goes a long way in any recipe. I am appalled to acknowledge that I have not tried the entire range of passion fruit varieties. This will now go on my bucket list.

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This year’s motto: Stepping Out Clean in Twenty-Fifteen

Passion fruit is a good place to start. And chocolate helps a lot. These truffles are deliriously decadent and will help you find strength to defeat all your foes.

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Vegan Passion Fruit Truffles

Ingredients

  • 1 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 juiced passion fruits, separated from seeds
  • ½ cup of coconut cream
  • 4 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • pinch of salt

Directions

-Heat the coconut cream, passion fruit juice, sugar and salt in a saucepan and bring to a soft boil. Stir continuously.

-Turn heat off and add coconut oil. Stir until fully incorporated.

-Add cocoa powder in small batches and mix until thick and smooth.

Optional: If you like the texture of the passion fruit seeds, add some or all into the mixture.

-Let cool.

-Form teaspoon sized balls by rolling them in the palm of your hand and dust with more cocoa powder.

-Store in the refrigerator. They should keep well in the refrigerator for 2-3 weeks. If removed, they will only last a day.

Makes 20-24 truffles.

Candied Ginger Week: Cocoa covered candied ginger

 

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When one finds oneself with an excess of candied ginger (I seem to have mountains) one must find ways of using the spicy nuggets creatively. Here are a few simple steps to help support this endeavor:

 

Step 1: Place some cocoa powder in a container.

Step 2: Add about the same amount of your leftover candied ginger to said container.

Step 3: Place a lid on said container.

Step 4: Shake contents until evenly coated.

Step 5: Sprinkle on ice cream, use to decorate your next cake, mix with hot water and make some sort of weird (but probably delicious) tea, add to trail mix or just eat as a snack.

 

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Candied Ginger Week: Ginger Syrup and Candied Ginger

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Most children have difficulty eating very sharp and hot flavours. There are some foods and flavours that I remember despising when I was very young and later grew to enjoy, such as cilantro, arugula and mustard. I never had that problem with ginger. Though I could only handle it in small doses when I was child, ginger has always had a special place in my heart.

ginger syrup prep 6.jpg Ginger root belongs to the Zingiberaceae family and is closely related to turmeric, cardamom and galangal. It was first cultivated in parts of Southern China and is now used in cuisines around the world. It is quintessential to Chinese, Korean, Japanese and Southeast Asian cuisine and also shows up in many Caribbean dishes. From kimchi and curry to ginger beer, tea and cookies, ginger makes all kind of appearances in your cup, bowl and plate.

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Ginger is also a boss in the medicinal foods category. It can be used to suppress nausea, has been proven to have hepatoprotective qualities and has even been promoted by the American Cancer Society as treatment to keep tumors from developing.

Ginger syrup prep 3.jpg Hot and spicy in flavour and aroma, ginger can overwhelm a gentile or unfamiliar user, but it is certainly worth pushing through the burn for flavour like that. Ginger adds so much to any meal.

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Since ginger knows how to bring the goods to the table so hard, it is Candied Ginger Week here at Turmeric and Twine. I’ll be featuring sweet uses of the spicy rhizome. Every week should be ginger week.

 

Ginger syrup and candied ginger can, luckily, be made at the same time. It is extremely easy and satisfying to make.

 

Ginger Syrup and Candied Ginger

 

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces (375g) fresh ginger
  • 16 ounces (450g) light brown sugar
  • 4 cups water
  • pinch of salt

 

Directions

 

Ginger root can be found in varying degrees of dirtiness. In Korea, sellers make no attempt to clean the dirt off their roots, so mine was really filthy. Scrub the outside very well or you will find your syrup has an unwanted earthy flavour. Peel only if absolutely necessary.

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Cut ginger about 1/8 inch slices. Then roughly chop in small pieces. The smaller the pieces are, the more flavour will be extracted.

 

Place ginger, sugar, salt and water into a non-reactive skillet (non-stick or stainless steel work best) and heat to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about an hour or until the liquid is thick and syrupy.

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Pour the syrup and ginger pieces into a jar, cover and refrigerate for 3-4 days. This simultaneously infuses the syrup with more flavour and candies the ginger pieces.

 

To separate the syrup from the candied pieces, simply strain in a stainless steel strainer. Candied ginger can be refrigerated for up to a month and frozen for several months. Use them to get fancy with baked goods or nibble on their own (like I enjoy).

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Strain the syrup further with a fine mesh strainer so there is no fibrous material left. Drizzle on ice cream, use as a cocktail mixer or make spritzers. Ginger syrup keeps very well and can be refrigerated for 3-4 months.

 

Makes a great gift if you divide in small jars.

Coconut Lemongrass Carrot Chutney + The Orange Afterglow

Coconut Lemongrass Carrot Chutney 2

I love food. I love to think about it, I love to make it. I love to eat it. I love the way it feels, smells and tastes. I will eat just about anything. Really… maybe.

 

In a recent conversation with one of my elementary classes, my students and I got on the subject of bizarre foods. We disclosed our weirdest bites to each other, almost as if they were secrets. Being in Korea, home of many super fermented foods such as kimchi and cheonggukjang (stinky fermented soybeans), as well as stews that include dog meat (good for man) and snacks that include silk worm larva, many of my students had a rather different idea of what foods should be considered bizarre than I did. When I told them I’d eaten live octopus (this one got the most squeals when I told people back home), they were all like “Oh yeah…. Sure. No biggie, teacher”, but when I told them about the scorpion lollipop I got from a classic American joke/candy shop, they gasped and screamed. Nonetheless, we giggled, squirmed and gasped as the lists flew out.

 Coconut Carrot Lemongrass Chutney ingredients

 

Many years ago, I feared food. I used to squirm at the thought of consuming anything I considered un-pure or unhealthy. For over a year, I put severe restrictions on my diet and basically only ate uncooked vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, which is a rather expensive and time-consuming lifestyle. I had to put several hours each day into planning, acquiring and preparing my meals.

 

Carrots are one of the cheapest, easiest vegetables to acquire and I happen to be a big fan of those friendly, orange roots. I kind of lived off of them for a while, not really considering the consequences that might lurk in The Dark Side of Raw Foods. Due to the massive overdose of beta-carotene my body was receiving and the lack of starches to soak up the excess, my skin turned an extremely disturbing orange colour. I’m pretty sure I burned all the photos taken of me during my hairy hippie phase, so I have no orange hue to show you. Unfortunate… it was impressive.

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I might also add, that I had The Worst Gas Possible when I was eating raw foods. Even though it was over a decade ago, I still feel bad for the girl I drove cross-country with. I’m sure she felt like she was riding with a camel. Looking back on that time, I squirm so much more about orange skin and bad gas than tossing back a bit of snake soup, frog sashimi or random bug. I still love carrots, though. We have been through too much to let go of our relationship because of a skin tone set back. It was a little rude of them, but I let it go. 

 

Coconut Carrot Lemongrass Chutney line up

The Chutney family is a rowdy group of condiments that hails from South India. They usually contain some mixture of spice(s), vegetable(s), and/or fruit(s) and there are many varieties. Chutneys may be either wet or dry, can have a coarse to a fine texture and can contain either fresh or pickled preparations. This little chutney is rockin’. The sweetness of the carrots, creamy smoothness of the coconut and tang of the lemon would make any mouth happy. Eat with some Dijon on toast, on the side of some grilled chicken or just spoon in your mouth.

 

Coconut Carrot Lemongrass Chutney 1

Coconut Lemongrass Carrot Chutney

 

Ingredients

  • 4 cups grated carrot (about 3 carrots)
  • ½ cup grated coconut
  • 8-10 garlic gloves or scapes, chopped
  • 1 chili, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped lemongrass
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Directions

In a fry pan, heat cooking oil and lightly brown the garlic, lemongrass and chilies.

Mix all ingredients in a bowl.

Garnish with sesame seeds.

Consume immediately.

Visualizing the Flavour Pairing of Cranberry Curry and Mint Cashew Butter

Firstly, here are a few photos of my hood: The Berkshires of New York. The colours at the moment are absolutely outrageous. My eyes are outraged by all this beauty.

Black and orangemisty treesorange treered leaf

Maybe it’s planetary or the fact that Halloween, hearty soups and pumpkin pie are imminent, but fall always gives me a feeling like something huge is happening in the world. It could be that nature’s insane peacock display of beauty is so overwhelming. Either way, I can practically taste the colours. I love the smell of cold that lingers on you after a crisp walk and the chill that draws us closer to others for warmth. What a super cool time of year. How lucky am I? So lucky.

cashew butter plate

Sometimes, to find inspiration when experimenting in the kitchen, I just set several different ingredients out on a table and see what feels right. Looking at the ingredients, I imagine their flavours and textures and see if they could be paired. On this particular occasion I chose cashews as my base.cashew butter2

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Cashews have impressed me so many times with their transformative flavour personalities. The vegan movement has spurred on some pretty ingenious ideas (as well as some truly awful ones) and cashews have been a champion in this process. Anyone who has had cream of broccoli soup with creamed cashews to replace dairy cream will know just how wonderful and surprising they can be. Not only did I not notice that it wasn’t dairy when I tried it, but I remarked on how complex and nuanced the soup was. Cashews are light, delicate and creamy and they combine very well with many flavours.

I futzed around with different ingredients (including a nauseating licorice and smoked salt combo) for a while until I found the winning team. Dried cranberries, Indian curry powder and garden fresh pineapple mint also happened to be on my ingredients table. The results were superbly balanced and sophisticated. No one flavour overpowered the other. The cashews saw to it that every player got along with the rest and played fairly. The sweetness of the dried cranberries, the earthy and spicy qualities of the curry powder and the vigor of the mint blended with the cashews in a glorious way. Imagine that.

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Cranberry Curry and Mint Cashew Butter

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup cashews
  • 2 tbsp dried cranberries
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped mint (I used pineapple mint but spearmint or apple mint will do. I do not recommend peppermint.)
  • 1 tsp Indian curry powder
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • a pinch of salt

Directions

Blend all ingredients until creamy. Add more olive oil for a smoother consistency.

Try the spread on a piece of toast with some fresh pesto.

Store in the refrigerator.