Recipe: Creamy Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup

I’M ALIVE, PEOPLE. And today, I have another long-overdue recipe to share with you!

After the first few days of Chinese New Year, I’ve been cooking a whole lot more because I’ve inevitably gained weight from the influx of rubbish junk food I’d been gorging on (pineapple tarts, bak kwa, etc etc). I couldn’t wait to get back to real, wholesome food. I love my Chinese New Year snacks, but lawd, they’re unhealthy.

I realized that I don’t have the time to tediously shoot step-by-step cooking tutorial pictures (they are a lot more trouble than they look) which is the number one thing that throws me off actually getting around to documenting my cooking… Whenever I’m in the kitchen, I’m always in a rush because I’m either 1) very hungry or 2) cooking for anticipating guests, so taking over an hour to record a purposefully-visually-appealing recipe is out of the question on most days! So, I decided to just do away with in-process pictures for easier recipes, and show you the final product that you can expect. This way, it’s a lot more manageable for me.. you guys can also expect more frequent posts!  I promise the recipes will still be easy to follow.

One of my favorite things to whip up in the kitchen to impress my friends would definitely be a good bowl of hearty soup. It seems straightforward enough, but impressive when you nail it. You wouldn’t BELIEVE how difficult it is to get a good bowl of soup outside. Most Western restaurants in Singapore either serve diluted, tasteless, blah tasting flavored water they call SOUP, or overly-starchy soups that taste like Campbell’s. It’s ridiculous.

Because soup has to be one of the best things to cook at home, for many reasons! It’s cheap, fuss free and extremely forgiving towards amateur cooks. It warms your tummy and soul, it’s great food for the sick (and the healthy!) and well, there’s really no good reason why you shouldn’t make soup at home. Here’s my own rendition of an absolutely delicious Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup for you to try! You will need a blender for this.

Ingredients (4 servings):

  •  4 strips of bacon
  •  500g pumpkin, de-gutted
  •  150g cauliflower, roughly chopped
  •  600ml full cream milk
  •  1 cube chicken stock 
  •  1 medium white onion, diced
  •  3 cloves garlic, minced
  •  salt & pepper to taste
  •  sprig of thyme & paprika for garnishing (optional)


Directions:

  1. Boil cauliflower & pumpkin in a large pot until very soft to the touch, then remove skin from pumpkin and cut into 2cm chunks, set aside together with cauliflower.
  2. While your vegetables are boiling, fry the bacon in a non-stick pan until brown and crisp around the edges. You won’t need any oil for this. Cut the bacon with kitchen scissors into small pieces.
  3. Pour out 95% of excess oil from frying the bacon, reserving the last 5% to sautee onions and garlic for 5 minutes on medium-low heat, stirring constantly.
  4. Add boiled cauliflower & pumpkin to the pan, and stir for another 3 minutes.
  5. Pour in the milk and add chicken stock. Let this mixture gently simmer until chicken stock is fully dissolved.
  6. Using an electric blender, blend the chunky soup mixture on high until completely smooth, around 10 seconds.
  7. Return the soup to the pan, and check if consistency is to your liking. If too thick, add more milk to thin it out. If too thin, let it simmer for a few more minutes until the texture seems just right. Add salt/pepper to taste. Note that texture of soup will thicken as it cools.
  8. Serve immediately, garnish with sprig of thyme for that hint of freshness, sprinkle with paprika & more black pepper. I also like to drizzle mine with a little bit of milk and olive oil. Top off with bacon pieces.

An effortlessly creamy Pumpkin Cauliflower Soup that’s not overly rich, but hearty enough to keep your tummy satisfied.

It’s so smooth that people always assume it takes a long time to do, or that I use real cream in it.. neither of which is true! It’s light enough for lunch, and great as a side dish for dinner. I love the natural sweetness it has from the pumpkin – it goes so well together with the little bites of savory bacon pieces. The perfect blend of sweet & savory liquid food. This soup is always a huge hit at my dinner parties and I’ve honestly never met anyone that didn’t love it or finish their whole bowl, even people who don’t normally eat pumpkin! For the super health conscious, I guess you could skip the bacon and substitute with croutons or something… but where’s the fun in that? ;)

Happy soup making! This is one recipe for the family because it makes a big pot, great for sharing.

xoxo,
Jess

xoxo,
Jess

Cooking Tutorial: Baked Kale or Kai Lan Chips!

First of all, let me just tell you how sorry I am for not blogging for THREE whole weeks. T_T

WTF. I did not even realize that time passed so fast. I honestly just cannot grasp how fast 2013 has gone by. Life has never passed me by this quickly. I swear the last time I checked it was only a week since I last blogged…. I thought I’d make it up to you all by posting an extremely simple, healthy, and delicious recipe that even ultra kitchen goondu idiots could whip up in 15 minutes!!!!!

So here’s the deal.

I like chips. Unhealthy chips like the ones made from potato. I like them a lot. Here’s another thing for ya. I like seaweed. Probably more than I should because I can eat an alarming amount of seaweed at one go. And then here’s the last thing. I am on a diet…. of sorts. (No, not really actually.) I kind of eat whatever I want, however potato chips just seem to be far down my list of Food Eating Priorities considering it’s junk food but the calories are ridiculously high. What would be the most sensible thing to do?

Eat a carb-free, low-calorie VEGETABLE chip that tastes like seaweed, so that I can snack away without any guilt or repercussions whatsoever!!! In fact, I could eat this everyday and lose weight! This is the magic vegetable that makes it all happen.

Kale.

A dark green, leafy, curled at the edges sort of power vegetable.

Heard of it before? If you haven’t, that’s okay, you probably live in Asia where kale is pretty much non-existent. Probably something like 90% of Singaporeans have no idea what kale is. (Random statistic pulled out of my ass) What we have in everyone’s households instead, is a relative of Kale called the Kai Lan.

Let’s talk about Kale first. I have always seen fitness and “Real Food” enthusiasts talk about Kale like it’s the god of vegetables. About how it’s good for your body it is, and how incredibly yummy it tasted. So, naturally curiosity (or gluttony) got the better of me and I set out on a random hunt for the elusive Kale in Singapore, only to realize that absolutely NOWHERE has Kale in stock. I’ve been to Sheng Siong, NTUC, Cold Storage, etc….. couldn’t find any at any supermarket. Finally, sheer luck should have it that one fine day I chanced upon it at North Point’s Cold Storage when I wasn’t even looking out for it!!! Wooohooo!!!!! I was so excited to finally hold Kale in my arms. It was like holding my long lost lover or a twin sister I haven’t seen in 10 years. Never did a veg excite me so much before.

However….. I was mortified to realize that a small packet of Kale was 6 WHOLE DOLLARS. I’m assuming because it’s organic and, well, hard to find in Singapore.. maybe difficult to grow, as well? Cursing under my breath for buying a vegetable that is more expensive than a lot of cuts of meat, I bought the $6 Kale, thinking I’d just try baking kale chips once and get it over and done with to satisfy my curiosity. Little did I know that trying it once would only make me want to eat it again and again. I’m dumbfounded by how simple and brilliant this is, so I HAD to share it with y’all. I don’t often share recipes, but when I do… you know it’s going to be something worth waiting for ;)

YOU WILL NEED: (this recipe makes however much or little you want to make)

♥ — Kale, or Kai Lan for people who can’t find Kale (or do not want to pay $6 for it)
♥ — Olive Oil
♥ — Salt & Pepper 
♥ — Onion / Garlic Powder Seasoning (or your favorite bottled seasoning)
♥ — A large baking tray and baking paper

Step 1: Wash the vegetable, then remove the stems completely and dry thoroughly with a kitchen towel. It’s important to remove every last bit of stem and water, then tear the leaves into relatively large bite sized pieces while noting that the size will shrink more when baked.

Step 2: Line your baking tray with baking paper, arrange the vegetable pieces onto your tray, preferably not touching each other. Drizzle a litle bit of olive oil (I like using extra virgin), sprinkle salt, seasoning and black pepper over sparingly. A little goes a real long way with this recipe. Add just a bit, then you can taste test it after it’s been baked and add more if need be. You can refer to the picture above to see approximately how much seasoning and olive oil I added. Don’t mix the veg through with the oil, just bake it as is so that you get a slight variation of flavors and consistency through the pieces of vegetable. 

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And that’s all it for the preparation!!!! Pop it into a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees to bake and crisp up for 8 minutes, or until the veg has turned crispy and changed a bit of color. (By changed color I don’t mean brown – I mean patches of different green) The baking time will vary a LOT depending on 1) Amount of vegetable you’re using. 2) Whether you’re using kale or kai lan, I find kai lan takes longer to crisp up 3) Your oven’s settings and functionality…. So please monitor closely and judge for yourself.

But it’s not rocket science, people. keep an eye on your veg. It can change from ultra crispy to burnt pieces of crap in a matter of 2 minutes, so you don’t want to leave it unattended for too long. I would recommend checking the consistency after 5 minutes, then decide from there how much more time it needs in the oven. 


The result?





Delicious and CRAZILY addictive vegetable chips that will leave you popping them into your mouth so quick, you’ll wonder where your $6 went. I swear they’re better than the any sort of packeted potato chips to me. They also sorta taste like my favorite Korean seaweed sheets, but with more texture and bite, and minus the preservatives. They’re BLOODY AWESOME, in short. They may not LOOK all that crispy or appetizing to you but it has amazing sound effects when you chew on them like “grrncchhh kkrrtthhh” with every bite – you know, the sound that over-the-top crispy food makes. I liked them so much I put them on toasted buttered garlic ciabatta for an awesome lunch… yippeee!!!  

But my favorite way to eat this is by its own, using my hand. I can finish a whole plate of this within 5 minutes. 


Another meal idea for kale chips – eat it with grilled fish!!!  The flavors go together sooo well, what with the saltiness and texture of curly kale chips with mild, tender white fish. It’s so tasty while being as low carb as possible – perfectly delectable diet food! As you can see here, my kale chips are just a tad too brown. Like I said, goes from crispy to burnt very quickly, and that time I wasn’t giving it enough tender loving care.. :P





Oh yes – if you REALLY can’t find Kale, you are also welcome to try this recipe with your commonly found Kai Lan…. thanks to a follow on Instagram for this suggestion! 

It’s exactly the same recipe and preparation method as the kale version. This is what my kai lan chips that I made earlier looked like. Because Kai Lan isn’t as thick or curly (or yummy hahaha) as Kale, it turned out quite different. Not as much chewy texture and it’s not as epic as kale chips BUT still a decent fix if Kale has somehow eluded you once again. But the basic concept and idea is the same – crispy, addictive vegetable chips. Also, it’s a lot more affordable than Kale!!!! 

I served my kai lan chips with milky cheesy scrambled eggs for my quick fix of a lunch this afternoon!! ♥ ♥ ♥

Perfect combo that goes together like coke and fries. Strangely satisfying for a meal that is meat-free, low-carb and took 15 minutes to prepare and cook. While the chips were baking, I fried up my scrambled eggs!

You HAVE to try this if you love chips or seaweed!

 Or, if you just like trying new things in the kitchen in general. It’s a fun experiment for 15 minutes, even if you don’t end up making this a staple in your home cooked food menu like I did. :) And it’s perfect for all you health and diet watchers out there. There are few recipes in this world that are so fuss-free and good for you, so I’m happy that I can share this with you all. I think vegetable chips are still a relatively alien idea in Singapore (the closest I’ve seen to it were deep fried asparagus and kang kong, but fried stuff isn’t healthy and doesn’t count!) why don’t you guys try making this for your partner, friends or family one day, and see what they think of this innovative food idea? ;) Perfect for a mid noon snack! In fact I may just go make more to munch on tomorrow!!!

xoxo,
Jess

xoxo,
Jess

Cooking tutorial: Lemon & Dill Baked Salmon

I have to admit, all my previous recipe posts have not been particularly healthy, or diet-friendly.

But let’s ALSO admit that most yummy food…. is not healthy!!! At the top of my head, I recall giving you guys recipes for fudgey brownies, homemade gourmet burgers, spinach feta quiches…. Oopsie daisy! I often get questions on Formspring about what kind of food I ate when I was on a rather strict low-carbohydrate diet, so today, here’s a guilt-free recipe that’s perfect for all you calorie & carb watchers. If you love the king of fishes, Salmon, like I do.. you’re in for a treat.

Although I don’t miss being on a diet any more, I do miss how I felt when I was dieting & eating guilt-free food such as soups and grilled chicken. The meal could be only relatively satisfying in terms of taste, but deep down inside I felt really proud and good about myself for being disciplined / concerned about my own health, and for making the right decisions. I realized that you can’t out-exercise a bad diet. Eating healthy good food must be one of the best feelings in the world!!!

After eating this delicious and wonderfully simple dill-herbed salmon with a slight lemony zesty kick to it…

I’m sure you’ll feel the same way. ♥ If I look up the word “mouthwatering” in the dictionary, I just know there is a picture of this very salmon dish plastered on the page.

Good salmon, to me, shouldn’t be overly marinated because you’re tearing the attention away from the natural slightly sweet, buttery taste of the soft pink salmon flesh. And it definitely must NOT be overcooked!!! Dry and hard overcooked salmon is so offensive to me. Equally as offensive as when I ask for a medium rare steak, and it comes close to well done. It simply cannot be accepted. An animal had to die for that, and overcooking its meat is how you honor it?!

This is how I always prepare my salmon fillets. It’s refreshingly fuss-free with only 2 minutes preparation time, and even if you’ve never cooked before you will be able to manage this! I’m going to break it down into 10 super easy and straightforward steps for you guys to follow.

YOU WILL NEED: (this recipe serves 1)
♥ — 1 salmon fillet
♥ — sprigs of fresh dill
♥ — 1 lemon
♥ — 1/2 tablespoon onion / garlic powder, or your favorite all-purpose seasoning
♥ — black pepper
♥ — sea salt
♥ — paprika powder


Step 1: Preheat your oven to 180 degrees. Yes you’re going to be baking it of course, there is nothing healthy about frying a piece of salmon that is naturally fatty & oily to begin with!

Step 2: Place the salmon on a greased baking tray or a pan lined with baking paper, skin side down. It is on a plate in the picture for photography purposes.

Step 3: Make 1-inch deep incisions along the thicker parts of the salmon fillet with a knife, as depicted above. Leave the thinner parts alone. The incisions are to ensure the salmon meat cooks more evenly, despite its odd shape.

Step 4: Squeeze juice of half a lemon onto the salmon. Reserve the other half for garnishing.

Step 5: Season generously with cracked black pepper and sea salt, to your own taste. I recommend about 1/2 teaspoon of each spice. Please don’t use powdered white pepper or table salt, it just won’t taste the same.

Step 6: Add 1/2 tablespoon of onion / garlic powder, or your favorite all-purpose spice blend.

Step 7: Lightly sprinkle paprika on top for an extra pop of color and taste.

Step 8: Finish off by placing crumbled sprigs of fresh dill on top of the salmon. As much as you like!

Step 9:  Bake in oven at 180 degrees for 23 minutes or until your preferred doneness, depending on the size of your salmon fillet. I advise to check on it once its past the 20 minute mark. I normally don’t leave it to marinate, I just bake it immediately, although you can leave it for an hour to marinate more if you like.

Step 10: Immediately transfer salmon fillet onto a plate once removed from oven to prevent further cooking. Garnish with more sprigs of fresh dill, lemon and cherry tomatoes for that perfect vivid color combination!

And finally…. Dig in!!!!!

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Now was that easy, or was that totally easy? :)

It is an extremely healthy protein-filled meal that takes literally no time to prepare at all. And it is FREAKIN DELICIOUS! The salmon just melts in your mouth…. and the herby flavor from the dill goes so well together!! Don’t worry about the lemon making it taste sour – it is not sour at all. You will only taste a subtle refreshing hint of lemon juice when biting into the pink flesh. The simplicity of this dish is what I like most about it. Even my boyfriend who doesn’t really eat fish, eats a lot of this whenever I make it! Pretty much everyone who has tried it has loved it so far. This is undoubtedly one of my most frequently used recipes of all time, and I hope it becomes one of yours too. Try it and let me know.

Serve together with roasted potatoes, or quinoa / cous cous / a side salad if you’re feeling health conscious enough.

Enjoy.

xoxo,
Jess

xoxo,
Jess
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