Thai Chicken Corn Chowder

Thai Chicken Corn Chowder | Breaking Bland EatsCold and flu season has hit our family pretty hard over the past few weeks, and they say nothing cures a cold like chicken soup, right? Well, this is my (somewhat loose) interpretation of a classic chicken soup mixed with one of my favourite dishes – red curry.  This sweet and spicy soup gives you a good dose of vegetables and is sure to help clear those sinuses! Red curry paste, frozen corn, and a tin of coconut milk make this a quick, one pot dinner. You know me, I’m always looking for ways to add more vegetables, so I used sweet potato and spinach in this soup, but you can play around with different vegetable combinations or even make it vegetarian by leaving out the chicken.

Kaffir lime leaves are a common ingredient in Thai cooking as well as many other Southeast Asian cuisines.  You can find them fresh or frozen in most Asian food stores and I’ve even spotted them at my local chain grocery store. They add a wonderful lime fragrance and they also freeze well, so it’s worth getting your hands on some if you love Thai cooking.  If you can’t find them, you could substitute 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lime zest, but the flavour won’t be quite the same.

Hope you are managing to stay healthy!

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Thai Chicken Corn Chowder

Recipe by Kirsten, serves 4-6

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 inch piece of ginger, sliced into 4 round pieces
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced into 1/2 inch cubes.
1-2 tablespoons of red curry paste, to taste
1 tin of coconut milk
4 cups of water
1 tablespoon fish sauce, or soya sauce
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 kaffir lime leaves

2 skinless boneless chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 cups of frozen corn kernels
4 cups of packed fresh spinach
1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
juice of one lime 

Directions

1. Heat oil over medium-high heat, add onions and cook for 2-3 minutes until translucent.
2. Add ginger, sweet potato, and red curry.  Start with 1 tablespoon,  you can add more later if you want it spicier. Stir until vegetables are evenly coated with the curry paste.
3. Next add the coconut milk, water, fish sauce, sugar, salt and kaffir lime leaves.  Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes.
4.  Add chicken and frozen corn, cook for another 10 minutes.  Once chicken is cooked and the sweet potatoes are tender, remove the 4 pieces of ginger and kaffir lime leaves.
5. Stir in spinach, lime juice, and cilantro.  Taste and adjust seasoning prior to serving.

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans.jpg

Happy New Year everyone! We had a busy Christmas this year with lots of family and friend get togethers, which meant I spent a lot of time in the kitchen, but don’t get me wrong I enjoyed ever minute of it.   This salad was my contribution to an after Christmas potluck dinner.  It was the perfect side dish to offset all the rich food we’d been eating over the holidays.  Even my sister-in-law, who doesn’t like fruit in her salad, ate all of the leftovers!

Fennel Bulb

Do you ever cook with fennel? Personally, I think it’s an under-appreciated vegetable, probably because many people don’t know what to do with it.  Fennel has a mild anise, or licorice flavour, and is extremely versatile.  The white bulb can be eaten raw, like in the salad recipe below, or it can be cooked along with the tougher green stalks into pasta sauces, stir-fries, or any recipe which calls for onions or celery. You can use the wispy green fronds as a fresh herb on baked salmon or tossed into salads for a faint licorice flavour.

 To prepare the fennel, remove the green stalks from the white bulb.  Slice the bulb into quarters and remove the hard inner core.  If your recipe calls for sliced fennel you can use a mandolin or simply slice diagonally with a sharp knife.  For a nice side dish try cutting the fennel into 1 inch pieces, toss with olive oil and salt and pepper, and roast at 400F for 30-40 minutes until soft and golden brown.Julienned Carrots and Apple

To add texture to this salad I decided to julienne the vegetables, which is a fancy term for creating match stick shapes. For carrots, slice diagonally into long ovals, place each oval flat side down, and cut into long strips. Use the same technique for the apples.

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Candied pecans are an extra special addition to this salad and are easy to make at home. A lot of recipes I’ve found require using an oven, but my go-to recipe uses only the stove and takes less than 15 minutes to make.  I’ve included the basic recipe below, but try experimenting with different flavours such as cinnamon, cumin, or add some heat with cayenne and black pepper.   The recipe makes more than enough pecans for this salad, so keep the extras in an air-tight container for use at a later time.

Apple Fennel Salad with Candied Pecans

Recipe by Kirsten, serves 4-6

Candied Pecans: 
1 cup pecan halves
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 teaspoon water
optional add ins: pinch of salt, pepper, cayenne, cinnamon, cumin etc.

Dressing:
2 tablespoons of apple cider vinegar or fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, to taste
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

Salad:
1/2 medium fennel bulb, sliced
1 large apple, julienned or grated
1 medium carrot, julienned or grated
½ red onion, sliced
Half of a 10oz bag of spinach
1/4 cup of crumbled feta
1/4 cup candied pecans

Directions

For the candied pecans: In a small pot or frying pan, melt butter over medium heat.  Add brown sugar, nuts, water and add-ins if using.   Stir constantly for 5 minutes until sugar is melted and nuts are evenly coated, be careful not to burn the sugar or nuts. Transfer nuts to a parchment-lined cookie sheet and allow to cool.

For the salad: In a large bowl, combine all of the dressing ingredients. Start with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup and taste, add more as needed.  Add sliced fennel, apple, carrot and red onion to the dressing and stir to coat.  Let it sit for at least 10 minutes to allow the vegetables to soak up the dressing.  This can be prepared a few hours in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to use. The acidity from the dressing will keep the apples from browning.

When you are ready to serve the salad, add the spinach, feta and candied pecans to the fennel/dressing mixture and toss lightly until combined.   Season with salt and pepper.  Serve immediately.