Mum’s Pumpkin Soup

Pumpkin Soup

This is the recipe for my Mum’s pumpkin soup, and it’s pretty easy to make. The hardest part is cutting all the skin off the pumpkin!
It’s a great winter warmer (for those of you who are heading into winter, like me), but is also light enough to eat year-round.

The amounts of everything in this soup are pretty rough – if you have slightly more or slightly less of an ingredient, it will not be the end of the world.

Serves 8 (approximately)

Ingredients

  • 2kg pumpkin, in 1-inch cubes – I prefer jap pumpkins, because they’re cheap and not stringy when they cook up. Butternut is also good, but they are more expensive.
  • 4 large brown onions, sliced
  • 40g butter
  • 3 vegetable stock cubes (or the amount of stock powder you’d use to make 1.5L of stock)
  • 1L of water
  • 1 square of a curry block (I use this one, which I can get from my local supermarket. Any curry powder/seasoning will do, adjust amount to your taste preferences)
  • 2 tbsp sour cream

Method

  1. Heat butter in a stock pot (I use a 5L one) over medium heat. Add sliced onions and cook until translucent and beginning to caramelise.
  2. Add curry, stock cubes, pumpkin, and water to pot and stir. The water will not cover all the pumpkin to start with, but you don’t need to add more.
  3. Bring to boil over medium heat, then reduce heat to low and cook covered for 20mins or until pumpkin cubes are soft and cooked through. Stir occasionally to ensure even cooking.
  4. Remove lid and cook for a further 10mins uncovered (if you like watery soup, skip this step. It helps thicken the soup).
  5. Remove pot from heat and allow to cool for approx 20mins before pureeing. I use a stick blender and do this in the pot, but if you only have a bench-top blender, ensure there are even amounts of solids and liquid in each load through the blender.
  6. Return pureed soup to pot (if you took it out) and bring to boil over high heat. Taste soup at this point and add any extra seasonings. Stir through sour cream and serve.

Variations

  • Thai pumpkin soup – use red curry paste and swap out the sour cream for 1/2 cup coconut cream. Garnish with coriander.
  • Budget variation – if pumpkin is expensive where you live, swap out half the pumpkin for potatoes/sweet potatoes. You can hardly tell the difference! You can also extend the recipe using the same theory – double the ingredients, and make up the additional 2kg of vegetables with potatoes and sweet potatoes. The sweet potatoes help preserve the orange colour of the soup, which can get a bit watered down if you just use white potatoes.
  • +Protein variation – pre-soak 1 cup of red lentils and drain. Add to soup with the pumpkin and continue as normal. Pre-soaking means you will not need extra liquid in the recipe. Red lentils work best as they are the same colour as pumpkin when cooked, don’t have skins, and cook down to mush very quickly.
  • Slow cooker – very easy to make in the slow cooker. Caramelise the onions on the stove first, then add all ingredients to the pot. You will want to reduce the liquid by about 1/3, but DO NOT reduce the number of stock cubes. Cook on Low for approx 6hrs – more is fine. If you are cooking for less than 6hrs, cook on High. Skip the “cook uncovered” step.

This recipe freezes well. It may separate a little when defrosting, just mix it all up again.

~K

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Slow Cooker Chicken Noodle Soup

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I set this awesome soup going while I was out on Monday, and it’s turned out SO GOOD. It doesn’t have the Hubby seal of approval (because it is soup and he isn’t a fan of soup, so he hasn’t even tried it yet) but I reckon it’s fantastic. It has officially risen to the position of “Go-To Chicken Soup Recipe” in my collection.

The recipe came out of an old recipe book that I got from an op shop. I suspect the book is from the early 80s or something, some of the recipes are a *little* bit scary… (There’s a recipe for one of those savoury jelly salad cake things. It contains calamari. UGH!)

This recipe has a GF variation (see end of recipe).

Serves: 6-8 (ish) – could serve up to 10, depends on how much water you add and how hungry you are.

Ingredients:

  • 2L chicken stock
  • 2 chicken breasts, chopped (or 4 thighs)
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 2 carrots, small dice
  • 2 tsp crushed garlic (as always, I used about twice as much garlic)
  • 2 tsp vege stock powder (or 1 cube – whatever amount makes 500ml stock)
  • 410g can creamed corn
  • 1 cup frozen peas
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • 375g packet egg pasta, broken up
  • 500g chinese cabbage, shredded

Method:

  1. Saute onion, leek, garlic and celery until beginning to soften. I did this in my slow cooker itself, as I have a saute function. This saute step was not included in the original recipe, so you could probably skip it if you don’t want to dirty a separate pan and you can’t saute in your slow cooker.
  2. Put all ingredients EXCEPT frozen veg, pasta and cabbage into the pot. Add a little more water if required (I didn’t need to). Cook on LOW for 6-8hrs.
  3. At the last 30mins of cooking time, add cabbage, frozen veg and pasta.
  4. Serve and enjoy 🙂

Disclaimer – there is no cabbage in the photo, because I forgot to add it! I’d chopped the cabbage up when I prepped everything at the start, and then put it back in the fridge… so I sort of forgot about it when I put the pasta and frozen veg in (because I didn’t check the recipe again). By the time I realised, it was far too late. I would have killed the pasta if I’d cooked it for another 30mins when I realised I’d forgotten.

Variations: If you’re gluten free, you could easily make this GF by just skipping on the pasta. Cabbage (if you chop it the right way) is an EXCELLENT pasta analogue in soups.
You could also add whatever veges you happen to have around the house if you wanted to, but make sure you add hard veg (potatoes, carrot, swede, etc) at the start of cooking, and soft veges (cabbage, zucchini, spinach) in that last 30mins.

~K

Omurice

Right, so instead of the regular “Foodie Friday” post, this week I decided to share this video with you.

I made this for lunch for myself this week, and it is SO YUMMY. But mine ended up looking like chunky fried rice (I epically failed at the whole “getting stuff onto the omelette” part) so I thought the original video with an amusing Ryosuke would be better (both for the recipe, the amusement, and what the food is actually supposed to look like).

NB – I halved the recipe, because I was only making it for me.

Enjoy!

~K

Yellow Chicken Curry (Mild)

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The other week, I went out for Thai with my Mum. We had this FANTASTIC yellow curry, and while I was shopping this week I saw that the yellow curry paste was on special so I decided to grab it and have a go at making it myself.

SUCCESS!

I know that’s not a very pretty picture, but it’s the only one I remembered to take.

Serves: 6 (ish)

Ingredients:

  • 250g chicken breast, cubed
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 3 carrots, sliced
  • 5 small potatoes, in 1-inch cubes
  • 1 cup bok choy, chopped
  • 2 tbsp yellow curry paste
  • 300ml can coconut milk (or cream if you want a thicker sauce)
  • 1 vegetable or chicken stock cube

Method:

  1. Preheat a wok with a dash of oil and just brown the chicken, then put aside.
  2. Cook onion until just beginning to go translucent, then add carrot and potato.
  3. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the curry paste and stir through.
  4. Cook for a few minutes, until veges are coated and curry paste is fragrant.
  5. Add the bok choy and stir through, then add coconut milk, chicken and stock cube.
  6. Stir so everything is covered, lightly pat down any bits that are sticking up above the liquid and reduce heat to medium. Simmer for about 25mins, or until the potato is cooked through.

Serve over rice.

Hubby even gave this a good mark, so it’s not an overly hot curry. If you like your curries very hot, you might want to add some chilli or whatever.

~K

Cool new thingy

So I got this awesome new little coffee thingy:

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Filter coffee for one!

It’s from Daiso and it cost like $3. A pack of 100 filters also cost about $3.

It’s awesome because REAL COFFEE without the clean up or the super-noisy coffee machine. I dug out my old coffee grinder and I’m grinding my own coffee beans to use in it.

Not so awesome because OMG I’m drinking WAY too much coffee. I’ve gone from my 1-a-day to 2-or-3-a-day… I will have to be careful that I don’t get back to drinking like 8+ a day once I’m back at uni (been there, done that. Not really interested in going back). Also, coffee beans are EXPENSIVE. But I guess $6 a week in coffee beans is still cheaper than buying takeaway coffee.

I LOVE COFFEE. COFFEE IS LIFE.

~K

Epic Cake Fail

So yeah, that didn’t quite go as expected :S

Apparently (according to Dr Google), I was too impatient – I’m used to using metal forms, which you only leave the cake in for about 10-15mins MAX before turning it out. For silicon forms, you have to let it cool completely.

OOPS!

Cake still tastes really good though 🙂 Now I know how to use a silicon form, I will make a much nicer looking cake next time.

This is just the start of my Christmas baking, so there will be much more to come 🙂 My brothers-in-law (brother-in-laws?) are getting baked goods as Christmas presents this year (their wives have not been helpful in gift suggestions, except to say “no alcohol”. So I am baking – because they all love their food haha).

Follow me on Instagram for more baking pictures (and cat pictures. Lots of cat pictures).

~K

Rainbow Steak

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If you follow me on Instagram, you probably saw this earlier in the week when I originally made it.

It was a roaring success – it tasted EXACTLY like the version we get from our favourite takeaway place, but without all the deep-fried-ness (they deep-fry the steak). Rainbow Steak is Hubby’s favourite takeaway dish, and this passed muster – he gave it 5 stars 🙂

Don’t be scared off by the ingredient list – it looks long and involved, but this is actually really easy to make. The original recipe came from here, but I adjusted it a bit. I used half the amount of meat, but heaps of veges. I also halved the amount of sugar in the sauce.
Also to note – the 1/2 capsicums didn’t go to waste, I used the rest a few days later in another stir fry. You can just use one colour of capsicum if you want, but it won’t look as pretty and colourful. I got a 3-pack of different coloured ones on special at the vege shop 🙂

Serves: 6 (with rice)

Ingredients:

  • 300g steak, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 red capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 green capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 yellow capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 2 brown onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin sticks (about the same size as capsicum slices)
  • 2 tsp minced ginger
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

Marinade for steak

  • 1/2 tbsp minced ginger
  • 1/2 tbsp crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp mirin
  • 1 tsp oil
  • 1/2 tbsp bicarb soda
  • 1/2 tbsp cornflour
  • 1/2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

Sauce

  • 4 tbsp tomato sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbsp BBQ sauce
  • 2 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1/2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1/2 tsp oil
  • 1/4 cup caster sugar

Method:

  1. Slice steak and mix together the marinade ingredients. Marinate the meat for at least 2 hours, preferably overnight.
  2. Combine sauce ingredients in a bowl and set aside.
  3. Heat wok over high heat with a little oil, and cook steak in batches until just browned. Remove from pan and set aside.
  4. Cook carrots until beginning to soften, then add capsicum and onion. Cook until onions begin to turn translucent.
  5. Return meat to wok, add sauce and simmer for a few minutes (until heated through and slightly thickened).

Like just about everything I make, this freezes well.

Taco Casserole

Taco Casserole

You can’t really see the casserole too well – you can just spy it at the top of the bowl, near the fork.

This is really easy to make, and freezes well, so you can have it ready in the freezer for whenever you have a taco craving!

Serves: 8

Ingredients:

  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 400g can tomatoes
  • 500ml beef stock
  • 1 cup dried beans, soaked and precooked (use whatever beans you like. I used half black beans and half black-eyed beans)
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 4 tbsp chunky salsa + extra for topping
  • 1 cup uncooked rice
  • 1 cup frozen corn
  • Whatever toppings you want! (I used cheese, lettuce, tomatoes, sour cream, avocado, and some extra salsa)

Method:

  1. Heat a large, heavy-bottomed pot with a tight-fitting lid over medium heat with a little oil of your choice (my personal preference is rice bran oil). Cook mince until mostly browned, then add onions and cook until they are translucent.
  2. Reduce heat to med-low. Add tinned tomatoes, stock, taco seasoning, salsa, beans and corn. Stir and bring to boil.
  3. Add rice and bring to boil again, then reduce heat to low. Cook (covered) for 30mins (or until rice is cooked through), stirring occasionally so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. Rice dries out the older it gets, so if you’ve had your rice for a while (i.e. 6mths+) it will likely take longer than the 30mins.
  4. Serve with whatever toppings you like.

NB: Freezes well

After I made this, we ate it 3 times in the same week! It passed the “Hubby test”, and he gave it 5 stars 🙂 I will be making this again very soon, and I’ll try to remember to take a picture of the finished product before I put toppings on.

Budget Tip!
If meat is too expensive (or you’re vegetarian) you can replace the beef mince with an additional cup of dried beans without losing much in the way of flavour.
Vegetarian note – I use Massel brand stock cubes, which are gluten & dairy free as well as being vegan. They are “beef style” and “chicken style”, but do not contain any animal products – the taste and colour of the different stocks is created using herbs and vegetable extracts.

~K

Tips for Eating Cheap

My Mum is the QUEEN of cheap eating, and she’s taught me how to do it too – so I’d like to pass a bit of that wisdom on to all of you!

Eating cheaply does not mean eating boring!
Cheap eating does not have to be the same thing day in, day out. There are quite a lot of things you can make for very cheaply that use the same ingredients, put together in different ways.

Herbs & spices are a godsend
Herbs and spices are reasonably cheap, and can turn a meal of something like rice and beans from boring to awesome! Different spice combinations can make the same base ingredients taste like a meal from anywhere in the world, which makes meals a lot less boring. Eg – a bit of tomato paste and some italian herbs can turn beans and rice can turn it into something akin to a stuffed capsicum, or add a bit of curry powder and cornflour and make a curry sauce! Beans and rice easily take on the flavour of whatever they are cooked with, so using stock instead of water to cook them can give them a bit of flavour as well.

Rice, beans, and frozen veges are your friends
So you all know about the rice and beans – but the way I’m talking about is not how you’re used to hearing it. Use legumes and grains to extend your meat (e.g. add beans to taco mince, add cooked lentils or barley to casseroles, put both in soups – there’s more, but that’s some ideas), as well as without meat.
NB: On their own, most legumes (beans, lentils, peas) are not complete proteins. However, grains contain the missing amino acids, so eating them together means that your body can make better use of the protein. Hence the beans-and-rice combo.
If you’re making something that is served with rice (e.g. curried sausages), mix the rice and sauce together before you serve it. This means you can make the meal stretch further, because even though you’ve made more rice, mixing it in together with the sauce first makes it look like you’re getting more food. I think it is because you are looking at a big bowl of something all the same colour, not a little blob of something on top of the rice.
Frozen veges are awesome – they keep FOREVER, they’re just as good as the fresh ones (often better, because they are frozen at peak ripeness), and they’re usually pre-chopped! I always have 3 different bags of frozen veges (corn only, peas only, corn peas & carrot mix), because they are absolutely the most versatile things you can have. They mix well with anything! Add them to literally everything, they’ll extend the meal as well as making it healthier.

Meal planning is the bomb
It may seem like a pain, and I’m sure you’ve all heard it before, but meal planning really DOES save money. I never used to do it when I first moved out, because it just seemed like way too much effort – but after I started doing it, I was amazed how easy it actually was!
It enables you to buy only what you need, so you don’t have food going gross in the pantry/fridge because you didn’t eat it. It also means you can plan ahead a bit, and incorporate a bit of variety into your meals. You can plan to buy a big bag of something this week, which will last a few weeks and frees up a couple of dollars next week for something else.

You really do need freezer space
The best thing you can invest in for cheap cooking is not a slow cooker – it’s a decent free-standing freezer. I have a little bar-fridge-sized freezer in addition to my fridge-with-attached-freezer, and it’s the main thing that makes it so I can keep my meal costs down. It means that you can cook a meal and freeze the extras, so you don’t need to eat the same thing for 3 days straight before it goes off. It’s also often easier and cheaper to cook a meal that serves 4+ people than it is to cook a meal just for one person. You’ll also want to invest in a big pack of those plastic ‘chinese containers’ (you know, the ones that food from chinese take-aways come in). The 6ooml size easily fits a one person serve, and they stack nicely in the freezer. If you’re squeamish about reheating food in them, just get a couple of glass containers with microwave-safe lids.

That said, I do love my slow cooker
Having one means that you can buy the cheaper cuts of meat (particularly red meat) and still make it edible. They’re also great for turning dried beans into perfect-texture cooked ones (except kidney beans. You need to boil those, and a slow cooker doesn’t get hot enough).
A slow cooker is also a god-send for if you are both time- and cash-poor. While you’re doing dinner the night before, you can prep all the ingredients for the next day’s slow cooker recipe (only 1 lot of dishes required!) and chuck it all in the fridge overnight. Then the next morning, dump everything in and let the cooker run while you’re at work/uni/home-but-busy and when dinner time comes around, voila! You have a large pot of something yummy ready to go.
NB: Bigger is not always better for a slow cooker, particularly if you are only feeding 1 or 2 people. A slow cooker needs to be at least 1/2 full to work properly, so get a smaller one (3L-ish) if you aren’t feeding a large group on a regular basis (or plan on making lots of really big stews/soups/roasts). I have a big 6.5L one and a smaller 3L one, and the 3L definitely gets a better workout than the big one – I only use the big one if I’m making big pot of something for a get-together or similar. The 3L is our everyday cooking item.
You can still cook slow-cooked meals without an actual slow cooker, but most of those methods use the stove/oven, which means that you can’t necessarily leave the house while it’s cooking.

As promised in my post last month about meal planning, I will be doing a list of my pantry staples VERY SOON. Hopefully ready for next week’s Tutorial Tuesday (fingers crossed!)

~K