A personal kitchen diary. I try new recipes and make notes on what works and what doesn't. Sometimes I can things, and sometimes I dry herbs. This is the story of my kitchen.

A Very Merri Kitchen

A Very Merri Kitchen

A personal kitchen diary. I try new recipes and make notes on what works and what doesn't. Sometimes I can things, and sometimes I dry herbs. This is the story of my kitchen.


Playing with Plantains

Playing with Plantains

A friend ordered some fruits from Melissa’s Produce and gave me some plantains, something that sort of looks like a plantain, and a red banana.  Then I needed to think of different things to make. Originally I was going to try making patacones, but I […]

Salmon Cakes

Salmon Cakes

This is another recipe the health coach I have been working with gave me—and another recipe that I think is good, but could be better.  A bonus with this recipe is that it makes quite a few salmon cakes, so I froze the remainder for […]

Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup

Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash soup is always easy, and using the Crockpot made it even easier.  I got this recipe from Tasty here, but I’ll be making a few tweaks the next time.  It is good as is, but I think it can be better.

I had a butternut squash from a local farm so now was the time to try out the recipe.  The recipe called for some coconut milk as well as thyme, and I think both are not necessary and in fact take away from the flavor of the soup, so I won’t use either next time.  I also used veggie broth, making it vegetarian, but I’m going to use chicken broth next time.  (I’m not vegetarian, but if you are, go ahead and keep it in)

As I said, this is pretty darned easy, and started with simply peeling and seeding the squash, chopping the onion, and peeling four cloves of garlic.

I like the spicy flavor of this soup, with ginger,cumin, coriander, paprika, and cayenne pepper (and salt and pepper of course).

Everything went into the Crockpot, with a little olive oil.

Followed by the veggie broth, covered, and cooked on high for four hours.  It then calls for adding the coconut milk and thyme and then blending.

I personally thought it was creamy enough before the coconut milk, and that the coconut milk actually muddied the flavor.  I didn’t think the thyme worked at all with the other spices flavoring the soup.

I used my immersion blender to purée right in the Crockpot.

I garnished with fresh thyme and parsley, but don’t think those work that well either.  Later I added some pumpkin seeds, and those worked great with the soup.

I portioned out the remaining soup into single serving containers and froze them for later lunches.

After talking to other cooking friends I’m going to make these changes:

Use chicken broth instead of veggies

Omit the coconut milk and thyme

Add a squeeze of lemon juice before serving

Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds, perhaps a little sambal oelek

Here’s my version:

Crockpot Butternut Squash Soup

1 butternut squash (appx 2 lbs) peeled and seeded, halved and quartered.  Very big pieces are fine.

1 medium yellow onion, peeled and diced

4 cloves garlic, peeled

3 cups chicken broth

1/2 teaspoon each: ground ginger, cumin, coriander, paprika (I used s semi-sweet smoked paprika)

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Olive oil to taste

To serve:

Fresh lemon juice

roasted pumpkin seeds (or clean and roast the squash seeds)

Sambal Oelek

Add the squash, onion, garlic, and spices to the slowe cooker.  Drizzle olive oil over, and turn veggies and spices to cover.  Pour over the chicken broth and cover.  Cook on high for 4 hours or low for 8.

Use an immersion blender and blend right in the slow cooker.

Right before serving, squeeze in some lemon juice and stir, and garnish as you like.

Shirley’s Clam Chowder

Shirley’s Clam Chowder

My mother-in-law used to make this chowder.  It’s a creamy, hearty bowl of chowder.  It’s an unusual chowder in that you add cheese at the end, but that makes it even creamier.  It also uses a can of cream of celery soup instead of actual […]

Pollo Alla Romana

Pollo Alla Romana

I was staying with friends last week and they were working on perfecting Pollo Alla Romana.  They were trying to recreate the flavors of the one they had at a restaurant in Rome.  I was the lucky recipient of one of their versions, and decided […]

Spicy Baked Chicken Thighs

Spicy Baked Chicken Thighs

This week I made an easy baked chicken thigh recipe from Let The Baking Begin

In short, it was delicious!  And, it was fast and easy, so now it’s being added to the weeknight rotation.  Take a look at her recipe on the link above (where she also gives a LOT of helpful hints and answers questions).

Here are the specifics on what I did.

Regarding the spice mixture:

First, I always use Hidden Valley Ranch Dip and Dressing mix.  I can’t tell you whether or not it will come out well with another ranch mix; we like the taste of Hidden Valley.  I did not add any of the salt listed in the original recipe.

Finally, I have been very spoiled by my friend David who has brought me a variety of fantastic paprikas from Spain.  My choice for this recipe was a semi-sweet smoked paprika.

Let The Baking Begin offers three suggestions for mixing with the spices—oil, mayo, or buttermilk.  I went with olive oil.

I pulled most of the skin off the chicken thighs, but I did leave them bone-in as I think the chicken remains moister.  Or more moist.  Suddenly I’m unsure of the proper grammar there.

I also tried the method of coating the chicken thighs with the mixture in a Ziploc bag, but didn’t feel like I was really coating the chicken as well as I wanted.  So I ended up just reaching in and thoroughly massaging the mixture into the chicken thighs with my hands.  Next time, I’m just going with using a bowl!

Another suggestion I will continue to follow, though, was to line my baking dish with foil.  There was nothing to cleaning that dish later.  I lined up all the chicken, and into the oven it went at 500 Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, then down to 375 Fahrenheit for 45 minutes more.

And here it is!

While it baked, I had plenty of time to make a salad to go with it, and do a little kitchen cleanup.  My husband really liked the chicken too, and the next day it heated up really well for lunch.

It is full of flavor.  Lots of spices, but not spicy hot.  None of the spices overwhelms the others—that is, it’s not like you only taste Hidden Valley Ranch or smoked paprika.  They add to the total flavor without taking over.

Hidden Valley Ranch/Garlic/Paprika Baked Chicken

4 lb Bone-in, Skinless Chicken Thighs

3 Tbsp Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing and Dip powdered mix

1 1/2 Tbsp garlic powder

1 Tbsp semi-sweet smoked paprika

1 tsp ground black pepper

4 Tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 500 Fahrenheit.  Line a 9×12 baking dish with foil.

If the chicken thighs have skin, pull it off.

Mix together the dressing mix, garlic powder, paprika and black pepper in a large bowl, then whisk in the olive oil.

Pat dry the chicken, using paper towels, and then add the thighs to the mixture in the large bowl.  Turn and coat the chicken thoroughly with the spice mixture.

Place the thighs in a single layer in the baking dish.  Roast at 500 for 10 minutes, then lower the heat to 375 Fahrenheit.  Bake another 45 minutes and check with a thermometer—you are looking for 165 Fahrenheit.  You might start checking a little earlier than 45 minutes.

Let the chicken rest for 10 minutes before serving.

A Different Kind of Chili

A Different Kind of Chili

Yes, I realize that there have been a lot of soups and chilis lately.  It’s that kind of weather out, plus, I love soups. I’ve been working with a health coach the past two months, and he gave me this recipe.  It comes from a […]

Smitten Kitchen’s Mushroom Soup

Smitten Kitchen’s Mushroom Soup

This mushroom soup is full of flavor.  I can always depend on Smitten Kitchen recipes.  Even if I don’t follow them exactly. Smitten Kitchen’s post may be found here. She didn’t make it exactly as the original was written, and I made some alterations as […]

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup

This soup is so easy and flavorful.  I made just the slightest changes, but you can find the original recipe here.

There are also a few conversions that aren’t in the original recipe, and like another commenter I wasn’t sure what they meant by tomato purée, so I simply decided that the tomato purée would be tomato paste.

You can easily make this vegetarian by using vegetable stock.  I used some of my own homemade chicken stock in mine.

I also didn’t have any fresh leeks, or red chilis, but I had some of both in the freezer.  I thawed and drained the leeks while I prepared the rest of the soup, and seeded and sliced some of those red chilis.  I also roasted the sweet potatoes.

Over medium heat I warmed some olive oil, and in went the onions, leeks, lemongrass, chili, grated fresh ginger and tomato paste.

Overall I cooked the aromatics for around 4 or 5 minutes before adding the roasted sweet potatoes.

Finally I added my chicken broth, and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes.  More time won’t hurt it if you are occupied doing other things in the kitchen.

Finally it was time for the coconut milk and another short simmer.

I used the immersion blender to purée the soup (after removing the lemongrass).  I did as suggested in the original recipe, and drizzled a little of saved coconut milk on top. I also dotted the soup with a bit of Sambal Oelek for spice, and finished it with cilantro.

It’s delicious!  Sweet and creamy, and a little spicy at the same time.  After eating a bowl, I then froze the soup in 5 more portions so I have a quick, easy, tasty meal in the future.

Sweet Potato Coconut Soup

2 1bs (about 2) sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 leek, sliced and chopped

1 red chili (or two small chilis like me), cut in half, seeding and removing the ribs, then slice

1 stalk lemongrass.  Mine from my pot were a little thin, so I used two.  Use a mallet to smash the stalks and release the juices

1 tsp freshly grated ginger (I wouldn’t substitute for this, it makes a real flavor difference to have the fresh ginger)

4 tsp tomato paste (I use the paste from the tube)

Salt and pepper

4 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth)

1 14 oz can light coconut milk

For garnish:  Sambal Oelek* and cilantro

Preheat the oven to 400F.

Toss the sweet potatoes with one tablespoon of oil, and season with salt and pepper.  Spread out in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until fork tender.

In a heavy bottomed pan, heat the other tablespoon of oil over medium heat.  Add the onions, leeks, red chili, lemongrass and ginger.  Stirring occasionally, let the vegetables soften, but not brown.  Maybe 4-5 minutes.

Add the sweet potatoes and stir in the tomato paste.  I like to do this before adding extra liquid so that the tomato paste mixes in well.  Then add the chicken stock and let the soup simmer for 10 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk, and let simmer another 5 minutes, stirring constantly.

Remove the lemongrass stalks, and use an immersion blender to purée the soup.

Taste and season as necessary.  Serve with a little coconut milk and Sambal Oelek dotted on top to give it a little spice (it already has a little from the chilis and ginger) and if you like cilantro, some chopped cilantro is good as well.

*Sambal Oelek is chili paste, and is the chili paste I prefer.  Others use Sriracha.


Lemongrass Chicken and Sort of Thai Soup

Lemongrass Chicken and Sort of Thai Soup

The other day I had some boneless, skinless chicken breasts thawing, and I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do with them.  As it happens, I also had a big pot of lemongrass in my kitchen and I was harvesting the lemongrass before a cold […]