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.


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 […]

Roasted Vegetables

Roasted Vegetables

I was talking with a friend the other day, and we were talking about roasted vegetables.  And I said, you really don’t need a recipe. Just the basics. Cut the veggies the same size, toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roast for 30 […]

Crockpot Shrimp from Fit Slow Cooker Queen

Crockpot Shrimp from Fit Slow Cooker Queen

As a friend of mine commented when she saw my post about cooking shrimp in the slow cooker, “shrimp in a crockpot? Shrimp takes four minutes! “

I know, I know.  But, I was looking at slow cooker recipes and came across this one. Then I was at the fish counter, and shrimp was on sale.  And I remembered the recipe and thought I would give it a try. The recipe said that the length of time to cook really infused the shrimp with flavor.

I only bought a pound of shrimp, so I used the mini cooker that I have. The shrimp went in, followed by Old Bay Seasoning and lemon.  The recipe actually has you make your own seasoning mix, but since it is supposed to taste like Old Bay, and I already had Old Bay, that’s what I used.

Stir it all up with water.

And two hours later on low, I had boiled shrimp.

The recipe stresses that you need to drain the shrimp within 15 minutes of stopping cooking.

The verdict?   I doubt that this will become my go to way of cooking shrimp. However, it had some advantages. I could see this as being really useful when you were having a dinner party and trying to coordinate a lot of things to be ready all at once. Throw all that shrimp into the slow cooker, turn it on low, and time it to be ready in two hours at the same time as everything else you have ready to serve.

It was definitely perfectly cooked. I do think it was best right out of the cooker, rather then cold the next day.

However,  I don’t think it was any more flavorful than my regular way of cooking shrimp.

But it is always fun to try something new.

If you want to see Fit Slow Cooker Queen’s full recipe and method, you can find it here.  She has lots of other good looking recipes too. (more…)

Pickin up Paw Paws, put ‘em in your pocket…

Pickin up Paw Paws, put ‘em in your pocket…

I remember hearing the song Way Down Yonder In the Paw Paw Patch growing up, but I never had a Paw Paw , and I’m not even sure I really knew what one was. In September, a local farm, Cary’s U-Pick, posted that they had paw paws and […]

Poached Halibut in Thai Coconut Curry Broth

Poached Halibut in Thai Coconut Curry Broth

Halibut was on sale and I wanted to do something different from what I usually do. So I texted my brother in Alaska and he sent me to Alaska From Scratch site and this recipe. It’s a favorite at their house, and now it will […]

Chicken, Tomato, and Fresh Herb Soup

Chicken, Tomato, and Fresh Herb Soup

May I call this soup?  I’m going to call this soup. Because, why wouldn’t I?

I have to blog about this because it was so ridiculously good, and completely unplanned. There is exactly one picture because there is no recipe and I had no idea how good it was going to be.

This makes one bowl.

Chicken, Tomato, and Fresh Herb Soup 

3 ounces cubed or diced roast chicken breast

1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered

1/2 cup homemade chicken stock (something like the Knorr stock pots would probably work as well, but it needs to be a rich stock no matter what you use)

1 generous handful freshly picked herbs, chopped-today I used chives, parsley and thyme)

For the microwave, place chicken, quartered tomatoes, and chicken stock in a bowl. Heat for two minutes then check the temperature. If needed, heat one more minute.

On the stovetop, place chicken, quartered tomatoes and chicken stock in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat and heat to your desired temperature. Pour into a bowl.

You don’t want to dry out the chicken. You just want to heat it and at the same time release the juice from the tomatoes. You do want it hot, though, so that when the herbs hit the broth all that flavor and fragrance will develop.

Stir the herbs into the soup.

How this happened and helpful hints 

Yesterday I had planned to have a salad that included some cold, chopped chicken. But yesterday turned chilly and I wanted something hot.

I didn’t want to just heat up the chicken on its own and started thinking about what I had that would work well with the chicken.

There was a container of Sweet Cherub tomatoes on the counter so I decided to quarter them and add to a bowl with the chicken.

Although I had some chicken broth in the fridge, I wanted something richer. I remembered that I had some homemade concentrated stock in the freezer so thawed a small amount to use.  I didn’t actually measure.  It was maybe 1/2 cup, 3/4 at the most.

Once heated, the tomatoes released so much juice that mixed with the stock there was plenty of broth.

Finally, I thought about how delicious it was when you add fresh herbs to hot dishes—cilantro to chicken tortilla soup; basil to tomato soup; Thai basil to stir fry.

My herb pots are at the end of the season, but I still have plenty of parsley, chives, and thyme. I cut a generous handful, washed them and chopped them for the soup.

I think fresh herbs are crucial here. I don’t think dry herbs would have the same impact, and this is a fast soup so you wouldn’t simmer long enough to develop flavor from dry.

The soup was incredibly delicious and full of flavor. The key is in the ingredients. I don’t think it would work well with tomatoes that aren’t as sweet; with a stock that isn’t as rich; or with anything other than fresh herbs.

This was a sort of happy accident, but one I plan on repeating.

Catching Up and Meal Prep Sunday

Catching Up and Meal Prep Sunday

My cooking and posting has been a little sporadic lately.  There was a lot going on, including some travel. I had some great restaurant meals,  but did little cooking. I go in spurts of doing meal planning, and meal prepping. Today was one of those […]