All posts filed under “BETTER THE NEXT DAY

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SOLOMON ISLANDS: Curried Coconut and Lime Gourd Soup

SOLOMON ISLANDS: Curried Coconut and Lime Gourd Soup


Here’s what we learned about the Solomon Islands in  our research this week:

  • There are around 1000 islands that make up the country and over 70 unique languages spoken.
  • It is believed that people have lived on the Solomon Islands for over 4000 years.
  • Due to global warming, the sea level in the Solomon Islands has been rising by eight millimetres per year compared to the global average of 2.8 to 3.6 mm
  • The Solomon Islands gained independence from Britain in 1978 – making the country younger than me.
  • While very dark skinned, 5-10% of Solomon Islanders carry a gene for blond hair!
  • I really want to go there someday.



There is precious little to be found about soups from the Solomon Islands online.  I tried reaching out to resorts on the islands for guidance, but finally found what I was looking for by browsing the online menus of the various restaurants of the many resorts on the islands.  I saw a few soups repeated – vegetable curry and pumpkin curry – so I ran with that idea.

Since everything I could find about the cuisine of the Solomon Islands talked about fish, fish, and more fish, I used fish stock in my soup, but this could be vegan by using vegetable stock.  The real key to this soup is the Madras curry powder (which also happens to be SUPER good on popcorn).  I found it at Safeway, so I’m guessing it should be pretty easy to find.  It contains salt, so if you use a different curry powder, you’ll probably want to add some salt to your soup.


So, I worked sans sous chef today.  Here’s the math:

  • Sleepover + Sensitive/temperamental child= Sleep-deprived grumpy kid
  • Sleep-deprived grumpy kid + Homework packets = Epic battle
  • Epic battle + First time trying out the word “sucks” = Banishment to room until said homework packets were completed and a reflection about the kind of language we use in our family was written
  • Banishment to room until said homework packets were completed and a reflection about the kind of language we use in our family was written + Need to make/eat soup = No sous chef

He did, however, manage to smile just once yesterday… but only because I told him to do so and (for the only time yesterday) he did what I asked.   That smile, while it looks so genuine, disappeared immediately when I put down the camera and the “you’re the meanest mom in the world” routine continued.  Sigh.  His big brother, on the other hand, was thrilled with flying under the radar for the day, but not so thrilled with the soup.  As he put it, “Mama, I’m just not a gourd guy.”    Duly noted.

soop_solomon_nov14-5Okay, so parenting challenges aside, I thought this was outstanding.  By using Trader Joes’ pre-cut & pre-peeled butternut squash cubes the hardest part of this soup was mincing all the shallots & the ginger.  If I wanted to REALLY wanted to speed this up, I could use my mini food processor and throw everything in there to mince and this recipe would REALLY be a snap.  This took about 30 minutes from start to finish and hit every mark for me – comforting, bright flavors, ever so slightly spicy, healthy, quick, easy and unique.  We served it garnished with jalapeño and basil with grilled fish and jasmine rice on the side.  I could eat this for lunch every day and be a happy, happy camper.


Curried Coconut and Lime Gourd Soup
Serves 8


    • 2 tablespoons canola (or other neutral) oil
    • 1 cup shallots, chopped (approximately 4 large shallots)
    • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
    • 4 lbs butternut squash, pumpkin, or other orange fleshed gourd, peeled and chopped*
    • 4 cups fish stock or vegetable
    • 2 cups water
    • 3 tablespoons Madras curry powder*
    • 1 can light coconut milk
    • juice of one lime


  1. Warm the oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add the shallots and cool until softened- approximately 3 minutes.  Add the ginger and garlic and cook until fragrant  being very careful not to allow the garlic to burn – approximately 1 minute.soop_solomon_nov14-2
  2. Add the gourd, stock, and water and bring to a boil.  Then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the gourd is tender when pierced with a fork – approximately 30 minutes.soop_solomon_nov14-3
  3. When gourd is tender, using a blender, food processor, or immersion blender puree soup until smooth.soop_solomon_nov14-4
  4. Stir in curry powder, coconut milk and lime juice.  Adjust seasoning – adding more salt if necessary – and serve topped with cilantro leaves, basil leaves, jalapeño slices or anything green and pretty.

Cook’s Notes

Trader Joes carries butternut squash already peeled and chopped into 1″ cubes.  Crazy convenient.

Madras curry has salt added to it.  If you use a different type of curry powder, you will need to add salt to your soup.

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USA: Chicken Noodle Soup

USA: “Hangover” Chicken Noodle Soup


I was a little chagrined when Calvin drew USA so early in the game, but so be it.  And the obvious answer to “what is the classic soup from the USA?”?  Chicken Noodle, of course.  But, let’s face it; everyone and their mother has a chicken noodle soup recipe.  So for this week, I can either try to find the most traditional recipe ever or off road a little bit and reinvent the wheel perhaps.  So, being the, er, quirky gal I am, I’m off-roading.  Without further ado, I present you with the chicken noodle soup I cooked in undergrad whenever I had a hangover.  (Since this is for and with the kids, I won’t mention how frequently I cooked this soup.)

It all started with a hangover and the need/desire for something comforting to my brain and my stomach.  Opening the fridge revealed standard chicken noodle soup fixings (except the carrots which I didn’t have) and as I had been fairly unkind to my body the night before I decided to  throw in a little bit of everything green I had in there.  And “hangover soup” was born.  It’s a little bit crunchy, a little bit tangy,  a lot of green, and a lot of good.  Oh, and it works. Hangovers (or colds for that matter)  be gone!soop_USA_sept14-33

“Hangover” Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves 4


    • 1 tablespoon olive oil
    • 1.5 pounds skinless boneless chicken thighs
    • 1 small yellow onion, chopped
    • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
    • 4 stalks celery, sliced into 1/4″ half moons
    • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
    • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
    • 1 tablespoon fresh black pepper
    • 8 cups chicken stock (preferably homemade)
    • 1 cup dried pasta of your choice (we used Jovial gluten free fusilli)
    • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley (including stems), minced
    • 1 cup celery, minced
    • juice of 3 limes
    • salt and pepper to taste
    • lime wedges to serve


  1. In a large soup pot, heat olive oil on medium. Generously salt and pepper both sides of chicken thighs. Brown chicken until both sides are browned, about 5 minutes a side. Remove chicken from pan and set aside.soop_USA_sept14-34soop_USA_sept14-35soop_USA_sept14-1
  2. In the same pan add onions and saute on low until translucent. Add garlic, celery, and herbs. Saute  for about 8 minutes. Add chicken broth and let simmer for 15 minutes.soop_USA_sept14-13
  3. Meanwhile shred chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add meat and any juices that may have settled in the plate to the simmering broth. Once chicken has been added and is cooked through, allow another 15 minutes of simmer time for flavors to merge.soop_USA_sept14-4
  4. Meanwhile, prepare pasta according to directions – removing it from hot water when it is quite al dente.  (We did a taste test of various GF pastas and found that Jovial’s brown rice pasta held up wonderfully and was everything we wanted in our chicken noodle soup.  Trader joes’ brown rice/quinoa pasta was a close 2nd.)soop_USA_sept14-7
  5. Add fresh parsley, celery, and lime juice.  Season with salt and pepper as needed to taste.  To serve, add pasta to bowl and top with soup.

    You see that jersey Calvin is wearing? Balotelli is and Italian soccer player nicknamed Super Mario by fans because of his surprising actions on and off the field. Like Balotelli, like Calvin. I think we have a new nickname for him.


    Pre-meal taste testing gets two thumbs up and a tongue.


Nearly 9 years ago, when I was heavily pregnant with Calvin and Beckett was only 18 months old, I was still working as a wedding photographer and was having a hard time keeping up with life.  I posted an ad on craigslist for a mother’s helper and an angel responded.  Auntie Edie walked into our house and hearts and our life has been so much richer ever since.

So, when Calvin drew the USA, I posted on facebook asking my friends for the best ever chicken noodle soup recipe and Auntie Edie responded with how she makes hers.  Today’s soup version is an amalgam of my hangover cure made with her grown up technique (aka: a technique I never could have accomplished in undergrad – especially not with an hangover).  When I was in school, I just used canned chicken stock and boiled chicken breasts in the broth before shredding it.  It was good, but Auntie Edie’s technique of browning chicken thighs in the pan first made our soup so much richer and more umphy (my made up word of the day to describe good).  Thumbs up Auntie Edie – this version is sure to become a staple in our house. soop_USA_sept14-17

Thanks for joining us Auntie Edie and for making our lives so much more umphy!

A hangover is not required to enjoy this soup.  Hangover soup freezes really well.  Just leave out the pasta and make some fresh when you defrost the soup.  This soup is also really great with rice, quinoa, or no grains whatsoever.  I will occasionally also throw in a handful or two of spinach, baby kale, or chard if I have it on hand.  You can’t go wrong really – just toss in whatever veggies you love.

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SOUTH KOREA: Beef Seaweed Soup with Clams (소고기 미역국)

SOUTH KOREA: Beef Seaweed Soup with Clams / Sogogi Miyeok-guk (소고기 미역국)

The moment we drew South Korea we called our good friend Beau, who just moved back to the USA after spending the last 10+ years in South Korea, and asked him his advice. Without hesitation, he suggested Miyoek-guk. Actually his words were “Oh dear… um… Korean soups are really complex.  There’s a great one called Miyoek-guk. Miyoek = seaweed. Guk= soup. Seaweed slightly fried with soy sauce, sesame oil and tiny bits of pork. Then put into an amazingly savory soup often with tiny clams….” and then he fell silent with a dreamy look on his face. Okay, so we have our soup because Beckett heard the wistfulness, seaweed, savory + clams and he was sold.

Researching South Korea

Miyoek-guk is quite famous in Korea and is referred to as “birthday soup”.   It is the first food that new mothers eat once they give birth and people traditionally eat it on each birthday to commemorate their day of birth – hence the nickname.  According to legend, many, many years ago Koreans observed whales eating seaweed after giving birth and adopted the same technique for postpartum recovery.  It’s no wonder whales eat it: seaweed, one of nature’s superfoods, contains amazing amounts of iron, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin B12, and is purported to assist with healthy immune systems, proper thyroid function, and healthy blood pressure.

But wait!  There’s more! Apparently, seaweed is also really great for brain function and is often given to students before exams.  (Note to self:  remember this!  In order to do so, please eat more seaweed!) 

Based on recipes online, it appears that Korean “birthday soup” can be made with beef, pork, clams, or vegetarian.  For our version, we opted for beef + clams.   soop_SOUTHKOREA_sept14-13

Beef Seaweed Soup with Clams
Serving: 8-10



  • 2 teaspoons of Korean soy sauce* (guk-ganjang)
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced (approximately 1 tablespoon)
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper


  • 1/2 lb lean meat such as brisket or flank steak, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 1 lb small clams**
  • 3 tablespoons kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 1 oz (30g) dried seaweed (miyeok) (approximately 2 cups), cut or broken into 1-2″ pieces
  • 10 cups water
  • 4  tablespoons  Korean soy sauce* (guk-ganjang)
  • 4 tablespoons fish sauce, preferably Korean anchovy
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced very thin
  • 1 green onion, sliced very thin

* Gluten free Korean soy sauce is available online. I found it on Amazon.
** If you can’t find good fresh clams, many asian grocery stores carry packages of small clams in the frozen section.


  1. Prepare the marinade by mixing all ingredients in a medium bowl. Add beef and allow it to marinate while you complete the next steps.soop_SOUTHKOREA_sept14-2
  2.   Prepare clams by placing them in a large pot and cover completely with 10 cups cold water.  Bring pot to a boil then reduce heat to low.  Skim any foam.  Boil 20 minutes.soop_SOUTHKOREA_sept14-1
  3. soop_SOUTHKOREA_sept14-3
  4. Strain clam broth through a cheesecloth, reserving both the broth and the clams, but discarding all impurities.soop_SOUTHKOREA_sept14-7
  5.  Drain the seaweed then massage with 3 tablespoons of salt until seaweed is evenly coated.soop_SOUTHKOREA_sept14-5
  6. Rinse salted seaweed with cold water 3 to 5 times until it no longer foams and all dirt and salt is removed.  Pull apart and discard any extra thick or stringy pieces of seaweed.    Squeeze out any excess water.soop_SOUTHKOREA_sept14-6
  7.  Heat a medium-sized pot on medium heat.  Add 2 teaspoons of sesame oil and sauté the marinated beef for 2 minutes.  Add chopped seaweed and sauté on medium for 5-10 minutes until most of the moisture of the seaweed is gone.  Be sure to stir frequently so seaweed does not burn.soop_SOUTHKOREA_sept14-9soop_SOUTHKOREA_sept14-10
  8. Add clam broth, clams, soy sauce, fish sauce,  garlic + green onions.  Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and simmer for at least 1 hour (soup develops more flavor the longer it cooks)soop_SOUTHKOREA_sept14-11.

We tried several different kinds of seaweed and there was a definite winner.  If you can find this brand, you’ll be pleased you did.  Some of the others we tried were extra slimy, overly fishy, or simply fell apart.  This seaweed retains its crunch and delicate flavor.  Thumbs up.

The Meal:

Well, the Miyeok-Guk was not a huge hit with the kids*, but the adults all enjoyed it quite a bit once we put in extra hot sauce and kimchee.  We served it with egg custard (gyeran jjim), kimchee, bulgogi, rice, seaweed salad and Trader Joes’ Korean veggie pancakes (pa jeon).  Everyone left full and hopefully a little smarter thanks to the seaweed superfood.


*My theory on why it wasn’t a hit with the kids: we didn’t use the good seaweed and didn’t put enough soy sauce in the first batch.  When I tested the recipe again the next day with the good seaweed and more soy sauce, it was wolfed down.   The recipe above has been adjusted to reflect that modification.

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UKRAINE: Red Borscht


My borscht came out a little more red than I had planned, so I increased the amount of beet in the recipe below.

UKRAINE: Red Borscht

With nearly as many variations on the recipe as good old chicken noodle soup, it’s tricky to nail down an “official” borscht (also called borsch) recipe.  Only a few things are certain: borscht contains beets and Ukrainians claim that this popular Eastern European soup comes from Ukraine.  This version is an amalgam of recipes found all over the interwebs and in various cookbooks.

For a fun history of Borscht and its effect on Ukrainians, take a gander at THIS blog posting.  And to keep it traditional, consider sipping on ice-cold vodka while cooking and eating.

Let’s get started shall we?  My afternoon sous chef,  Beckett, and I gathered all the ingredients we needed to get ourselves started, turned up the radio and got to it.


Ukrainian Borscht
Serving: 8-10

  • 1.5 pounds pork butt shoulder or boneless beef chuck (I used 2 cuts of osso buco – totally not traditional, I know, but the cuts were reasonably priced and it worked wonderfully)
  • 1 Tbsp salt + more to taste
  • 4 medium beet roots, washed, peeled and grated
  • 3 carrots, grated
  • 2 parsnips, grated
  • 4 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • 1Tbsp sugar
  • 2-3 Tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 1 large yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2 Tbsp minced parsley stems
  • 2-3 bay leaves
  • 5-6 black peppercorns
  • 4 small russet potatoes, washed, peeled, quartered and sliced into 1/4” pieces
  • ½ head of green cabbage, sliced very thin
  • 4 cups beef broth
  • 2 large clove garlic, minced, divided
  • 2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
  • Salt + sugar to taste
  • 0.15 – 0.25 lb salted salo*
  • 4 sprigs fresh dill
  • Garnish: sour cream and lemon wedges



  1. Cut the meat into 1” pieces and place them in a pot filled with 12 cups cold water and1TBSP of salt. Bring to a boil and skim off any fat/crud on the surface. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer 45 minutes – 1 hr, periodically skimming off any crud that rises to the top.

    mmmm... yummy... scum!

    mmmm… yummy… scum!

  2. While the meat is cooking, grate beets, carrots and parsnips (keep the beets separate from the carrots and parsnips) on the large grater holes (you can use a food processor if you have one). Prepare all other ingredients – cut potatoes, slice cabbage, dice onions, etc.soop_ukraine_sept14-4soop_ukraine_sept14-6
    While it's not Ukrainian vodka, it is vodka, was straight out of the freezer, and was delicious.

    While it’s not Ukrainian vodka, it is vodka, was straight out of the freezer, and was delicious.


    You may notice the tomatoes in the background. They have been omitted from the recipe because they didn’t add anything to the dish, in my humble opinion.

    Caught red-handed!!

    Caught red-handed!!

  3. Place the beets in a large heavy-bottom skillet with 4 Tbsp olive oil and 1 Tbsp vinegar and sauté for 3 minutes, then reduce heat to med/low and add 1 Tbsp sugar and 2 Tbsp tomato paste. Mix thoroughly and sauté until starting to soften, stirring occasionally (about 10 min). Remove from pan and set aside.soop_ukraine_sept14-14
  4. In the same skillet (do not wash after the beets), sauté onion in 1 Tbsp butter for 2 min. Add grated carrot, parsnip + tomato and sauté another 5 min or until softened, adding more oil if it seems too dry.soop_ukraine_sept14-15
  5. Once the meat has been cooking at least 45 min, skim any crud off the top, scrape marrow out of osso bucco bones, and remove bones and tendon.  (Give bones to dogs, if you have them once they’ve cooled to make sure your dog will love you forever and ever.)  Place bay leaves, peppercorns and sliced potatoes into the soup pot.  Add beef broth, bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 10 min.
  6. Add cabbage, sautéed beets, onion, carrots, parsnips and parsley stems. Cook another 10 minutes or until potatoes can be easily pierced with a fork.soop_ukraine_sept14-21
  7. Add chopped parsley and 1 clove of minced garlic then stir them into the soup pot. Immediately cover and remove from heat. (Over-boiling borscht will affect the soup’s color; bringing it from bright magenta to dark brick-red).soop_ukraine_sept14-22
  8. Check for salt and sugar flavors and add more of either if desired.
  9. Cut the salted salo into small pieces**. Add the remaining minced clove of garlic. Grind them together in a deep bowl with a wooden spoon (or blend in a mini food processor) until it forms a rough paste.  Stir into the cooked borscht. Allow to rest for 15-20 minutes before serving so the flavors can meld.soop_ukraine_sept14-18
    My pal, vodka, lending a hand here.

    My pal, vodka, lending a hand here.

    This is how it looked post food-processing.  It melted into the soup like a champ and gave a wonderful depth of flavor.

    This is how it looked post food-processing. It melted into the soup like a champ and gave a wonderful depth of flavor.

  10. To serve, top with a tablespoon of sour cream and a small sprig of fresh dill.  Serve lemon on the side for those who desire more acidity in their soup.soop_ukraine_sept14-24

* Salted Salo is a traditional Eastern European food consisting of cured slabs of fatback. It has little to no meat and is quite similar to Italian lardo. If you cannot find salo or lardo, Trader Joes’ bacon ends and pieces can be used in a pinch by cutting off the meat and using just the fat.

** If possible, ask your butcher to slice the salo, lardo, or bacon into thick bacon slices and store it in the freezer until you are ready to chop it.  Chopping frozen fat is easy-peasy.

Once our borscht was simmering away, we were lucky to lure our BFFs (and luckily, neighbors) to join us for our feast which we completed with (a not insignificant amount of) vodka and a salad of quartered tomatoes, sliced cucumbers, fresh dill, and cannolini beans all tossed in sour cream.  Oh, and for my oenophile friends, a crisp rosé paired quite nicely with the borscht once we moved away from the vodka.soop_ukraine_sept14-23


The people have spoken: 2 thumbs up, 1 middle thumb, and 1 thumbs down (but with a smile).


Thanks for sharing our first adventure in SOOP you brave, brave souls.

Enjoy and as they say in Ukraine, Budmo! This means approximately ‘shall we live forever!’ Usually, one person says ‘Budmo!’ and everybody at the table/party answers ‘Hey!’ (the meaning is straightforward). This repeats for up to 3 times depending on the mood of the crowd. Only then, everybody empties their glasses.