Warm-You-Up Thai Curry & Coconut Chicken Soup

Thai Chicken and Vegetable Soup

Curried Coconut Soup with Chicken and Vegetables

It’s been cold and dreary in Portland this week and with every increasingly strong gust of wind, it’s becoming very clear that winter is approaching. A few weekends ago, the wind was so relentless that it took down trees all over town. We were lucky to only lose a 14-foot branch from the fir tree in our backyard. After talking to some of my co-workers, it sounds like we fared pretty well.

Since then, the wind has died down but the rain has not. Being a daily bike commuter means I come home every evening drenched, peeling off my soaked rain jacket, rain pants and booties.

It’s days like these that call for soup — something both warming in temperature and in spiciness.

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A Salty Sweet Tropical Treat: Lime & Coconut Popcorn

Sweet & Salty Lime & Coconut Popcorn

Sweet & Salty Popcorn with Coconut, Honey and Lime

Salty and sweet is not a new combination in the snack world. There’s a reason things like chocolate covered pretzels and salted caramels are so popular and I know I’m not the only one dipping french fries in my milkshakes. Salt with sugar is an amazing, glorious thing and people are constantly finding new ways to mix the two together.

Personally, over the last few years I have forgone the old-school butter-and-salt popcorn as a snack in favor of a more delicious treat — sea salt & honey butter popcorn, which I discovered a few years ago on The Faux Martha blog. The recipe is easy — equal parts melted honey and butter tossed with popcorn and salt.

Once I started making popcorn this way, I couldn’t stop. I also could not stop eating it. It is addictive in a way I had not anticipated. The honey butter makes the salt cling to the popcorn, so every bite is pure salty, sweet bliss. (You can also cut back on the butter ratio if you prefer — I tend to use less butter than honey and I still think it’s pretty awesome.)

A few weeks ago, while I was preparing a batch for a late-night treat, I grabbed the jar of honey and noticed it was sitting next to my jar of coconut oil. On a whim, I swapped coconut oil for the butter, heating it gently in the microwave with the honey.

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Recreating the best gin fizz ever

Every once in a while I’ve ordered a drink having a good idea of what it will be like, only to be totally shocked when it arrives at my table. I had this happen to me last month while on my husband and I were on vacation. We had taken a catamaran to St. Barth’s for the day and stopped in the first bar we found at the Gustavia Marina.

Having been on a steady diet of rum-based cocktails for three days prior, I decided to branch out and order a gin fizz.

This is what was set in front of me:

Gin Fizz in St. Barth's

Gin Fizz in St. Barth’s — note the empty space between the lime slice and the gin

The top part was almost like a lime sorbet, as opposed to the more traditional frothed egg white. But what really caught my eye was the placement of the lime slice. It was perfectly positioned in the center of the glass, keeping the contents of the cocktail separate.

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A dinner so delicious I changed out of pajamas for it…

This post was almost titled “Clearly the world is against me: An ode to turkey lettuce wraps.” Besides being too long, it sounded a little too fatalistic.

Now you may ask, why would the world be against these deliciously beautiful  things?

While I don’t have the answer to that, the least I can do is fill you in on the story.

The first night I was planning to make these, I had gotten off work and was waiting for my husband to pick me up. However, he hadn’t checked his phone to see when I was ready so I waited for a half an hour before he rescued me. By that time I was borderline “hangry” and so he insisted we eat at the taco cart instead. He’s a smart man.

The following day I was determined to make this recipe, come hell or high water. I got home, changed into pajamas (I am a big fan of being as comfortable as humanly possible as often as possible) and started cooking the rice and the turkey. I was pulling out the ingredients for the sauce when I realized something was missing…fish sauce. We had a giant bottle of it somewhere in our fridge, I was sure. There was no way we had used it all — we bought the biggest jug of it we could find at Fubonn.

I searched high, I searched low, but I couldn’t find it anywhere. Then visions of my husband danced in my head. I sent out a text and got a quick reply. “Uhhh…sorry, I took it to work.” Just as I suspected. Now strangers at the restaurant were enjoying delicious things made with my fish sauce. Things like General Tso’s sweetbreads.

I sighed. I put on real clothes and headed to the store. I was back in less than 15 minutes. I got on with my life…

Back to the wraps. They are easy, healthy (taken from America’s Test Kitchen’s 2010 Light & Healthy cookbook) and require very few ingredients, all of which create a perfect meal in my book… Let’s get started.

Chop one bunch of green onions and tear up about a half of a cup of cilantro leaves. The recipe calls for basil which I never seem to have handy, but cilantro I always seem to have floating around. I minced up a jalapeño and got out a couple of limes for zesting and juicing.

Then take a pound of ground turkey and squish it with the back of a spoon. The cookbook says this helps the meat get a nice consistency for wrapping in the lettuce. I don’t know about that, but it’s fun to squish meat, so I do it. I’m easily entertained.

Then, before you get too far along and realize you don’t have an important ingredient (ahem), make your sauce. Combine 1 tsp of cornstarch with 1.5 TBS brown sugar in a small bowl. Add 3 TBS of lime juice and 3 TBS of fish sauce, mix well.

Then in a hot skillet with a little oil, start browning the turkey, breaking it into small pieces as it cooks. I usually hit it up with some red chili flakes as well along with the jalapeño. If you want to use some Thai red chilies, feel free. You can adjust the heat according to how brave you are. I’m a bit of a sissy so I tread with caution.

Then throw in the lime zest (about 2 limes worth). I also throw in half of the green onions and basil/cilantro at this time. Because I’m a rebel.

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