cooking, recipes

Coconut Chicken Curry


Since getting back last week from India… I mean Austin… I think I’ve had curry four times. Why am I confusing Austin and India, you ask? That was my little joke during our long weekend visit with friends, because every day involved something Indian. We were there primarily to see my friend Lauren perform in a Bollywood production – Om Shanthi. Bravo, Lauren! Maybe all that Bollywood energy stuck with us. But the next night we ended up at G’raj Mahal, an Indian restaurant near Rainey Street. And then, the following day, I found myself loading up a plate of curried cauliflower and chickpeas at the Whole Foods on Lamar, which, by the way, also thinks it’s in India – I couldn’t believe the assortment of Indian curries in the to-go food section and naan in the bread aisle. Anyway….


Curries like this one are on the regular dinner rotation at our house. I’m a big fan of anything that you can cook in one pot and I love using lots of spices. So, Indian food, and actually most cuisines from the eastern hemisphere make regular appearances. We joke about how our future kids’ friends will react when they stay for dinner and then find out we’re having dahl… Iguess I better get working on a back up healthy mac & cheese…


Usually when making curry I don’t stick to a particular recipe. I like to change it up and just go with whatever vegetables I have on hand. It’s a great “clean out the fridge” dish or if you’re shopping you can try to save a little and opt for what’s on sale. Serve over brown rice (or enjoy just by itself) add a little cilantro and BOOM!


I’ve been asked if there’s a particular brand of curry powder I prefer, or if I make my own. I don’t have any regular go-to’s really, but as we’ve experimented more and more, it’s sort of fun combining my own spices rather than going off the shelf. The one in this recipe comes from a recipe provided by Dr. Amy Myers from Austin UltraHealth. If anyone out there has a brand or personal blend they swear by, please share!


This recipe uses butternut squash (I found the cutest little baby one… makes me excited for fall!), celery, green onions and kale. But change it up and use what you like… cauliflower, zucchini, squash, sweet potato, broccoli, carrots… the possibilities are endless. Don’t have that mix of spices? Use a prepared curry powder or paste. Here’s an old vegetable curry recipe from way back when that uses curry powder for another option.

Did I mention this meal has super powers too? The pungent spices – turmeric, cumin and coriander (just to name a few) – in curry have been used medicinally for centuries. Pungents, which are usually lacking in our modern American diet, are drying which should balance out the sweet (considered mucus forming) foods that it’s easy to get some much more of. Think about the last time you had a spicy chili and it left you with a runny nose, clearing your sinuses. The spices really were “drying you out.” Ayurveda, traditional Indian medicine, teaches that a truly balanced meal should include all six flavors – spicy, sweet, sour, salty, pungent, astringent and bitter – for satisfaction, balance, optimal digestion, health and harmony. It may sound like a tall order for just one meal, but it shows, food is powerful. And when it’s powers are used for good, magic like this happens…


Coconut Chicken Curry

(recipe adapted from Austin UltraHealth’s recipe)

1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 onion, cut into crescents
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp cumin
1 tbsp coriander
1/2 tsp onion powder
1 small butternut squash, peeled and diced small
2 stalks celery, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
2 cups kale, torn and roughly chopped
1 cup water
1 tsp salt
2 chicken breasts, cooked and cut into pieces
1 can full fat coconut milk

Heat large skillet ove medium heat and add coconut oil. When oil is hot, add onion and garlic and cook until translucent and slightly browned. Add spices and stir to coat onions. Then add squash, celery and green onions and stir to mix well. Pour in water and bring to a boil. Cook until you can pierce squash with a fork. Add kale and continue to cook until wilted. Add chicken and coconut milk and simmer to allow flavors to combine. Add black pepper to taste. Serve as is or over brown rice and topped with cilantro.


Curried Sweet Potato & Ginger Soup


It may look like just soup… but this is so much more than that. That little bowl right there is jam packed full of flu fighters – ginger, garlic, onion and sweet potato. We’ve been cramming these ingredients into alot of meals these days to help get us through the winter flu-free. So far it’s working (knock on wood). And with delicious finished products like this rich, creamy soup, getting that daily dose has been quite tasty, I must say.

Here’s a little more about why each of these four ingredients can help keep you from getting sick:

Ginger: Ginger is a root and has extremely strong anti-inflammatory, anti-oxident and anti-microbial properties. It’s long been a remedy to treat nausea and upset stomach (think gingerale on the airplane). Ginger is also an immune booster. Its heat drives circulation, warming the body and even causing a sweat to break. This helps to move colds and flus out of the body and leads to overall detoxification, which is necessary to maintain good health.

Garlic & Onion: Garlic, onion and other white vegetables are the scrub brushes of the vegetable world. When consumed, they get in there and scrub away the stuff that our bodies need to get rid of – viruses, bacteria, parasites (ick). That pungent smell you get when you cut into them comes from sulfides, which give them their anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties among other health benefits.


Sweet potato: Just like its orange-fleshy cousins, carrot and butternut squash, the sweet potato is oozing with vitamin A, vitamin C and manganese –  critical components for immune support and function. What’s more, they taste like dessert  – quite a delicious way to load up on the essentials.


One more pro: curry, with its bitter and drying spices, helps to clear mucus and reduce inflammation as well. For centuries civilizations have used curry to flavor and to preserve their food. In fact the combination of ginger, garlic and turmeric is one of the oldest in the book dating all the way back to between 2500 and 2200 B.C. making curry possibly the oldest dish on the planet. Looks like those ancients were on to something….


Curried Sweet Potato and Ginger Soup


4 medium-sized sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-2″ chunks
3 shallots, peeled and chopped
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tbsp freshly grated ginger root
2 tsp curry powder
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil (or virgin coconut oil)
1 can coconut milk


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Once you’ve chopped the sweet potatoes, spread them out on a baking sheet, then drizzle with a little olive and a few shakes of salt and pepper and toss. Bake for about 25-30 minutes or until the potatoes are browned.

Heat a large pot over medium heat. Add olive oil. Then add shallots and cook for 2-3 minutes, until translucent. Next add the garlic and ginger and cook another minute or so. Then stir in the sweet potatoes and cook five minutes. Add chicken stock and bring to a boil. Lower heat and pour in coconut milk. Sprinkle in some salt, pepper and a little cayenne, if desired. Cover and simmer fifteen minutes.

To blend the soup into a smooth, creamy consistency, you can use either a blender, food processor an immersion blender. If you’re using a blender or food processor the steam can create pressure and cause the lid to pop off. So take caution and blend in batches if necessary.


Cozy Curry

Just a few days ago I was sweating in my skinny jeans and today I’m slipping on ice in my UGGs! That’s right, slipping. I suppose that’s karma for ya. I’ve been on the couch with my laptop and mug, watching from the window as cars and people slide across our street. Tires screeching. Arms flapping. I’ve had a few good laughs. So today I got what was due. I had to get out; I’m on day three of being cooped up in our condo and Ross is the only three dimensional person I’ve seen since Monday. We were headed to lunch and down I went. Why did I want to leave the couch again? I’m not sure I’ll be venturing out again anytime soon. Or at least until I have no excuse not to go into the office. That’s what you’re supposed to do on days like this anyway. They’re for curling up with a warm blanket, using the fireplace, drinking tea and hot chocolate, and cooking soul warming soups and stews. We were ill-prepared for the Arctic Blast of 2011. I wish I had gone to the store and stocked up on supplies to make some of my favorites cold-weather favorites like chicken pot pie or tortilla soup. I did happen to have the ingredients to make this curry dish though with butternut squash and chickpeas. If you didn’t believe the icepocalypse was really coming either and you’re ill-prepared too, you could make the same thing with chicken, potatoes or any other veggies that are just taking up space… that is if you have the right seasonings. And if not, it wouldn’t be the end of the world if you were missing coriander. You could make this even if all you’ve got in the pantry is curry powder. Curry has become one of my favorite things to make in the winter because it warms you up from the inside out with all that spice and heat. There’s not much I hate more than being cold and this does just the trick. Plus this one has lots of carbs and we all know those are just good for the soul. 🙂

Vegetable Curry

What you need:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tbsp red curry paste
1 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp coriander
1/2 tsp cumin
1 butternut squash, peeled and cut in 1″ chunks
1 can garbanzo beans (no salt added)
8 oz. chicken stock
1 can unsweetened coconut milk
baby spinach
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper to taste

What you do:

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add garlic. Saute 30 seconds. Add curry paste, curry powder, tumeric, coriander and cumin. Stir to cover the onions with spice and cook 1-2 minutes. Add squash and stir to coat with seasonings. Cook a few minutes and then add chicken stock and stir. Bring to a boil and simmer. Then add coconut milk. Cover the pot and cook 10-15 minutes, or until the squash can be pierced with a fork. Add garbanzo beans and spinach. Stir in the red pepper flakes. Squeeze lemon over the mixture and stir before serving. Serve over brown rice.


Thai Curried Chickpeas With Coconut Rice

A few weeks ago I decided to do a little protein experiment. I was curious to see if I could live without meat. I have no intention of giving it up completely (no qualms here about eating anything with a face) but I just wanted to see how I felt without it, if I craved it, if I even missed it, and how it would feel to get my protein from plants. This all came about because class last weekend presented two opposing views on the subject. Sally Fallon Morell, first proved to us that people should be eating lots of high fat animal protein – including organ meats and broths made from bones – for optimal health. The next day Neal Barnard, an MD, proved the vegan diet is the way to go. It’s no wonder we don’t know what the heck to eat! Nutrition science is really unlike any other. It’s the only science where two bi-polar theories can both be proven right. This stuff just wouldn’t fly at NASA. But in the kitchen, it’s kosher. How can that be so? Because there is no control in nutrition. No two people are exactly alike. And different people thrive on different types of food. So Sally Fallon’s advice to eat half a stick of butter on your oatmeal might suit one, and Neal Barnard’s new four food groups (grains, beans, fruits, veg) might be just what another needs. I realize this doesn’t exactly tell you what to eat. But the message behind this presentation of conflicting views is that we have to experiment, try things out and see what makes us feel our absolute best. You can learn so much about how food affects you by just changing things up. I’ve scoured the Web and collected some vegetarian and vegan dishes to try. I gave this one a whirl the other night. It was quick to make and tasted delicious! I loved the coconut rice. I know, I know, it’s white rice. Oh well. A girl can only take on so much at once. And the soft coconut rice was the perfect compliment to the tinge of spice. I’ll definitely be making this again… whether I turn out to be a carnivore or not.

Coconut Rice

What you need:
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 cup long grain white rice
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
1 cup water
What you do:

Heat coconut oil in medium sauce pan. Add rice and stir until grains turn opaque, about 2 minutes. Stir in coconut milk and water. Add salt to taste. Bring to a boil. Cover, lower heat, and simmer for 10-15 minutes. When it’s done, fluff rice with fork.

Thai Curried Chickpeas

What you need:

1 tbsp olive oil
1 cup cooked chickpeas
2 tbsp Thai red curry paste
1 yellow onion
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
2 tsp tamari or soy sauce
1 medium tomato, diced
juice from half a lime
1 tbsp natural sweetener like honey or agave nectar
cilantro, chopped

What you do:

Heat olive oil in a frying pan. Add onions and cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and 1 tbsp curry paste. Stir until paste is dissolved into mixture. Add chickpeas, tamari, sweetener, lime juice and tomatoes. You can add water if the mixture becomes dry. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 1-2 minutes. Add coconut milk and warm (not boil) another minute or two. Stir in 1 tbsp curry paste evenly throughout. Add cilantro.

Serve over the rice.


Coconut-Curry Chicken Soup

I bought the herb turmeric months ago after reading about it’s healing powers and thought I’d give it a try. It’s hailed as a digestive aid, inflammation fighter and cancer defender. It can also be applied directly to the skin to heal wounds and eczema. But until a few weeks ago all it had done is brighten up the spice cabinet with a little yellow.

It was time to put this guy to work. I tried this Coconut-Curry Chicken Soup in Cooking Light. Mine was a bit amateur – I didn’t have coriander or fish sauce and I swapped the snow peas for frozen peas and carrots. But you wouldn’t have known the difference. I was also missing the pad thai noodles, but I did have some leftover cooked spaghetti squash in the fridge. Worked just like noodles. Inventive, no? This is my new favorite now. I’ll definitely be making it the next time the temperatures drop below 30 again.

Recipe serves 7

Here’s what you need:
4 cups water
3 cups fresh spinach leaves
1/2 pound snow peas, trimmed and cut in half crosswise
1 package pad thai noodles or brown rice noodles
1 tbsp canola oil
1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
2 tsp red curry paste
1 1/2 tsp curry powder
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp ground coriander
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups chicken stock
1 can light coconut milk
1 pound shredded cooked chicken (or diced)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tbsp sugar (or substitute agave nectar or honey)
2 tbsp fish sauce
1/2 cup fresh chopped cilantro
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
dash cayenne pepper (optional)
7 lime wedges

Here’s what you do:
Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add spinach and peas to pan; cook for 30 seconds. Remove vegetables from pan with a slotted spoon; place in a large bowl. Add noodles to pan; cook 3 minutes. Drain; add noodles to spinach mixture in bowl.

Heat canola oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add shallots and the next five ingredients (through garlic) to pot; saute 1 minute, stirring constantly. Add chicken broth to pot and bring to a boil. Add coconut milk to pot; reduce heat, and simmer 5 minutes. Pour chicken mixture over noodle mixture in bowl. Stir in cilantro and red pepper. Add dash of cayenne if you’d like. Serve with lime wedges.