Thai Chicken Coconut Soup

There’s a nice little restaurant just around the corner from me that makes a great Tom Ka Gai,  aka Coconut Soup.  I eat there at least once a week and I’ve said for a while I was going to try making this myself.  I live in Metro Atlanta and I could get the authentic ingredients, but being in the suburbs it would require a bit of a trip to gather them.  Luckily, I was flipping through some old cookbooks the other day and stumbled across this recipe (found in Light Slow Cooker recipes from Better Homes & Gardens), using all ingredients that I can get at my grocery store.  Since it was missing some of the authentic ingredients like kefir lime leaves, galangal and fish sauce I wasn’t sure what to expect from it.  I gotta say I was pleasantly surprised.  If you can readily get the more authentic ingredients it might be even better.

Sorry I don’t have any prep pics here, I wasn’t planning on posting it but it came out so good I wanted to share.  This recipe is slightly tweaked from the original, and I also needed to add a bit more salt for my taste.  The original recipe also suggested adding crushed peanuts when serving.

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

Thai Coconut Chicken Soup

THAI CHICKEN COCONUT SOUP
Makes 6 servings
Printer Friendly Recipe

Ingredients

1 Lb. boneless, skinless chicken breast, thinly sliced
4 cups low sodium chicken broth
2 medium carrots, biased cut into ¾ inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
2 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
1 ½ tsp. minced garlic
1 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 15 oz. can straw mushrooms, drained
1 15 oz. can unsweetened light coconut milk
2 medium red, yellow and/or green sweet peppers, cut into ½ inch pieces
¼ cup snipped fresh cilantro

My tweaks… I needed to add some salt to mine.  I also sliced a jalapeño and tossed it in the last 5 minutes for a little extra heat.

Directions

  • In 3 ½ – 4 ½ quart slow cooker, combine chicken, broth, carrots, onion, ginger, garlic, lemon peel and crushed red pepper.
  • Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or high for 2 ½ – 3 hours, skim off fat.
  • Stir in mushrooms, coconut milk, sweet peppers and cilantro.  Cover and let sit for 5-10 minutes.  Serve and enjoy.

 BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving)

  • Calories: 186
  • Carbohydrates: 13 grams
  • Fat: 5 grams
  • Protein: 21 grams

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Easy Breakfast Sausage and Sausage-Sweet Potato Hash

One of my favorite meals, at any time of the day, is sausage and eggs.  However I don’t like all the preservatives and such that come in most store-bought sausage (and bacon) or the price of the healthier choices.  So… I decided to try my hand at making them myself.  The bacon is still a work in progress, I haven’t tried a recipe I really liked yet, but I’ve engineered a quick and easy recipe for breakfast sausage that I really enjoy, my base for this recipe is Alton Brown’s Country Sausage but I’ve tweaked it to make it easier and I’ve cut out the sugar.  For any non-US readers, country sausage, AKA breakfast sausage here in the States, is a loose sausage.  Usually pork or turkey, but it can be made with any ground meat.  Although some places do make it into cased links it’s also served as patties or cooked and crumbled for use with other ingredients, like the hash recipe below.  Oh yeah this recipe and the has recipe are both Paleo diet friendly!

Sausage Seasoning and Ground Turkey

Sausage Seasoning and Ground Turkey

Sausage Crumbles

Sausage Crumbles

EASY BREAKFAST SAUSAGE
Print Recipe

(Recipe below seasons 10 lbs of ground meat.)

Ingredients

  • 3 Tbsp smoked kosher salt (use plain Kosher salt if smoked not available but the smoked salt really adds to the flavor.)
  • 3 Tbsp fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp dried sage
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp dried thyme
  • 1 Tbsp dried rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 Tbsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 Tbsp red pepper flakes

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per 4 oz serving, made with lean ground turkey)

Calories: 170
Carbohydrates: 0 grams
Fat: 8 grams
Protein: 21 grams
Fiber: 0 grams

If you choose to use  ground pork with an 80/20 lean/fat ratio this would have 280 calories per serving with 21 grams total fat and 20 grams protein.

Directions

Put everything in a spice grinder or break out a mortar and pestle and grind together.  Once ground, use 1 1/2 Tbsp per Lb of ground meat, I’ve made this with pork and turkey and it works great with both.  Mix it into the meat and it’s ready, flavor is improved if you refrigerate for about an hour after mixing and this will keep in the fridge for a few days.  Spice mixture will keep for quite a while in a sealed container.

Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash

Sausage and Sweet Potato Hash

SAUSAGE AND SWEET POTATO HASH

  • 4 oz breakfast sausage
  • 1/2 medium sweet potato, diced and boiled or steamed
  • 1/4 medium onion, diced
  • OPTIONAL: Diced bell pepper, sliced jalapeño, sliced mushrooms

Directions

This one is super easy to prepare.  Add a bit of oil to a hot pan (medium heat) and sauté the onion for a few minutes, add the sausage and cook until browned.  Now add the sweet potatoes and any other ingredients you like and cook until done to your preference, you can cook just until heated however I like to let the sweet potatoes caramelize a bit first.  Plate and serve, this is excellent topped with a fried egg.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO

Calories: 222
Carbohydrates: 14 grams
Fat: 8 grams
Protein: 24 grams
Fiber: 2 grams

Topped with 2 large eggs:

Calories: 362
Carbohydrates: 14 grams
Fat: 18 grams
Protein: 36 grams
Fiber: 2 grams

Chicken Fried Cauliflower Rice and the Paleo Diet

This dude is gonna eat Paleo tonight.

This dude is gonna eat Paleo tonight.

In an ongoing effort to improve my diet I’ve been trying some Paleo recipes.  I’m not doing 100% Paleo right now, just testing the waters some to see if I can do it.   The hardest things for me to give up would be cheese and beer.  I might be able to cut the cheese (lol, I’m hilarious!) but I really, really love craft beer.  Not just drinking beer but hunting down rare ones and trying them with friends, the whole craft beer… personality.  If it came down to my health or weekend beers with friends I’d give it up, but I wouldn’t be happy about it and I’d probably bitch about it a lot.

The Paleo Diet’s main tenets are  no grains, no legumes and no dairy and eating unprocessed foods.  Meat is acceptable and the diet doesn’t frown on animal fat.  Nuts (no peanuts!) and seeds are OK as are lots of fruit and vegetables.  The diet is not anti-carb, it’s just selective on where you get your carbs from.  The same goes for the meats, the diet prefers grass-fed beef as opposed to beef raised on a grain-fed diet.  Of course my description is very simplified, for more info take a look at the Wikipedia entry on the Paleolithic Diet or The Beginner’s Guide to the Paleo Diet.  As with any diet there those that think it’s the greatest thing since sliced bread (probably because they’re not allowed to have sliced bread) and others that think it is a diet created by the devil to destroy us.  As a child of the 70’s I was brought up on the classic food pyramid and told that eating a boatload of bread and beans and rice was good for me, so I’m still a skeptic but the more info I see and read the more I’m willing to give it a shot.

I saw several recipes online for Cauliflower Rice and one mentioned making fried rice with it so that’s what I did.  I ended up with a hearty chicken fried rice loaded with vegetables.  It’s low cal, high protein and low carb.  Although I used soy sauce in mine you could substitute coconut aminos for the soy sauce and it would be totally Paleo.

This really is a powerhouse recipe macro-wise.  It only has 322 calories per serving, only 15 grams carbs, 99 grams of protein, and 6 grams of fiber.  I won’t even go into the details about the vitamins you’ll get from everything, mostly because I don’t know what they are, but you can bet it’s a lot of damn vitamins.

Cauliflower Fried Rice

Cauliflower Fried Rice

CHICKEN FRIED CAULIFLOWER RICE
Print Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breast, sliced
  • 1 medium head cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 small (1/4” piece) of ginger, grated
  • 1 large zucchini
  • 1 large yellow squash
  • ½ medium onion
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 medium carrot, sliced
  • ½ Tbsp soy sauce
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

There are two ways you can ‘rice’ the cauliflower.  I use a food processor and break it into small pieces then pulse until it’s the right size.  If you don’t have a good processor you could also use the large openings on a box grater, note that grating cauliflower is very messy.  If using the food processor you may want to do a few small batches.  Place this in a microwaveable bowl and set it aside for now.

Next, slice the chicken thin, as you would for any stir fry.  Also slice up all your veggies and put them together on a plate or bowl.  Beat two eggs and add the soy sauce to the eggs.  You’ll want to prep all this at the beginning as things will move quickly once you get going.

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat and add ½ Tbsp of coconut oil.  Add the sliced chicken to the pan and cook until no pink is visible, this only takes a few minutes.  You can season the chicken some if you like.  Remove the chicken and set it to the side.  Add the garlic and ginger to the pan and sauté for about 30 seconds then add the vegetables.  Cook the vegetables to your liking, I prefer mine to maintain some crispness.  Remove vegetables from pan and sit aside.

Microwave the riced cauliflower for 2 minutes.  While that is cooking add the remaining ½ Tbsp of coconut oil to the pan and scramble the eggs.  Add the cauliflower to the scramble egg and chop the egg into it.  Season the cauliflower and rice then add the chicken and vegetables  and combine all ingredients and check seasonings again.  Heat for 1-2 minutes to make sure all ingredients are warm. Serve.

Tips, tricks and shortcuts

  • Use any variety of vegetables you’d like:  Water chestnuts and bamboo shoots would be a good addition and you can top this with chopped green onion as well.
  • This is mostly Paleo but if you’re 100% hardcore Paleo this can be made without the soy sauce and sub coconut aminos. (I haven’t tried the coconut aminos so I add that as a recommendation from others.)
  • This can also be made with shrimp, pork or beef.
  • Sriracha makes this even more awesome.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving / 4 servings per recipe)

Calories:  286
Carbohydrates:  16 grams
Fat:  10 grams
Protein: 34 grams
Fiber:  6 grams

Enjoy!

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Pumpkin Pie Mousse (Weight Watchers Recipe)

A few years back I was attending Weight Watchers and one of the members there shared this recipe with us as a lighter dessert option to pumpkin pie for our Thanksgiving dinner.  Considering the recommended serving size of pumpkin pie has 323 calories (a Thanksgiving-sized slice with cool whip is likely over 500 calories) we blow it out of the water with this one at only 70 calories per (appox. 1/2 cup) serving.  I took this recipe to a friend’s house for Turkey Day and everyone loved it, however many of them used it to top their pie.  D’oh!

This recipe makes approximately 8, 1/2 cup servings and should do the job of curbing that desire for pumpkin pie after dinner.  If you try this recipe I hope you enjoy it and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone!

Pumpkin Pie Mousse (Weight Watchers Recipe)
My take on the WW recipe, several variations can be found online.
Serves 8

Ingredients

  • 1 box vanilla instant pudding (sugar-free, fat-free)
  • 1 cup skim milk
  • 1 can pumpkin (15 oz)
  • 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice (or ¼ tsp each cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and cloves)
  • 1 can Fat-free Reddi Whip (6.5 oz size) 
Pumpkin Mousse - Ingredients

Pumpkin Mousse – Ingredients

Preparation

This one is super easy.

  • Add the pudding and milk to a bowl and mix until slightly thickened
  • Add the pumpkin and pumpkin pie spice and blend until combined evenly.
  • Add the can of Reddi Whip and fold into pumpkin mix, don’t get too aggressive here.
  • Chill at least 20 minutes and serve

Tips, tricks and shortcuts

  • The original recipe calls for fat-free Cool Whip which is sweetened and whipped partially hydrogenated oil (trans fats) which I try to avoid.  Reddi Whip is a dairy product.
  • You can try different ratios of pumpkin, whipped topping and pudding to get the consistency you prefer.
  • You can try different spices or amounts to suit your preference.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving)

Calories: 70
Carbohydrates: 15 grams
Fat: 2 grams
Protein: 2 grams
Fiber: 2 grams

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Savory Stuffed Pumpkin (Recipe)

Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin

Chicken and Quinoa Stuffed Pumpkin

I decided to get creative the other night and this is what became of it.  I picked up a small pumpkin and decided to try making a savory stuffing to bake into it.  The stuffing is made up of chicken, quinoa, apples, sweet potatoes, mushrooms, onions and cranberries seasoned with the typical holiday spices of sage, thyme and nutmeg as well as salt, pepper and garlic.  Rosemary and marjoram would be good choices as well.  I used chicken in this version as that’s what I had on hand, however turkey would be a great choice and you could also use beef or lamb.  Next time I make this I think I’ll add some water chestnuts and celery.  You could also omit the pumpkin, add a bit more cream of mushroom soup and turn this into a casserole.

I love the holidays and all the awesome food that goes along with them, but we all know what that can do to a weight loss plan.  It’s nice to have some options for healthier choices that are still delicious and I think this fits the bill.  Check back soon for a great pumpkin mousse recipe that is only 68 calories per serving.

Savory Stuffed Pumpkin

Ingredients

2 pie pumpkins, approximately 2 – 2 ½ lbs each
12 oz chicken breast, cooked and chopped
– Could also used ground chicken or turkey
½ cup uncooked quinoa
1 cup water
1 small Fuji apple, diced
1 medium sweet potato, diced
2 Tbsp dried cranberries
½ medium onion, chopped
¾ cup mushrooms, sliced
½ can condensed cream of mushroom soup
Season to taste with salt, pepper, garlic, sage, thyme, nutmeg
Spray olive oil

Quinoa and Chicken Stuffing for Pumpkin

Quinoa and Chicken Stuffing for Pumpkin

Preparation

Add water, quinoa, apples, cranberries and sweet potato to pan.  Add salt to taste and heat over medium heat.  Once boiling cover and lower heat and simmer for approximately 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Quinoa should be moist with no standing water.  While the quinoa cooks prepare your pumpkins but cutting the tops off much the same way you would for a Jack-o-Lantern and clean the insides.

Next, heat saute pan over medium heat and coat with olive oil.  Add onion and cook until slightly translucent then add mushrooms and continue cooking over medium heat until done heat to low.  If necessary add additional oil to keep from sticking, but only in small amounts.

Add quinoa, chicken and to onions and mushrooms in pan and mix thoroughly.  Add cream of mushroom soup to give mixture a moist consistency but not wet, once cooked you’ll want your stuffing to be firm but moist.  Season to taste with your choice of salt, pepper, garlic, sage, thyme, nutmeg, rosemary and/or marjoram.

Bake pumpkins in preheated 350F oven for 35 – 45 minutes.  Test pumpkin doneness by piercing close to top with fork and flaking slightly.  Pumpkin should be tender and not too stringy.  Remove from oven and let cool for 5 minutes then cut in half and serve.

Tips, tricks and shortcuts

  • In my picture I’ve quartered the pumpkin for the photo however a serving is ½ pumpking and ¼ of stuffing mixture
  • I will likely add some water chestnuts and celery next time I make this.
  • This would be good with most ground meats.  Chicken, beef, lamb and of course, turkey.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving / 4 servings per recipe)

Calories: 381.7
Carbohydrates: 59.0 grams
Fat: 5.4 grams
Protein: 26.8 grams
Fiber: 9.3 grams

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Healthier Shepherd’s Pie

I. Love. Shepherd’s Pie.  The stuff has all the making of an awesome and hearty meal – meat, potatoes, veggies in a PIE!  Damn.

Buuuut, I’m trying to get fitter not fatter so I had to go to the lab with this one and try to tweak it to make it healthier.  The end result was the best Shepherd’s Pie I have ever made with a 33% drop in calories from a traditional recipe.  I used two main tricks to accomplish this, using creamy mashed cauliflower instead of potatoes and using extra lean ground beef.  Plus, I really loaded the veggies up instead of having a small layer you end up with about 50/50 meat to veggie ratio.

So here’s how you do it…

Healthier Shepherd’s Pie

Serves 6

Ingredients

Mmmmm…. pie.

1 lb lean ground beef (93/7)
¼ yellow onion, diced
1 cup sliced mushrooms
½ cup beef broth
1 Tbsp corn starch
1 cup small lima beans (pre-cooked or canned)
1 cup sweet peas (pre-cooked or canned)
1 cup sliced carrots (pre-cooked or canned)
1 medium head cauliflower
2 oz low fat cream cheese
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Preparation

Spray a heated pan with cooking spray, set heat to medium and saute onions until soft then add ground beef and cook until it’s almost done.  Add sliced mushrooms and cook until beef and mushrooms are done.

Stir corn starch into cold beef broth making sure the corn starch is thoroughly mixed into the broth.  Pour the broth slowly into the pan of ground beef and stir continuously until hot.  Once heated it will start to thicken, you can add a bit more broth to thin the mixture or a bit more broth and starch to thicken.  You want the sauce to be very thick, but not pasty.  Add lima beans, carrots and peas to the beef mixture and cook until heated.  Add a generous amount of black pepper to the mixture and place on low to keep warm

To make the creamy mashed cauliflower:  Clean and cut the head of cauliflower into small florets.  Cook in salted, boiling water for 15 minutes or until fork tender.  Do not overcook as the cauliflower will be mushy.  Drain and place into a mixing bowl.  Add the garlic, low fat cream cheese and Parmesan and mix with hand mixer until smooth.  Taste to see if additional salt or garlic is needed.

Pour beef mixture into a casserole dish and spread into an even layer.  Top with the creamy mashed cauliflower spreading that into an even layer covering all the beef mixture.  You may add additional grated Parmesan, ground pepper or parsley to the the top prior to baking.  Place in preheated 400F oven for 30 minutes.  Remove and let stand for 5-10 minutes before serving.

Tips, tricks and shortcuts

  • You can use any mix of vegetables you like for this.  If you don’t like lima beans, don’t use them.  Some people use corn, some simply the peas and carrots.
  • Do yourself a favor and get some REAL Parmesan cheese, not the stuff in a shaker can but a block of the real deal.  It will actually last longer as the flavor is much more intense so a little goes a long way.
  • The creamy mashed cauliflower makes a great side dish on its own.  Also, the cauliflower recipe is not my own, I found it on a Google search.

BASIC NUTRITION INFO (per serving)

Prepare to be amazed…

HEALTHIER VERSION
Calories: 257
Carbohydrates: 22 grams
Fat: 8 grams Fat: 21 grams
Protein: 24 grams
Fiber: 7 grams

ORIGINAL VERSION (WITH POTATOES & GROUND CHUCK)
Calories : 433
Carbohydrates: 38 grams
Protein: 21 grams
Fiber: 6 grams

I was really impressed with how this turned out.  The bit of cream cheese in the cauliflower really helps to nail the consistency that makes mashed potatoes so damn good.   Since the veggies are mixed in with the meat and sauce mixture they have a ton of flavor as well, this one is a winner.  I guarantee you will like this recipe or I’ll send you a link to someone else’s recipe… you have my word on that.

If you try this recipe please let me know what you thought!  If you have any awesome ideas to make it healthier or more awesome please feel free to share those, too.

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Shepherd’s Pie fresh out of the oven.