Comforting Pumpkin and Coconut Soup

I’ve felt tired lately. Exhausted. Daydreaming about dreaming. Walking through the door and being ready to throw myself into bed…despite the fact it’s 6pm. It is that time of year I suppose, everybody rushing to meet deadlines before the Christmas break. File end of year reports, study frantically for exams, finalise flight details…it’s all happening.

Being in a prolonged high stress mode does me no favours. I’m not particularly productive, and the effects are palpable. I can tell my body is taking the brunt of my stubborn mindset, and my skin, hair and ability to concentrate are the hardest hit.

A trip down to Margaret River this past weekend did me a whole bunch of good. Getting out of the city, being among the trees, breathing in the country air. I won’t lie; drinking lush wine from the South West certainly is relaxing!

Margaret River

From here on in, I’m going to make a conscious effort to de-stress. Deep breaths, fresh air, all that jazz. Really though, I will cook. Cook and eat. Mostly plants, preferably soup…. Aah soup. Solving life’s problems, one bowl at a time…

Comforting Pumpkin & Coconut Soup
Serves approx. 3-4

Ingredients
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 brown onion chopped
1/2 red chili thinly sliced
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cumin
1kg butternut pumpkin, skin removed and chopped
Approx 750mL stock (I used chicken, veg is also fine)
150 – 200mL coconut milk

Optional ingredients, to serve
1.5 tablespoons coconut flakes
1.5 tablespoons pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

Directions
1. Heat oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.
2. Add onion and chili and sauté for a few minutes, allowing onion to sweat.
3. Spoon in cinnamon and cumin and stir for a minute or so, keeping it from sticking to the pot.
4. Pop in all the pumpkin, and sauté for a few more minutes.
5. Pour in enough stock to just cover the contents of the pot, approx 750mL in my case.
6. Cover pot and bring to boil. Then reduce to a low heat, and keeping pot covered cook until pumpkin softens, approx 20 mins.
7. Remove from heat and allow pot to cool for 5 minutes, then stir in coconut milk.
8. Once soup ingredients have cooled a little, blend in batches.

To Serve
Toast some coconut flakes and pepitas (pumpkin seeds!) in a small dry saucepan (no oil needed) over medium heat. Keep a close eye on them, and stir them often as they will only take a couple of minutes to toast. Ladle soup into serving bowls, and sprinkle with toasted coconut and pepitas. De-stress food at its best!

Nutty Homemade Granola

You know you are onto something very special when you go to bed and end up dreaming of breakfast. The recipe I am sharing with you today has that exact effect on me, and I will go as far as to guarantee that if you start the day with a bowl of this nutty goodness, your mind, body and spirit will thank you for it.

This is my mum’s recipe, so it’s no surprise that it’s delicious. I’m lucky enough to have a mum, a dad and a step-mum who are all fantastic cooks, and get just as excited about good food as I do. I can only imagine that this is what people are referring to when they talk of ‘the good life’. Live, dream, and wake up to eat this granola for breakfast. Such bliss.

It turns out that the concept of toasting up oats, nuts and grains with a natural sweetener like honey, is nothing new. Earlier today I stumbled across this advertisement from 1893. It’s comforting to know that in a world in which so much of our food no longer resembles food, you can count on an easy, delicious and wholesome breakfast in the form of porridge, muesli and granola.

Nutty Homemade Granola

It’s hard to believe that with a blink of the eye, September has passed us by and we are now well into October. Apart from my morning bowl of nutty homemade granola, here are a few other things I’ve been enjoying over the past month.

* Been inspired by this video? Great to see this Australian business addressing the issue
* Love to sleep? Here’s a little something to dream about…
* Have you guys heard of Eatwith yet? I predict it will take off like Couchsurfing and Airbnb
* 5 reasons to eat healthier that have nothing to do with your weight
* I love infographics instead of text heavy reports or presentations. Make your own for free!
* I’m a bit nosy, and I love breakfast. So I couldn’t stop reading this article by the NYTimes
* Hidden gems right here in Perth
* Something tells me this won’t turn out quite so well when I attempt it…but it is mighty pretty!

Nutty Homemade Granola
Makes: a lot! Approx. 3 oven trays worth, approx 2kg.

Ingredients
5 cups oats
2 cups spelt flakes
1 cup almonds, roughly chopped
1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
1/2 cup psyllium
2 cups All-Bran
3/4 cup sunflower seeds
3/4 cup pumpkin seeds
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 nutmeg, freshly grated (or 1-2 teaspoons ground)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup real maple syrup
1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract (a better choice than vanilla essence)
1 cup coconut, flakes or shredded (why not a bit of both?)

Directions
1. Preheat your to 180°C, and line three baking trays with baking paper.
2. In a large mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients except the coconut, and mix to combine. Give your hands a good wash, and get in there to give it all a nice thorough toss!
3. In a small saucepan over low heat, combine oil, maple syrup and vanilla, and stir until they just melt together. You may want to sneak a couple of tablespoons of tahini in if you are so inclined!
4. Pour the syrup over the dry mix, mixing as you go to coat evenly. You may find it easier to move half your dry mix into a second bowl before you add the syrup, as this will make the process easier.
5. Spread your mixture across three baking trays. So that it all cooks evenly, don’t pile your granola higher than about 1cm.
6. Pop the first two trays in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes is up, take out both trays, add some coconut to each, and use a wooden spoon to toss the granola to ensure it cooks evenly.
7. Put trays back in the oven, switching the tray that was previously at the top so that it is now on the bottom and vice versa.
8. Cook for a further 10 – 15 minutes, checking regularly and removing once the granola is cooked to your liking. Personally, I love it a dark golden brown as it has a beautiful caramelised flavour!
9. Cook your third tray of granola the same way, tossing it half way through and adding coconut to the mix.
10. Leave your trays of granola on the bench until they are cool, and then store in an airtight container.

To Serve
My favourite way to eaten this granola is with a big spoon of natural yoghurt, and fresh berries. If you’re a fan of dried fruit, a little apple, apricot, pear, cranberry or peach will also be just lovely. Change this recipe up as much as you fancy! Substitute the nuts and seeds for different ones, and reduce the maple syrup if you prefer to add sweetener just before eating. Another tasty version would involve squeezing in fresh orange juice and grating in some zest. Think of this recipe as a basic foundation, and go ahead and jazz it up with your signature flavours. Yum!