Friday, November 30, 2012

Sweet Potato Corn Chowder

Last year I went a little overboard during the holiday season. And not just with food. There were too many activities; there were too many presents; and, yes, there was too much food. It got to the point by the end of December where I'd see a dessert tray and think "Ug." But then I'd eat the desserts off the dessert tray, or at least sample them. Sampling usually works for me, but not when there are 10,000 things to sample, not when you're making cookies at home every other night, not when your kids are bringing candy home by the pocketful.

I gained 10 pounds from October to December. I rarely weigh myself and when I got on that scale after a couple months, I swear I thought it was broken. Nope; the one at the YMCA told me the same thing. I had never gained holiday weight before in my life and I wasn't so happy to be on the bandwagon. I believe there were many factors to that weight gain. I was blessed last year not to get sick, so there was never any kind of forced pause in my sugar plum eating. Foods that weren't normally around and don't normally tempt me were all over the place. I'm not a big candy eater, but if there's a bunch of candy around (think Halloween), I'll eat a piece or two each night--a piece or two I wouldn't have even thought about if it hadn't been there. I was attending too many food-laden activities. And I was making a bunch of sweet, wonderful food for this blog. I didn't think it would matter that much, yet it seemed to. Several months later, after I'd cut my sweets way back and lost my 10 pounds (or at least 9-ish of it), I made a treat. I noticed that before the treat was even in the oven, I'd already probably eaten a couple of servings in licking. That's not a big deal when treats are, well, a treat. But when you're making them constantly, it can kind of add up.

So--forgive me; I didn't mean for this to end up as a Holiday eating confessional--this year I wanted things to be different. I didn't want to look at my calendar or the presents under my tree or desserts on a tray and think "Ug" and then attend/unwrap/scarf them down anyway. I wanted to enjoy the season. I wanted to indulge infrequently enough that it actually felt like indulging.

So far this year, we've gotten sick 4 days after Halloween and I didn't host Thanksgiving, so we're on the right foot:). Tomorrow begins December and I hope to keep things on that right foot (minus the sickness if that's okay with you, universe).

To celebrate that, I give to you this super duper delicious and wonderfully healthy chowder. It's got a lot of good stuff going on. It's homey and warm and comfort-food-like. But without the two cups of cream (not that there's anything wrong with a little cream). It's veggie filled, yet inexpensive. It can be made with roasted summer vegetables in late summer, but here in the fall, it can be made well with canned foods. I got the recipe in the summer and was worried it wouldn't translate well to using canned foods, but it was delicious. In fact, it can be made almost entirely with canned foods if that's what you've got. Which means that it can also be a great pantry meal or the perfect thing to come home and whip up after a long day of shopping/sledding/serving/working.

Merry December.

Sweet Potato Corn Chowder
adapted from Gluten-free Goddess
Serves 10-12
Prep time: 10 minutes
Cook time: 25-30 minutes
Cost: $6.90 or about .70/serving
garlic: .05, onion: .10, corn: 1.00, sweet potato: .25, tomatoes: 2.00, coconut milk: 1.50, broth: 1.00, chicken breast: 1.00,

Note: I didn't have a sweet potato. I swear my kids must have thrown my bag of them out of the cart because I distinctly remember standing in front of them at the store and planning to put them in my cart. Consequently, I used an acorn squash. (I bet a butternut squash would work too.) It was good, but sweet potato would be better. However, my point is that any chunks of winter squash will do.

Another note: I used home-canned tomatoes. They are ridiculously good and their juices did a lot for the flavor of this soup. If using store bought, I recommend an extra big squirt of lemon juice and possibly a few extra shakes of salt (but taste it first) to bring out the best in your tomatoes.

1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp cumin
1/2 tsp curry
1/4-1/2 tsp chili powder
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 medium yellow onion, chopped (or if you're onion-texture averse like my husband, grated in the small holes of your grater, so it's a pulp)
2 cans corn, drained
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
2 15-oz cans diced tomatoes with juices (plain or Italian. I used home canned tomatoes and I have to say they were completely more awesome than store bought, but store bought will do)
1 quart vegetable broth
1 14-oz can coconut milk
1 breast of chicken (optional; you can make this vegetarian if you wish)
salt and pepper to taste
a squeeze of lemon or lime if you wish

Chop your onion and garlic. Cube your sweet potato and chicken (you can used leftover cooked chicken to good effect, or you can cook your chicken here. It's up to you).

Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add cumin, curry, and chili powder. Stir until fragrant (30-60 seconds. Add onion and cook for 5 minutes or so. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add chicken if it's raw and cook until it's browned on the sides.

Add corn (without juices), sweet potato, tomatoes (with juices). Stir it up. Add broth.

Cover and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat and simmer gently until the sweet potatoes are tender and chicken is cooked through (about 20 minutes).

Add coconut milk and heat through. Taste and adjust seasonings. Add a squirt of lemon or lime if you wish.


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