Moroccan Chicken Chili

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A few weeks ago, I had a delicious spicy chicken and chick pea soup from Hale and Hearty. It was that perfect combination of being satisfying, but in a healthy “I can tell it’s not too fatty” way. I was immediately inspired to create something similar at home. The recipe I created reminds me of chili with a Moroccan twist (thanks to the cinnamon), hence I have called it Moroccan Chicken Chili.

Moroccan Chicken Chili

serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 can chick peas, drained
  • 2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 can fire roasted diced tomatoes with green chilies
  • 32 ounces chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup red lentils
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • pepper, to taste
  • greek yogurt, for serving

Directions:

Add all ingredients except lentils and broth in a crock pot, stir. Cook on low 4 hours, shred chicken and stir again. Add lentils and broth, turn heat to high. Continue to cook 1 more hour (or more, returning heat to low).

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Serve with a dollop of greek yogurt.

Note: I didn’t have carrots or potatoes on hand, but I think it would be delicious to add one cubed potato and two sliced carrots.

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Dad’s Famous Pancakes

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Growing up, my dad wasn’t exactly the culinary star of the household. He was pretty solid when it came to throwing dinner together on a weeknight, but then again, hot dogs, mac and cheese, and frozen veggies are pretty hard to screw up. On occasion, he would make one of his two dinner specials – lasagna (which my mom says tricked her early on in their relationship into thinking he could cook) and tuna noodle casserole. Standard, hearty, once in a blue moon meals.

His true specialty, however, was pancakes from scratch. To this day, I’ve always hated any pancake that came from a box. Bisquick is NOT the same. Our pancakes were a Saturday morning family tradition – my sisters and I would stand at the counter as he threw the ingredients together, helping out every once in a while by cracking an egg or giving the batter a stir. My dad was famous for them. Our friends eagerly waited for Friday night sleepover invitations, knowing that Saturday morning promised endless stacks of pancakes – my best friend Jeni came to be known as a bottomless pancake pit (and this girl is petite). My favorite part about this recipe is that it is actually a recipe that has been passed down in his family. It’s kind of cool to think that my dad has the same Saturday morning memories of making the pancakes with his parents. And it’s a tradition I hope to continue someday (uh, let’s give it a few years) with my own kids.

Like it or lump it (ha! pancake batter humor!), dad, I’m going to share your famous pancake recipe for the world (I think I’m up to 10 readers?) to see. Editor’s Note: The directions are actually copied and pasted from an email my dad sent me in 2003. Now you will be able to see where my dumb dad humor comes from.

Dad’s Famous Pancakes

1 batch yields approximately 4 pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 egg
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil, plus more for greasing griddle
  • ½ cup milk
  • 1 c. flour
  • optional: cinnamon, nutmeg, vanilla extract, fresh fruit, or chocolate chips

Directions:

From the Head Chef: World Famous Pancake Recipe.

First rub some veggie oil into the griddle, then preheat on medium. Now put some eggs in a bowl (without their shells – ha ha) Editor’s note: oh, dad... Depending on the thickness and size of the pancakes you want, each egg will make about 4 pancakes. For each egg add 1/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp baking powder, 2 tbsp of sugar, 2 tbsp of oil, and 1/2 cup of milk Editor’s note: I usually add a dash of cinnamon and nutmeg and just a bit of vanilla extract. Whip together until frothy. Then add 1 cup of flour per egg. Mix together and add milk a little at a time as necessary until the batter pours well but is not too thin. The batter is better if you can leave it with tiny lumps instead of completely smooth. Finally, add fruit Editor’s note: or chocolate chips if desired. (If adding fruit, thicker batter works better). Check the griddle. It’s ready if water splashed on it forms beads which dance around for a few seconds. Check your batter again for thickness. The thicker it is, the thicker the pancakes will be. Add more milk if desired. Now pour or ladle the batter onto the griddle. Wait for air bubbles to appear consistently through the top of the pancakes, then flip. If air bubbles don’t form within about a minute or so, check the underside.

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air bubbles forming

If browned well, flip anyway. If not, the griddle needs to be hotter. If they burn, lower the temp a bit. The cakes are done when you can press lightly on the top of them and they spring back up. As you can tell, this is not an exact science. Keep experimenting with the batter thickness and the griddle temp, and you’ll discover the best way to cook pancakes on your stove. Always re-grease the griddle with a bit of oil on a paper towel before putting the next batch on. Good luck and good eatin’!

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Serving suggestion: When pouring pancakes, do one large circle and then two smaller on the top sides. Voila, it’s Mickey! It’s also delicious to top with fruit spread or peanut butter.

Restaurants, Inspiration, and Smoky Boozy Pulled Pork

The other day I was thinking about how much I like eating at restaurants. More specifically, I was at a restaurant perusing the brunch menu, thinking, “Everything sounds delicious.” I’m fairly certain that the only thing I like to talk about is food. Especially good food from good restaurants. (Idonwannabrag, but I’m an elite yelper). Simple thoughts for a simple mind, I suppose. Then I started thinking about how I’m trying this blog thing out, and maybe I should start a little feature where I write about delicious foods I’ve tried in delicious restaurants and post a recipe either recreating a dish from the restaurant or mimicking the overall food style of the menu.

If you’re a New Yorker, you might be aware that we just had New York Restaurant Week. The beauty of Restaurant Week is that it isn’t actually a week, but spans from mid/late January into early February. To me, it feels like restaurant year. Like I said earlier, simple mind. But the beauty of Restaurant Week is that for a fixed price ($25 for lunch, $38 for dinner), you can choose from a set menu an appetizer, entrée, and dessert.

A few weeks ago we met up with some friends for Restaurant Week lunch at Blue Smoke, a barbecue place. If you haven’t been, go. It’s amazing and surprisingly cheap. Not to mention, their portions are the biggest Restaurant Week portions I’ve ever seen.

I started with the deviled eggs for the appetizer. Fancy deviled eggs is more like it. I am currently drooling at my keyboard thinking about them. My meal was barbecue chicken with mashed potatoes, followed by key lime pie for dessert. It’s like my dream menu. In case you haven’t yet guessed, mashed potatoes is one of my favorite food groups. I’m trying to branch out now with healthier takes such as tatties and neeps and pureed cauliflower, but deep down inside my inner fat kid is constantly crying out for some good old buttery mashed spuds. The star of the menu though, was their chicken wings (touted by some as the best wings in the city, and I’m not about to argue). Not to mention that they give you a very generous portion of 7 wings as the appetizer.

Anyway, I’ve been hanging on to a recipe for smoky pulled pork, and in keeping with the theme of a good ol’ barbecue joint, I thought now would be the perfect opportunity to pull it out. This is a recipe that I dreamed up a few months back because I love the smoky flavor that pulled pork can get when you cook it properly. Being that I live in a tiny Brooklyn apartment and can’t really smoke my meat (for some reason the neighbors seem to hate it…) it dawned on me that Laphroiag scotch basically tastes like a meat smoker, and I decided to try out a recipe incorporating that taste. So I warn you, if you are going to try this recipe, it must be Laphroaig (or at the very least another brand of super smoky scotch). Otherwise, you’re better off just using your standard pulled pork recipe. For this recipe you can use either pork shoulder or pork loin. If you’re not concerned about health, pork shoulder is much tastier. I use loin because my stomach can’t handle fatty meats. Also optional – you can also marinate the pork overnight in the refrigerator. Just double the liquid amounts and keep in a Ziploc bag, and drain half of the liquid the following morning before placing in the crock pot.

Faux-smoked Pulled Pork

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Featuring everyone’s favorite drink… a Tanqueray martini with Divina Cracked Green Olives

Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

  • 6 lb Pork shoulder or 3-4 b pork loin
  • ¼ c. apple cider vinegar
  • ¼ c. Laphroaig scotch (I use 10 year)
  • Hot pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 bottles barbecue sauce of your choice

Directions:

Place meat in crock pot, and pour in vinegar and scotch. Cover pork with minced garlic and liberal amounts of hot pepper flakes, salt, and pepper. Add a dash or two of barbecue sauce to enhance flavor. Cook on low 6-8 hours or high 4-5 hours.

When fully cooked, drain some (not all!) of the liquid. Shred with a fork.

From here on, you have a few options, depending on who you’re feeding: If you know everyone likes saucy pulled pork, add the entire two bottles of sauce. If you’re a bit more hesistant, add one full bottle and save the second for people to add desired extra sauce to their sandwiches. If you have no idea what people want, don’t add any sauce and let people sauce it up on their own.

Serving suggestions:

Serve on onion Kaiser rolls, lightly buttered and grilled on each side. Top with pickled jalapeños and/or coleslaw.

ImageMmm pickled jalapeños.

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Super Dip Edition!

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Like every other American, I love the Super Bowl. I’m not particulary fond of football (though I did sport a pretty slammin’ Buffalo Bills Starter Jacket in 6th grade). The thing I love about it is it’s basically an excuse to eat ridiculous amounts of greasy, fatty, bad-for-you, delicious food. Much like the athletes I’ll be watching on Sunday, over the past month I’ve been training for this Sunday day in and day out at the gym. Every strenuous mile on the treadmill, every 1 minute plank hold, every increase in the resistance level on the elliptical, I begrudgingly thought “this is for you, you fatty, fatty dips.” And then I would collapse. So without further adieu, I give to you the Cookeatdrinkrepeat: Super Dip Edition, featuring my three favorite dips. (Pictures of the buffalo and spinach & artichoke dips from pre-cooking. Use your imaginations to imagine the bubbly delicious melty finished products!)

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1. Buffalo chicken dip. AKA the reason my husband married me (or so he says). Did you know that instead of the traditional m&m’s or shot glass wedding favors, we opted to hand out mini bottles of Frank’s Red Hot along with a recipe card for buffalo chicken dip? I bet you wish you were friends with us now. In fact, our recipe cards explicitly stated that this dip is the reason we were getting married. That’s how serious we are about food.

This dip was also a hit with my ESL class. I brought the recipe and ingredients in and had them follow the instructions to make the dip for the school’s Thanksgiving potluck. In fact, it was such a hit that they ate the entire dip before the Thanksgiving party even started. Whoops.

So, although you’re missing part of the experience by not making this recipe with a fun mini bottle of Frank’s and you’re not doing this in a fun classroom setting, I like you guys enough to give you the recipe anyway. Please note: if you use anything other than Frank’s, you’re dead to me I strongly advise against it. As for the cheese, I prefer the Mexican cheese blends (but make sure it’s without the seasoning!!). This is for a single batch, intended for an 8×8 dish. If you are making this for a party, you will definitely want to double it and make it in a 9×13 (as pictured). Guaranteed it’ll be the first thing gone at a party.

Buffalo Chicken Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 8 oz package cream cheese
  • 1 can chicken breast (white meat only)
  • Frank’s Red Hot
  • Ranch dressing
  • 1 package shredded cheese

Spread the cream cheese evenly across the bottom of an 8×8 dish. Drain the chicken, and shred with a fork in the can. Layer chicken across cream cheese. Drizzle ranch in a crisscross pattern over the top.

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Repeat with Frank’s (the more the better! I usually end up using about half the bottle because 1) it keeps everything from getting too dry and 2) I like SPICE. Top with cheese.

Now, this might be the ONLY time I will ever suggest cooking something in the microwave, but it really makes a difference with the dip. I’ve found that when I bake the dip, the cheese ends up too dry. Microwaving it makes it so deliciously gooey. So, microwave on 60% power for 5-8 minutes (continue checking on it, it’ll be finished when the cheese is melted and the sauces underneath begin to bubble). Or, bake for 25-30 minutes at 350.

Suggested: Serve with blue corn tortilla chips (I LOVE Garden of Eatin’ No Salt Added Blue Corn Tortilla Chips).

2. Spinach and Artichoke Dip. I’m pretty sure my spinach and artichoke dip recipe is the only reason my family ever wants me to visit. My sister demands I make it practically every time we see each other. My dip is unlike others because I use way more lemon and artichokes than other recipes. I humbly think my dip is superior to all other spinach and artichoke dips. For the spinach, I usually take it out of the package and put it right into a large microwaveable mixing bowl and throw it in the microwave on high. After it’s relatively cooked, I break it apart with a fork (it’s ok if there are still frozen sections) I throw the cream cheese directly onto the spinach to soften it and make it easier to stir. As for spices, you can use whatever’s on hand. I make it differently every time depending on what’s available. My go-to is original Mrs. Dash and liberal amounts of pepper. I NEVER add salt, though, because I think the extreme lemon taste makes it unnecessary.

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Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Ingredients:

  • 2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and diced
  • 1 package chopped frozen spinach, cooked for 3 minutes in the microwave
  • 10 oz cream cheese (1 full package plus 2 ounces from a second)
  • ¼ cup mayonnaise
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 lemons
  • 1 package shredded cheese (cheddar or a blend is fine)
  • Various spices (Mrs. Dash, pepper, paprika, whatever you desire)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl, stir together cooked spinach and cream cheese until cream cheese is well blended. Add artichoke, mayonnaise, garlic, and the juice of 1 1/2 lemons (save the other half for later) and stir. Add 1 handful of cheese and stir again.

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Add spices to taste (really, taste it! It’ll be good even cold). Spread into an 8×8 (or 9×13, it doesn’t matter) baking dish. Top with more cheese (you might not need the whole package), drizzle the juice of the remaining half lemon over the top, and lightly sprinkle Mrs. Dash or pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until bubbly.

Note: I prefer to eat this dip with Triscuits. Also, once it bakes together, the flavors turn into magic. If you are lucky enough to have leftovers, I swear it’s just as good to let it refrigerate overnight and enjoy it cold the next day.

3. Taco Dip. I think I got my fondness for appetizers and dips from this classic I ate at every family get together when I was a child. Taco dip. It was so simple and so good and my sisters and I were like vultures every time the dip came out. My mom literally would have to swat us away from the picnic table to let other people get their chance to eat. Of the three dips, it’s definitely the most cost-efficient and easy to prepare. The only funny thing is to me, you must make it with a fresh brick of cheddar cheese and shred it on your own. It’s just not the same to make it with a bag of pre-shredded cheese (it’s way too dry and doesn’t have the same flavor quality). For the salsa, I usually use medium Tostitos because it reminds me of being a kid. And I usually use fat-free or low-fat sour cream. As for the lettuce, I seem to have a hard time finding the prepackaged shredded iceberg nowadays, so you can also just get a head of iceberg and shred/chop it yourself.

Taco Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1 16 oz container of sour cream
  • 1 packet taco seasoning
  • 1 jar of salsa
  • 1 brick of sharp cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1 package shredded iceberg lettuce

Directions:

Stir the packet of taco seasoning into the container of sour cream. Mix well. Spread across the bottom of a 9×13 dish. Layer the jar of salsa on top, spread evenly. Add cheese across the salsa. Top with lettuce.

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Serve with tortilla chips and enjoy!

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Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

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This is one of my favorite recipes – I’ve been making it since college, way back when I was a vegetarian. What’s not to love? It’s easy, the only dishes you dirty in the preparation is a spoon, and leftovers are guaranteed to be devoured. Plus, you’re not limited to constraints of specific ingredients – any salsa, any kind of diced tomatoes, any tortilla preference, any shredded cheese will do. You can also make it super low fat and healthy by using whole wheat tortillas, reduced fat cheese, and fat free sour cream. And did I mention it is easy?

Vegetarian Mexican Lasagna

Ingredients:

  • 10 tortillas (I prefer 10’ flour tortillas)
  • 2 cans black beans, drained
  • 1 can diced tomatoes (I prefer Muir Glen fire roasted chipotle tomatoes)
  • 3 jars of salsa – any variety, any mix! I usually do 2 mediums and 1 hot
  • 2 packages of shredded cheese – I find that a cheese blend usually works best – cheddar, mozzarella, pepper jack, etc.

(for serving):

  • Pickled jalepenos
  • Fresh cilantro
  • Sour cream

The spread of ingredients:

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Today’s salsas of choice. I usually do a jar of Pace because it’s very saucy and keeps the lasagna moist:

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Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350.

In a 9×13 casserole dish, spoon a bit of salsa (doesn’t matter which) to cover the bottom of the dish. Rip a tortilla into strips, and create a single layer across (don’t worry if the tortillas aren’t perfectly aligned, it really doesn’t matter how you lay them out). Spread some more salsa (again, it doesn’t matter which) and 3 big spoonfuls of the diced tomatoes over the tortillas. Add 2/3 of a can of beans and spread. Sprinkle a layer of cheese. Continue repeating layers, getting creative with switching up the salsa, until you run out of space in the casserole dish (you should get three complete layers out of the process). Finish with a final layer of tortillas, more salsa, and cheese.

Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 10 minutes, until heated through and the cheese has melted.

Serve with a dollop of sour cream, pickled jalepenos, and cilantro on top. Send the leftovers to me.

(The layering process:)

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Delicious success!

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Eggs Florentine

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I love lazy Saturday mornings. Especially when the original plan is to wake up at 6am to haul a cartful AND a giant bag of laundry to the Laundromat for a long-overdue laundry session. Note: My husband and I are major procrastinators when it comes to laundry. Which is pretty sad, considering my husband is the one who actually does the laundry (we have opposite work schedules and he usually gets up early in the morning to do it). So, Friday night we were relaxing and enjoying doing nothing when he proclaimed, “Crap! I have to prep the laundry!” We had been planning a laundry date for Saturday morning.  Instigator that I am, I said, “Eh, I can make it a few more days without it.” Note: This is a common occurrence. In fact, we’ve had this exact same conversation every night this week until we set a Saturday morning laundry and bagel date (I’ll do anything within legal limits for lox/cream cheese/tomato/red onion/capers on a toasted everything bagel and I’m not ashamed to admit it).

Anyway, we put laundry off for two more days (thanks for doing the laundry this dreary Monday morning, darling!). Our apartment was in desperate need of cleaning, but I decided the only way to get motivated for that was to make some homemade eggs florentine.

Disclaimer: Poached eggs are possibly one of the most annoying things you’ll ever have to make. I won’t even pretend to have the secret, because I still haven’t quite gotten the hang of how to poach perfectly. My end result was pretty near perfect, but it took a lot of examining and checking and self-doubting as the suggested 2-3 minutes turned into 4, 5, and 6 minutes. I really think it depends on the eggs, the poacher tool of choice, and the type of stove you have. The rest is up to your close monitoring until you think it’s just right.

Regardless, here we go:

I’m Too Lazy to Do Laundry Eggs Florentine

Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 8 eggs (I only cooked 4 eggs, as there was only two of us, but the hollandaise is enough for 4 people)
  • 4 egg yolks
  • 1 stick of butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp lemon
  • Salt, to taste
  • Hot pepper, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 4 english muffins
  • 10 ounces of fresh spinach leaves (use half the amount if only cooking for 2 people)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Directions:

Prep the poached eggs:

Fill the bottom of a poaching pan with a few inches of water (don’t let the water hit the bottom of the poaching cups). Crack 1 egg in each poaching cup, put on stove, but don’t start cooking until hollandaise sauce is finished.

Cook the hollandaise:

Fill the bottom of a double boiler with a few inches of water (or if you’re like me and don’t have one, fill a large sauce pan with water, and rest a smaller sauce pan on top). Bring water to boiling and lower to simmer.  Meanwhile, put the four egg yolks and lemon juice in the top sauce pan and whisk quickly for a few minutes, until yolks are light and smooth. Place top pan over double broiler. Slowly add melted butter, continuing to whisk quickly, until everything is blended to a thicker consistency. Turn off heat and remove from stovetop. Add salt and hot pepper to taste. Cover to keep warm. Note: if the hollandaise is too thick when serving, stir in a little hot water until thinned out.

Sautee the spinach:

In a separate frying pan, add olive oil and heat on medium. Add spinach and sauté for 4-5 minutes. Salt and pepper to taste, set aside, cover to keep warm.

Toast, baby, toast:

Begin toasting English muffins to desired toasting level.

Poach them eggs:

Turn heat under uncovered poacher to medium-high, until boiling. Lower heat to medium-low (simmering) and add lid. Cook 2-3 minutes. After 3 minutes, check on the eggs. They may take as long as 5-6 minutes. Eggs will be finished when egg whites no longer appear clear and the top doesn’t “shake” as much when you jiggle it. To check doneness (yeah it’s a word) inside, slide a rubber spatula in – the whites should be only slightly liquidy.

Presentation:

Divide the spinach on the English muffins. Top with one poached egg per side. Spoon hollandaise sauce on top, and season with pepper to taste. Mmmm. Dirty laundry never tasted so good.

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Spicy Chilled Coconut Carrot Soup

This recipe came about as more of an “uh oh!” recipe. I was following directions to make a vegan creamy carrot soup for dinner and realized the finished product tasted like crap. Don’t you hate when that happens? Especially when it looks like the contents of a baby’s diaper. (You’re welcome).

So, I took the botched dinner and used it to create a totally different fusion-Thai-inspired chilled spicy coconut carrot soup (I was lucky I had a can of coconut milk on hand!) This time, the end result was much much better. Here goes:

Spicy Chilled Coconut Carrot Soup

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Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1 bag of baby carrots, sliced
  • 1 can coconut milk (I used low fat)
  • 1 handful of white rice
  • 1 inch of ginger, grated
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp cayenne or chili pepper (depending on preference)
  • 1/8 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp salt
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • Pepper, to taste
  • More salt, to taste
  • 1 handful cilantro leaves

Directions:

Place carrots in a medium-sized soup pot. Add water until carrots are just covered and bring to a boil on medium-high. Lower heat to medium and continue cooking for about 5 minutes. Note: if you prefer a saltier soup, use a half-water, half-vegetarian broth for the boiling.

Add rice, cover, and continue to cook for 15-20 minutes, until rice is cooked.

Remove from heat. With an immersion blender, blend until smooth.

Return to stove and stir in coconut milk and garlic, ginger, and all spices except for cilantro. NOTE: ADD THE SPICES SLOWLY, TO TASTE! You might not find all of the spices necessary – the cinnamon might not meet your fancy, and that’s ok! You also might want to add other spices, and that’s ok too! When heated through, remove from heat and cool.

Refrigerate 2 hours or overnight (or if you’re like me and botch dinner shortly before serving, throw the entire pot in the freezer to chill for 30 minutes – 1 hour!)

When ready to eat, spoon into bowls and top with cilantro leaves.

Serving suggestions: Serve with a dollop of fat free Greek yogurt. I’m also weird and like to squeeze in a wedge of lime juice.