While eating home cooked family dinners was a huge priority in our household, I wouldn’t say we were exposed to a diversity of flavors and dishes. We were definitely a chicken 4 ways, type of family.
(Mom, before you start getting upset, keep reading)
I would say that at best I was a “picky eater.” I didn’t have much of an appetite for anything healthy/of substance so whatever my mom put in front of me, half of it went to the dog and another quarter found its way into my napkin and then into the garbage. My parents weren’t the type to make me something else if I didn’t like what we were having – that being said, they didn’t want me to stave either. My mom came up with a brilliant solution – something I will definitely incorporate into our family planning once we have kids. Every week before doing our big grocery shopping, everyone had to pick 1-2 meals that they would like the following week. My dad would normally request classic manly dishes, like pork chops and potatoes or something from his own mother’s recipe index like Swedish meatballs (and he would even do the cooking at least once a week – his specialty being a spicy chicken dish). My sister would request a whole variety of things like ham and scalloped potatoes, lobster (which I REFUSED to eat), burgers on the grill, fajitas, stir fry and corn on the cob. My mom would fill in the week with staples like chicken & vegetables and soups in the winter.
Unfortunately, for everyone else in my family – I was allowed the request meals as well. I had 3 solid meals that I would request on a rotating basis : spaghetti (with plain marinara sauce, preferably Prego and caesar salad (still to this day, my all-time favorite meal), hamburger helper (I really liked the little glove spokes-thing) or breakfast for dinner, which would manly consist of waffles. And that was it. And whenever we had one of those three meals, I would eat more than all other meals combined. Unfortunately, not everyone else felt that way.
As I’ve grown older, I’ve become more adventurousness with my eating. And thanks to Pinterest, I’ve even ventured outside of the classic american style of cooking. And living in NYC, with a little effort you can find nearly any ingredient (and when in doubt, there is always Amazon).
Last night, I decided to make a new soup recipe: West African Peanut Soup – I know, who would have thought a girl from New Hampshire who hated nearly every meal put in front of her would become such an adventurous cook! Well, I will let you in on a little secret, it wasn’t that diverse. The main ingredient I used was good old fashioned Skippy peanut butter!
The recipe comes from Cookie + Kate a vegetarian focused cooking blog.
Vegetarian West African Peanut Soup
Prep time: 10 mins (this took me a little longer since I’m a slow chopper!)
Cook time: 35 mins
Total time: 45 mins
Serves: 4 large servings
Creamy and comforting, spicy vegan soup with West African origins. Made with a simple combination of peanut butter, tomato paste and collard greens, this soup comes together quickly and would be a great weeknight meal. If you love spicy flavors like me, don’t hesitate to use liberal amounts of ginger and garlic.
- 6 cups low sodium vegetable broth
- 1 medium red onion, chopped*
- 2 tablespoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 bunch collard greens, ribs removed and leaves chopped into 1-inch strips
- 3/4 cup unsalted peanut butter (chunky or smooth)
- 1/2 cup tomato paste, or 1 cup canned crushed tomatoes**
- Hot sauce, like sriracha (AKA rooster sauce)
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped peanuts, for garnish
- In a medium Dutch oven or stock pot, bring the broth to a boil. Add the onion, ginger, garlic and salt. Cook on medium-low heat for 20 minutes.
- In a medium-sized, heat-safe mixing bowl, combine the peanut butter and tomato paste, then transfer 1 to 2 cups of the hot stock to the bowl.
- Whisk the mixture together until smooth, then pour the peanut mixture back into the soup and mix well.
- Stir in the collard greens and season the soup with hot sauce to taste.*** Simmer for about 15 more minutes on medium-low heat, stirring often.
- Serve over cooked brown rice if you’d like, and top with a sprinkle of chopped peanuts.
*The red onions at the grocery store did not look so hot, so I used a yellow onion instead
** I used tomato paste
*** I had to add a lot of hot sauce to get the kick I was looking for
Since I am not a vegetarian, I would probably add in some chicken the next time I make it. That being said, it was very filling, as I served it over brown rice.
So get out there and start expanding your recipe index. I promise you – it isn’t as difficult as you might think. And the payoffs are delicious!
And Mom, thanks for putting up with my limited culinary interests as a kid!