Meal In a Jar: Spicy Coconut Curry Noodles

Just add water and a splash of coconut milk to make this fragrant curry noodle pot. A dynamic and feisty broth is bolstered with cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric enveloping egg noodles and whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand.

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I’ve been trying to nail down a great curry noodle “in a jar” situation for months. My first attempt was late last year when we took the Airstream out to the desert south of Palm Springs. I’ve worked through five or six revisions in the months since, and learned some important lessons along the way. Once you have the core ingredients in a jar (or bag), all you need is water and a splash of coconut milk. You end up with a dynamic and feisty broth bolstered with cayenne, ginger, cinnamon, dried mushrooms and turmeric. It’s incredibly fragrant and delicious. The broth envelops tangles of egg noodles and whatever seasonal vegetables you have on hand to toss in at the last minute. I tend to use shredded cabbage and some tofu, and broccoli florets if I have them. So easy, so good!
Meal In a Jar: Spicy Coconut Curry Noodles
I think I finally cracked the code on the coconut curry noodles last week while parked at a stunning stretch of California coastline near Santa Barbara, but there have been some real fails in the attempts all winter. Getting the feisty broth to a place I loved was a breeze, it was getting the noodles right that gave me the most trouble. Turned out, the trick is using just the right noodles for a one-pot cooking approach. You need noodles that are happy to simmer along with all the other ingredients without getting overly goopy, or without making the broth too thick and starchy. I’ll get into the specifics down below.Spicy Coconut Curry Noodle Ingredients arranged in a Weck Jar

The “Meals In Jars” Series:

If you’re just stumbling on this I’ll back up a bit. I’ve done a few of these types of meals in jars lately. I love to keep them on hand for fast weeknight meals and take them out on road trips and camping as well. I keep the base recipes pretty strict and my general rule of thumb is to aim for “just add water.” Or, in this case a bit of coconut milk. With the Italian Barley Soup and the Tortellini Soup it’s just water and canned tomatoes.  The idea is that if all you have is the content of the jar, water, and perhaps a pantry-friendly ingredient or two, you have all you need for a really good meal.

Ingredients for Spicy Coconut Curry Noodles on Picnic table

Let’s Talk about The Mushrooms

Let’s get into some detail related to the ingredients in these curry noodles. I call for chopped dried porcini mushrooms in this recipe. They lend a really great earthy counter-balance to the spicy cayenne and ginger notes in the broth. They’re worth sourcing and using, and I’m calling them out here because I know a bunch of you are going to want to skip them (lol). I just want to encourage you not to. If you have another dried mushroom in your pantry, one you love, yes,  you can absolutely substitute, but don’t skip the dried mushrooms altogether. 

Meal In a Jar: Spicy Coconut Curry Noodles

Coconut Milk Alternatives?

Use full-fat coconut milk here and not low-fat. If you want a more creamy curry by all means add more to the broth, and simply re-season to your liking. Also, if you’re looking for a coconut milk alternative, I’ve had a lot of success using homemade cashew milk with these curry noodles. I blend 1 cup soaked cashews with 1 cup of water as the ratio using a high-speed blender until creamy smooth. Any leftover coconut milk or cashew milk freezes nicely, so tend to save any into baggies for later use, and both work nicely here. 

View of Coastline from table cooking Coconut Curry Noodles

What Kind of Noodles to Use?

I ran through a lot of noodles before landing on Italian-style egg pasta nests as the best choice for this recipe. Here’s what makes the noodle choice tricky. This is a one-pot meal. That is the whole point. You’d have a lot more noodle options if you wanted to boil your noodles in a separate pot, and then add them, fully cooked, to your curry pot at the perfect moment. But that isn’t what we’re going for here.

I tried rice noodles of various thickness but they were never happy, and wanted to be cooked separately. Thinking through other quick cooking pastas, I tested angel hair pasta, and that was a hard no. I tried breaking spaghetti into segments, and that wasn’t right either. But these tagliatelle egg nests, the kind you can pick up in an Italian deli, and many other grocery stores were great! Adding them after you’ve let the broth simmer a bit, they cooked into slurpy perfection.

Egg Noodles To Use in Jar Spicy Coconut Curry Noodles

An Outdoor Coconut Curry Noodle Pot 

This is a brothy situation with turmeric involved. I’ve cooked it a number of times in the Airstream, but because the cooking space is cramped, this is definitely a meal I prefer to cook and eat outside. My little Iwatani burner paired with a donabe is a great light-weight, easy to set up combo. I love the donabe because the clay really holds the heat and keeps the curry warm in case you’re up for seconds. For anyone worried about traveling with a clay pot, I keep it in the box it was shipped in to keep it safe while driving. You can see the set-up below.

Heidi at a Table with Ingredients and Pot of Coconut Curry Noodles

Here’s a snapshot of the recipe in my notebook below (the final version is typed up below). I like to write up recipes in pencil, and then erase to make changes and evolve the recipe over time. I always have a line for “next time” and that is where I leave notes to self about what to do when attempting the recipe again.  Leaving little notes about what has worked and what hasn’t so I don’t repeat past fails is also an important part of my template. And if I’m working and testing recipes for a book I take a slightly different approach. If I know a recipe is going to go into a book I type it up and move a printout to a binder, filing versions and changes there, and maintaining digital files. I did a series of posts about my Making a Cookbook process years ago (2015!) related to Near & Far – it might be helpful if you think you might want to write a cookbook someday but are overwhelmed by the process. A bit of a tangent, but that’s how it typically goes down on the recipe front over here.

Spicy Coconut Curry Noodle Recipe Handwritten in a Notebooks

What if I’m Cooking for 2?

One last note related to the recipe, a lot of camping saucepans are small, and this recipe calls for 7 1/2 cups of water and 1/2 cup of coconut milk. So, a good amount of liquid. You’re going to want to use a sizable pot. If your pot is smaller, or maybe you’re cooking for less than 4, here’s the plan. As long as your pot can hold 6 cups of water comfortably (knowing you’ll also be adding pasta and vegetables), you’re fine. Use all the spices, etc. as written, and scale back the pasta nests by one or two, and proceed with recipe. Your broth with be a bit stronger (in a good way). 

Meal In a Jar: Spicy Coconut Curry Noodles

Other favorite Meals in Jars: 

I hope you all enjoy this one as much as I do! I love it as a camping meal, especially if it is cold out. If you’re looking for more ideas along these lines I’ll just highlight this Italian Barley Soup and the Tortellini Soup again as well, or browse all the soup recipes. Keep your pantry stocked with a few of these for quick, low-lift homemade meals.

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Meal In A Jar: Tortellini Soup

A favorite flavor-packed meal in a jar, just add water and a can of crushed tomatoes. It’s a favorite one-pot lentil and tomato-based stew, dotted with plump, tender tortellini, spiked with a range of spices. Perfect for one-pot camping or weeknight meals.

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In nearly twenty years of sharing recipes on this site I don’t think I’ve ever posted a meal in a jar. I’m talking about the “just add water” style jar meals. The kind you can keep in the pantry, gift to friends, or pack with you for a road trip or camping trip. In contrast, I’m not talking about green salads in a jar, or burrito in a jar, or those sorts of meals. Just want to clarify. I like a meal in a jar that can be cooked in one pan and only requires water and perhaps one can of something (tomatoes, or coconut milk, etc.) to be great. 
Meal In A Jar Tortellini Soup in Weck Jars on Countertop
I make a range of these whenever we go camping or take our travel trailer out. We’ve been doing a lot of fall/winter coastal camping and a cozy soup or stew always hits the spot. We were at beautiful Crystal Cove State Park for a few days last week and had to hitch up the trailer in the worst rain and wind storm to hit the California Coast all year. Complete laugh/cry mud fest. Torrential downpour. Sideways rain. This was the perfect hearty bowl of soup to thaw us out.
Meal In A Jar Tortellini Soup in a Big White Pot

Meal In A Jar Tortellini Soup

If you’ve tried this Curried Tomato Tortellini Soup, you’ll immediately recognize the inspiration. This is basically the “meal in a jar” version of that soup. It’s a fortifying lentil and tomato-based stew dotted with plump, tender tortellini, and spiked with a range of spices. It’s so delicious, and simple, and this version you combine the jar ingredients with water and a can of crushed tomatoes. There’s literally no prep required for this version once you’ve built your jar. I talk about bonus ingredients down below, and they’re completely optional but instead of the spinach called for in the non-jar recipe, I like to add finely chopped kale or broccoli florets, or whatever I have on had to work in a green veg component in this version.
 View From Crystal Cove Campground

Meal in A Jar Instructions

This is just a reminder to be nice to your future self. Be sure to include all instructions on the side of your jar or container. You can use a sticker, washi tape, tag, or Sharpie marker. If you’re designing your own meal in a jar (I often rework favorite recipes) try to keep things as simple as possible. This means ingredients and instructions. Take a first stab and then tweak as you go until you have a great master recipe. For this soup, I know I can always track down a can of tomatoes (I keep a couple cans in the trailer), so aside from the jar contents all I need is that and water. The instructions fit on one line. It’s basically as simple as this: simmer contents of jar with 5 1/2 cups water and 14-oz can of tomatoes. 
Airstream Trailer from the Front Parked at the Beach

Bonus Ingredients

With these meal in a jar situations I often look to the refrigerator or cooler box for an extra ingredient or two. They’re not necessary, but can be nice to have. Basically, think of it as bonus points for rounding out whatever goes in the pot with whatever fresh ingredient(s) like kale or broccoli you might have on hand. Half the time for me, it’s broccoli, or some chopped kale. Use what you’ve got, it’s hard to go wrong! Cabbage, asparagus, corn, etc. So many add-ins would work here.
Meal in a Jar Tortellini Soup Recipe Handwritten in Journal

Pro-tip! Good Herbs & Spices

These types of meals in jars rely heavily on dry spices, herbs, and the like for flavor and seasoning. You want to use the best, freshest you’ve got. It’s the difference between using a curry paste and a curry powder. Or, the difference between using something like sriracha sauce and dried chile peppers and garlic.  If you’re going to make a bunch of these jars for future meals go ahead and reboot your most used spices, spice blends and dried ingredients. Source from great sources, store them in a dark, cool place, and be sure they’re beautifully fragrant. I list my favorite suppliers in the back of all of my books.
Meal In A Jar Tortellini Soup in Weck Jars on Countertop

If you like this sort of meal in a jar recipe, let me know. I tend to keep these sorts of recipes to myself, In part because I often throw them together in a hurry. But I always take notes, and make tweaks, and have quite a collection of them in my notebooks. Happy to share more if you like!

If soups are your thing, be sure to browse the archives. No one loves a good one more than me and there are dozens of great soup recipes to be had. Don’t miss this lentil soup, this simple tomato soup, or this ribollita.

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Curried Tomato Tortellini Soup

A crowd-pleasing tomato-based tortellini soup, dotted with plump, tender dumplings, spiked with a range of spices, and boosted with plenty of spinach.

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This incredible tortellini soup has become a staple in our cooking, let me tell you how it started. I installed the Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen app on my phone last year, and it was a real eye opener for a few reasons. The app is actually just a simple checklist of ingredients to incorporate in your daily diet – ideally, every day. Beans, berries, spices, nuts, greens, etc. It’s actually not simple. The thing that struck me immediately is the way you need to make every meal (and snack) count if you want to check all the boxes. I found that I needed to have more of a plan than my usual “free-style” approach, as well as an evolved arsenal of go-to recipes. So! The first thing I started doing was incorporating meals that were delicious, satisfying, one-bowl “box-checkers”, like this soup.

Curried Tomato Tortellini Soup

Tortellini Soup: The Details

This is a fortifying lentil and tomato-based stew, dotted with plump, tender dumplings, spiked with a range of spices, and boosted with plenty of spinach. It’s so delicious, and simple, week-night friendly, and great for leftovers. Also, no shame in using frozen spinach, here. It cuts the already minimal prep time here down to near nothing. Same goes for using pre-made tortellini. Enjoy!

Curried Tomato Tortellini Soup

There are a bunch of other whole food plant-based “box checker” recipes here as well, and throughout the archives. If you’re interested in a vegan version of this recipe simply skip the grated cheese or use one of the increasingly good vegan cheeses now available, and purchase an appropriate tortellini.

Curried Tomato Tortellini Soup
If soups are your thing, be sure to browse the archives. No one loves a good one more than me and there are dozens of great soup recipes to be had. Don’t miss this lentil soup, this simple tomato soup, or this ribollita.

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Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

A delicious, simple vegetarian split pea soup made from an impossibly short list of ingredients. Seriously, just five!

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Many of you were enthusiastic about the lentil soup recipe I posted a few weeks back. Today’s split pea soup recipe is similar in spirit. It’s a delicious, healthy, textured soup made from an impossibly short list of ingredients. Seriously, just five! No ham hocks in this version, simply green split peas and onions cooked until tender, partially pureed, seasoned and flared out with toppings.
A Really Great Vegetarian Split Pea Soup
Like many lentil soups, this one delivers many of the same nutritional benefits – a good amount of vegetable protein and plenty of staying power. It is hearty and filling, and even better reheated later in the day. You can find dried split green peas in many natural foods stores, I picked these up in the bin section at Whole Foods Market.
A Really Great Vegetarian Split Pea Soup

Split Pea Soup: Finishing Touches

I like to finish each bowl with a generous drizzle of golden olive oil, a few flecks of lemon zest, and a dusting of smoked paprika to give the soup some smoky depth. If you have scallions or toasted nuts on hand (pictured), great! Toss some on as well.

Hope you enjoy the soup, and for those of you who have never tried split peas, this might be the time to give them a go! 

Variations

A number of you had great suggestions for tweaks and variations in the comments. Here are a couple that stood out.

Renae took the soup in a more herb-forward direction. “This soup is divine. I added fennel and sage to give it a warmer texture. Used almond milk to thin it out while blending.”

Jesper noted, “Great looking soup. Instead of using cubed bouillon, I use the water left over from cooking chick peas. Usually I cook them with an onion, a garlic clove or two, black pepper corns and a bay leaf. The result is a lightly flavored vegetable stock, and it freezes well, too.”

I like Christine’s style, “I like to add a few garnishes like chopped fresh marjoram, oregano, thyme and a good dash of hot sauce! Sometimes a swirl of hot mustard is great too.”

And if you’re looking for more lentil or pulse based soups, I really love this Coconut Red Lentil Soup, and this Green Lentil Soup with Curried Brown Butter

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