Braised Potato Leek Soup

I’ve always wanted to have my own recipe for potato soup, since it’s one of my favorite things to eat. And it’s one of those foods you absolutely can’t get from a can–the texture is too slimy, the flavor tinny. I’ve attempted this soup before, but always with tons of cream and butter–so it left me feeling heavy.

Hello, veganism.

What gives this soup a rich flavor is braising the leeks, celery, carrots, onion and garlic before putting in the other ingredients. It has a creamy texture and sweet flavor, but no cream. Or butter. Just veggies and happiness.

Braised Potato Leek Soup (makes about 10 servings):

  • 4 small leeks (or 4 cups of leeks), chopped (the smaller the leek you get, the better the texture and flavor)
  • 1 small red onion (peeled and cut in half)
  • 6-8 cloves of garlic
  • 1 cup baby carrots (or a cup of diced carrot)
  • 1 cup chopped celery
  • 1 head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
  • 2 large yukon gold potatoes, or 3 average-sized ones (roughly chopped)
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • 3 cups unmilk (I used rice milk)
  • 1/2 to 3/4 tsp salt, depending on your preference
  • chives or scallions to garnish
  • salt and pepper to taste

Get out a large soup pot. The largest one you have! Heat 1 tsp of oil (or spray with cooking spray) over medium heat. Add the leek, onion halves, garlic, carrots and celery. Cook over medium heat until the leeks begin to brown (about 5 minutes). Add the cauliflower, potatoes and 1 cup of broth. Cover and cook until all the veggies are very tender.

Now, this is the tricky part, because the soup is HOT! But you’ll want to put portions of soup in your blender and puree until smooth. If it needs a little help getting smooth, add the rest of the broth as you puree. The finished mixture should be the texture of very loose mashed potatoes. Lower the heat to a simmer and put the soup back in the pot. Add all the unmilk and the salt. Return to a uniform warmness, but not to boiling.

Garnish with chives or scallions, add salt and pepper to taste. If you happened to have some fake bacon bits on hand, this would be a great time to use them!

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Chocolate Chocolate Pancakes

Don’t we all need double the chocolate in our pancakes?

I adapted this recipe from the basic pancakes in the Happy Herbivore. That is the best starting point for pancakes I’ve ever seen–you can basically add anything to it, and they come out great. Blueberries? Sure! Flax? Yes! Pumpkin? Probably. But this time I added both cocoa powder and chocolate chips to make it extra, extra chocolaty.

Chocolate Chocolate Pancakes (makes approximately 8 to 10):

  • 1 cup of flour (I use ultragrain flour)
  • 2 T cocoa powder
  • 1 T baking powder
  • dash of cinnamon
  • 1 cup vanilla soymilk
  • 2 T maple syrup
  • semi-sweet chocolate chips (reserve)

Follow the directions in the Happy Herbivore cookbook, which are basically: mix all the dry ingredients, then add the the wet. Mix gently and let sit for 10 minutes. You can heat up your skillet while you wait.

Now, grab your chocolate chips! When you pour the batter into the pan to make the pancake, add 4 to 5 chocolate chips on the top. When you flip the pancake, the chips will be incorporated in. You don’t need very many, and this way you can easily control how much chocolate goes into each pancake, instead of having some with none, and some with TONS.

I topped ours with raspberry jam and powdered sugar. But for Christmas, I think it would be adorable to make a peppermint glaze (out of unmilk, powdered sugar, and peppermint extract) and top with some crushed candy canes. I think you could even do an adorable chocolate orange pancake (you could even use orange-flavored chocolate!), or one with blueberry syrup.

Even More E2: 3 Bean Chili, Two Ways

I realize as I type this that I still need to make the E2 meatloaf. I just get side tracked! And this week I was put off my meal planning by the GIANT ENORMOUS POT OF CHILI that I made from this recipe. It says that it feeds 6 to 8. 6 to 8 what? Obviously not humans. Maybe professional wrestlers. Or Hulks. But this made easily 8+ servings for us, plus 2 quart-size freezer bags of leftover chili. I’m pretty sure that my grandchildren will be eating that chili someday.

As you can plainly see, this chili is not sexy (which begs the question: can chili be sexy?). But it is packed with basically every form of protein they could think of, with three different beans and a whole pound of tofu. As for taste? It has a lot of ground coriander, but no cumin, so it doesn’t exactly taste like traditional chili. It’s sweet from the addition of carrots, apple (see? What isn’t in this chili!), and molasses. It’s not something I would necessarily make again–probably because if you’ve made it once, you have enough leftovers to never need to make  a second batch!

To use up even more of this chili, I decided to make chili dogs for dinner this week as well. Because the texture of the original version is so…chunky…I ran it through the blender a bit to get it the right texture for hot dog chili. Behold!

The daiya really made the difference, giving it an authentic chili dog flavor. And I made the buns myself, using the same recipe for rolls from Thanksgiving. I’ve made that bread twice since we had it on November 24th, so you know I love it. Or I just love carbs. Whatever.

Recipe from the Engine 2 Diet.

No Harm, No Fowl: Vegan Thanksgiving 2011!

Last year I was an omnivore, and the centerpiece of my Thanksgiving table was a giant turkey breast. It was roasted over fennel, and had a bacon lattice over the top. It was decadent for sure, and fattening for certain. Never again! Bring on my all-vegan Thanksgiving, which was even better than last year: just as delicious, no one died, and it isn’t killing us from the inside, either.

Bacon Wrapped Torkey, from the Happy Herbivore. (Just assume when I say “bacon” it’s fake-bacon.)

Root Veggie Mash (potato, turnip and rutabaga), my idea!

Polenta Stuffing from Appetite for Reduction.

Honey Wheat Rolls (more hardcore vegans than me can use brown sugar rather than honey. Also, sub out the butter for applesauce! You’re welcome!) from November’s Vegetarian Times.

Everything together, including Cranberry Sauce, Green Beans with Almonds, Bacon, and Garlic, and Mushroom Gravy all over that mash!

Pumpkin Cheesecake from Happy Herbivore. I even made the pumpkin myself! And I topped it with a cream sauce made from 1/4 cup cashews, 2 tsp maple syrup, 1/4 tsp cinnamon, and 1/2 cup of rice milk. My husband took one bite of this and announced it to be “perfect.” It really was the best pumpkin dessert I’ve ever had, and I can’t believe it’s not terrible for you. Because it is just as amazing as any full-fat counterpart. Beautiful!

This year I’m so thankful for my family, friends, and of course, the decision we made to eat a plant-based diet. It’s given us back our health, and brought me happiness in so many different ways. Not only did I lose weight (and my husband, did, too) but we’re doing something great for our long-term health, for animals, and for the environment.

I know that this is just the beginning of the adventure, and I’m so excited for what next year will bring. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Even More E2: Portobello Fajitas

I’ve always been nervous about portobello anything, which is weird, really. Because I love mushrooms, really and truly love them. But replacing any meat with giant mushrooms just seemed–sad. Let the mushrooms be mushrooms!

That being said: I was wrong. Let the mushrooms be fajitas! Because this recipe from the Engine 2 Diet was so amazingly good. I will say this: I think it should only be attempted in a cast iron skillet. I’ve never had fajitas turn out this good. They were practically restaurant quality, but with only sprayed-on oil and no seasonings. None. Not even salt.

I made their sour cream sauce (using cilantro and lemon juice) and it was fairly standard. I also added rice and beans on the side, just to make for a little extra protein. And, of course, I threw in some avocado. BONUS! I finally found the Ezekiel 4:9 tortillas! I love those things. I’ve been eating Ezekiel bread exclusively for sometime now, but I was having a really hard time locating any of their other products. The problem? I was looking in the wrong part of the grocery store. Uh…yeah. Smart.

Pumpkin Pecan Sticky Buns

Oh the flavors of fall. When cans of pumpkin are everywhere, begging to be used in inventive ways. Like these sticky buns! With lots of pumpkin in the dough, you get the great orange color and a hint of pumpkin flavor. For an even pumpkin-ier experience, I’d smooth 2 tablespoons of pumpkin over the rolled out dough before sprinkling on the brown sugar and cinnamon.

Pumpkin Pecan Sticky Buns (makes 12):

  • 1 cup unmilk
  • 2&1/4 tsp active yeast (or one packet)
  • 3 cups flour
  • 1/4 cup turbinado sugar
  • 2 T + 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 5 T pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
  • 1/4 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown rice syrup
  • 1/3 cup pecan pieces
  • 1/8 tsp allspice

Heat the unmilk until it reaches 110 degrees, and mix with active yeast. Let it sit for at least 5 minutes until the yeast is bubbly. Stir in pumpkin.

Place 3 cups of flour in bowl, and mix with sugar, 1 T cinnamon and salt. Add your milk and pumpkin mixture, and stir until a soft dough begins to form. If the dough is not coming together at all, add more unmilk, one tablespoon at a time, until dough is soft and slightly sticky. Knead dough for 5 to 10 minutes on clean surface until it is smoother and more elastic.

Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a warm towel. Let rise in a warm place for 30 minutes. Then punch the dough down a little and roll out into a large rectangle (about 10×14). Sprinkle with the brown sugar and 1 T cinnamon. Roll tightly and cut 1 inch off of each end (side note: I usually save these, cut them really small, and then bake in the toaster oven for my toddler to eat. They have less sugar and are a nice size). Now cut into 12 one-inch circles.

Use cooking spray to grease a  round cake pan, pie pan, or an appropriate-sized casserole dish. Place pecan pieces evenly in the bottom, and put your rolls on top. Mix the remaining 1/2 tsp of cinnamon, allspice, brown rice syrup and maple syrup in a microwaveable container. Heat in microwave for 20 seconds, and then pour mixture over the cinnamon rolls.

Let rise in a warm place for 20 more minutes. Then, place sticky buns in a 350 degree oven for 25 minutes, or until they are golden and cooked in the center. For presentation you can flip the baking dish over onto a large plate, or if you are lazy (like me) just pull out a sticky bun and spoon the maple-pecan glaze over the top.

Black Bean Salsa Dip

I was trying to make a sort of black bean hummus with this recipe, but failed to realize that the liquid-to-bean ratio would make it distinctly wetter than hummus. No worries! It tastes great, is essentially fat-free, and is easily scoop-able on a chip.

Black Bean Salsa Dip (makes…3 cups? I forgot to measure and I ate a ton of it):

  • 1 15-oz. can of black beans (or two cups of cooked beans)
  • 2 T onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 medium-sized tomato, roughly chopped
  • 1 T cilantro
  • 1  jalapeño
  • juice of one lime
  • 1 tsp red wine vinegar

Add all ingredients to your food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. Enjoy!