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!

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.

Spaghetti Squash…Soup?

What did I do wrong here? My soup didn’t come out soupy!

But it did come out tasty, so I’m not complaining! Thanks, Happy Herbivore, for finding one more way for me to eat spaghetti squash. Also, I added some orzo to the recipe because I was out of white beans and I needed the extra protein. But wouldn’t white beans be awesome in this?

Noodles & Veg

Ah, Vegetarian Times. Some months, there is nothing to cook in there at all. And the other months–a beautiful extravaganza of vegan delights. This month they are totally on their game. This is the first of a few meals I’ve made from the October 2011 issue, and they have all been terrific.

This picture is horrible, though, right? This is the best one! I took about a million pictures, and this one was the only one that wasn’t blurry. ARGH! I think my problem is that the Vegetarian Times dinners are SO much more work, I’ve barely had time to do all the dishes afterwards before crawling into bed.

Anyhow, I believe this one is called “Vegetables and Noodles with Sesame Dressing.” That isn’t the sexiest name for a recipe that I’ve ever seen, but it gets the job done. I would say my only real complaint here is the steamed tofu–why on earth would anyone want to eat just plain steamed tofu. Is there anything less flavorful in the whole world? Even when you put the sauce (which is amazing) on it, it doesn’t help much. I’d recommend marinating it in a little bit of sauce and then dry frying it for some added awesome.

 

Shepherd’s Pie

This is the very altered version of the Upside Down Lentil Shepherd’s Pie from Appetite for Reduction. I changed it so much, I sorta think it’s my recipe, but I’d like to give credit for what inspired it. Needless to say, this was totally tasty, and I think the outstanding part was the horseradish mashed potatoes.

Vegan Shepherd’s Pie (makes 4 to 6 servings, depending on your hunger level):

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 small zucchini, diced
  • 2 cups chopped mushrooms (button or baby bella)
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 3/4 cup TVP, not rehydrated
  • 2 cups veggie broth
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 T Bragg’s Liquid Aminos (or soy sauce)
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3 yukon gold potatoes
  • 1 T earth balance (or another vegan margarine)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup unmilk
  • 3 T nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp horseradish
  • salt to taste

Good grief, that seems like a lot of ingredients! But this really isn’t difficult at all. First, start your water  boiling for the potatoes, and plop those in. If you want it to go faster, chop them up a little first. When the water begins to boil, start prepping the body of the pie.

Heat up a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat with a little oil in it. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, then add the garlic, carrots, zucchini and mushrooms. Cook for another 5 minutes. Add the spices, salt and pepper to taste, and the broth, liquid aminos, TVP and water. Cover and let cook for 30 minutes, until most (if not all) of the liquid has been absorbed. Throw in the peas and turn off the heat.

In the meantime, your potatoes should be fork tender. Drain the water from the pot, and add in your margarine, horseradish, 1 T of nutritional yeast, and salt. Mash the potatoes with a large fork or with a potato masher. Add the unmilk until you have very nice, creamy mashed potatoes.

Heat your oven to 350 degrees. Pour the veggies & TVP into a casserole dish (mine is about 9×6, it fit perfectly). Top with the mashed potatoes. Put in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until the potatoes have set and have a slightly golden color. Remove from the oven and top with the remaining nutritional yeast.

 

It Isn’t Easy Being Green…Actually, It’s Not Green At All.

The soup you see before you is Smoky Split Pea Soup from Appetite for Reduction. Are you asking the same question I am? Why isn’t it green?

I don’t know. I think it must be the ratio of split-pea-to-broth and the addition of lots of carrots. But it looks just like tomato soup, though there isn’t any tomato in it at all. I really was hoping for more green, but it does taste remarkably delicious, so that’s going to have to be good enough. I wouldn’t say that it’s exactly smoky, but it does have a hint of that bacon-y flavor you’d get in a meat split pea soup.

The garlic bread was really the best part, which is funny because it’s super easy. Just bread, earth balance, garlic salt and cheddar teese. Oh, and my secret ingredient–a little bit of onion powder. Then you toast it until the cheese melts. But my husband and I were both chomping at the bit to eat more of it. More bread! More garlic bread!

 

Buffalo Tofu Salad

Genius, right? How did I not think of this before?

You just take all your ingredients for a great chikin wing dinner–tangy Buffalo drenched tofu, ranch dressing, onions, carrots & celery, and toss them over some romaine lettuce. Seriously! Easy and awesome! And no fear of double dipping!

I borrowed here and there from some recipes to come up with my own ranch that’s easy and light and creamy!

Veggie Ranch Dressing (makes about 1 cup):

  • 1/2 cup Mori-Nu firm silken tofu
  • 1/4 cup unmilk
  • 2 T water
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp agave nectar
  • 2 T fresh parsley
  • 2 T fresh dill
  • 2 T dehydrated onion flakes
  • 1 tsp granulated garlic powder
  • salt & pepper to taste

Just throw that whole mess in your food processor or blender and pulse until smooth. It shouldn’t take very long. Adjust the flavors if you need to (I needed to add more salt than I thought). The next time I make this, I’m going to toss in a little miso and see if something magical doesn’t happen. Also, this would be GREAT with about 2 T of green onion mixed in, too. Dang, now I want to make more!

Happy Fourth of July! Buffalo Tofu Style

So, I’ve made the Buffalo Tempeh in Appetite for Reduction, and it didn’t seem right. I think part of the problem is our tempeh–it’s crumbly and weirdly hard, instead of being soft and sturdy. So the texture was always super weird, and the flavors seemed to be fighting each other all the time. Enter my brilliant idea–awesome dry-fried tofu, marinated in buffalo sauce! Bonus: comes with crunchy bits, just like the buffalo chicken you might be missing.

Buffalo Tofu (makes 4 servings)

  • 1 block firm or extra firm tofu, pressed and drained
  • 1/2 cup Frank’s Red Hot (you can use other hot sauce, but you shouldn’t!)
  • 1/2 cup veggie broth

Can you believe that’s all the ingredients? Crazy, right? Anyway, slice your tofu into 1/4 inch thick slices. You can fry them up that way, or cut them into whatever fancy shapes you want. Even dinosaurs! Or buffaloes! Now, mix your hot sauce together with the broth. Use 1/2 cup of this mixture to marinade the tofu in for half an hour (reserve the leftover marinade). When that’s done, heat up a large skillet over medium-high heat with enough oil to coat the bottom of the pan. You don’t want your tofu to stick! Place the tofu in the pan, and fry until it is nice and crispy on both sides (obviously flipping once during cooking). When it’s done to your liking, pour all of the leftover marinade (should be about 3/4 of a cup left, total) into the pan. Cook until the liquid is reduced into a thicker sauce, about 5 minutes.

Today, I served this up with Avocado Potato Salad from Vegan Brunch, and Ranch Dip from the Happy Herbivore. And with carrots and celery sticks, of course!

Spicy Mac!

This dish is, for me, what hot dish is for Minnesotans. My mom’s recipe for “Mexican Mac & Cheese” is one of the most comforting foods that I know. And as a vegan, I can’t exactly pound down the sour cream and cheese sauce like I used to. This recipe was high on my list for veganization, and I’m proud to report that it turned out perfect. It wasn’t one of those situations were it tasted “almost the same” or “sorta all right” but rather tasted virtually exactly the same as the original. Even my picky omni husband thought it was a pretty perfect rendition. So, enjoy!

Spicy Mac (serves 4 to 6):

  • 8 oz shell pasta (I used brown rice pasta, because it’s what I had)
  • 1&1/2 cup pinto beans (I used anasazi beans–if you can find them, they are the best beans EVER)–oh, and PS–if you’re using a can of beans, just use the whole can.
  • 15 oz can Ro-tel
  • 7 oz can of green chilies
  • 1 small onion plus 2 T, diced
  • 1 small bag of frozen peas, carrots & corn
  • 2 tsp Tapatio (it’s like Tabasco sauce, but awesomer)
  • 1/2 recipe for Easy Breezy Cheezy Sauce from Appetite for Reduction
  • 1/3 cup shredded vegan cheese
  • 1/2 cup raw cashews (drained after being soaked in water for an hour)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup loosely packed cilantro
  • 1 T red wine vinegar

First, start the water boiling for your noodles. Then, prepare the cheezy sauce. Once the water is boiling, put the noodles in and cook until almost al dente. You want them to still be a little stiff, or they turn to mush in the casserole. Now, in a large bowl, mix the small onion (without the extra 2 T, you’ll use that later), beans, Ro-tel, green chilies & frozen veggies together. Add the noodles, stir, and then add the cheese sauce. When everything is nicely coated in sauce, add the Tapatio. Put the mixture in a 13×9 (or smaller, just adjust cooking time) casserole dish, top with shredded cheese, and bake for 30-40 minutes in a 350 degree oven.

While your delicious casserole is baking, make the cilantro-cashew cream topping (adapted from Vegan Brunch). This is so easy! Simply take the cashews, 2 T of onion (told you!), cilantro, red wine vinegar & water and mix in a food processor for anywhere from 2-5 minutes. You just want everything to be nicely smooth, with no chunks of nuts at all. If your food processor is like mine, the cashew cream will never come completely smooth. It’ll still taste pretty great, though. After blending, put the cream in the fridge to cool down.

When your casserole is done, take out of the oven and let it rest for a few minutes. You don’t want to burn your face on hot noodles. When serving, remember to put about a tablespoon of cilantro cashew cream on top of each, and you can always put on as much Tapatio as your heart desires.

Super Bowl Week!…the un-nori bowl

So, my deal is that I refuse to even try nori. I don’t trust anything from the sea, and the flavors here seemed fine as is. I discovered in the back of my Appetite for Reduction, a little section on making various bowls. Instead of spreading the bowl love all over the place, I decided to cram it into one week. And thus begins my week of Super Bowls!

This bowl has azuki beans, brown rice, broccoli and carrot-ginger dressing. That’s the big orange blobby in the background. The flavors here were so, so good. The beans and grains really needed the freshness of the dressing, and somehow that orange madness tasted like magic. Personally, I also love any meal that doesn’t really require me to cut anything. Just toss the dressing ingredients in the blender, and blam! Dinner. And I’m getting good use out of my little $4 steamer, too. How did I live for so long without one?

Plus, now that I’m a vegan, the gods apparently decided to bestow upon me the ability to cook rice from scratch. There were always two really simple things I couldn’t make: rice and hard-boiled eggs. And now that eggs are totally out of the picture, maybe that meant I could devote more brain cells to rice? Whatever, I freaking love brown rice. Is that weird?