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!

Oktoberfesting

I love October. It is easily my favorite month of the year, followed only by December because it has my birthday in it. And because I’m still delighted by snow in December, not horrified by it and shaking my fist at the sky like I am in February.

Anyway, October is also the one time of year I drink beer. I don’t really care for beer, but out of due respect to Oktoberfest, and the one and a half years of German I took in college, I down half a bottle and call it a day.

I made Beer and Cheese Bratwurst! Well, obviously not really bratwurst, but it was still plenty delicious. My only possible complaint about them was that they were too sweet, but I find a lot of vegan meat to be sweeter than it’s evil meaty counterpart. Anyway, here’s the recipe:

Beer & Cheese Bratwurst (makes 4 large sausages):

  • 1/2 cup white or pinto beans
  • 1/4 cup nutritional yeast
  • 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 cup TVP
  • 2 T daiya (or other vegan) cheddar
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp sage
  • 1/4 tsp ground marjoram
  • pinch allspice
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch caraway seeds
  • pinch black pepper
  • 1 cup of vegan beer, cider, or ale
  • 1 T soy sauce or liquid aminos

First, mash the beans really well with a fork, then add all the dry ingredients (including fake cheese). Mix them together really well before adding in the wet–the vital wheat gluten will make it come together super fast. Roll your sausages up in foil (see these directions) and place in your steaming apparatus. Steam sausages for 40 minutes, then let rest for at least an hour in the fridge. Reheat by baking (in a conventional or toaster) oven at 350 degrees for 10 minutes. Or grill!

As delicious Oktoberfesty sides to the sausages, I made baby potatoes roasted with onion powder and garlic powder (it makes a delicious crust on the outside) and some braised cabbage (basically following the recipe for seitan and cabbage from Appetite for Reduction but with no seitan). I didn’t know you could cook red cabbage the same as green–but you can! And it’s just as good! If not better!

So get your Oktoberfest on!

What? I can eat pot roast again!

Squee! Thank you, Happy Herbivore!

First–like actual pot roast, this takes a bit of time and effort. Second–like actual pot roast, this tastes fantastic. But it doesn’t make you feel queasy, like pot roast always used to do to me! I was really surprised at how close this was to the “real thing”–not in texture, but in taste.

Texture is the only place you’re going to be let down–the roasted seitan has that spongey, seitan texture that we all know and love. I think it would be better, instead of baking it, to cut it into chunks and sauté with mushrooms–then you can also make a really easy gravy, too.

Bonus tip: when you do make gravy with the cooking liquid, add about 1 tsp of blackstrap molasses to it. It’ll give you that awesome brown gravy color you’ve always wanted. Ta da!

 

Roasted Veggies with Orzo

Mmmm…roasted veggies. I believe this is the Autumn Roasted Vegetables with Orzo from October’s Vegetarian Times Magazine. Man, that October issue has tons of great recipes! This one is no exception. And while there wasn’t anything that screamed “AUTUMN!” about this dinner, it was super classy. Kale, roasted cauliflower, roasted celery root, creamy orzo. How can you go wrong? And those little tiny baby potatoes! If you thought fingerlings were cute, you need to take a look at these.

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.

 

Hot Salad Niçoise

 

Does anyone in the world eat more Salad Niçoise than I do? Probably the French, I’m guessing, but I have to come in a close second.

I compiled this dish from the basic ingredients for a Niçoise: Potatoes, onions, green beans and cherry tomatoes. Then I went a little crazy and threw in some summer squash. And roasted it in the oven at 400 degrees for about an hour. I topped it with some sauteed spinach, and the chickpea mixture and green goddess dressing from Appetite for Reduction.

I’m not going to say that this turned out great. It turned out okay. I will probably make it again in the winter, when I’m craving this salad but can’t bear to eat lettuce when it’s -17 degrees outside. But it was really missing something, I’m just not sure what. And the summer squash was not good. NOT GOOD.

 

Twice Baked Potatoes

I love twice baked potatoes. My best friend is the first person who made me a homemade version. And that wasn’t even close to vegan, but it did taste rather cheesy and good. I wanted to make something that reached close to that level of creaminess. I’m here to say: I’m not there yet. I thought these were a little *meh* but my husband LOVED them. LOVED. So, maybe you will, too!

Twice Baked Potatoes (makes 8 servings):

  • 4 russet potatoes, skins on
  • 1/2 of a cauliflower, roasted
  • 1/4 cup silken tofu (Mori Nu)
  • 1/3 cup teese cheddar style (or whatever vegan cheese you like)
  • 2 T earth balance buttery spread
  • 1/4 cup chives
  • 2 T italian parsley
  • 2 T fake bacon bits (see Happy Herbivore)
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup unmilk
  • salt and pepper to taste

First, wash and wrap your potatoes in tinfoil. Bake at 400 degrees for about an hour, or until they are soft. Remove from oven and add the cauliflower, roasting it while your potatoes cool. The cauliflower should take about 20 minutes, it doesn’t need to be completely mushy, but mostly very soft.

Now, slice your potatoes in half, and spoon out the insides until you make little potato boats. Add your mashed potatoes, cauliflower, silken tofu, and buttery spread to your food processor. Mix until fairly smooth. Add the unmilk in portions until you get the smooth consistency you are looking for (a little creamier than mashed potatoes). Now, add half the teese, salt and pepper, parsley and chives and pulse or mix by hand.

Spoon the potato mixture evenly in each potato skin boat, making sure they are fairly even. If they are sturdy, you can bake them on a baking sheet at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. If they are falling apart, put in a casserole dish and bake at 350 for 20-30 minutes. Five minutes before they are finished, sprinkle with the rest of the teese and your bacon bits.

 

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!

VegNews Mac & Cheese…tested, and happily, approved!

I must be the only person on the planet who craves mac & cheese in 90 degree weather. With 100% humidity. Thanks, Kansas. Also, if you were wondering, my hair DOES look frizzy. So if you see me out on the street, just avert your eyes.

Anyway, I was interested in trying VegNew’s “best mac & cheese on the planet” because it’s nutritional yeast-free, even though I love the nooch and I’m always happy to have it in my life. Also, I was stubbornly confused about how potatoes, carrots, onions and cashews would make anything that looked passably like cheese. And you know what? THEY DO. This is the BEST faux mac I’ve had (not like I’ve had a ton, but still). I really like my Spicy Mac, but this is a pleasantly simple dish, for when you are craving mac and cheese in it’s purest form.

Notice the bread crumbs? I thought there were way too many, but it ended up tasting just right. Also, look a little closer…closer…yes…those are homemade crumbs! From homemade bread! *Pats self on back*

I think I’d be misleading you if I didn’t say that this dish is high in fat. It calls for a whopping 7 tablespoons of margarine, which equals about 80 grams of fat. UGH. Even when you split it into 8 portions like I did, it’s still a lot for the portion-size. And when I cooked it, I took about 3 tablespoons out (one from the breadcrumbs, two from the sauce). I think I could probably take even more out of the sauce by pureeing some white beans in with the veggies. I’d like to get this down to two or three tablespoons total, so I could eat a larger portion and not feel that heavy greasy ache in my stomach. Do you get that, too?

Despite the whopping fat content, this recipe is definitely a keeper, and will be on heavy rotation when fall and winter come. I’ll probably serve it then with some sweet potatoes, squash, or sauteed spinach. OOH! I can’t wait!

 

Chickpea Piccata

The first time I made this, it was terrible. I can’t even describe to you the disappointing flavors of sadness we experienced. However, that was the very first week I had Appetite for Reduction, and had NO idea what cooking vegan was all about. It’s amazing what I’ve learned in the three months I’ve been using that cookbook. Being a vegan has literally taught me how to cook all over again, and I’m much, much better than before.

As you can see, I’ve made some subs on this dish: the grocery store had no shallots (how is that even possible?), so I used a vidalia onion. I figured the sweetness would translate sort of like shallots do, though it’s less classy. And I used spinach instead of arugula. I don’t know why I dislike it so much, but I cannot handle arugula. Blech! I think I’m against any sort of bitter flavors, except I love dark chocolate. So, who knows?

I also didn’t put it over potatoes the first time, which is a giant mistake. I made caulipots (cauliflower+potatoes), but I made the recipe my own way. I baked the potato and roasted the cauliflower, and after adding the olive oil and broth, I put in about 1/2 a cup of unsweetened almond milk. Consider that only adds about 15 calories to the WHOLE thing, and maybe .5 grams of fat, I’m not worried about it losing it’s health-food-potato-status. And it really made the dish creamy, which it desperately needed. Those potatoes were DRY. But had more nutrients!

Anyway, it came out perfect. And it made me feel like a human giant.