Tag Archives: comfort food

Still Smokin’: Pasta Carbonara

Pasta Carbonara

This is a follow-up to my post on Smoked Shitake Mushrooms. The flavor of the smoked shitakes are so intense that a little goes a long way, so I’m still trying to come up with some recipes to use them up. I like to use cashew cream as a base for creamy pasta sauces and the smoked shitakes made me think of Pasta Carbonara. For this recipe I made a creamy sauce with raw cashews, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and a few smoked shitakes. (If you don’t want to smoke the shitakes, you can use liquid smoke.) I had about a half pound of cooked rigatoni pasta in the fridge that I “re-boiled” for 1 minute then added a cup of peas. I reserved some of the pasta water to thin out the sauce if needed. I stirred a few spoonfuls of the sauce into the pasta and peas. You can use as much or as little of the sauce as you like and add a few extra slivered smoked shitakes if you want a more smoky taste and some “meaty” texture. This dish came out creamy, smoky and oh, so yummy. It’s rich tasting, yet won’t weigh you down. This makes a nice meal to serve for a special occasion or you can make the sauce ahead of time and enjoy a decadent meal any night of the week. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Smoky Creamy Cashew Sauce

½ cup raw cashews, soaked and drained
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons tahini
1 Tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 garlic clove
A few slices of smoked shitake mushrooms
water

Process all ingredients in blender, adding more water to achieve desired consistency.

Use on potatoes, broccoli or other vegetables. Thin out and toss with cooked pasta.

08 Jul 2017

Sultry Soup: Turkish Red Lentil Soup

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

When I think of Mediterranean cuisine, one word comes to mind: sultry. What appeals to me about this food is how somewhat common herbs, spices and aromatics get blended into a dish in an exotic way. A few weeks ago, Bruce and I tried out a restaurant that I’ve been wanting to go to for a long time. The Mediterranean Grille serves tasty food with a Moroccan and Turkish influence. We ordered a vegetable tagine, Zalouk (eggplant dip) and Turkish Red Lentil Soup. Everything was so delicious that I couldn’t wait to come up with my own versions. Why am I so excited about this soup? Well, it’s made with one of my favorite legumes, red lentils. It contains bulgur, a grain that I’ve wanted to include in my recipes but haven’t gotten around to. And, I love the flavors of Mediterranean cuisine. It comes together quickly, cooks in one hour and fills your home with an enticing aroma. You can round out your meal with some olives, a bowl of your favorite hummus and warm pita or rustic bread. Oh, this is so good.Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Turkish Red Lentil Soup

makes about 3 quarts

1/2 cup soaked bulgur (see notes)
2 onions, finely chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon cumin
½ teaspoon coriander
1 cup red lentils
2 tablespoons tomato paste
12 cups vegetable stock or water
Lemon slices for serving

Heat a large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, carrots and garlic and cook until they are golden, about 5 minutes. Add the paprika, cumin, coriander, lentils and bulgur into the onions and stir to coat. Add the tomato paste and water or vegetable stock; bring to a boil, then cover and cook until soft and creamy, about 1 hour. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lemon slices.

To soak bulger: Place ¼ cup dry bulgur in small bowl and cover with ¼ cup boiling water. Let stand 1 hour. This should yield ½ cup of soaked bulgur.

 

25 Jan 2017

Day One: Hoppin’ John Stew

Hoppin’ John Soup

What I love about the holidays are the traditions. It can be a beloved family recipe or a tradition from another region, country or culture. I especially like the southern tradition of making Hoppin’ John for New Years Day. This bean dish is typically made with black-eyed peas, bell peppers,onions, tomatoes and rice all cooked in one pot. Since I’ve already done the traditional recipe served over rice and Hoppin‘ John Burgers this year’s recipe is a Hoppin’ John Stew. What makes this recipe more “stew-like” than traditional Hoppin’ John is that it has more beans, vegetables and liquid and not so much rice. It can be made a day ahead and re-warmed in a slow-cooker. It’s the perfect solution for winding down on Day One after staying up late to ring in the New Year. Time to “ring in the new” with this Hoppin’ John Stew. Best wishes for a healthy and happy new year and thanks for being Vegi-curious.

 

Hoppin’ John Soup

1 lb. dry black-eyed peas
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 large green bell pepper, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
1 can (28 oz.) plum tomatoes, drained & chopped (or diced tomatoes, drained)
1 tablespoon dried thyme
2 dried bay leaves
½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
2 tablespoons brown sugar
10 to 12 cups water
1 cup uncooked brown rice

Soak black-eyed peas overnight and drain. (You can also quick soak the peas by covering them with water and boiling for two minutes. Let soak for 1 hour, then drain.) Cook in pressure cooker according to manufacturer’s directions. When pressure has gone down, open pressure cooker and drain the peas.

Heat a saucepot over medium-high heat. Add onions and bell pepper and cook until they begin to soften and brown, adding water 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent them from sticking. Add garlic and cook for one minute. Add tomatoes, thyme, bay leaves, cayenne pepper, liquid smoke and brown sugar and cook for another minute. Add water and cooked peas and bring to a boil. Add rice and reduce to simmer. Cook, uncovered, until black-eyed peas are tender and thick (about 45 minutes). Thin with more water as desired.

28 Dec 2016

Well Seasoned: Roasted Acorn Squash Bisque

Roasted Acorn Squash Bisque

Roasted Acorn Squash Bisque

I am lucky to live in an area of the world that has four seasons. I love the ebb and flow of the seasons, the promise of change at the beginning of a season; the gradual weather changes throughout; the winding down that opens up to the next season. Autumn is coming to a close, but its abundant harvest of winter squash will be with us well into early spring. It’s a chilly day in my part of the world making it the perfect day for turning on the oven or for making soup. I decided to do both today and looked around to see what ingredients I had to work with. Acorn squash, carrots and parsnips. I love the idea of roasting vegetables because it adds another layer of flavor to a recipe.  Unlike it’s close cousin, the butternut squash, acorn squash is hard to peel and cut into chunks for roasting, so I cut it in half and baked it in it’s skin. The piquant taste of the parsnips provides a nice contrast to the sweetness of carrots and squash. I also love how ginger, garlic and Singapore curry fill the house with an exotic aroma. The coconut milk stirred in at the end gives the soup a creamy, bisque-like finish. This bisque would make a nice first course for a holiday meal or you could serve it as a main course with some warm naan bread. Winter squash can be stored for a few months, so you can enjoy this bisque for a few seasons to come. Thank you for being Vegi-curious.

Acorn Squash

Acorn Squash

Roasted Squash & Vegetables

Roasted Squash & Vegetables

Roasted Acorn Squash Bisque

1 acorn squash, cut in half and seeds removed
2 large carrots
2 parsnips
1 large onion
3 garlic cloves, smashed
4 thin slices of ginger root
Singapore curry powder
1 can reduced fat coconut milk

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place acorn squash, cut side up on baking sheet. Cut carrots, parsnips and onion into large chunks. Place next to the squash on baking sheet along with garlic and ginger. Sprinkle everything with the curry powder. If you want to use oil, you can lightly coat the surface of the squash and toss a little with the vegetables. Place in oven and roast until vegetables start to brown. Remove the vegetables and place into stock pot. Remove and set aside. Place squash back in oven and continue roasting until tender, total time is about 1-1/2 hours. Scoop the squash out of the skin and add to stock pot. Add enough water to cover, about 5 cups. Simmer until vegetables are soft. Add coconut milk and cook for another 5 minutes. Remove from heat and puree in a blender or using an immersion blender. Return to pot and heat until boiling. Season with additional curry powder if desired. Ladle into bowls and garnish with cilantro.

06 Dec 2016

All the Trimmings: Black Friday Burger

Black Friday Burger

Black Friday Burger

The Thanksgiving dinner that I grew up with was always turkey and all of the trimmings, with the emphasis on the trimmings. With all of those yummy side dishes — stuffing, stuffed mushrooms, Brussel sprouts, green beans, mashed potatoes, sweet potato pie, cranberry sauce — it’s a wonder that I had room for even one slice of turkey. And we always looked forward to the left overs that would last until Sunday. My Mom would make a sandwich with all the trimmings by layering turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and hot  gravy on a hard roll. Since there seems to be an over abundance of recipes for Thanksgiving dinner, I decided to make something to gobble up in the days following. Maybe you’d like to take advantage of Black Friday sales. Perhaps family will be visiting for the long weekend. And what about all those football games? With all the comings and goings, you might want to have something easy for your guests to re-heat and assemble on their own. You know, “make yourself at home and help yourself” . . . to a Black Friday Burger.

So, I thought about all the foods I love about Thanksgiving and squeezed them all into one neat little burger. We always made our bread stuffing with celery, onions and mushrooms. Sometimes we’d add pork sausage to the stuffing, so I included fennel and sage to capture that flavor. The white beans are used for substance and the sweet potato keeps everything together. At the end of the meal we would break out the nutcrackers and a basket of nuts and chestnuts, so I added some ground walnuts. I might try some roasted chestnuts in the next batch. Be sure to save some Shaved Brussel Sprouts, cranberry sauce and gravy from Thanksgiving Day to use to dress up the burgers. If you don’t want to fuss with the gravy, you can just use the Dij-ayo spread at the end of the recipe. This burger has it all. The stuffing. The sweet potatoes. The mushrooms. The flavor. Take some Roasted Butternut Squash Soup out of the freezer or make a huge Powerhouse Salad to serve with the burgers. The only ones stuffed this year will be your friends and family. You can make the burgers ahead of time, cook them and place them in the freezer, leaving you free to cut down a Christmas tree, spend time with your guests or shop for those Black Friday deals. This Thanksgiving I give thanks for my health, my family and friends. And I thank you for being Vegi-curious.

Black Friday Burgers

1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
8 oz. cremini mushrooms, chopped
2 garlic cloves, pressed

1 (15-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup cooked sweet potato
½ cup rolled oats
¼ cup walnuts, coarsely ground
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
½ teaspoon ground fennel
1 teaspoon ground sage
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)

whole wheat burger buns
left over shaved Brussel sprouts or fresh baby spinach
cranberry sauce
Dij-ayo spread (recipe follows)

Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and celery and saute until golden. Add mushrooms and garlic and continue to saute until browned. Add fennel and sage and cook another 30 seconds. Remove from heat and place into large mixing bowl.

Place beans into the bowl and mash the beans using a fork or potato masher. Add sweet potato and mash into beans.

Place the oats in a mini-chopper and pulse just enough to break them down but not processed into a flour. Add to mixing bowl with remaining ingredients and mix well with a fork. Adjust spices as desired.

Separate into five or six portions and form into patties. (I find that 1/3 cup is the perfect size for a standard burger bun.) Place on baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate until firm. When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400F. Bake for 20 minutes, turning half-way through cooking. You can also cook in a non-stick skillet or on a non-stick electric griddle. You can enjoy them now or place them in the freezer for future use.

Serve on burger buns with shaved Brussel sprouts or fresh baby spinach and top with Dij-ayo and cranberry sauce.

Dij-ayo

½ cup raw cashews
2 Tablespoons nutritional yeast
2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 Tablespoon tahini
Water as needed to thin out

Place all ingredients in high-speed blender and process until smooth.

17 Nov 2016

Every Day is Princess Pasta Day: Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

Who remembers the Prince spaghetti commercial that declared Wednesday as Prince spaghetti day? If you watched TV during the 1960’s you probably saw it. Some years later they changed their slogan to “every day is Prince spaghetti day.” (I wonder if this was to protect their products against the anti-carb movement that was made fashionable by the Atkins diet.) In our home we always had pasta on Sunday. That was when pasta was called macaroni or spaghetti and the sauce options were either tomato or clam sauce. Boy, how things have changed. I googled “whole food plant based pasta recipes” and came up with 1,910,000 results. That’s good news because I could eat pasta every day for lunch and dinner. I don’t have the patience to read through all of those recipes, so I decided to come up with another one of my own. I was in the mood for something creamy, not too heavy and with plenty of vegetables. Luckily I had everything I needed to make Pasta Primavera:  fresh peas, zucchini, yellow squash, carrots and scallions from our local CSA; raw cashews for cashew cream and gemelli pasta in the pantry; and homemade pesto in the freezer. I wanted to get the right size and shape on the vegetables to make it easy to get a little bit of everything on the fork. To do this, I used a ribbon grater for the carrots and squash. The vegetables were sauteed, then simmered in a light vegetable broth and finished off with cashew cream and a few spoons of pesto. I had enough primavera for about one pound of pasta and only two of us for dinner, so I spooned just enough sauce over the pasta in individual bowls and saved the extra sauce and pasta separately. If you have a big crowd, just go crazy and mix it all up in a big, pretty pasta bowl. If every pasta dish was as tasty and nourishing as this Pasta Primavera I would say with certainty that every day is Princess Pasta Day. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Pasta Primavera

1 bunch of scallions, thinly sliced
1 small zucchini
1 small yellow squash
1 large carrot
1 cup peas (if using fresh peas, blanch before using)

1-1/2 to 2 cups vegetable broth (or Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base)
¾ cup thick cashew cream
2 tablespoons pesto (or more to taste)

1 lb. cut pasta (ziti, penne, gemelli)

Bring a large pot of water to boil. If using fresh peas, add them to boiling water and blanch for about 2 minutes. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside. Reduce to simmer while preparing vegetables.

Grate zucchini, yellow squash and carrot using a ribbon grater or cut into matchsticks. Heat a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and saute scallions until they start to soften and brown slightly, adding broth 2 tablespoons at a time to prevent sticking. Add zucchini, squash and carrots and continue to cook until fork tender. Add peas and stir.

Return water to a boil, add pasta and cook until al dente. Drain. Add 1-1/2 cups of broth, cashew cream and pesto to vegetables and heat just until it starts to bubble. (Add more broth or cashew cream to achieve desired consistency.) Add pasta to skillet and mix until coated. You can also portion out the pasta into individual servings and spoon the vegetables over top. Store any left over pasta and sauce separately.

30 Jun 2016

Rebuilding: Creamy Mushrooms & Leeks for Mashed Potatoes

Creamy Mushroom-Leek Saute

Creamy Mushroom-Leek Saute

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon a recipe for mushroom, leek and potato soup that looked very tasty. There were two problems, though. First, I really don’t care for soup all that much. Soup always leaves me wanting more  — and that something more is usually bread or dessert. When I do make soup, it’s more like stew — loaded with vegetables and grains and not much broth. Second, this recipe called for two cups of heavy cream. (Wow! I shutter to think that I probably would have made this in my previous life.) If I substituted cashew cream for the dairy cream, it would be rich-tasting, but it would also be too rich in fat and calories. Life can be full of compromises, but I don’t like to settle when it comes to food. So this recipe was on the back burner until I could come up with one that would satisfy my craving for creamy mushrooms and potatoes that’s rich in flavor, not in calories. What I cooked up was a “deconstructed” version of that soup. I rebuilt the recipe by sauteing leeks, garlic and mushrooms, added a splash of red wine and a healthy dollop of cashew cream, then spooned it over mashed potatoes. This dish is uncompromisingly creamy, savory and hearty and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on anything. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Creamy Mushroom & Leeks for Mashed Potatoes

  • 2 large leeks, rinsed and sliced thinly
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 lb. mushrooms, chopped (cremini, white button, shitakes, etc.)
  • ¼ cup red wine (optional)
  • ¾ cup vegetable broth (or 1 cup if not using wine)
  • ½ cup cashew cream

Mashed potatoes

Coat a non-stick skillet with olive oil (or heat up 2 tablespoons of water) over medium-high heat. Saute leeks until lightly browned. Add garlic and cook another minute. Add mushrooms and saute until brown and most of liquid has cooked out. De-glaze pan with wine or ¼ cup of the broth. Add remaining broth and cashew cream and heat thoroughly. Remove from heat. Serve over mashed potatoes.

 

 

14 Apr 2016

Get Your Soup On: Chinese Vegetable Soup

Chinese Vegetable Soup

Chinese Vegetable Soup

In a previous post I promised to share an Asian adaptation of vegetable soup. Learning to cook without using a recipe is all about building on past experience and knowing what ingredients are interchangeable. For this soup I used my vegetable soup recipe as a starting point and used leeks instead of onions; bok choy instead of celery; Chinese cabbage instead of kale; added some soy sauce and sesame oil. Rather than chopping the vegetables in big chunks, I sliced the bok choy thinly and shredded the carrots and cabbage. For ease of preparation I used a rotary grater that my cousin, Angela, recommended to me a few months ago. (Savvy cooks run in my family.) I ladled the soup over Chinese chow mein noodles and floated a soy puff on top. If you get the chance to shop at an Asian market you might be delighted to see all of the different types of noodles that are available — noodles made from rice flour, wheat flour, potato flour and bean flour that come in all thicknesses and lengths. (I cut the noodles in half before cooking and we still had to use a spoon and a fork to twirl the noodles from our bowls.) You can make the same soup and change it up every week just by using a different noodle. And then you can always use rice instead of noodles. Better yet you can simmer some vegetable dumplings in the soup. This soup, with its finely prepped vegetables and lightly-flavored broth, is a delicate yet satisfying version of vegetable soup. Get your soup on and make it a Vegi-curious day!

Carrots, Leeks, Bok Choy, Garlic

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chinese Vegetable Soup

 Makes about 5 quarts

  • 1 large leek, thinly sliced and rinsed
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 extra large carrot, shredded
  • 6 to 8 oz. baby bok choy, thinly sliced (use stems and leaves)
  • 8 oz. Chinese cabbage, thickly shredded
  • 16 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil (omit for fat free)
  • Optional: 4 teaspoons Better Than Bouillon soup base to taste
  • Grain of choice (brown/white rice, orzo, noodles, quinoa etc.)

In a large sauce pot saute leeks, garlic, carrots and bok choy until lightly browned. Add water or broth and bouillon if using. Bring to boil, add cabbage and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Place noodles or grain of choice in soup bowl and ladle the soup into the bowl.

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28 Jan 2016

No-Chicken-In-Any-Pot Vegetable Soup

No-Chicken Vegetable SoupContrary to popular belief, the cliche “a chicken in every pot” did not originate in the United States during the Depression. In fact it is attributed to Henri IV (King of France from 1589 to 1610) who proclaimed, “I want there to be no peasant in my realm so poor that he will not have a chicken in his pot every Sunday.” Apparently, our man Henri had no clue about the harmful effects of eating poultry (nor, most likely, meat and dairy) that he wanted even the poorest people to have chicken once a week. The need-to-eat-meat delusion goes so far back in civilization, no wonder it’s hard to convince people to make a break from meat and dairy products over 400 years later. Which leads me to today’s recipe for Vegetable Soup. I don’t remember a time in my life when we didn’t have chicken soup. It seems like someone was making it for dinner and it’s always been a standard menu option in American diners. With the recent blizzard that dropped 20 inches of snow on us, I thought a hot and healthy bowl of vegetable soup was in order. Onions, carrots, celery and pasta; the only ingredient missing was the chicken. No chicken? No problem; simply add a few teaspoons of Better Than Bouillon No Chicken base to your soup. If you don’t care for the taste of chicken or don’t have the soup base on hand, simply use either a home-made or store-bought vegetable broth. If you prefer a soup with a little more flavor, you can add some of the liquid from canned tomatoes. (I like to freeze the liquid anytime a recipe calls for drained tomatoes.) What’s great about this soup is that you don’t even need a recipe; you can use whatever vegetables you like or happen to have on hand. One of my aims is to show you how to become a better cook and this recipe gives you that opportunity. But this post is more than a recipe; it’s a method that you can adapt to make other soup creations. Later on in the week, I’ll be making an Asian-inspired version of this soup, so be sure to check back for that post. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

No-Chicken-in-Any-Pot Vegetable Soup

  • 1 large yellow onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large carrots, sliced
  • 2 celery stalks, sliced
  • ½ lb. any type of greens (kale, spinach, chard, collards), chopped
  • 16 cups water or vegetable broth
  • Optional: Better Than Bouillon soup base to taste
  • Grain of choice (brown/white rice, orzo, noodles, quinoa etc.)

In large sauce pot, saute onions, garlic, carrots and celery until lightly browned using a few tablespoons of broth. Add the remaining water or broth and bouillon if using. Bring to boil, add greens and simmer for about 30 minutes.

Place grain of choice in soup bowl and ladle the soup into the bowl.

Notes:

You can use home-made vegetable broths. I make a variety of cooking broths with all types of vegetable trimmings (mushrooms, leeks,celery, carrots, anise) and I save the drained liquid from cans of diced tomatoes to add to home-made broth.

26 Jan 2016

Shoulder Season Minestrone

MinestroneIn the tourism industry there is something called the shoulder season, which is an abbreviated season that falls between a high season and a low season. September is a good example of a shoulder season because it marks the end of summer vacation and the return to school and work. I like to think of gardening as having a shoulder season as well. At this time of year, you might be snipping off the last few zucchini, peppers and tomatoes and starting to harvest some potatoes, cabbages and cool-weather greens. This is the perfect time to make minestrone, an Italian soup that contains a wide variety of vegetables. It’s still light enough to enjoy on a warm September evening, yet hearty enough for a satisfying meal. My Shoulder Season Minestrone calls for canned tomatoes, but if you feel ambitious you can dice up about 1-1/2 pounds of fresh tomatoes. The minestrone goes nicely with some crispy Italian bread and good company. Thanks for being Vegi-curious.

Shoulder Season Minestrone

  •  ½ lb. dry navy beans or 2 cans (15 oz. each) small white beans
  •  1 large onion, ½” dice
  • 1 large carrot, ½” dice
  • 1 celery stalk, ½” dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 2 small zucchini, ½ dice
  • ¼ lb. green beans, cut into ½” pieces
  • ¼ lb. boiling potatoes, cut into ¾” pieces
  • 4 cups chopped Savoy or Napa cabbage
  • 4 cups chopped kale
  • 1 can (28 oz.) diced tomatoes
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Soup Base (optional)
  • ½ teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)

If using dry beans, soak overnight and cook according to package directions. Drain and reserve liquid. If using canned beans, drain and reserve liquid.

In large pot, saute onion using a small amount of olive oil or water. When onions are soft, add carrot, celery and garlic and saute until soft. Add zucchini, green beans and potatoes and cook another 5 minutes. Add cabbage and kale and continue cooking until wilted. Add in diced tomatoes (including juice), water, soup base and liquid smoke. Bring to boil, then reduce to simmer. Cover and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.

Puree half of the beans in blender, then add to soup with the remaining beans and 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Continue cooking, uncovered, for another 15 minutes.

 

11 Sep 2015

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