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MoFo #17: Acorn squash, pear, and adzuki soup with sauteed shiitakes

17 Oct

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Whew, another long recipe title from Veganomicon! When I told Mr. Chickpea I was making this soup for dinner, he was…skeptical. He did not think the ingredients would go together *at all* and I just kept repeating “but, but, but Isa & Terry said this is a ‘precious jewel of a soup!’ Precious jewel, I must MAKE THE PRECIOUS!!!” Plus, I needed an excuse to test out my b-day present from Mr. Chickpea, a Vitamix! Wheeeeee! I foresee a long beautiful friendship between me and this blender.

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I do admit, it’s a weird combination of ingredients — onion, red bell pepper, ginger, Chinese five spice, pears, acorn squash, beans, and mushrooms. But I figured, Isa & Terry have never steered me wrong before, I’ve got the faith! Big surprise, it all came together really well to give a warm, comforting soup. The soup itself is slightly sweet, with a creamy broth and chunks of onion, squash, and pear, and beans mixed in. I really enjoyed the mix of textures. The mushrooms added a great savory flavor, but I have a weird texture issue with them so I think next time I might make really thin slices instead of just cutting them in half. Also, I don’t really think you need the adzukis — any mild bean would do well. One small can of the things cost me $2.65!!! Oh, the sacrifices I make for MoFo…

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MoFo #10: Creamy chard soup

10 Oct

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I’m always looking for ways to incorporate more greens into our meals, so how stoked was I when I found this super easy recipe in The Inspired Vegan, by Bryant Terry. If you like to read cookbooks for fun, this one and Terry’s other book, Vegan Soul Kitchen, are great and the recipes really deliver! They don’t have the types of classic dishes you’d expect when you think of soul food, but feature a lot of the same ingredients, incorporated into dishes that mix soul with African and Caribbean recipes to give something really unique, fresh, and healthy. Whenever I cook from these books I feel like we’re really in for a treat! And, there are lots of recipes suitable for fall cooking, so expect some to pop up in the next few weeks!

This soup recipe is really simple: onion, garlic, chard, cumin, salt, broth, and coconut milk. That’s it! You basically simmer the sauteed onions and garlic with the chard and broth, blend it up, add the coconut milk, and enjoy!

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I couldn’t really taste the cumin, but I could tell that it added a lot of depth. The combination of greens and coconut milk made the soup so incredibly rich and delicious! All these years of cooking, and I’ve never put greens (other than spinach), in soup. This has to change. Now!

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The only thing I would adjust is the amount of broth because the soup comes out awfully thin. I added some corn starch to thicken it up, but it would be better to just use less liquid. I didn’t make the topping (fried plantains) because I am lazy. Maybe I will do that for the leftovers!

MoFo #3 — Soup! Chipotle Butternut Bisque

3 Oct

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Happy Wednesday! It’s soup day here in Mofoland and I’ve got a yummy chipotle butternut squash bisque from Quick and Easy Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Foods.

One thing I can say about grad school is that it’s *stressful*, and when I’m stressed I binge. I’ve gained quite a bit of weight my past five years of grad school due to lethargy, depression, and unhealthy eating habits. While I think I have a pretty healthy body image, I do hate the way I feel and that half of my expensive professional clothes don’t fit. So since the summer, I’ve been calorie counting, practicing portion control on sweets and snacks, and most importantly, exercising. I’ve lost weight and thanks to my workouts I feel strong and healthy again! A lot of credit should go to some great vegan cookbooks, mostly Appetite for Reduction and Low-Cal Vegan Comfort Foods. These books have delicious, inventive weeknight meals that are tasty and leave you feeling full (for me, this is the biggest obstacle to weight loss). They’re also packed with protein, fiber, healthy carbs, vitamins, and an assortment of veggies, beans, and grains. I really haven’t eaten so well or so diversely in my life! What’s also nice is that a lot of the recipes in these books (especially AFR) have been added to “My Fitness Pal”, a calorie counting app that I use a lot, so I don’t have to enter all the nutrition info on my own. Even once I’m done with this whole weight loss thing, I will probably cook from these books 95% of the time because of how good they are AND because I can really eat until I pop (one of my favorite activities) without worrying about negative effects on my health. I wish I had a few more books like this to expand my weeknight repertoire.

So back to Mofo, I was really excited to try out this soup from Quick & Easy. It’s got two of my favorite ingredients – butternut squash and chipotle. I actually only ever use chipotle in two recipes, hummus and tamales, so I was curious to see how this turned out.

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The only thing I didn’t like is that you have to roast the squash, which makes it really delicious but takes 45 minutes! Not something you want to wait for on a weeknight. I try to remember to roast squash the night before so it’s all ready for me the next day but I’m sort of a space cadet & this doesn’t always happen. I had to add extra chipotle and a few extra teaspoons of adobo sauce because the flavor was lost with only one pepper. I also added a sprinkle of brown sugar, which brought out a lot of flavors. I never thought to combine chipotle and squash, and it’s definitely a winning combo! I served the bisque over a half cup of cooked quinoa, which made this a really hearty and filling meal. The recipe calls for toasted pumpkin seeds but I discovered that mine had been sitting around long enough to taste funky so I just sprinkled on some pistachios.

I’m always on the lookout for more fall and winter soups. What are your favs?

MoFo #19: Tortellini soup

24 Oct

My mom used to buy a canned tortellini soup.  I thought it was the bees knees and had it almost every day for lunch.  I the tortellini had ground beef and some kind of cheese…the flavor wasn’t even that good but the texture was rich and velvety inside and biting into the little pastas was so much fun! The broth was tomato-y but didn’t have that many veggies.  I wanted to recreate that soup tonight and decided to make a tofu ricotta and TVP-stuffed tortellini soup. Here’s how it came out!

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While I was buying my tofu at the store I spotted Tofurkey Italian Sausage. I was already feeling too lazy to work out how to spice the TVP, so I just decided to spring for this stuff instead. It’s actually pretty tasty! I think it’s mainly tofu and seitan with spices so I didn’t feel like it was too processed. I made the tofu ricotta from Vegan with a Vengeance and mixed it up with the sausages, which I ground up in the food processor. IMG_0665 IMG_0664 IMG_0667
As I was preparing everything I started to saute the holy trinity of soups: onion, celery, and carrots.  I also added some zucchini.  Then I added broth, diced tomatoes, spinach, frozen corn, frozen peas and spices and let it all simmer while I made the tortellini.IMG_0669
Wrapping the tortellini was pretty easy, if a little time consuming.  The pasta dough recipe is from Vegan Dad’s site.  I had waaaaay more filling than I needed.  It might find its way into a lasagna this week.  There are a million videos on how to form tortellini…I’ve condensed it down to a few easy steps:

1) Roll out some of the dough till it’s pretty thin and cut it into 3″x3″ squares using a pizza cutter:
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2) Place about 1 tsp filling in the center:
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3) Fold dough in half over filling and press the pocket shut:
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4) Roll the bottom up.  Be careful at this step – if you fill the pocket too full and roll too much it can bust open:
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5) Place your finger in the middle and fold the corners over.  Pinch together.
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One batch of pasta made about 50 large tortellini. Please excuse my ugly tray!
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When the soup was done I threw in all the tortellini and simmered it, covered, for about 10 min:
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It was delicious! Even better than the canned stuff.

Here’s a list of the ingredients:
-tofu ricotta, per VWAV
-4 ground Tofurkey sausages, or equivalent amount of spiced TVP
-1 batch pasta dough (see link above)
-1 onion, chopped
-3 stalks celery, diced
-2 large carrots, diced
-1 zucchini, diced
-1 large can (64 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juice
-6 cups water or broth
-1/2 cup (or 1 handful) frozen peas
-1 cup frozen chopped spinach
-1/2 cup (or about 1 handful) frozen white corn
-2-3 Tbs Italian seasoning
-salt, to taste

MoFo #18: Sprout Cafe, Lake Tahoe

23 Oct

On Saturday we took a trip to Apple Hill (we picked apples…stay tuned for apple posts this week!) and Lake Tahoe.  Of course, I had to try out the local veg restaurants!

There are a few places for vegans in Tahoe but they can be pretty expensive.  Sprout Cafe is pretty reasonable and had  good reviews on Yelp so we decided to check it out.  It’s a mostly vegetarian cafe that relies pretty heavily on cheese but almost everything can be made vegan (there is no vegan cheese though).

I ordered the tempeh burger, which had to be served on a plain bagel rather than a bun.  Apparently the bun contains dairy.  The burger “patty” was a big slab of tempeh that tasted like it had been marinated in teriyaki sauce.  So I guess this was more of a sandwich than a burger!  It was also loaded with veggies – carrots, cabbage, sprouts, onion, tomato, and avocado.  The bread was slathered with a tasty sweet mustard dressing that was full of whole mustard seeds.  Thinking back, it may have been a honey mustard dressing…I’m not sure and didn’t think to ask.

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I was also happy to see that all their soups are vegan, made with a water base. On the day we visited they had a sesame noodle soup and a pesto veggie soup. Intrigued, I decided to try a cup of the pesto soup. It was really good, basically just a normal vegetable soup with pesto mixed into the broth. I really liked it and will probably try this out in my own soups.

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They also had a juice bar but I was way too full to try it! The staff were young, friendly, and courteous and were knowledgeable about what vegans eat – always a plus.

MoFo #16: Pumpkin soup with pumpkin seed-mint pesto

19 Oct

More pumpkin and more Sunset recipes!  This one is featured on the front of the this month’s issue and immediately drew my eye.

This time I tried out a sugar pie pumpkin.  It has a nice mild, sweet taste and a smooth texture.  The actual recipe’s pretty simple: saute up some onion, garlic, fresh ginger, and coriander.  Add some pumpkin, stock, salt, pepper and simmer till soft.  I pureed everything at the end and added some soy milk powder for creaminess.

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The mint pesto was really cool and really tasty!  I was actually going to pass over this recipe until I saw Urban Vegan’s MoFo post about various pestos and their uses.   I didn’t mortar and pestle it all like the recipe says….the food processor is much easier but the pesto isn’t quite as pretty.

So what’s the verdict?  Honestly, I think the soup was pretty bland and needed way more spice.  I ended up mixing in a lot of the pesto to add flavor.  The mint was a pretty neat complement for the pumpkin along with the crunch from the pepitas.  I don’t know about the coriander.  I couldn’t really taste it.  I think the ginger was a good call and added more.  Curry powder would actually taste really good in this.  Next time I will try that.  So…overall it came out pretty and was fun to make but the recipe could use a little inspiration.  But YAY for more vegan-friendly recipes in Sunset!